Part 1 - Gemma, Gareth, Mum and Dad
Night Location: Lisbon, Portugal
Mumisode of the Day: Unfortunately today's Mumisode is so funny that it has had to be censored, but it did involve an "Oh, mercy," from Mum and a "You don't get an offer like that every day," from Gareth.
Today has been a fabulous day. As luck would have it, Gareth who has recently been to Africa, met a girl while he was there from Lisbon who had a friend who offered to be our private guide for the day. Neither party knew what the other looked like and we had agreed to meet in a McDonalds. David, our Portuguese guide had emailed saying that he would be wearing his red and white 'Portuguese' socks. We had emailed and told him to look for a group of four reasonably tall people, one with crazy blonde hair, although sadly he never got that email.
Mum, who was keeping a very keen eye on the people entering McDonalds, believed that she had seen him, so she leapt up and charged into the restaurant. While she was in there, Gareth spotted David pulling up the famous red and white socks and was able to reassure Mum who returned saying, "He vanished!"
You could not have asked for a nicer person to show us around the city. David was actually born in Luxembourg as his parents emigrated there just before he was born, but obviously he has very strong roots in Portugal and was able to share some of his knowledge with us. It was so nice to be told about the deeper meaning of so much that we were seeing.
Lisbon is built over many hills and we definitely have done our fair share of hill climbing today. Luckily the first hill was climbed with the help of a 19th century lift. There was a great viewpoint from the top as well where you could look at the bridges, squares and up to the castle. The hills, while giving your calves a work-out, definitely do provide fantastic views over the city, and for that we were very grateful.
We visited the square that was made famous by the Carnation Revolution in 1974, when the people revolted against the dictator, Salazar. Carnations were placed in the barrels of the soldiers' guns during the celebration that followed to remind the people that there had been no blood spilt during the revolution.
Mum sat down next to the bronze poet Pessoa, but this proved too much as shortly after she fell right down on the ground. Gareth who was crossing the street, heard Mum make a strange noise, turned and saw it happen. He let out a cry of alarm and then he and Gemma stopped dead in the middle of the road before realising where they were and getting out of the street. Mum got herself up, unharmed but there may have been a "Good grief!"
It is impossible to describe all the different views and aspects we were able to see during our walking tour. Mum bought a painting from a painter in a park that looked over at the castle. The painting has the typical yellow tram with the castle high on the hill behind. We then used the funicular, adding another mode of transport for the day.
Our guide took us to his favourite Portuguese restaurant. This is a place that without him we definitely would not have entered. The front entrance was made up of giant aquariums with all varieties of sea creatures ready for harvesting. Following the advice of David, we tried two different varieties of cod. Gareth and Gemma had the cod in olive oil with jacket potatoes and Dad had the cod fritters. Both were just fantastic, but there was no way that we could get through the huge volume of food. Even better was the incredible chocolate mousse that followed. Luckily this went into the dessert stomach.
Unable to face the massive staircase up to the castle following this huge lunch, we boarded the old yellow tram. Mum and Dad were wise and sat down; the three of us stood at the back with the cool kids for a different view of the city as we ascended the hill. The tram was very jolty, so you never quite knew what to expect next. As David would say, it was definitely time for a snowboard stance. Unfortunately for Gareth, an old man moved toward the back and was working his way to the door, forcing Gareth to let go of his handhold. Just as he did this, there was a massive bump and Gareth literally went flying to the very back window of the tram, somehow managing to wedge himself in between David and a Portuguese teenager. Don't think anyone knew what to do except laugh. Gemma and David were almost hysterical; the teenager who at first was shocked asked Gareth if he was OK. This was not the only near miss today. Between Gareth and Mum there were many stumbles and moments of unsteadiness: not what you want when you are climbing over walls and stone stairs.
The Moorish castle that crowns a hill in Lisbon is just brilliant. All the ramparts and towers are accessible and once again there were so many photo moments. The first challenge of the visit was to find the periscope tower. In the tower you see a view of the city and river projected onto a large white screen. The 'technology' was invented by Leonardo da Vinci. We watched the sun setting behind Lisbon's famous bridge, such a magnificent site from the walls of the castle. Mum and Dad bought a CD of a Portuguese guitarist who was playing in the castle courtyard; he really contributed to the ambiance of the moment.
Catching a bus and a taxi home, we got changed for dinner before returning to the Baixa area via the metro for dinner. Before we met Leila and David, we made a quick stop in the Guinness World Record bookshop, the oldest in the world. Gareth and Mum both made purchases here. We also bought an 'Australia' travel guide for David, our trusty guide during the day.
Stopping for a quick drink in a local cafe so that Mum could write a card for David, there was an unfortunate incident with some breaking glass. Our waiter was trying to be extra clever and carry everything at once and just as Gareth complimented him he dropped a half full glass of lemonade, shattering the glass and splashing liquid onto both Gemma and Mum but more importantly the card. Mum was less than impressed as she was taking great care with the card. She gave the waiter a severe look and offered him her arm so that he could take the shard of glass caught in her sleeve. It was a strange encounter.
The district that we had walked through in the day was now full of people. At 8:30 in the evening, the town was just starting to get warmed up. Even at this time we were the first into the restaurant. Once again the food, when ordered for you in Portuguese was just fantastic. Grilled swordfish, just perfect. Dessert was an interesting experience. We were able to try some of the local specialties that we definitely never would have ordered had we been on our own. Wet egg and mouldy cake do not translate well, but are surprisingly palatable.
Gareth and Gemma were then lucky enough to continue on from here to a Fado bar. Fado has only recently been given UNESCO status. A traditional 12-string guitar accompanies a soloist who sings with incredible power, usually in a minor key. Such haunting yet beautiful music.
Returning back to the hotel in David's car completed the set of modes of transport. Have written so much, but have really only scratched the surface of what was really a fantastic day.
Part 2 - Amber and David
Night Location: Paris, France
Shopping has taken place and purchases have been made! After breakfast, David and I headed to our favourite café, 'Laduree', where I ordered another passion fruit cream and raspberry tart, this time enjoyed with a delicious berry and jasmine flower tea. A brilliant way to start the day!
Le Bon Marche was on the cards today as it had been closed on Sunday, and David had read that it was worth a look. Apparently Le Bon Marche was one of the first department stores opened in Paris and has been around since the 1852. It is filled with every brand name you have ever heard of and a wide range of other French brands that you haven't. Each brand is set up in its own 'salon' so that you feel as though you are walking in and out of separate shops. As I said, purchases were made!
We stepped out of Le Bon Marche to be greeted by a perfectly blue sky and bright sunshine. Earlier in the week we had decided that we would only do the 'touristy' thing of going up the Eiffel Tower if the weather cleared, and sure enough it had. So off we went! David warned me that the ticket line wait started at one hour and could be up to three so on transit we stopped in at Subway for a bite to eat for strength! As it turned out we made it through the line in 35 minutes and then headed straight for the top. The lift just went up and up and up. It is quite a strange feeling to just be going up indefinitely! The view at the top was spectacular. Very much worth the wait.
After our descent, we walked through the Champ des Mars, boarded a metro and headed to the Isle of St Louis in order to buy ice cream from the gourmet glacier Maison Berthillon, famous for being Paris' finest ice cream. The perfect end to the day!