We had the most wonderful day exploring Lisbon. This morning the weather looked a little grim while we were sitting on the back deck having breakfast. As a matter of fact we saw a beautiful rainbow out over the water. After we went back to the cabin and got showered up and ready to go the sky had totally cleared! We were a little nervous about how the day was going to go since we don't speak any Portuguese but we had the pages of the travel book that we had photographed and put on the ipad and we headed out the door with a semi-plan.
It is a pretty good hike just to get out of the actual ship terminal. Our ship doesn't dock in typical cruise terminals, we are usually in more of the industrial areas so it is always a good walk before you even really start. Checking in with the ipad as we went we made our way to our first destination, the Rossio metro station. Even the walk to the station was beautiful. Every building is covered with beautiful tile work or very interesting paint colors on a stucco finish. We walked slow and took it all in. There was an awesome market on the street where I bought a scarf and we watched a man chisel house numbers out of marble. Then we stumbled upon the Baixa which is the low lying neighborhood in the center of Lisbon. There are lots of places to shop there and the streets are a beautiful patterned cobblestone. On our way to Rossio Square we stopped and had a famous Lisbon pastry called pasteis de nata. It will break your heart. We walked into this pastry shop and everyone was standing around a counter that was about chest height ordering pastries and bica which is an espresso. These pastries are out of this world!
We walked to Rossio where the book told us to catch a funicular railway up to the Bairro Alto (the highest part of the city). We had gotten money out of the ATM already so we found a metro station and went down to the ticket counter and got a 24 hour unlimited metro pass. We then found the funicular railway and got on with no problem. We first went to a park that had a beautiful view of the entire city it was the San Pedro Belvedere. There was a map there that showed you what you were seeing down below and it was made of hand painted tiles. Gorgeous! As we walked down the cobblestone streets we passed beautiful buildings covered in tile and beautiful churches and plazas. In one plaza we saw a bronze statue of a lottery ticket salesman. They say that locals go rub the ticket in the statue's hand after they buy a ticket for good luck. We definitely tried to get our luck from the ticket!
Next stop was the Convento do Carmo (Convent of Carmo) This convent was destroyed by the devastating 1755 earthquake that basically leveled most of Lisbon. The Marquês de Pombal said that the Gothic arches of the church be left standing even though the ceiling was gone. This was a permanent reminder of that disastrous earthquake. For 3.50 euros we saw one of the most beautiful sights we have ever seen in our lives. When we walked in past the ticket booth and turn the corner I literally gasped. These amazing arches of a grand cathedral, with no ceiling. I can't describe it, you just HAVE to look at the photos. My eyes just kept filling with tears because I couldn't believe how blessed we are to get to experience this beauty.
Next was the Elevador de Santa Justa. This is an elevator tower plopped in the middle of the city that has more amazing views. It was built in 1902 and was a really neat place to visit. Got more great pictures of the city there!
Our lunch today was at this awesome "oldest beer hall in Lisbon". It was built circa 1860 and it was once the refectory (dining hall) of a monastery. It became a brewery after the monks were expelled in 1834. We ate surrounded by 19th century tiles and a beautiful vaulted ceiling. We had delicious garlic and butter shrimp, beef croquetas, cod croquetas, and a crab salad dip. All delicious! Luckily our waiter spoke pretty good English and was very kind to us. Check out the pictures of this place!
At the end of the Barrio Alto walking tour we ended at a mall so we just had to do it….we got some Starbucks. Then we followed our directions to the proper corner where we could catch the #28E trolley to begin our tour of the Alfama neighborhood.
The Alfama dates back to the age of the Visigoth occupation from the 6th-8th centuries. It is a bunch of beautiful tangled streets and is super charming. We are seeing more of it in a few days with a guided tour (segways) but today we took the trolley up a very steep hill to the St. George Castle named for a popular saint in the 14th century. St. George was from Turkey and was known to be a valiant fighter. The castle was first built by the Moors in the 11th century and then it was a royal residence for three centuries. We explored the castle walls and insides and saw more beautiful views of Lisbon. We spent quite a bit of time here and then we decided to forget about following directions and just wander back towards the Baixa.
I couldn't believe we made it back to the Baixa without any assistance. We explored the Baixa a little more. This is the lowest lying area that was flattened by the earthquake and then rebuilt in a grided street plan. The buildings are all uniform with the same number of floors and the same facades because they were built by military engineers.
We spent some time in the Praça do Comércio (Trade Square). This is where the ships used to dock and sell their goods. There is a statue of King José I, the man who gave control of the government to Pombal, who rebuilt the city after the earthquake. In the square there is a wine tasting center. At Vini Portual they offer tastings of local wines so of course we went in and tasted a few whites and reds and shared a glass of champagne. It was so reasonable. We did about 10 tastings for about 5 euros. What a treat.
We ended our day by walking to back into the Parça dos Restauradores to find some dinner. We had some delicious paella and cheese with prosciutto. Now we are back on the ship to rest our weary feet and plan for tomorrow. We have really fallen in love with Lisbon. I wonder if they need actors here. HA HA!
-We were asked 6 times by people in the Baixa if we wanted to by some marijuana. Geno was nice enough to say "no thank you".
-We saw peacocks and little peacock chicks in the castle
-We tasted Ginga which is a liqueur made from cherries (in a chocolate cup)
-We had a total of 4 pasteis de nata today
-We now know how to say thank you and and hello in Portuguese