San Francisco's little sister?
29.01.2011 - 05.02.2011
January 29 - February 5, 2011
Arriving in Lisbon, we flew low over a sea of terra cotta roofs, dotted with a few stone fortresses, all contrasted against the blue of the Rio Tejo.
Terra cotta rooftops
We found Lisbon to be an intimate, easily accessible city. Things are close to each other: buildings, streets, tables in restaurants, couples walking arms linked in what Brad and I have come to call, "European style." Lisbon locals are eager to explain their city, language, the way things work. "Obrigado," thank you, for males; "obrigada" for females. Narrow streets are shared by pedestrians and cars. Ubiquitous tiles and laundry hanging out to dry. The windows of restaurants display on ice the fish, meat, and vegetables being served for dinner. Every other block seems to have a small (i.e., 12' x 12') store with boxes of fruit, fresh bread, cheese, dried ham hanging from the ceiling, wine. In an interesting combination, liquor and wine are sold in pastry shops. There are lots of very small, family-run, restaurants with two or three tables, mom and pop cooking and serving, and a TV playing a soccer match or a game show.
Brad geting haircut in Lisbon
Lisbon is a lot like San Francisco: it is a hilly city, with trolly cars running people up and down steep streets. Fog from the river and ocean settles in among the buildings, and there's a bridge that looks an awful lot like the Golden Gate. Hmmm . . .
Lisbon is a lot like SF
There are also magnificent squares, palaces, and ornate buildings you do not see in the U.S. As Brad says, "Even if we did have squares like these, they would never be painted these colors." We love them.
Statue in square
We spent a lot of time walking around the historical parts of Lisbon. Our favorite walk was along the Rio Tejo. Lisbon has created a pedestrian and bicycle walkway along the river that goes for miles and miles. It is popular with all ages and attracts lots walkers, bike riders, skaters, and fisherman. Along the way there are restaurants and nightclubs, parks, and loading docks for the many container barges coming into port.
Deb at fitness park along the Rio Tejo.
About five miles along the Rio Tejo from Lisbon is the lovely town of Belem. We walked there three times--twice to the Indian Embassy on a hill overlooking Belem (still working on our visa into India) and once, in part, for Belem's warm egg custard tarts, called "pasteis." This bakery has been making them since 1837 (see sidewalk in picture below) and they say the recipe is a secret known to only three people. They are tasty, especially with an espresso!
Cafe Pasteis de Belem
I read somewhere that Portugal selects architects to design its soccer stadiums in design competitions. On the way up to the Indian Embassy, we passed one of them. Three sides for fans and one side open to the view down to the river. (Caroline, maybe after you and Steve finish visiting the major league baseball stadiums you'll want to consider soccer venues?) We had a lunch of oranges at a park near here--just enjoying the view and sunny weather.
Belem soccer stadium
Took the train north to Sintra for a day. Walked up and up and up through a beautiful forest to this lookout point. See the palace off in the distance? That's where we walked to next.
Lookout point in Sintra
Palacio da Pena . . . where we're headed.
A hidden treasure in the forest.
Which way to the Palacio?
A small 15th century monastery was originally on the site of the Palacio da Pena. It was ruined by the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. In 1838 King Ferdinand acquired the ruins and surrounding lands on which to build a palace. The Romantic-style palace, with Medieval and Islamic elements, was used by the royal family until 1910. Today it is a World Heritage Site, filled with original architectural elements, furniture, and art. (Unfortunately, no photographs allowed inside.)
Interior courtyard and clam shell planter, carried by turtles (just like in Savannah, go figure)
At the top
Our favorite dinner in Lisbon was snacks at the Wine Bar do castelo, on the Rua Bartolomeu de Gusmao just down from the Castelo Sao Jorge. Nuno, our friendly host, provided us with a variety of hams, cheeses, olives, olive oils, jellies (including a tasty tomato jelly), bread, and wine. Two words: yum mee.
Wine bar feast
Finally, the sidewalks! After the aforementioned Great Earthquake of 1755 (which we were told also caused a tsunami), Lisbon started rebuilding with its sidewalks first . . . to help keep people out of the muck and mire. The powers that be at the time decided to take the opportunity to create noteworthy, black-and-white mosaic sidewalks. A set of patterns were designed, which are laid out with templates, and today young people go to school to learn the trade of creating and maintaining these labor-intensive walkways. Aren't they beautiful?