Saturday, May 2, 2015

Navigating Lisbon



260 years ago Lisbon suffered a devastating 9.0 earthquake.  It changed one of the richest, most powerful cities and the country of Portugal forever.  Over 40,000 people died (20% of the population) 80% of the buildings were destroyed and it changed the course of history in many ways.  This last week we have been witnessing the horrible effects an earthquake can have on a country.  Nepal is suffering, please contribute to one of the many charitable organizations helping to ease their pain. 
Doctors Without Borders doctorswithoutborders.org and
The Red Cross - Nepal Earthquake Relief redcross.org are two good organizations.




Saint Vincent - Lisbon's patron saint holding a boat with 2 ravens which are symbols of Lisbon

RICH:

We spent Spring Break and Easter in Lisbon.  Lisbon has become one of the "Go-To" Capitals of Europe for low-cost weekends and getaways.  Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in Europe dating back to 1200 BC.  With so many years of Kings, Romans, Moors, Castles, Palaces, and Explorers, Lisbon is as rich in history as one of their famous Nata Custard Desserts.  The Portuguese LOVE their sweets. whether it be a Pastry, Wine, Port or Liqueur, your blood sugar will definitely rise in Lisbon.  We can't possibly cover Lisbon in this one post, but perhaps we can convey what a special Capital city it is, and hope that you are able to visit it.




Confeitaria Nacional, the oldest bakery in Lisbon






WANDA:



We titled the post "Navigating Lisbon" because of Portugal's maritime history as leaders of overseas exploration in the early 15th century.  This beautiful monument honors "The Padrao Descobrimentos" or the Portuguese Age of Discovery- with Henry the Navigator as the chief patron of exploration along with other famous Portuguese explorers like Vasco de Gama, Magellan, and other important figures of the time...

Now let's see if we can navigate and explore one of the oldest cities in the world in just 2 weeks:




Getting around in a car is difficult in Lisbon, so we parked the car and circumnavigated on foot, trams, and buses.  We were lucky to have daughter Renata join us -  and since she is an explorer in her own right, steered us around the city.




Our goal -  head to the highest point in Lisbon - Saint George's Castle, which dates from the 6th century and where the 1st human occupation of the city dates even further back...


...Along the way, there is a lot to look at.  In the chic Chiado neighborhood is Bertrand's Bookstore -

an important find since it holds the Guinness World Record as the oldest bookstore in the world established in 1732...




....How far is this castle??  We stopped at another wonderful neighborhood and explored the oldest district in Lisbon - The Alfama.  The only district that stood up to the great earthquake of 1755 because of its bedrock foundation.   We took our time wandering through the medieval alleys...


Funny sidenote:  we were told by our Airbnb owner that we had an "Air Dryer" in our apartment - Rich looked all over for it, it took awhile -  but we figured out what an "Air Dryer" was ....


...back to finding the castle...




...Almost there, keep climbing Rich - the streets are narrow and this couple wants you to get out of their way!

 
..."Sao Jorge Castle" is finally in sight....


...YAY!!!  We finally made it to the top - anyone out of shape had to rest before going in...

Hard to imagine all the fighting and wars that happened here - The Greeks, Romans, Visigoths, Moors, The Siege of Lisbon during the Crusades, The Castile resistance..... Whew!!  Today it is a historical center full of tourists, a museum, and lots of peacocks!!...





View from the top of the Castle...


Happy Hour - Finally!!!!....15,000 steps later, we found The Porto Wine Bar
 We had the popular "Vinho Verde" - a green wine (green meaning young grapes) and the traditional grilled chourico sausage.




What makes one of the oldest cities in Europe look so colorful and unique are the many tiled (azulejo) homes and buildings that are ubiquitous throughout the city and part of the country's architecture.  We were on our way to the Azulejo Museum to learn about this beautiful tradition that was brought to Portugal from the Moors via Spain....



The Museu Nacional do Azuelo was stunning and worth the 10,000 steps we walked to get there.  It was housed inside a 16th century monastery and had a surprise tiled chapel inside....when we were done, we hopped on a tram to tour some of the other parts of Lisbon (My feet refused to walk back!)...



We spent an hour on the tram resting our feet and seeing the sights of the city...








We passed The Lisbon Cathedral, that we would walk to visit on a later day...





....and jumped off when we saw a Miradoura (view) site found throughout this city of "The 7 Hills" -  what a nice surprise to find a kiosk that sells 1 euro beer to drink while leisurely enjoying the views....after soaking in the beauty, we headed down hill toward the river...








....and enjoyed another Happy Hour with the crowds and music on a glorious warm evening with a sun setting over the "25 de April Bridge" that reminded us a little of the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge!



Our apartment was in the neighborhood of  the "Bairro Alto"... A bohemian district full of artists and writers that is quiet during the day and very vibrant at night.  Pictured above is the night life. We enjoyed listening to Fado (they say it is the oldest urban folk music in the world) and eating Seafood Cataplana, both are important traditions to Lisbon and Portugal.  It was a great evening!  





Our tiled apartment we stayed at for 2 weeks - we were on the top floor (no elevator) guess who carried all the luggage up??


...We took another walk in the opposite direction of the city center to Belem (about 2 miles from where we were living)...

...We found Belem Tower, a UNESCO World Heritage Site - a 16th century fortress built to guard the port that used to sit in the middle of the Tagus River.  The 1755 earthquake changed the direction of the river and the fort now sits on the shoreline...




...Across the street is Jeronimos Monastery another UNESCO World Heritage site, founded in 1501.  The monastery was founded by King Manuel I that is dedicated to the explorers and navigators who sailed for Portugal...


...Of course one must take a break from all this history, so what better place than to enjoy The Pao de Deus (bread of god) from the historic Pasteis de Belem.  It is the pastry I prefer (must be the coconut), while everyone else was buying their famous custard tarts...


...Since 1837 these historic tarts and the secret recipe were passed down from the Jeronimos Monastery next door.  These custard tarts are acclaimed as one of the wonders of the Portuguese cuisine... 


The Pasteis de Belem - the only bakery where people will stand in line for a tart...the power of Trip Advisor reviews!


...Rich refuses to stand in line when this Lisbon chain bakery next door "A Padaria Portuguesa" has Nata's and Pao de Deus that taste even better!


Of course there is much more to Lisbon than this, but we hope we gave you a little taste!

 ADEUS for now, our next post will share the magic and history of Sintra and Evora!!

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