I generally do not do organized walks or tours while on vacation. The only organized walk I had ever done was the Harry Potter tour in London. (See the reference to it in my post on London).
Even though the London walk was a great experience I still wasn’t keen on joining a group walking tour. I had this idea that they were for unenlightened and lazy tourists. After all with a guidebook or the internet couldn’t you just learn about things yourself? And what about just wandering the city and discovering on your own? Perhaps it reminded me of the old “7 cities in 7 days” European tours. Perhaps I just don’t like being in a big group?
However, in Lisbon, we did two Discovery Walks that have changed my attitude. First of all though, why did I sign up for the walks in Lisbon?
- We only had a weekend (Friday night to Monday morning) in Lisbon and I wanted to be as efficient as possible
- With my husband and fille both along it was going to be difficult to balance their needs
- The first walk was at 11 am on the Saturday and I thought it would be a great way to get us moving since while on vacation my husband tends to stay up late and then get a late start in the mornings
- The tour descriptions were concise and clear and seemed to cover areas of the city that I thought were worthwhile seeing
- I hadn’t had time to do my usual research and planning so this was an easy way to save me some time and effort (yes the lazy tourist).
The first walk was the Belém tour (Jerónimos Monastery, Discovery Monument, Pastéis de Belém). Our tour guide was Fahim (I hope I have his name correct). He was fabulous. He had the characteristics you want in a tour guide, informative and entertaining. He had some tidbits of advice most of which were not relevant to us, however, without the tour guide we probably would just bought Pastéis de Belém at the counter as many other tourists did and would not have gone inside.
The second walk was the Alfama tour (Miradouro Portas do Sol, taste of Ginja a sweet cherry liqueur). While it wasn’t quite as informative or amusing as the Belém tour, it too, got us going on Sunday and put some structure in our day. The Alfama is one of the oldest neighborhoods of Lisbon, intentionally built with winding streets to confuse invaders. With a tour guide we knew we weren’t going off track and were being most efficient with our time.
Were the tours worth it? They do cost both time and money. As to the money, both tours were free but they do expect tips. As to time, was our time well spent? Definitely yes, for the Belém tour. The Alfama tour while good, wasn’t quite as informative and amusing – though we are glad we went.
What else did I learn from these tours?
- It was fun to meet the others in the tour group. They came from all over and it was interesting to learn what they had seen and done so far in Lisbon.
- It did provide good structure to the day. However, at 1 1/2 hours long if you have limited time in a location, if the tour isn’t as information or entertaining as you want it may cost too much in terms of time.
- I surprised myself that I decided to take some more Discovery tours. Now that we are back in Paris, even though I am very familiar with the city I am going to try a couple of their tours. Why? I have lots of time and I LOVE to learn about Paris. It seems like a great way to learn more! I haven’t taken the tours yet, but when I do you’ll hear about it!