Lisbon, Portugal – including my Top 3 places to eat egg custard tarts in Lisbon

It’s quite predictable for me to start my blog posts with…my favourite place so far. However, Lisbon had all my favourite things, old charm, winding lanes with tiled streets, incredibly honest food and vibrant colours everywhere…it’s so wonderfully real and authentic.

We had a fabulous time exploring all that Lisbon has to offer, we walked and walked, taking in all the colourful tiles and cute trams. Enjoying the ocean views and sampling all the pastéis de nata we could find, perusing the sardine shops with their brightly coloured ornate tins.

There are many bakeries serving these little egg tarts but my favourite by far was on a back street in a tiny café in the Alfama district, surrounded by elderly ladies selling shots of the famous cherry liquor, Ginja.

The egg tarts were delectable, the pastry delicately crisp and the custard deep and creamy. Picture the scene, we are munching on heavenly pastries and the café owners were dancing away to a Cher concert on the TV from the 90’s, even now the experience brings a smile to my face. The coffee was very good, simple and unpretentious and the best thing was it was super cheap compared to the popular Pasteis de Belém & Manteigaria (we sampled them all, I’ll come to my review later).

The scenery is breathtaking, every time you turn a corner there is something else to excite the senses….

The city is split into different districts, there is the famous Alfama where the streets are tiny and winding, full of restaurants and bars and ancient tiled buildings. In this authentic fishing town the smell of sardines barbecuing is intoxicating.

The city is steeped in history, from São Jorge Castle to Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge. There is so much to see.

Christo Rei, the iconic Christ the King statue that overlooks the city of Lisbon

The 25 de Abril suspension bridge

A Ginja stall in Alfama….

The best way to get around is to walk or take a tram. Lisbon is well known for being a hilly city so trams are the popular choice.

These beautiful trams take you all around the city and into all the different districts.

Or a tuk tuk, there are many of these brightly decorated taxis buzzing around the streets.

Usually we tend to do a condensed city tour especially as we have planned to travel for a year and are already nearly 8 months in but with Lisbon we couldn’t get enough and ended up staying much longer than we had anywhere else before.

From Lisbon we traveled a little further afield….

The coastal town of Cascais just west of Lisbon was first on the list, it’s a relatively small but busy town. A holiday makers heaven, gelato stores, bars and restaurants line the streets and beautiful sandy beaches adorn the coast.

Next on our list was the western most point of mainland Europe in Cabo de Roca. We had already visited the geographical centre of Europe when we were in Lithuania a couple of months back so it was interesting to make it to the most western point too and later in our travels we will head to Tarifa the most southern point of mainland Europe.

Much cooler than being in the city this town sits in the hills of the Serra Mountains.

Stunning Sintra where 16th century tiles decorate the buildings and the impressive moorish castle overlooks the town below.

Whilst in Lisbon we were really fortunate to meet our friends from Singapore, it was a happy reunion that came at a really good time. It was lovely to see Jon catching up and chatting about old times with his friends, this trip has taught us many things and probably the most significant is the importance of friendships and making an effort to connect when you can.

I know it’s taken a long time for me to document our time in Lisbon, for me it has been hard to put into words how much I really enjoyed my time and everything we loved about this wonderfully vibrant city.

I’m not a natural writer and for me beauty comes from photographs as I can tell a story so much better through my photographs than my words.

I realise I shouldn’t have left it so long but I hope you enjoy the journey.

Before you go… here is the review of my favourite 3 Pastéis de Nata bakeries in Lisbon.

Pastēis de Nata is an egg custard tart originating from Belém a district in Lisbon, Portugal dating back before the 18th century and made by catholic monks. They contain eggs, sugar, cream and cinnamon and today they are enjoyed the world over.

No. 1) Doce Fama

As I said these were by far my favourite egg tart, there was nothing at all pretentious about the café or the egg tarts. They were served simply and filled deeply, much more so than their counterparts. They had a sweet vanilla flavour and were served with ground cinnamon in a shaker, I had mine with an espresso (wonderfully rich and strong) and a shot of the famous Ginja, cherry liquor. The delicious mix of flavours all came together in a big hit of vanilla, cherry, butter and coffee. You need to go here when you visit Alfama, however, it’s easy to miss this little gem.

