In the 15th and 16th centuries little Portugal was a seafaring superpower colonising countries from Africa, through to the subcontinent, Asia and South America. Without a doubt Brazil was their largest acquisition but there are bits of Portuguese culture in places like Goa in India, Malacca in Malaysia and Macau in China near to our door step. Little Lisbon was a place of influence and power.
Today it is a small low rise European capitol with some historical precincts near the water front as well as a very pretty historic centre. A lot of the city reminds me of San Francisco with steep cobblestoned streets that ancient cable car trams rattle up.
There is a bridge connecting the mainland with an island that is a dead ringer for the Golden Gate Bridge. As a walking city it is literally not one for the faint hearted as the steep hills leave one gasping for breath.
It is my birthday and we have just one day here so we set a cracking pace. It is initially a cab out to the waterfront to see the 400 year old Belem Gate and nearby St Jerome monastery complex.
Apart from being a beautiful Gothic complex it is extra special for housing the burial tomb of the famous 15th century mariner and explorer Vasco da Gama who was the first to sail around the Cape of Good Hope, the tip of Africa, and open up maritime trade with the East. It’s always special to be able to bring to life snippets of what you learn at school when you travel.
Squares, markets, historic neighbourhoods and the St Jorge’s castle on the hill fill this day before enjoying a decadent splurge on dinner. We indulge in a magnificent 9 course degustation in a 2 Michelin star restaurant called Belcanto, one of the top 50 restaurants in the world.