Lisboa- The land of the Lobos'!

Trip Start Aug 15, 2010
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Trip End Dec 03, 2010


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Where I stayed
The Living Lounge

Flag of Portugal  , Estremadura,
Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    I knew I was going to enjoy Lisbon even from the plane. We had a fabulous view of the entire city lit up at night from the air. After landing, we took a bus to our hostel and met the nicest lady in the world. She gave us the entire skinny on what to do, including maps and writing down Portuguese phrases for us. She apparently lived in Portugal until she was ten and then moved to the States with her family. She now lives in Texas and used to work for UT-Austin. She even said her heart reached out to us after the shootings at Virginia Tech. She was amazing and even said if we were even in Texas to give her a call. After we got off the bus, she even walked us to our hostel, and bought us roasted chestnuts off the street because that is one of her favorite things about Portugal. One of the best pieces of advice she gave us was that to enjoy the city: if you see stairs, walk up them and also relax and stop for coffee as often as possible. Let's just say the start of our second 10 day was fabulous because of a 30 minute bus ride with her!
    The Living Lounge, our hostel, was incredible! By far the nicest hotel in Europe I have stayed in. Each room was themed, and had a different design scheme. Our was themed "Islak" by Inigo and Ane. Don't ask what or who that is because I don't know. Our drapes had clothes stiched on them, the hangers to hold our clothes were hands, and there were doodles on the walls. We ate dinner at our hostel for a great deal of 8 Euros and a three course meal. We had a fresh garden salad, leek soup, pork with clams, which is a traditional Portuguese dish, rosemary roasted potatoes and veggies, mango mousse for dessert, and roasted chestnuts and Port after dinner because it was a Saint's feast day. God I love Portugal!
    We walked around at night in Barrio Alto and a guy who worked at our hostel took us to all the look out points in the City. We even made friends with people from our hostel: Meg an Aussie who is
27 and a lawyer, and incidentally the love of my friend Bryan's life.  It was incredible: the weather was warm and a nice break from chilly Switzerland, the city was golden with all the lights, and we could even see the ocean as well as the other side of the Tejo River. One of the coolest monuments we could see was Cristo-Rei (Christ the King). It is a Catholic monument of Jesus overlooking LIsbon and was inspired by the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. Jesus has his arms outstretched and from a distance looks like cross. We could even see the Ponte 25 de Abril ("25th of April Bridge"), which is a suspension bridge conecting Lisbon to the municipality of Almada on the south bank of the Tejo River. It is the same color of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and was actually built by the same company, the American Bridge Company, that constructed the San-Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, not the Golden Gate. It is 2,277 meters long and the upper platform carries six car lanes whereas the lower platform carries two train tracks.
    The next morning, we took our new friend's sound advice and wander around Lisbon. We walked down Rua Augusta, a major shopping and restaurant street, and saw the Arco da Rua Augusta. It is a stone, triumphal arch on Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square). It was built to commemorate the city's reconstruction after the 1755 earthquake. The arch hasa 6 columns and is adorned with statues of different historical figures. It also has the coat of arms of Portugal. The group of statues at the acme represents Glory rewarding Valor and Genius and was designed by a French sculptor. It was originally designed as a bell tower but it was transformed into an elaborate arch within more than a century of long delays. After crossing through the Arch, we went from Rua Augusta into Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square). It is situated near the Tejo (Tagus) River and is still commonly known as the Terreiro do Paço (Palace Square), because it was the location of the Paços da Ribeira (Royal Ribeira Palace) until it was destroyed by the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. After the earthquake, the square was rebuilt as part of Pombaline Downtown. In it's center stands a statue of King José I who is on his horse and is symbolically crushing snakes on his path. There is animals of different sorts on the statue, and even an elephant which I took to represent Portuguese colonies in India.
    We then wander some more along the banks of the Tejo River and stumbled upon a random piece of artwork. It resembled a baby pool in the shape of Portugal. It was called Portugal a Banhos and was made by the artist Joana Vasconcelos and put in place as piece of communal art for everyone to enjoy. Just another reason to fall in love with Portugal.
