13 reasons to visit Lisbon in November

It’s happened; we’ve put the clocks back. The days are shorter, we have fewer hours of daylight and it’s officially winter. It also feels as though someone’s put the temperature back along with the clocks. As the mercury heads towards zero we inevitably start thinking about sunnier shores; who can blame us? Still, not everyone wants the long-haul. So where should we go for a little blue sky? How about the sunniest capital in Europe? Yep, Lisbon. Here are 13 reasons to visit Lisbon in November.

It’s the sunniest capital city in Europe

Let’s get this out of the way; Lisbon is Europe’s sunniest capital enjoying a staggering 2,799 hours of sunshine per year. This number of sunny hours beats all other capital cities on the continent. It also means you’re likely to catch some rays later in the year.

Low cost flights

There are a number of operators offering low cost flights to Lisbon from most UK airports. Depending on the time of year online travel operators offer deals from as little as £44 from London to Lisbon one-way.

Short flight time

With an average flight time of around two and a half hours trading off comfort for a no-frills journey won’t matter. You’ll arrive in less time than it takes to cross London during rush hour. Put your headphones on, get comfortable and enjoy the short journey.

Public transport is convenient and inexpensive

Lisbon airport is only seven kilometers from the city centre. Wherever you choose to stay the journey time is unlikely to be more than 25 minutes by Metro. Trains leave every few minutes but you may need to change lines.

Buy a Viva Viagem card which costs €0.50 from the ticket machines and top it up. Your single journey from the airport to the city centre costs just €1.40. Given that this is also quicker than taking a taxi it’s an easy decision to make. If you plan to use public transport for the rest of your stay a daily pass is just €6.30. It allows you to make unlimited journeys for 24 hours on all public transport including ferries, tram, funiculars and buses as well as the Metro.



Lisbon’s trams are quite spectacular. I’ll never forget my first tram; think Laura Dern in Jurassic Park (2013) when she sees a dinosaur for the first time. Bear in mind that there are also modern trams in  the city. The classic Remodelados are mainly yellow and rattle and screech through the winding cobbled streets of Lisbon. Route E28 which crosses the Alfama district is the most scenic and a wonderful way to see Lisbon. The trams run from 6am to 10.30pm hourly. Latest time tables can be found here to Campo Ourique and here to Martim Moniz.



Whilst Lisbon’s trams are icons of the city its funiculars are less well known. Lisbon was built on seven hills and the funiculars were introduced in the late 19th century to make them a little more manageable. There are three funiculars and one lift: Ascensor da Bica, Ascensor da Glória, Ascensor do Lavra and Elevador de Santa Justa.

For great views of the city, against the backdrop of River Tagus, Ascensor da Bica is considered the most picturesque ride. It climbs one of the steepest hills and crosses the quaint area of Bica district. Best of all, funiculars are part of the public transport network so the Viva Viagem card is accepted on them.

One of the world’s oldest cities

I was surprised to learn that Lisbon predates ancient cities like Rome, London and Paris by centuries. You can feel history seeping out of the cobbles when you walk on them; dramatic but true. Alfama is the oldest district first inhabited by fishermen and the poor. The Moorish Castle of São Jorge is found here as is Lisbon Cathedral. Take a walk amongst the old houses and new restaurants in Alfama and listen to the familiar sounds of the Fado filling up the evening.


Pastéis de nata

The Guardian ranked pastéis of Belém the 15th tastiest delicacy in the world. The 18th century Monastery of JeróNimos in the parish of Santa Maria de Belém is where it all began. A revolution in 1820 caused religious orders to be gradually shut down. In Belém, some monks started to sell pastéis at a nearby sugar refinery to bring in an income. When that monastery too was forced to close, in 1837, the recipe was sold to the refinery. They duly opened the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém in the same year. Their descendants still own the business. You really don’t want to miss this one. Lisbon bakes 10,000 pastéis a day.


