October 6th

I’d like to tell you about our last day in Seville and our first day in Lisbon.

On Sunday we thought we would take it easy and do our packing and relax before we left on an evening flight for Lisboa.

But we came up with a number of small things we wanted to do before we left. Who knows how long it will be before we get back? Patricia is already thinking about a return visit.

First, we headed towards the Cathedral. I needed to check the attribution of a sculpture of which I had a picture. We also wanted to hear one of the large organs playing, if possible. Breakfast was a short but tasty detour across from the Cathedral. When we got going again, Patricia somehow got in a group of fast-moving tourists and she steamed right past the entrance before she noticed. When we got back together we went inside the Cathedral but we didn’t get very far. You aren’t allowed in on Sunday until the afternoon, but we got in far enough to hear the end of a Mass and the powerful organ. I did a short video which I will have to edit before I can upload it but it captured the clarity and power of the organ.

After that we went back to the Fine Arts Museum to buy a guidebook. Outside that museum there was a sidewalk art show. We saw some nice items, but (whew!) we don’t have enough room to bring home any art.

After some final packing, we went back to the restaurant area where we both had good lunches. After a last gelato from the store close to us we closed the apartment and headed for the airport where we waited for a long time for our flight. Our turboprop plane held 50 passengers in about 0 comfort. Patricia and I had the two seats in row 13. (Cue the ominous music.) But the one hour flight was quite pleasant and we had a good view of Lisboa as we arrived. Because of the time change, we arrived at the same time we left.

We took a cab to the apartment where we will stay for the next several days. Maps don’t tell a complete story: when the driver let us out at the address we were a little concerned because we weren’t too sure the area was going to be OK. But we got into the apartment and settled in just fine. There are some “interesting” features and we are still trying to figure out the refrigerator, but this will do nicely—you’ll want to check out the pictures of the view out our back window.

View of Lisbon centered on Convento de Carmo
View of Lisbon centered on Convento de Carmo

Our guide today, Isabel Neves from Lisbon Tour Guides , met us outside the apartment promptly at 9:00 this morning (Monday) and we set off on an introductory 7-hour tour of Lisbon by foot, tram, bus, ascensor (elevator; don’t laugh), and funicular.

When you look at the pictures you will see that our building is on a steep hill. It is between the Castle (Castelo de S. Jorge) and the Baxia district in the district called Alfama. The first thing Isabel did for us was to show us how to climb up the hill for a couple of blocks so that we could take a couple of elevators down to the lower levels without climbing a lot of steps. That’s not so important on the way down, but it was definitely important when we came back this afternoon; we were tired then.

Back up the hill we came and we went to the Castle. We were there for an afternoon a couple of years ago but we learned a good deal more on this visit. We also saw a newly-opened area that revealed some Iron age, Roman era, and Moorish ruins that were just outside the Castle walls. The views of the city from the Castle are spectacular.

Torre de Belém
Torre de Belém

We took a 12-passenger bus from outside the Castle down to one of the squares where we boarded a tram for Belém (derived from the word for Bethlehem) where we looked at the Belém tower, which is actually a strongpoint guarding the river that was built in 1520, and a more recent monument to Prince Henry the Navigator (it was completed in 1960). An interesting story about the Prince Henry monument is that it was originally built for an exposition in 1939/1940—from cardboard. The design proved so popular that it was reproduced in limestone.

Monument to Discovery
Monument to Discovery

We also learned about a flight from Brazil to Portugal (8,383 km or about 5,200 miles) in 1922. It was notable in part because it took 3 planes to make the trip and for the expedition’s uses of new technologies. This was the first aerial crossing of the South Atlantic.

In back of the Prince Henry monument is a very large mosaic map of the world showing a chronology of Portuguese navigational triumphs in the age of discovery. One of the reasons the Portuguese king at the time did not fund Columbus was that the Portuguese already knew how to get to the Indies.

Pastels de Belém being made
Pastels de Belém being made

We had a new to us pastry called Pastel de Belém at a famous pastry shop called Casa Pasteis de Belém (since 1824). They were delicious, especially after sprinkling them with cinnamon and sugar.

Then we headed back to Lisbon proper—Belém is about four miles from Baxia. We took a bus this time. We stopped short of the flat part of the city and went into the Bairro Alta. The Bairro Alta is across from the Alfama district and both of these are above the Baixa district. The Baixa district is the one that was first re-built after the famous 1755 earthquake. Isabel told us that most of the government buildings were in the flat area and were destroyed by the earthquake and the tsunami that followed. The king (Joseph I) wisely decided against re-building the palace near the river and the destroyed area.

We got up to Carmo Square by taking what I would call a funicular but here is called a vertical lift: the Santa Justa Ascenseur. It reminded us of a trolley in San Francisco going up California street only steeper. We were glad to skip the trek up the hill.

We saw the outside of the Convento do Carmo (started in 1389 and partially destroyed by the earthquake). It is easy to see this towering building with its open roof arches from the high points of the city.

We quickly passed through Rossio Square and back to a square from which we found our way back to the apartment. Isabel did an excellent job of orienting us and giving us a good introduction to the city. She left us with a map covered with notes and suggestions that we will use a lot.

When we got back to the apartment—after navigating the ascenseurs—we thought we were having a problem with the refrigerator so we called our host for help. Pedro was over in a few minutes and addressed the problem. After that we had a great conversation with him about Lisbon, Portugal, fado music, and many other topics. He added to the notes on our map and we were glad he came over and spoke with us. He was very enthusiastic about Lisbon and Portugal.

More pictures on the pictures page.

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