Henry Chard was inspired to visit Lisbon – where he watched the legendary Benfica play, and he enjoyed the local culinary delights.
This trip all came about after watching an episode of Rick Stein’s Long Weekends on TV. I saw Rick waking up each day to bright sunshine, polishing off custard tarts for breakfast before exploring a fine city whilst scoffing peri peri chicken and seafood and finishing off the day in a vibrant area of the city for drinks.
Rick was in Lisbon and that was where I was heading to see Benfica play Belenenses at the famous Estádio da Luz.
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Portugal has forever been a place I have always want to see more of, but seeing as all of my trips revolve around football, it has always been neglected by me in favour of what I deem bigger leagues in Europe.
However the country has great footballing pedigree, they are current European champions, have Cristiano Ronaldo and have produced numerous world-class players in history.
We flew out from London Gatwick on the Friday and arrived into Lisbon in the early afternoon to scorching sunshine.
We had our priorities right and indulged in our first custard tart of the trip and eventually it would become a judging contest over the four days of where the best was served. They live up to the hype!
We then caught the boat across the river Tejo with the iconic 25 de Abril suspension bridge hanging over us to see the Cristo Rei statue. Think the famous Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio and it is practically the same thing but a European version.
Far from being religious, we had heard about the views and although we were dripping in sweat having walked all the way up to see it, it was worth it for the stunning viewpoint looking over Lisbon by the suspension bridge.
That evening we headed to the well-known Bairro Alto where, we had been told, it all went on at night. There was a plethora of bars and restaurants to choose from and after much time deciding we finally came to a decision and enjoyed a Portuguese tapas feast with Sagres to wash it down.
Estádio da Luz
On Saturday morning we headed to the ground to pick up our tickets to avoid the queues later before kick-off. The stadium is a bit out from the city centre but it is on the metro line. You don’t really see the stadium from afar, it creeps up on you, but once you do get there a great big eagle greets you.
It’s a nice set up at the stadium, it is almost like a Benfica village, with a supermarket, bars, club shop, museum and gym all around the arena.
After a few more Sagres in the sun back in town in the afternoon, we then made the trip back to the ground for the big game.
Benfica must be favourites to retain their title this year and a home game against their smaller and lesser known neighbours Belenenses was only going to go one way really, you would have thought.
The ground was a hive of activity and a sea of red as fans gathered around the fast food outlets around the ground pre-game. I had expected some sort of travelling support seeing as it was against a team in the same city or a slight derby feel about the occasion but there was neither, perhaps showing what little threat their opponents pose to the Eagles.
We got into the ground in time to see the Eagle fly around the stands which is a hallmark of matchday at the Estádio da Luz. It is basically a bigger version of the Emirates but with a better atmosphere too.
We had seats in the lower section of the upper tier by the stand where the ultras gather. There were about 20 away fans who had bothered to turn up and after a couple of minutes you could see why as they found themselves 1-0 down. It ended 5-0 and it is no exaggeration to say it could have been double figures as the home side battered their opponents and hit the woodwork four times.
Jonas pulled the strings and bagged a hat trick on the night and the champions were good but their opponents were one of the poorest sides I have ever seen!
It was a good atmosphere throughout with ultras at either end singing non-stop all game and letting off flares and firecrackers.
Lisbon food market
The following day we took our first trip to the Time Out food market and I only wish we found it earlier in the trip. Inside were restaurants and bars with food from all around the world.
You could see the flames in the kitchens and the smells filled the hall and after going around in circles making our minds up, I went for my first peri chicken dish of the trip. I had done well to last this long really. The atmosphere was really great inside and it is a must visit if you go to Lisbon.
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This is an edited version of a feature that first appeared in Football Weekends magazine, the fan’s guide for great trips in Europe and the UK. Visit www.footballweekends.co.uk for more details.
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