Doce Fama, R. de São Miguel 1100-543, Lisboa

No. 2) Pasteis de Bélem

This place is an institution, the queue outside says it all really but what is mind blowing is what is going on inside. From the outside this bakery looks pretty unassuming, apart from the throngs of people patiently waiting their turn to taste the egg tarts you could be mistaken in thinking it was just a regular bakery.

So, you enter the small shop front where the egg tarts flying out the door, to be met by possibly the largest seating area I’ve ever seen. There are rooms followed by rooms all connected by small walkways. This experience alone is worth the visit.

For me the Nata were good, not too deep and not too sweet but beautifully caramelised on top and just a hint of cinnamon.

Where the real joy came from was the restaurant, the blue and white tiled decor and the monastic history it contains. Bélem is a really great part of Lisbon to explore so visiting Pasteis de Bélem is a no brainer if you are in this neighbourhood.

http://pasteisdebelem.pt/

No. 3) Manteigaria

I was excited about visiting this store, it’s in a very nice part of town and people queue to grab a tiny box of these scrumptious treats. It’s a very different concept to the other two I have reviewed, more grab and go, there is a bar to stand and eat your pastry and down a coffee but no seating. We bought ours to take away and the packaging alone is über cute. You buy the tarts in pairs and they come in these cute boxes. In the bag you also get individual sachets of icing sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling. Although the boys found these the best of the bunch as they contained cinnamon in the custard filling. I am not a huge fan of cinnamon so that’s why they are third on my list, but for presentation and packaging they rate high.

We visited this bakery about 4 times in our 10 day stay in Lisbon I think it’s fair to say they have pretty good egg custard tarts.

https://m.facebook.com/manteigaria.oficial/

Spain, I just died in your arms… Barcelona, Valencia & Madrid

Our Spanish adventure started in a little village just outside Figueres, Catalonia. We pulled into a fabulous campsite, a huge open space surrounded by trees and we came nose to nose with another American RV, imagine our excitement as we spotted a UK license plate too… could there really be another Brit in Europe in an American RV??? On the same campsite???The answer was YES – we didn’t waste any time in heading over to meet Tim & Julie, it was like releasing the floodgates, so many questions and comparisons. Jon immediately engaged Tim’s help to fix our sun canopy, the beers were flowing and it was good to see Jon chewing the fat with a kindred spirit. The following day we headed into Figueres to the Salvador Dali museum, we have visited a lot of museums this past 5 months and I have to say this has been my favourite so far. Back at the campsite we enjoyed an evening discussing travels. In the town square, what a fabulous place…After saying goodbye to our new found friends we headed to Barcelona…Our first stop was Mikey’s No.1 place to visit, La Sagradia FamíliaThe chapel rises up amongst the trees, we drove past and our jaws dropped, it was a wow moment. The workmanship and brilliance of this cathedral is breathtaking. There are many things in Barcelona to wow you, we were lucky to have clear blue skies. A tapas lunch, food for the soulFollowed by a relaxing stroll through the little alleysOur next stop was Valencia…We stayed amongst the olive trees 🌳 An early morning dip on our own little beach 🏝 We made it to Valencia, we found a great campsite just 12km from the city centre. Our friends came to visit from Altea. Happy days….It was wheels up the next morning and time to head to Madrid but on our way we found this incredible campsite on a lakeWe met some more awesome travellers, these guys were on their way to Morocco in a Land Rover, such great company. Madrid was calling…I know I might have said it a couple of times already but.. BUT I think I might have found my favourite city so far, Madrid – what a beautiful city with so much to enjoy…the city was vibrant and full of excitement Brunch…Then came the churros…first the hot fluffy and crispy churros and then comes the rich, dark and warming chocolate, nothing comes close to this combo, I think I just went to heaven The botanic gardens Celebrating Chocolatería San Ginés and all their loveliness The following day Jon surprised me with a trip to the flea marketSpain you were super…sublime…special and mostly scrumptious The Cava, fresh olives, the sunshine, the flowers and happy times Gracias amigos xox

