An insightful excursion in Lisbon starts with a colourful tram ride.
Please be careful of the pebble-stone paving," says our guide Nuno, as we wait to board a bright-yellow tram. Welcome to Lisbon. If there's anything more symbolic of the Portuguese capital than its crazy paving and its compact timber-framed trams, I can't imagine what it is.
No, wait, it's the decorative tiles on the walls of its buildings, which I'll be seeing plenty of today. For I'm joining the Beyond the Tram No. 28 tour, which uses those trams as a delivery vehicle to the historic Graca district, from where we'll walk to the Alfama neighbourhood and Lisbon Cathedral.
From the attractive Praca Luis de Camoes square, we board the tram. It's crowded, rattling and full of retro charm, as it threads narrow streets and laneways.
A survivor from the 1870s, the tramway is popular with visitors; particularly the No. 28 route, which passes various historic sights.
Alighting in Graca, a former working-class neighbourhood, we walk up to the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte. It's one of several scenic lookouts in Lisbon, and gives us an impressive view over the terracotta-tiled rooftops of the city, and the broad Tagus River and castle. From here we start our walk. It's a beautiful sunny day with a cooling breeze, and we pause at the Church and Convent of Sao Vicente de Fora to admire its grand Renaissance facade.
From here we enter Alfama, a neighbourhood of winding cobblestone streets and steep slopes, partly navigated by steps. On the way down we pause at a historic former fountain, decorated with a religious scene in blue and white glazed tiles.
Most locals don't want to live here as it's an accessibility nightmare. You visitors teach us to value this area.
At Largo de Sao Miguel, a square awaiting the erection of either a new visitor centre or museum, Nuno pauses to discuss the impact of tourism on the district.
There's some resistance to its gentrification, he says; but on the other hand, "If nothing changes, these old residential neighbourhoods will disappear. Most locals don't want to live here as it's an accessibility nightmare. You visitors teach us to value this area."
Digesting that food for thought, we pass by a remnant of the old city wall, and pause at an imposing gate.
We're moving through what was a market when Portugal was under Muslim rule, says Nuno, and before that the main street under the Roman Empire. It still has a medieval vibe, giving a great insight into how ancient Lisbon must have looked then, and how its people lived.
The tour ends at Lisbon Cathedral, and I take a moment to rest on a bench with a view of that elegant place of worship, before returning to the city centre. My mode of transport? A bright yellow tram, route No. 28.
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What: The Beyond the Tram No. 28 tour, Lisbon, Portugal
How much: 20 euros ($32) a person for a 3.5-to-4 hour tour
Explore more: lisbon-spirit.pt