After breakfast and a ride on Tram 28, my next stop in Lisbon was Castelo de São Jorge, or St. George's Castle. Situated high in the hills, the Moorish castle offers epic views of the city's red roofed buildings and the bordering River Tagus. With such great sight lines it's no wonder the location was chosen to guard the city.
Originally built by the Moors in the 11th century, the castle served as a luxurious refuge for Portuguese Royalty. In the 1500s the castle was fortified, taking on an increased military purpose. By the twentieth century, following a massive earthquake in 1755 and lots of military action, the royal palace and much of the castle was in ruins, necessitating extensive restoration work. Today, while the scale is grand, the castle feels very much like a fortress. Very little of the structure's former splendor remains.
My favorite part of St. George's Castle was the animal life. Within the confines of the castle cats and peacocks roam free. The cats were pretty ambivalent towards humans. Most hung out along the edges of the fortress walls, while a few scavenged near the outdoor dining areas. The peacocks seemed to pop up in unexpected spots (can you spot the peacock in this photo?) but were a colorful addition to the somewhat drab stone castle. I had a bit of a laugh as one peacock was quite content to block the entrance to the women's restroom, intimidating several young ladies in need of the facilities.
The views are the biggest draw at the castle. I'm not sure it's a must see attraction unless you are a military or history buff. I enjoyed my visit but you can also get great views from many of the miradors scattered around Lisbon. Entry is discounted if you have purchased a Lisboa Card from the tourism center, otherwise the castle costs 7,50 euros for an adult. I visited in the early afternoon on a Monday and the entrance queue was quite long.
I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Lisbon, hopping on and off the tram to take photos. Conveniently, Tram 28 ran right past my guesthouse with stops just a block away in both directions. Also steps away was Casa da India, where I sampled one of Lisbon's many signature dishes, piri-piri chicken.
Spit roasted and served with tangy pepper sauce, Casa da India's half chicken was pretty good. The white meat was a little dry (but the dark drumstick was great) and the french fries merely average. Both were greatly improved by the addition of spicy chili oil. The best thing on the plate might have been the rice, which was speckled with carrots and greens, and (best of all) absorbed some of the salty chicken drippings. Factor in a mini bottle of Vinho Verde, and dinner was a success.