Street Cafes

We’ve established that this is the sunniest capital in Europe. So it would follow that al fresco dining is popular. From coffee shops serving Portuguese coffee to bakeries filled with every sin imaginable, Lisbon loves cafe life. Doors wide open to busy streets send the aroma of the sweetest treats wafting out. Lisbon’s streets are lined with cafes. You’ll be spoilt for choice with places to eat and drink whilst sight-seeing.

Fine Dining

If cafe culture doesn’t suit you’ll be pleased to know that the city has a growing reputation for fine dining. Suba restaurant at Verride Palacio Santa Catarina hotel, headed by Chef Bruno Carvalho, is a real gem. With an express Executive Menu for lunch time diners and a more extensive a la carte menu for the evening it’s a credit to Lisbon. Expect innovative cuisine such as cauliflower cappuccino mixed with traditional dishes such as goat stew all presented with Michelin-worthy flair.


Street art

It’s remarkable how the city has embraced its street art and artists. Trams, funiculars, walls and shop fronts are often covered in artistic graffiti. However, instead of painting over, as most city authorities would, Lisbon has embraced its street art making it a unique meeting of past and present. It’s not uncommon  to find residential streets with historic buildings adorned with colourful street art.


Sleep in a palace

Lisbon has made a swift move from being a low-cost European city break to one of unparalleled luxury. Hotel Verride Palácio Santa Catarina, for example, has swept the board this year with luxury accolades ranging from inclusion in the Condé Naste Traveller Hot List, a nomination for the World Luxury Hotel Award and making the shortlist of Wallpaper magazine’s Urban Hotels awards. Visit in November and you’re more likely to get a chance at booking their Royal Suite which is an ethereal dream.

Roof Top 2

Rooftop bars with views

Given that this is a city built on seven hills the rooftops of Lisbon offer spectacular views over the city. Most hotels take advantage of this and offer rooftop bars to rival each other. Verride Palacio Santa Catarina hotel has the highest point with 360 degree views in the neighbourhood of Santa Catarina. Their Happy Hour on Thursdays and Fridays are legendary and attracts Lisbon’s hippest crowd. Never fear dipping temperatures as the bar here has a roof and outdoor heating.



I was a guest of Verride Palácio Hotel located at: Rua de Santa Catarina nº 1, 1200-401 Lisboa.

A taste of honey at Dokke, St. Katharine Docks

Well, it was National Honey Week from 22nd to 28th October and the nation was abuzz with some pretty sweet things (I had to do it). You’d be wondering why I’m interested in National Honey Week given that I live in London. After all, bees, birds and nature are all the domain of the countryside right?

Read my full post here.




How Dewars Whisky created an award-winning day out in the Scottish Highlands


Whisky has a long association with masculinity. It’s reputation as the drink of choice in private gentleman’s clubs around the world is renowned. That is until you walk in to Dewar’s Aberfeldy; the domain of Stephanie Macleod. Stephanie is the Master Blender for John Dewar & Sons; keeper of secret Dewar recipes and one of the few female blenders in her category. Stephanie Macleod was also named Master Blender of the Year 2018 by Whisky Magazine.

With this in hand Dewar’s has created an altogether refined experience of its wonderful heritage. From the company’s Scottish home of Aberfeldy the distillery has gained attention for its visitor experience as much as for its whisky. It was voted the Best Visitor Attraction at the Scottish Thistle Awards 2018. Here’s everything you need to know about how Dewar’s Whisky created an award-winning day out in the Scottish Highlands.

The history

The company was founded in 1846 by John Dewar. At a time when your word was your honour it was a small wine and spirits merchant in Perthshire. On creating a single malt whisky it was proud of the company put its name on the bottles as a mark of quality.

Dewar & Sons flourished under the stewardship of John Dewars’ sons, Tommy and John Alexander, who fearlessly carried the company’s blended Scotch to international acclaim. John Alexander was the brain behind the vision whilst his younger brother, Tommy, was a marketing pioneer who travelled the world spreading the family’s legacy.

