Sunday, January 13, 2008
WHO: Blessed Chuksorji-Keefe, 33, and Edward Keefe, 36, of Washington.
DREAM TRIP: Lisbon.
BACKGROUND: Chuksorji-Keefe and Keefe, both attorneys, plan to celebrate their third wedding anniversary in Lisbon over Presidents' Day weekend in February. "We decided on Lisbon after spending our second anniversary in Rio [de Janeiro], with its strong Portuguese influence," Chuksorji-Keefe told us. They've already booked their hotel and airfare and plan to spend four days in the city, but asked for advice on how best to plan their time there. Chuksorji-Keefe said she and her husband aren't extravagant travelers. Their biggest expense: staying in ritzy hotels.
OUR SUGGESTIONS: Chuksorji-Keefe and Keefe have booked three nights at the Lapa Palace (Rua do Pau de Bandeira 4, 800-237-1236, http://www.lapapalace.com), a 109-room hilltop mansion in a posh neighborhood overlooking the Tagus River. Their package deal includes airport transfers, breakfasts and a dinner at the hotel's Cipriani restaurant for $485 a night.
DAY 1: Spend the first day in Lisbon covering the city's major tourist spots. The most efficient way is to hop aboard a No. 28 tram. (Skip the sleeker, new ones in favor of a true Lisbon experience aboard a rickety, wood-paneled one.) The half-hour, roller-coaster-like ride takes you through the Alfama and other neighborhoods where locals hang out in doorways waiting for their laundry to dry on the lines strung from crumbling building to building. You'll also see city landmarks, including the main plaza, the 12th-century cathedral and Sao Jorge Castle. To save money, buy multiple-trip tram passes at a Carris (the company that operates the trams) kiosk on the street. They cost less than the $1.90 fare you'll pay aboard the tram.
DAY 2: Dedicate a full day to Sintra, a green and hilly town 40 minutes from Lisbon by train. (Catch a local at Rossio Station; they depart every 15 minutes and are about $4.80 round trip.) The don't-miss attraction is Pena Palace ($11.70), a fanciful place of multiple architectural styles and painted walls the colors of Easter eggs. Tour the remains of the Moorish Castle ($6.60) -- believed to have been built in the 8th or 9th century -- and see the National Palace ($5.90).
Upon your return from Sintra that evening, go to a bar to hear fado-- Portuguese songs of woe originally sung by wailing wives who lost their sailor hubbies and suffered other miseries. Avoid the touristy joints of Bairro Alto and head to Senhor Vinho (Rua do Meio a Lapa 18, 011-351-21-397-7456) in the tranquil Lapa neighborhood. It is considered the most authentic and refined fado house in Lisbon; its traditional Portuguese meals are tops, too.
DAYS 3-4: Some other suggestions in Lisbon:
* Go into Lisbon's Metro stations to admire the tiled-covered walls -- adorned that way to make you forget you're underground. The Baixa-Chiado station was designed by the well-known Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza Vieira, and the Parque station is filled with depictions of imaginary animals.
* Rise early and meander through the stalls of the Ribeira Market behind the Cais do Sodre train station. This is where top chefs come to procure their ingredients du jour: You'll find baskets filled with fat tomatoes, piles of bananas lugged in by donkeys, marble tables overflowing with cod and squid. Another good pedestrian site: the Feira da Ladra in Alfama, a flea market open on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
* Take a bus or taxi to Belem, where you can see the monastery (church free; cloisters $6.60) and Tower of Belem, a 16th-century tower dedicated to Portugal's Age of Discovery ($4.40).
* Ride a funicular.
* Explore neighborhoods. Chuksorji-Keefe expressed an interest in seeing neighborhoods where regular folks live. Cova da Moura is a poor but culturally varied community of African immigrants from dozens of countries. The community association Moinho da Juventude can design a tour in which you can visit schools; dine at local restaurants; listen to Cape Verdean batuque, morna and coladera music; and learn to play the game of uril. A $7 donation is suggested; meals are extra. For more information: http://www.moinhodajuventude.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Shop. Because the couple aren't big shoppers and because their time in Lisbon is limited, we recommend heading to a tile shop to buy azulejos, the hand-painted tiles for which the country is famous. Azulejos Sant'Ana (Rua do Alecrim 95) in the Chiado neighborhood has been around since 1741 and sells tiles crafted using medieval designs and techniques. For antique azulejos, visit Solar (Rua Dom Pedro V 68-70) in Bairro Alto, with a collection of tiles dating back to the 1400s, some from churches, manor houses and palaces. Fabrica Ceramica Viuva Lamego (Largo do Intendente 25) sells contemporary tiles and reproductions of traditional ones.
* Eat. Time your visit to the Sao Jorge Castle to have lunch or an early dinner at the on-site, panoramic Casa do Leao, where traditional Portuguese and international dishes start at $20. Don't go at night -- you'll miss the great view.
Try the bread and seafood stew called acorda at the trendy and contemporary Pap'Acorda (Rua da Atalaia 57-59) along a skinny, medieval street in Bairro Alto. Entrees from $16.
Sample Portugal's best-known dish, bacalhau -- dried, salted cod served dozens of different ways -- at the small, cavernous, inexpensive taverns in Bairro Alto; just look for one while you're out wandering. And be sure to indulge in pastries. Confeitaria Nacional (Praca da Figueira 18) is the city's oldest pastry shop; it opened in 1829. Try the flaky, gooey custard tarts called pasties de nata and the almond cookies. They'll cost just a few dollars.
SPLURGE: The couple would like to have one "nice" dinner. Gambrinus (Rua das Portas de Santo Antao 23-25), behind the National Theater, is known for its seafood, including shellfish bisque and lobster. Another choice: A Travessa (Travessa do Convento das Bernardas 12), a Belgian and Portuguese restaurant in a 17th-century convent in the Madragoa neighborhood. Dinner for two at either spot starts around $90, with wine.
TOTAL COST: Connecting flights to Lisbon from Washington Dulles cost $650 per person round trip on United Airlines. Not including meals, tips and incidentals, the couple's trip should cost about $2,800.
-- Elissa Leibowitz Poma