Dijon, Chambery, The Alps, Perpignan – France

Our return to France was really good. We were last here 4 months ago and it was altogether much warmer now. We parked on a great campsite just outside Chambery in the Rhône Alps. There was an aerodrome next to us and we were able to watch the gliders go by. Our first stop was Dijon, a relatively small city and so beautiful. You must know me by now and my love of food so we headed straight for the food market and picked up some great cheese and fresh vegetables.A trip to Dijon wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Moutarde Maille boutique. Then we took a drive through the vineyards….We stayed a couple of days and enjoyed the relaxing vibe at the campsite. It was really chilled. We celebrated Father’s Day, the boys enjoyed having a day with their dad at the campsite admiring the Alps and watching the planes take off and land…I cooked Jon his favourite dinner…Paella We had planned to meet friends in Italy for the day. Our campsite was as far south west as we could get the RV to the Italian border so Jon and I had an early start and headed for Milan in the Mini. It took around 4 hours to drive through the Alps and into Milan and it was well worth the drive. We met up with Simon and Lisa and enjoyed catching up over coffee, wine and pizza It was a really enjoyable day and great to spend it with such good friends.We continued south…On our way we found a great place for kayaking along l’Ardèche, to le Pont d’ArcIt was a really, really fun afternoon. It was quite slow paced and there were plenty of stopping places to have a picnic or a leisurely swim. Our next stop was in the south of France, we stayed at a lovely campsite near Marseillan. Totally surrounded by vineyards and Caves. We took a drive out to the medieval town of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, such a quaint little townOur next stop was PerpignanHomemade roasted vegetable tagliatelle 😋 And finally we made it to Spain…

Munich & Freiburg, Germany

Our earlier experience in Germany hadn’t been too enjoyable and we had consoled ourselves with the fact that we would be coming back through Bavaria later on in our trip.

On our way to Munich we found a quirky camper parking on a golf course with a solar farm. You actually park under the solar panels which was great as it gave us lots of shade. We also got to use the facilities too, fabulous hot showers and a lovely bar and restaurant.

So three months in and we made it back to the south of Germany and were really excited to be returning to Munich. Jon and I had visited here 4 years ago and had great memories, had enjoyed the food, the beer and the vibrant city. The boys were looking forward to the food. I had found us a great campsite on my Camper Contact App. What we hadn’t realised prior to our arrival was that the Allianz Arena, home to Bayern Munich allows campers to park in their car park as long as there aren’t any games or events on. Jon and the boys were very happy to be camping at a football stadium.

We stayed for a few days as the campsite was a great location for visiting the city. There is a park and ride within walking distance too.

We had a couple of days walking through the city and enjoying beer and an incredible amount of sausages.

After Munich we headed west, to another of Mikey’s must see places. Freiburg, the gateway to the Black Forest…it was here that Mikey celebrated his 13th Birthday.

And an afternoon of Go-karting…

Then swimming….

We were intrigued to see the Black Forest so set off early and headed out of Freiburg.

We took the route from Freiburg to Baden-Baden in the north. It’s a really scenic route. You drive through gorgeous villages and towns. It’s a very famous route and incredibly popular with motorcycles. Baden-Baden is a spa town with thermal hot springs.

Lester loved the little water gullys in Freiburg, it was a great opportunity for him to cool off…

The boys enjoyed Germany a lot.

Opatovec, Prague & Karlovy Vary, The Czech Republic

Our journey so far has taken us to a LOT of campsites, we’ve been on the road for over three months already so other than a handful of nights we’ve always stayed on proper campsites. On the road to Prague (in a town called Opatovec) we found a fabulous family run site with a bar and restaurant right on the banks of a lake. Possibly our favourite place to stay so far. It was a long drive from Oświęcim in Poland.

Road closures in The Czech Republic seem very common, in our first hour of driving we experienced our first closure, there wasn’t any forewarning at all, it was all hands on deck to remove the mini in the middle of a busy dual carriageway in order to make a u-turn in the RV, it was an intense 20 minutes. We made it to the campsite late in the evening and it was totally worth the journey – it was one of those stop and stare moments.

The sunset was fabulous and so peaceful. We had such a good sleep and were greeted by a beautiful blue sky in the morning.

The boys went to meet the 12 year old son of the farm owners. He was called Milan and exactly the company the boys were craving.

The whole day was spent in the river, swinging on ropes and teaching Lester to swim 😆

It was such a chilled out place, we hadn’t realised just how much we needed a couple of days to unwind and relax.

Our final night our host put on some fireworks for us

The perfect end to a perfect couple of days. We were genuinely quite sad to be leaving this gorgeous family.

It was time to get on the road and head to Prague.

Prague is a beautiful city. Jon and I last visited in wintertime about 15 years ago.

It’s great coming back with the boys.

.……….the beer, so good

Hearty Czech food, bread dumplings with meat in rich gravy and smoked meat filled bread dumplings.

It was brief stop in the city. After Prague we headed to Pilsen to visit the birthplace of lager, the Pilsner Urquell brewery.