The location

Vanilla Sky 2 (1 of 1)

The village of Aberfeldy is an ethereal dream. It’s everything that anyone who’s visited the highlands waxes lyrical about; a staggeringly beautiful tranquil wilderness. Loch Tay is but five miles away and sits, surrounded by cottages and boats, against a backdrop of dewy mountains.

In 1898 John Alexander and Tommy the built the Aberfeldy distillery next to Pitilie Burn, a stream, just three miles from where their father was born. The distillery still relies on fresh water from the stream and is the only one in Scotland to use this water.

To eat


The Whisky Lounge and Cafe on site sources local food to showcase Aberfeldy’s seasonal produce. You will find paninis filled with Orkney Cheddar and ham from local supplier MacDonald’s Brothers. Afternoon tea will be served with scones from Dow’s of Aberfeldy and jam from Thyme at Errichel. With an open fireplace, cosy sofas and vintage memorabilia it’s a place to feel at home.

For a special celebration there is also a private dining experience which can be arranged in advance. On my visit I was treated to whisky cocktails and whisky pairing with a sumptuous seasonal menu. It included a starter of Ayrshire beetroot and goat’s cheese terrine followed by mains of roasted loin of Margmore venison shot on the estate. Dessert was a Scottish rum crème brûlée and summer fruits compote.

On a separate note, there’s a great deal to be said for food that doesn’t travel; not merely for the benefit of the environment. I’m an avid advocate of locally grown produce for heath and wellbeing over exotic superfoods. Our immune systems are strengthened not by eating exotic food but by eating food that grows in the environment we live in. This was a philosophy reflected at Dewars in its values and in their support of local producers; a pleasure to see and experience.

To drink

The Whisky Lounge is home to the Dewars Dramming Bar. Here you will be able to sample a dram of Aberfeldy 12, Aberfeldy 16 and Dewar’s 12 and Dewar’s 25 ranging from £2.50 to £7 per dram. The prices held deliberately low to allow as many visitors as possible to enjoy the best whisky the distillery offers.

If cocktails are more to your liking the Highball which consists of Dewar’s White Label, ginger ale and fresh lime juice was delightfully refreshing. The Golden Dram made of Aberfeldy 12 and orange bitters was wonderful with hints of vanilla and honey.

Things to Do

Distillery tour

I highly recommend starting any experience at Dewars with a visit to the state-of-the-art cinema. With red leather seats and gorgeous interiors a brief yet informative documentary introduces the history and heritage of Dewars and its beginnings in the Highlands. It sets a great mood for understanding the journey of the brand and the passion which has always driven it forward.

The interactive heritage exhibition sits just outside the cinema and is a must. Dewars has thrown open its archives to retell the captivating story of its founder’s pursuit of the perfect whisky. The exhibition also recounts the story of the Dewars family with artefacts and audiovisuals. You can also use iPads provided to use the Dewars multimedia app which recognises visual triggers throughout the museum. Both the cinema and museum experiences are included in the price of the distillery tour.

The distillery tour is a journey to the heart of Dewar’s Scotch. It includes a visit to the  warehouse and provides great insight in to the process of creating a highly acclaimed whisky. Expect to share the experience with visitors from as far as Japan and Australia who arrive in Aberfeldy for the single purpose of visiting the Dewars Distillery.

Whisky and chocolate tasting tour


For lovers of chocolate and whisky there is the tour that has it all. It includes pairings of three single origin dark chocolates, chosen by Stephanie Macleod, with three crafted whiskies. The chocolates are, of course, handmade by local chocolatier Charlotte Flower.

For me this was a particularly intriguing experience. The chocolate and whiskies made excellent partners and made for a wonderfully new concept. I found it fresh and informative.

