Kirk and I, along with our friends, Russ and Judy, took a bus to Belem to check out the Martitime Museum. I have to admit that I probably squeeked through history in school, but I find that I wish I had paid better attention now. The scope of influence the Portuguese had in the age of exploration was amazing – far reaching. I remember the names Magellan and DaGama, but I didn’t know they were Portuguese. There was also Bartolomeu Dias who led the first expedition around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, and Pedro Alvares Cabral who discovered Brazil.
Kirk wanted to check out the statue of Christ, “Cristo Rei” (Christ the King) which was modeled after the Chrst the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Today’s adventure would take a trolly, the metro, a ferry and a bus ride. This also took us through the beautiful Praco de Comercio, a large square opening up Lisbon to tbe Targus River, bustling with activity. The impressive city gateway that draws you in ftom the square, the mosaic work as far as you can see, the statues, street artists -they are all a lot to take in along the way. And a little history lesson:
The 25 de Abril Bridge, the Golden Gate look-a-like, was opened in 1966, with the train tracks underneath added later in 1999. It was built by The American Bridge Company and spans 2,277 meters across the Tagus river connecting Lisbon to Almada. The bridge was originally named Salazar Bridge until 1974, and renamed to commemorate the Carnation Revolution.
The Cristo Rei is a monument dedicated to God for saving Portugal from the effects of WWII – Portugal did not participate. The construction was approved in a Portuguese Episcopate conference held in Fatima on April 20, 1940, as a plea to God to release Portugal from entering WWII, however it was not until 1952 that construction began.
Now that our friends are here, we decided that for our first adventure, we would grab some breakfast and head to tbe train station to get tickets to Sintra. Sintra is a resort town that used to be a Royal sanctuary. It is now a National Park and home to many castles and beautiful villas, many of which you can tour. We decided to hop on a “Hop On Hop Off” bus to take the two hour tour around, passing by several villas, castles, and scenic overlooks.
We stopped at the western most spot of the European continent. (Side Note: Last year, around this same time, Kirk and I were at the eastern most spot of the USA). We continued on around and decided to hop off the bus to explore the Pena Palace, which was the summer residence of the royal family, King Ferdinand and Queen Maria II. The palace was first constructed as a monastery in the 15th century, then remodeled/tranformed into their palace using styles from several influences such as Knights Templar and Islamic, while preserving features from the original monastery. It was finally completed in 1854 as the Pena Palace. After the Portuguese Revolution of 1910, the palace was run by the state and in 1995 became an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The surrounding grounds and gardens were designed with the then King’s collection of various species of plants collected from around the world. The King supported science and the arts. He had also bought up much of the surrounding properties, the Moorish Castle, and a few villas to preserve Portuguese history.
This was a jaw-dropping structure, with intricate detail in just about everything you could see! The artwork, carved furniture, raised/carved walls, the views from the terraces, and the surrounding lakes and gardens are all spectacular!
Still waiting for our friends to arrive and get settled in tbeir place. We decided to go to get some food and supplies for the week. After a lovely dinner at home, we set out to locate our friends, Russ and Judy, who had flown in to Lisbon after their trip to Ireland, Scotland and England. The four of us met a couple years ago in Israel, while cruising in the Holy lands. We have kept in touch and met up a couple of times over the years.
Whatever this week holds in store for us, it is sure to include lots of laughs!
While waiting for our friends to arrive in Lisbon, we decided to walk up the hill to check out the open air market at the Monastery of Sao Vicente de Fora. This is the largest church in Lisbon, with construction beginning in the 16th century. The taxi driver told us that the market is held there every Saturday and we could find good values…”local pricing, not tourist pricing”.
So, before I continue, let me remind you that we have recently sold off 85% of all our possessions to downsize into the 46 liter packs we are carrying, and;
- We don’t really need anything;
- We have no room and no desire to haul extra things half way around the world with us;
- “Stuff” is no longer in our budget.
However, I must also disclose that, while the reality of not needing anything is solid, the “want” is still lingering. Wandering through the market, you can find anything from stamps and coins for collections, to antiquities, to clothing. There were new, handmade wears to swap meet type booths. You name it…it was there! Kirk and I wandered through for over an hour and left with a few photos and fond memories.
After doing some research, Kirk & I agreed that we wanted to spend our time in the Alfama District, which is the oldest part of Lisbon. We also agreed that it would be fun to be in a neighborhood with the local residents, rather than in a hotel in a tourist area. We found our spot on AirBnB, so nestled into the Alfama side-streets that even the taxi drivers did not know where it was and directions were provided by our host based on “down the alley by this restaurant”…
Once we figured out where we were, Isabel, a lovely lady, let us in to the building and showed us around our apartment – up four flights of stairs. It was a two-story apartment with kitchen, living room, and full bath downstairs and bedroom with a halfbath upstairs, including beautiful views looking out to the harbor from our terrace.
There are narrow, cobblestone streets and the famous 28 Trolly rattles by just feet from the entrance to our home. There are several little neighborhood restaurants and markets. In fact, it seems typical that all the neighborhoods are mix-use, with businesses on the street level with apartments above. In any Alfama neighborhood, you are likely to find anything you might need from fresh breads, pastries, fruits and meats, to gifts, to clothing, to spirits. There are larger stores located off larger squares throughout as well. There are squares with fountains, statues or gardens dotted throughout the maze of winding cobblestone streets AND I don’t think we walked a block anywhere there was not at least one or two churches – most were spectacular and dating back hundreds of years.
I was glad that Kirk and I built up our leg muscles in Porto so we were up to the challenges of the Alfama streets. What a picturesque area!