Beautiful Port City
06.12.2008 - 06.15.2008
We did an overnight flight from Newark to Lisboa. Our hotel didn’t allow an early check-in, so we wandered around nearby in an area called Castel Sao Jorge and Alfama, the old Muslim district.
The neighborhood is perched high on the hill with narrow alleyways and winding cobblestone streets, all accessible by small cable cars and small buses. Quite charming.
After checking in, we discovered that we arrived in the midst of the biggest celebration in Lisboa dedicated to Sao Antonio, their patron saint. What does this mean? Beer and grilled sardines and religious processions through the street in front of our hotel, the Rua do Milagro de Sao Antonio. That night we walked through one of the central squares of the city called the Praça do Rossio and stumbled upon a parade on the Ave. de Liberdade with various old neighborhood associations competing for best traditional dance and dress. It felt like the whole town was up for this. Oh yeah…more draft beer and grilled sardines…we love this country! We headed back to our neighborhood with thousands of other Lisboans to party in the streets near Sao Antonio’s church. Apparently, people were reveling till 6:00am.
The next morning we make our way on Lisboa’s great public transportation system to a neighorhood called Belem for a tour of old stuff. Among other things, we visit the Mosterio do Jeronimo where Vasco da Gama and Camoes (Portugal’s equivalent of Shakespeare) are buried. Naturally, we stopped to get the pasteis de nata, Belem’s signature pastry that’s essentially a small custard tart…damn fine. That night we get a tip from our Joanna who was manning the desk at our hotel (very helpful) that we should have dinner in a neighborhood called Bairro Alto. We have a great meal and find that wine in restaurants here is cheap compared to NYC…yes! Bairro Alto turns out to be a hopping place with small clubs and bars lining the streets. Of course, most people are drinking outside because the weather’s good. Amazingly, no complaints from the neighbors. We then head to a club to hear a prog rock band called Raising Panico which dealt a healthy dose of fat guitar. During the show, Will is happily groped by a kid who is actually trying to pickpocket him…to no avail, phew. Time to go to bed.
The next day we took the commuter rail to Sintra, a town about thirty minutes outside Lisboa that had some more old stuff to see: two national palaces and a Moorish castle on a hill. One of the palaces was truly amazing, called the Palacio Nacional da Pena, which has a very eclectic, colorful style with intricate stone carvings. Check out this wiki link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pena_Palace.
After our return to the city, we have dinner and sit outside the castle to hear a concert of fado, a traditional Portuguese song form that's basically sad.
That evening, we take our fist dose of Malarone, our anti-malarial drug, in preparation for the trip to Mozambique. Will has bad dreams and blames it on the drug, only the first of what will surely be a trip filled with similar hypochondriacal moments.
Our last day, we do like other Lisboans and go to the futuristic Expo '98 center for a little mall action and to check out the architecture. We couldn't leave Lisboa without going to the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, which houses an incredible collection of Moorish and Portuguese tiles. Just to add a little weight to our packs, we buy two of the damn things. When we get to Africa we're going to look for souvenir stones.