The hopeless bride goes to Lisbon

Amongst all the wedding stress, one lovely benefit of being a bride to be is that you get to have a hen do with your family and friends. *Disclaimer this will be a long one so get a cup of tea and settle in!*

I always wanted to have a hen do abroad and after asking, everyone was keen to do the same. As a complete control freak I wanted to play a hands on role in planning the hen, as going abroad with no idea what was happening would stress me out and stop me enjoying it! I also knew that I didn’t want the normal ‘willy fest’ of inflatable penises, willy straws and flashing headbands (much to my friend Kirsty’s disappointment) so I needed to make sure none of that was sneaking into the suitcases.

In the beginning when trying to decide where to go I got in touch with a hen do planning website that offers to organise everything from the flights to the activities on the hen. Whilst I wasn’t sure I wanted them to plan everything, they had a great survey to fill out with what you enjoy doing, what you don’t enjoy, the kind of activities you like and then it gave you the best locations for you to visit. My survey came back with Barcelona and Lisbon as the two options. I’ve already visited Barcelona so I decided to research Lisbon and see what it was like. Luckily for me I wasn’t alone, I had my lovely sister Saffron ready to help me get everything organised and I couldn’t have done it without her. She worked so hard and made the trip absolutely amazing for everyone!

Everything I found about Lisbon sounded great. The architecture looked beautiful, the food sounded amazing (very important for me!) and there was lots to do. Even better was that flights were cheap and the airbnb options looked amazing. We quickly got the flights and accommodation booked and started to look at what to do when we got there.

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We wanted it to be a mixture of sightseeing, fun and relaxing, so we needed to come up with a few different options. For the first day after an early morning flight we knew that everyone would be tired so we planned a trip to the beach in Carcavelos. When we got there it was beautiful and so nice to sunbathe and dip our toes in the albeit freezing Atlantic.

For the evening we decided to go to the chicken restaurant that Nando’s was supposedly based on. Whether that’s true or not I don’t know, but I can say that the chicken was delicious and at €7.50 for half a spit roast chicken it was such a bargain. if you’re ever in Lisbon definitely try Bonjardim!

On the second day we left the apartment to go and try what has been described everywhere as THE place to try traditional custard tarts – Pasteis de Belem. The restaurant did not disappoint, we were served fresh custard tarts still warm from the oven which was a perfect start to the day.

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Throughout the day we visited landmarks and then went to the amazing Timeout food market. The place is a massive hall where the best restaurants as nominated by Timeout magazine have little stalls around the edge of the market where you can buy lots of small plates and try the most delicious food. I had local  prawns grilled and served with garlic rice and the most amazing tomato and chorizo mussels – so so so good!

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In the afternoon we had two tuks tuks pick us up and do the best city tour possible. We saw all the sites, the best views, tried local lemonade and a traditional sour cherry liqueur called Ginja. That night we went to the local supermarket and picked up enough cheese, cured meats, salads and bread to feed half of Lisbon and had a lovely meal at the apartment before heading out to try a few bars. Unfortunately we had been recommended by everyone online and even a taxi driver, that the Topo rooftop bar at the shopping centre was the best bar in the city. When we got there it was dirty, dingy and we were met at the lift by an incredibly rude man in a tracksuit who insulted us before joining the crowd at the bar, so not surprisingly we left and found a great bar with local people doing the most incredible salsa dancing under pretty fairy lights.

The next day all feeling a bit tired/hung-over, we headed to the San Jorge castle to see the amazing views. Our trip wasn’t completely cultural as our main reason for visiting that part of Lisbon was the incredible wine bar at the base of the castle where we had booked a wine tasting and lunch. Now normally at wine tastings you get a small drop of wine to taste and a canapé if you’re lucky. This was definitely not like that. We tried three different wines and after trying each wine they left the bottles on the table for us to finish. We also had the most delicious antipasti platter to soak up the booze (it didn’t do a very good job.) The wine bar was amazing and we had such fun. After drunkenly walking down from the castle we visited the Rua d’augusta arch for more panoramic views of the city. To finish an brilliant day, we went to Lisboa A noite for more delicious food and then had a few drinks out (willy straw free.)

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On our last day we had a lovely breakfast at the apartment before going to Parque Eduardo VII which to be honest, was pretty disappointing and not what I had imagined. It’s more of a strip of grass with a maze pattern of bushes going down it (unless we just missed the rest of it which is quite possible) we then ended up back at Rossio square full of lovely shops ready for our lunch at Restaurant Carmo. Having clearly not indulged enough, most of us ate massive steaks and chips before going up the Santa Justa elevator, which is basically a big lift to a platform with lovely views of the city. A quick ice cream and one final sangria for the road and it was time to head back to the apartment before heading home.

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The trip was brilliant and so much fun with great company. The city is beautiful and I would highly recommend it to anyone. Although not technically wedding planning, for me it has been the best bit so far. So there it is, my hen do. If you’ve made it this far well done for sticking it out, you’re a trooper.

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