Castelo de São Jorge

Our plan for Sunday was to visit the Castelo de São Jorge. The first stop, though was breakfast at Casa Brasileira again. Some local specialties, like custard tarts (and gelato, and ripe mangoes) are worth eating every single day you are in a place. After we ate, we walked up to Praça Figueras, and decided to take a cab up the hill to the Castelo. Traffic was crazy in the Baixa district due to the underground Roman galleries being opened to the public Even so, the taxi was the prudent choice; the driver was nice, and the hill to get up to the castle would have been a VERY steep walk.

We arrived at about noon, and it was shaping up to be a really hot day. We took our time walking around the perimeter and enjoying the views across the city and the river. We visited the museum, found the resident peafowl and pea-chicks, and then went into the castle to look around for a while. The castle fortifications were built in the 10th and 11th centuries by the Moors, then captured in 1147 by the first king of Portugal, Dom Afonso Henriques. The site was a royal residence until the earthquake in 1755. Much of what you see now is the result of restoration work done after the castle was declared a national monument in 1910. 

A highlight of our explorations was our stop in the camera obscura, which gave us a great look at the city. Although our time slot was for Portuguese speakers, the guide kindly took a few moments at the end to talk with us in English. After this, we spent a bit more time touring the castle, then walked through the archeological ruins. These include remnants of the Moorish residential area that surrounded the castle when it was built, as well as traces of the earliest known habitation dating back to the 6th century BC. Evidence of the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, and Carthaginians has been found here.

By this point, we were pretty hungry again, and so decided to walk down through the Alfama district to find some food. Our goal was a restaurant recommended in our guidebook, Santa Antonio de Alfama, which did have a very nice vine covered patio as advertised. However, when we arrived at 4:10, the grumpy proprietor told us rather brusquely that he was serving only drinks, not food. When he returned to take our order, he told us that he would be closing the doors at 5 so he could take his break before opening for dinner at 7:30. After our drinks came, another couple approached, and he told them very bluntly that he was not serving drinks, not serving food, and was just waiting for these customers (us) to leave so he could take his break. (!) And so, we unwittingly ran afoul of local custom that was obvious to him but baffling to us.

We finished our drinks and left, wandering further into the Alfama. We stopped at a cafe called Pois, had a couple of nice salads to tide us over, and then got delightfully lost a couple of times while looking for the restaurant we were considering for dinner later. Evening was beginning to fall, and we enjoyed taking a few photos in the beautiful light and as we wound our way back down to the waterfront. 

When we got back to the room, Dan took a nap and I did some laundry and caught up on some work. We went out again at about 9 to find some dinner. Both of us were tired and very hungry, so we scrapped our plan to walk back to the Alfama district and decided to just sit down at Casa Brasiliera again, this time at their outdoor seating in the plaza.The night staff was a little brusque, but food was simple, plentiful and good: mixed kebabs for Dan, and roasted chicken for me. We made our plan for the next day: head back to the Alfama for a good wander and lots of photographing.