Although we spent two nights in Sesimbra, a beach town on the western side of the Serra de Arrábida, we never really had a chance to explore it in depth. We arrived late into the first evening, after touring the Arrábida National Park and sampling the wines of Azeitão.
For all its aspirations to high culture, with avenues named for opera singers and plazas dedicated to poets, Setúbal is a fishing town at heart, and always has been. With a privileged position on one of Europe’s prime natural Atlantic ports, Setúbal has long been defined by its relationship with the sea. We went to check out the docks, and indulge in the city’s most famous dish, choco frito, before climbing to the castle.
As our third month in Lisbon started, we took the first of two extended road trips we had planned. For this one, we’d be spending five days south of the capital, in and around Setubal, Portugal’s third-largest city. Before arriving there, we made a pit-stop in Palmela, a small village in the hills.
If a city can be said to have a birthplace, Lisbon’s is the massive stone bluff which soars over the Tagus River Basin. This hill was home to the earliest humans to populate the area, and has served as a fortress and a castle for centuries of Romans, Moors and Christians. Today, the remains of the Castelo de São Jorge serve mostly tourists, who show up in droves to take in the best views in the city.
The neighborhood of Mouraria will be our base of operations during these 91 days in Lisbon. Ranged along the hill east of the center, underneath the shadow of the Castle of São Jorge, this has historically been the city’s most ethnically diverse section. We took a long self-guided tour, to get to know our new home a little better.