Our guide book said that Lisbon bears the brunt of the Atlantic depressions, being located on the west coast of the country by the Atlantic and the mouth of the River Tagus. The book advises that rainfall is high in December and January and becomes lighter in February.
The city does need this rain as there is still some around in March and there is not much till later in the year apart from a few thunderstorms and showers.
We arrived on Thursday morning. It was raining as we landed at Portela Airport. We had expected this as checking weather forecasts on the television and the Internet, this was predicted for Thursday and Friday.
By the time our taxi had dropped us off at our very smart boutique hotel in the Rua das Janelas (near the River Tagus) and next to the Embassy of Luxembourg),it was drying up.
The guide book advised buying a pre-paid taxi voucher from the information desk at the airport as some taxis are notorious for overcharging.
Seat Belts: Our taxi driver was very efficient and appeared to be the only one in Lisbon to wear a seat belt! It appears that taxi drivers, the police, ambulance and emergency service personnel don't have to. This seems absolutely incredible as Lisbon has one of Europe's highest traffic accident rates. According to statistics in one month in 2000 there were 3,500 accidents with 103 deaths. The emergency services taking you to hospital are not protecting themselves. I saw two TV news reports whilst there with bad traffic accidents. It must be a very bad example to drivers that taxi drivers and police do not wear belts. They save life, however in many countries including Belgium the police don't "belt up".
In Ireland the taxi drivers used to drive without added protection, the rules have been changed. You don't often find a driver not wearing a belt - they would probably loose their taxi licence.
The afternoon was spent exploring part of the city, taking a 25 minute walk rather than a quick ride on the Carris "No 60" bus into the centre for the evening.
The transport system is superb, we only used the trams, buses and trains, not the metro, but the system is very efficient, very cheap and you don't have to give the correct money - they give change. There are modern double length trams, however because of the narrow streets and steep hills the old small trams are fantastic to look at and very comfortable inside with plenty of polished wood and windows. Pictured top left)
The rain held off for the evening and our hotel was very welcoming with a decanter of port by the bed that was regularly topped up during the stay. They did not have a bar, but two self service bars and you simply filled in a form when you had a drink. There was plenty of complimentary tea, coffee and cakes and biscuits whenever you wanted this.
Friday was forecast to be wet, even if bright sunshine was shining through the windows in the morning. That was soon gone and it got darker. After a while it got brighter again the rain moving away so we ventured out into the centre taking one of these vintage" No 28" (in picture above) trams on an interesting ride up and down narrow streets towards the Castel de São Jorge, although trams do not go that far and we had a lot of climbing to do. There is however a bus that takes you there if you prefer.
The weather got worse during the afternoon and the hotel was a most welcoming retreat. The rain continued on and off (mostly on) for most of the evening and finding somewhere to eat proved somewhat difficult. We did find a fish restaurant that was ok, however as soon as you took a breather by putting your knife and fork down, you nearly lost it!
Restaurants in Lisbon: In my opinion the selection of restaurants in Lisbon is not good. For a city with a population of over 536,000 (and in greater Lisbon 1,836,000) the choice was poor.
Unlike Dublin, Brussels and other major cities restaurants are difficult to find and there are not too many bars. I was pleased we were not staying more than four nights as it was difficult to find suitable places, particularly on a Sunday night when numerous restaurants were shut. As we were searching for a restaurant in our guide book (that was closed) we did however find a very character bar in the Rua D.Perdro V.
This establishment called the Pavilhão Chinês Bar is a former 19th century tea and coffee shop is a really quirky bar with an incredible display of toy soldiers, trams, trains and "nick knacks" with waiters smartly dressed there are several rooms including one with a couple of snooker tables in them. The bar serves non alcoholic and alcoholic drinks and light snacks. Had it been nearer our hotel and not at the top of a steep hill street, we would have been back again.
On Saturday the weather was as exactly forecast earlier in the week, the sun came out and the blue sky. This meant we could take a bus ride out to Belém by the River Tagus.
The Padrao dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) is well worth visiting for the views after taking the lift to the top. It was built in commemoration of the heroes of Portugal's maritime history.
You also get great views of the Torre de Belém. After walking along the area that has a couple of marinas (but lacks in seats for people to sit down and enjoy the views) it was time for a leisurely drink and light lunch at a restaurant that was built out of white rsj girders and glass.
It was a pleasure to see the sun for the entire day and then returning to the hotel and enjoy the views from the "library" situated on the top floor with a spacious balcony overlooking the port and the vesting P & O cruise ship.
Sunday was not quite as sunny, however it didn't rain. This meant it was an ideal opportunity to take the 30 minute train journey to the Atlantic coast. Once again great value €3.30 one way for two people! There was a fun run ending at Cascais when we arrived and it was great to walk around the marina, on the beach and along the cost towards Estoril home of the Portuguese Grand Prix.
Monday was return home day, it was raining again. Well it certainly does exactly was it states in the guide book - rains in February, however the temperature was as predicted as well a pleasant 15 degrees. Information about Portugal self catering rentals here