Whisky blender’s tour

It is also possible to opt for a tutored blending session as I did. This was a lively experience. On learning the distinctive flavours found in the regions of Scotland we used our knowledge to create personalised blends of Scotch using single malt and grain whisky.

It was a chance to learn balancing flavours at the end of which you name your blend in a sentimental way. It was also an unmissable opportunity to don a white lab coat. A great experience enjoyed by all but most of all by me; my blend was chosen the winner at the end of the experience. Such happy days!

If you’re fortunate enough you may even have the opportunity to visit the notoriously secretive Scotch Egg Club hidden behind a secret door of the distillery. The club is named in honour of Tommy Dewar’s love of chickens (he raised prize-winning chickens). That however, is another story altogether.







Gin and Tonic for London Girls – G & Tea Lounge Masterclass


Is there anything more satisfying than drinks and dinner with friends? I can’t think of a better way to spend an evening. Lucky for me that my wish was granted; I was invited to a gin masterclass at G & Tea Lounge followed by dinner at Manhattan Grill, both of which are part of London Marriott Hotel, West India Quay. Of course to top it all off I got to share my evening with the wonderful Rosana McPhee, Cooksister and Seen in the City.

The Masterclass

The class happens once a month at G & Tea Lounge. I recommend booking in advance as the festive season approaches. I had tremendous fun at the masterclass. It was light-hearted, energetic but most of all I found myself utterly relaxed; such a fabulous way to unwind before dinner.

Headed by G & Tea Lounge’s Head Bartender, Pasquale Parascandolo, we began with a brief history of gin and led on to identifying unique characteristics of unusual gins such as Old Tom, Hayman’s and London Dry. For me, as a food writer, it was intriguing to learn the more unusual notes of the botanicals used in the making and infusing of gins; an interest previously reserved for wine. We sampled three gins and explored a range of botanically brewed tonics which complement them. Pasquale was kind enough to share the bar’s favourite combinations and secrets; quite a task for a bar that holds the largest collection of gins in Canary Wharf. He encouraged us to try brave new flavours and infusions. By the end of the class I certainly felt a greater appreciation for gin. Its recent revival, with many London-based micro-distilleries, finally began to make sense.

Dates, Times and Costs

The class takes place on the last Thursday of each month between 6pm and 7pm at G & Tea Lounge, London Marriott West India Quay. The price of £20 per person includes tasting of three gins and a glass of Gin and Tonic of your choice. So, if you have a gin-lover in your life what a perfect gift this experience would make.

Manhattan Grill


The masterclass was followed by a thoroughly enjoyable dinner at London Marriott West India Quay’s Manhattan Grill. What a treat this evening turned out to be. Spectacular views across the quay set the tone for a wonderful evening that was to unfold. I always maintain that London is full of surprises of the pleasant kind. Manhattan Grill turned out to be just that.


The Menu

My favourite part of relaxed dining is the element of sharing. The menu here appears to have been created for doing so. The kitchen awed us with a selection of starters. King prawns with chilli and garlic, scallops with caramelised onion and pressed beef with pickles kick-started the meal. Each dish was more delightful than the next.

The pièces de résistance were a variety of steaks, cooked medium-rare, as recommended by the Head Chef. USDA beef fillet, (a superior grade tender steak of fine texture), Scottish beef, Scottish rib-eye and Aberdeen Angus steak arrived with peppercorn sauce and sides from the á la carte menu. We enjoyed perfectly crisp sweet potato fries and divine macaroni and cheese cooked and served in a miniature dutch oven. Wine pairing, which is an optional extra, glued the dishes for an unforgettable evening of dining.

A selection of bite-sized desserts, including childhood favourite, Battenberg cake, cherry tart and chocolate mousse cake covered all manner of sweet teeth. The evening drew in to the night with great conversation and good company long after the last coffee was sipped; a sure fire sign of a wonderful gathering. This one is not to be missed.



For more information visit: www.manhattangrill.co.uk