    We then walked up random streets until we found ourselves at the oldest church in the city, Santa Maria Maior de Lisboa (The Patriarchal Cathedral of St. Mary Major). It is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Lisbon. It is a mix of different architectural styles because ever since construction began in 1147, the building has been modified several times and survived many earthquakes. It was not overdone like Italian churches, and had very lifelike stained glass of apostles and saints. I admired one specific room where there was a long, embroidered cardinal or bishop's robe of red and many hats sitting in front of an alter of the Virgin Mary. I even saw Indian nuns inside the cathedral!
    We then wandered some more and ran into some of our friends randomly. We visited different look out points and one named Jardim Julio Castilho was a library garden dating back to the 1960's. It was beautifully overlooking the ocean, and had an arch covered with vines and purple flowers on the edge of a garden. It had the traditional Portuguese tiles outline the library garden and there was a local artist peddling his wares as well as a guitarist serenading us. It was the perfect place to stop and enjoy the moment.
    Next we walked up the road and happened to be in the area of Alfama. It was another good lookout of the city and there was sign indicating that we were at Cerca Moura, which was a wall built by the Moors. The
Arab wall of Lisbon was built by the Muslims between mid-tenth century
and 1147, when Dom Afonso Henriques conquered the city. In the rebuilding by the Moors, materials of Roman origins, such as carved stone pieces, remains of columns, and tombstones were incorporated. There also was a statue of Saint Vincent, who is the patron saint of Lisbon.
    Next on our list of stops was Castelo de São Jorge, a moorish castle that overlooks Lisbon and the Tagus River. It was strongly fortified and dates back to medieval times. It is atop the highest hill in the historic center of the city. The castle is roughly a square, and was originally enclosed by a wall to form a citadel. The complex consists of castelejo (castle proper), different buildings including the ruins of the royal palace, gardens, and a terraced square with amazing views of Lisbon. The main entrance has a gate from the 19th century that has the Portuguese coat of arms, the name of Queen Maria II, and 1846 enscribed on it. There are old cannons all along the terraced wall and a bronze statue of Afonso Henriquese in the center of the square. He was the Portugese monarch who seized the castle from the Moors. The royal palace ruins are across from the main square and all that is there are some walls and a few rebuilt rooms. Inside the castle were a guitarists signing and even peacocks wandering the gardens.
    We ate lunch at a little hole in the wall place by our hostel. We drank vinho verde (green wine) which is native to Portugal and feasted on meats of pork and beef that were smoked, baked, seared, you name it, and simply served with lemon and lightly seasoned. It was delicious and completely carnivorous! We then pretended to be in Spain and siesta-ed for a few hours.
    At night, I walked around the city and took the Santa Justa Lift, which is an elevator that is national monument to see the entire city from above. A neat fact about Lisbon is that there are two streets, Gold Street and Silver Street and they run parallel to each other. Also, since it was nearing the Christmas season, I could see all the Christmas lights and decorations from up high. I could stare at that city all day, or rather night, long.
    For dinner, we ate at Cocheria Alentejana, a restaurant recommended to us by our hostel. They served us so many appetizers that we were in heaven at first, until the bill came and they charged us twenty extra euros for all of it. I got the sea bass, another Portuguese dish, and it was okay. It was swimming in oil and extremely salty. If you got over that both of those, it was fine.
    We spent the whole next day in Sintra, a town thirty minutes away. At night, Caitland and I went to MUDE, Museu do Design e Moda (Design and Fashion Museum). They had fashion trends throughout the decades and even furniture as well as appliances that had an artistic air about them. Even the architecture of the building with it's concrete floors and unfinished ceilings were thoughtfully crafted. Upstairs, there was long runway and even more evening gowns. Caitland and I picked out our favorite ones and stuff we would actually wear. It was fun to do something girly, after traveling with 4 boys all day long.
    Lisbon was relaxing and actually a vacation from tours and tourist traps. It was nice to wander and explore a city on our own. I loved the calming atmosphere and could definitely see myself living there.

Ciao for now!
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