October 15-16, 2013
We had an early wakeup call this morning because we had to be at the train station by 7am. The train ride was very comfortable with beverage service and wi-fi all you had to do is sit back and watch the country side roll by at 220kph. We arrived in Lisbon at the Gare de Oriente. This is the newest station that was built for the Expo 98. We stopped in a café for coffee, a quick bite and some information on the best way to get to the Alfama, the city’s oldest district. We decided on taking a cab. They are very reasonable and the 30 minute ride was only 7 euro’s. And what a ride it was! We found the information center, picked up a map and then headed off to find a room. With all the back allies and winding streets, we did manage to find the place we were looking for that Frommer’s recommended. The only room they had available, was more than we wanted to spend, so she gave us directions around the corner to the Villa of Flowers. This was a really nice pension, with small rooms, small bath but very clean and came with breakfast in the morning. The ladies that were managing the place were extremely helpful in getting us started on our tour of Lisbon, with a decent map and even two Metro tickets. Lisbon was first settled by the Phoenicians and then the Romans came along in 205 B.C. The Moors came along after that and in 1147 the first King of Portugal, Afonso, captured the city and drove out the Moors. Catholicism is the main religion with 85% stating they are Catholic. The first stop on our tour was the 12th century Cathedral built in 1261-1325. It’s a very interesting church and there is an archaeological dig going on in what was once the garden area. They are even finding some evidence of Islamic culture. From there it was up, and I do mean up, to the St. George’s Castle. From the Castle and even the Cathedral, you have wonderful views of the Alfama and the River Tagus. We had lunch then wondered around the back streets and allies, for several hours and with all the hills and walking around, we didn’t even want dinner. As they say, we hit the wall. We went back to the room and settled in for the evening. I had a great night’s sleep. Annette, on the other hand was up most of the night, because I was snoring. We were thinking about one more day in Lisbon but that meant we would have to change our train tickets, so we checked out of the pension and took a walking tour of the main squares, Praca do Comercio and Praca da Figueira. Then we walked up the Avenida DA Liberdade, toward the Marques de Pombal. The tour book says it rivals the main avenue in Paris that leads to the Arc de Triumph but having been to Paris, we would argue that point. It was an enjoyable walk and the squares and gardens are beautiful but we must be getting to the point where everything is looking the same. We stopped for lunch and a nice couple from Minnesota sat down next to us. They had just arrived and were getting the lay of the land. The gentleman wanted a nap and the lady wanted to hit the castle first. He asked me what I thought and I said, “Go for the Castle”; you will both want a nap after that hike. We did some more walking and then took a cab back to the train station. It was an uneventful ride back and after stopping at the grocery store to pick up dinner, we were back in the condo by 6pm and settled in for the evening.
October 17, 2013
Happy Birthday Annette, you finally hit the magic number, where you get the best discounts, and happy Birthday to Norm, who is celebrating a big round number. We will have to celebrate when we get back in town. Annette and I have a reservation at a nice restaurant on the beach tonight. We had another down day today. We checked out the beaches and hung out at the pool. We had a nice lunch at the condo and will just veg out for the rest of the day. I forgot to mention that I lost my new 11 euro Spanish hat. I left it on the train when we departed in Lisbon. Also, Annette is having a great time with that pocketbook Sherri lent her for the trip. Several times now, we had to hire a professional pickpocket person, to find out where she stashed the Euros. There are more pockets in that bag, than you would find in a herd of kangaroos. To date, we still believe the UK was the most likely place we would return. Spain and Portugal are very nice but having traveled in other parts of Europe, we find them more appealing. There is much to see in these two countries but the cities are very congested, very dirty and they still need to learn how to pick up their dog droppings. We are starting to count down the days until we return to the good old USA.
Annette and Bob