Joe was looking forward to the tour as he has acquired quite a taste for lager these past few months !

Sampling the unfiltered, unpasteurised lager that is only available at the brewery

The original barrels, in the cellars it was super cold

A fab tour, I would highly recommend it.

Next on our list was the city of Karlovy Vary, famous for its thermal hot springs, not for bathing in but for drinking.

The next leg of our journey takes us back to Germany, this time to Bavaria. I love Munich and have such happy memories of my last trip with Jon 4 years ago. Joe and Mikey are so excited to eat giant pretzels 🥨

Warsaw & Kraków, Poland

Poland, where to start ? So many fabulous places and things to do.

Our first stop was Warsaw, we stayed on a fabulous family run farm (we have the best times on campsites like these) about 40 mins drive from the city centre.

We were treated to freshly baked cakes, homemade bread and strawberries straight from the farm. We were so lucky to find such a fabulous place to stay.

Our first day in Warsaw was a trip to the Zabinski Villa at Warsaw Zoo…we had been inspired by the movie ‘The Zoo Keepers Wife” and wanted to see where such an amazing act of kindness had taken place.

The original piano that Antonina Zabinski played to warn the Jewish refugees in her basement that the Nazis were conducting an inspection. The Jews would then escape, taking all their belongings through a narrow tunnel and await the signal to return to the basement.

The ‘escape’ tunnel

The villa is set in the grounds to the zoo, you need to book in advance to visit the house where Jan & Antonina Zabinski saved so many Jews during the German occupation in the Second World War.

Next stop was the Old Town where we had lunch in a restaurant right next to the castle on the famous Podwale Street.

An altogether more modest sized schnitzel for Mikey.

Joe enjoying a pork schnitzel

After saying goodbye to Warsaw we headed for Kraków……

St.Marys church in the central square, by day

The central market place, beneath this magnificent market lies the remnants of a 14th century town. The underground museum reveals many relics including cobbled streets and burial grounds.

One of Joe’s ‘must do attractions’ was the Schindler factory, a well constructed museum but we were quite disappointed as there was very little about Schindler and more about what happened in WW2.

It was quite cramped in the museum and there were many school tours. The exhibits were very well done, however unfortunately all the text was so small it was really difficult to read and take in. The factory doesn’t even exist anymore.

The enamel pots and pans made at Schindler’s factory

The outside wall of the museum

Next stop……… The Jewish Quarter

A trip to Poland would not be complete without a visit to a milk bar. These canteens are a hangover from the communist times. Cheap, filling and tasty, these were lunch venues for the Polish workers during the communist era. The workers would eat lunch in these establishments as part of their pay.

I researched the Polish menu in great detail as there is no English menu, we managed to order some hearty and authentic Polish cuisine for under €10. The reason for calling them milk bars is that back in the day they served mostly dairy based foods.

The cafés are really simply decorated, they are quiet and calm and many Polish sit alone eating silently. It’s like going back in time and walking into someone’s living room, it feels very homely.

Pierogi, meat filled dumplings, pork schnitzel and boiled potatoes, vegetable soup and our favourite, apple and peach filled pancakes

Truly delicious and unpretentious food

On our final day in Kraków we took a visit to the salt mines, originally formed in the 1400’s, a ‘must see’ whilst in Poland, we had a few ‘Wow’ moments.

The first part of the tour takes you down 64 flights of 7 stairs to a chamber over 100 metres deep. We descended the final part using the long corridors and staircases. There are huge sculptures carved from salt. Even hanging chandeliers. The ornate churches are all cut into the rock and salt.

Inside the stairwell, looking down…….it makes you feel a bit dizzy

The Last Supper carved into the wall, one of the many carvings

The final part of our journey through Poland was to Auschwitz. This part of the trip had us feeling quite torn, on one hand Joe and Mikey have learnt about what happened during The Holocaust and wanted to go to Auschwitz in order to learn more, however, we felt it might be too hard for them to deal with. We had contemplated not visiting and had talked to the boys extensively about what to expect and whether or not they were prepared for it. Let me tell you, nothing really prepares you for a visit to Auschwitz.

We got up early and arrived at Auschwitz at 7.30 am and people were already queuing to get in. You can pre-book tours beforehand which I would recommend doing although we wanted to go in independently as we wanted time to talk to the boys along the way.

