Life in Lisbon


Although Portugal is a small country, during the 15-19 centuries, Portugal was one of the most powerful countries in the world. Due to it's geographic location, bordered by the Atlantic and Mediterranean, Portugal looked to the seas to establish it's identity and fortune. Prince Henry the Navigator founded a school for navigation and exploration which eventually led to the voyage of Vasco da Gama, the first western sailor to reach the Indies, opening up the spice route for the Portuguese. Lisbon itself is an interesting city, situated on the Tegus River, with great access to the Atlantic. In 1755, a 9.5 magnitude earthquake, the subsequent fires and the tsunami virtually destroyed the city, inhabited originally by the Celts. Remains of the Roman empire and the middle ages are few in the city, although they abound throughout Portugal.

During our week spent in the capital of Portugal, we came to understand the full meaning of the “city of seven hills.” Our apartment was located in the Alfama neighborhood and it was a serious climb wherever we went. Our first day, we climbed to the Castle of San Jorge. Paul proved his navigating prowess again as we wound our way up and up to reach the Castle. As we wound down, we stopped at the scenic overlook of Santa Luzia and had some much needed refreshments.

Highlights of the week included a visit to the Gulbenkian museum, an amazing place with painting, sculpture, decorative arts and a large collection of modern art. We also visited the Ajuda National Palace, former state home of the Portuguese monarchy, now a government building as the Portuguese abolished the monarchy in favor of a democratic republic in 1910. Another lovely sight is the San Jeronimos Monastery, where Vasco da Gama allegedly spent his last night prior to setting out on his voyage to the East.

Our favorite afternoon was the one we spent along the waterfront in Belem. We visited the Padrao do Descubrimento Monument and the Torre de Belem. As we walked along the beach, Paul spotted a pop up tapas kiosk, where we enjoyed delicious snacks and wine from Mister Tapas . Next we toured the Belem neighborhood including the Royal Carriage Collection, bought the mandatory Pasteis de Belem, vanilla custard tarts (so delicious), and took the trolley back to our apartment. Other sights included the outdoor squares with jumbotrons playing the World Cup Soccer games, food trucks, and families enjoying the sunshine and football.

We consumed delicious meals at Trigo Latino and Pateo 13, and wine at Tapas E Vinos. We took the famous Trolly 28 for a sightseeing tour without personal hill climbing. We enjoyed the festival atmosphere in the streets of the Festas de Santo Antonio, decorated in honor or Saint Anthony.

Upon leaving Lisbon, we spent almost three hours at the airport renting a car! We headed out to explore for Nazare, where I’ll take up next time.

Karen DeGraffenreidComment