It is free to enter both sites, although Auschwitz requires you to have a ticket, there is also a free shuttle bus to take you to Auschwitz Birkenau II, we didn’t use this service as we drove the car. You can go early in the morning or later in the afternoon if you want to go without a tour, if you want a tour guide with you then you must book online in advance and I think you have to pay for this. The English speaking tours get booked up so well in advance.

The area has been really well maintained and many parts have been reconstructed. The areas displaying all the belongings found have been respectfully preserved and exhibited.

There were parts that Mikey did not want to see and by the time we arrived at Auschwitz Birkenau II where the mass killings took place, Mikey and I sat in the car, we had seen enough.

I hadn’t wanted to write about our trip to Auschwitz as it seemed wrong somehow to post pictures of such an awful place, but it was part of our journey and a really important part of our trip.

We were so shocked to see some tourists taking selfies and posing for really inappropriate pictures, some even climbing on parts of buildings it was so sad to see such disrespectful behaviour.

Auschwitz II-BIRKENAU

As awful and horrendous as Auschwitz is I’m really glad I had the opportunity to visit such a significant and historic site. I’m glad we were able to give Joe and Mikey the opportunity and to educate them. No matter how bad a place is we are far richer for being more educated.

Poland was wonderful and emotional in equal measures. We were lucky to experience the lighter side of Poland and also be educated on the horrors that Poland endured during darker times, I came away from Poland feeling much more knowledgable.

Kibicuje Poland I do widzenia 🇵🇱 🍻

Vilnius, Lithuania

The Baltics have been my favourite region so far, it’s been a mixture of amazing weather, great food and historical cities with the added bonus of living really well quite reasonably.

Latvia was a hard act to follow after our stay in Riga, Lithuania was going to have to pull out all the stops to entertain us. We drove across the border and were immediately surprised by the lush green fields and tree lined, straight flat roads.

Our first stop was for brunch at a roadside pub with a huge beer garden set on the edge of a lake. The food was really good, we enjoyed chicken pancakes with a creamy mushroom sauce and the traditional meat filled potato pancakes served with sour cream, a hugely satisfying meal to kick off our journey through Lithuania.

A short way down the road we stopped at the famous Hill of Crosses. It is a fascinating place, there are thousands of crucifixes on a hill, all in no particular order. Whilst we were there we saw a couple in their wedding outfits and a young girl having photos taken in her Confirmation dress. It’s obviously a very religious place, even the Pope visited and gave his thanks to the Lithuanian people for creating such a monument. We aren’t religious at all but really appreciated the quirky and spiritual feeling of the place.

Early the next morning we took to the road and arrived at a riverside campsite. It was a good location for exploring the local area. We were the first campers of the season and really liked the laidback feel of the site. We were located in central Lithuania and there were quite a few good attractions.

We stumbled across this home based bakery, the Latvian lady who bakes all the bread using traditional recipes and oven was great, she didn’t speak any English but we got by with Google Translate. We sampled all her sour dough rye breads which are sold by weight. They had such deep, sour flavours and were laced with caraway seeds.

Next stop was the tree tops challenge for the boys.

A stop at an amusement park for mini golf and labyrinth fun was next on our list

We were really enjoying the weather until the rain came and with it came mosquitoes, literally as big as my hand and so blood thirsty !! It was time to move out and away from the riverside campsite (and the enormous mozzies) we drove to the city campsite just outside the city of Vilnius. It was run by a super friendly and helpful guy, it was perfectly located for sightseeing in the city.

The following day we headed for the old town of Vilnius, the old towns of the Baltics have proven to be absolutely stunning and are always a good place to learn the history and sample local food and drink.

Vilnius really didn’t disappoint, the old town was much larger than we had experienced before, great for getting our daily exercise in.

We had lunch at a medieval themed restaurant serving tradition Latvian dishes.

Mikey sampling the local deep fried rye bread and cheese dip

I had the wild mushroom, sour soup served in a rye bread bowl – really tasty

A traditional Latvian bakery, selling breads and sweet biscuits and pastries by weight.

Our next stop was the geographic centre of Europe (if you believe what they say) not too far from Vilnius.

Finally, Jon and I had a really enjoyable date night before leaving Lithuania. We found this gorgeous Lebanese restaurant called Leyla, they served huge sharing plates. The vegetarian plate was so good and absolutely enormous ! – I washed down with my favourite cherry beer.

Lithuania was another real gem, I am very sad to be saying goodbye to the Baltics but it’s time to move on and Poland is calling.