Saturday, September 11, 2010

Lisbon, a little slower

We decided to slow down the frantic pace a bit for our second day in Lisbon. We stopped by the travel agent in Cascais in the morning and got our trip up north figured out, then went to the train station and took a short hop into Estoril, a lovely beach town nearby, to look for a music museum from the guides, and spent about an hour wandering up and down the avenues looking for it. Signage here can be, er, problematic. Gave up on the quest and went back to the train station to head into Lisbon.

Over here, public transportation is key to getting around the area. We're still having a tough time figuring out how it all works. In fact, we never did climb on a bus or metro, just the train and that one trolley. I could never quite determine which of the trains into Lisbon actually stopped at Belem, and couldn't find a brochure with a schedule on it anywhere, though there were "schedules" posted on big signs inside the station. Same thing applied to the buses, for me. Next trip to a major metropolis, I must find schedules beforehand.

In the Torre Belem
So, as a result, we hopped off the train at Alges, one stop before Belem. It was lunchtime for us at that point, so we found a nice little cafeteria downtown, reminiscent of one of the old Woolworths, and had lunch with a bunch of local shoppers and businessmen, away from the touristy area of the city. Michele had Salada com Gambas, shrimp salad, and I had Bifinas com Champignous, sliced roast pork with mushrooms and a light gravy, accompanied by rice, salad and fries. We had a little appetizer of (sp?) Queizo Frais, fresh cheese, a little like a cottage cheese in flavor but a sliceable consistency, and bread. We chatted with our waiter about the source of the french fries (London, not Idaho), and had a nice break.

Doc de Bom Successo
Just missed the trolley that went to Belem - actually we were arguing over whether it was the right trolley or not when it went by, Michele was right, I was wrong - so we set out to follow the trolly tracks on foot. Didn't take too long to get to Belem and we found a pedestrian bridge across the street to the Torre de Belem, one of the early fortifications which kept people from coming up the river Tagus to attack Lisbon. We climbed nearly to the top of the tower, and looked out at the scenery. If you're claustrophobic, the spiral staircases there are a nightmare, with people attempting to climb up and down at the same time in a space really meant for one.

Padrao de Descobrimentos
It's a pleasant walk along the shores of the river, through a park, past the marina to the next attraction, and plenty of little souvenir shops and eateries where you can grab a drink or snack. I am happy to report that there was only one boat on the boat ramp on a friday afternoon, though the husband shouting at his wife trying to back the trailer into the water was just like the scene at Lucky Peak back home. From a distance, the Padrao dos Descobrimentos doesn't look all that big, but as you slowly get closer, it assumes Rushmore-like qualities. The monument is designed in the shape of a caravello, a sailing boat, and is lined with the figures of royalty, explorers and other famed Portugese. There's an elevator ride to the top, but we weren't all that interested in waiting in line for it, for a slightly different perspective on the river views. We spoke a bit with an Iranian couple, who now live in Canada, and helped each other get photos taken.

Mosteiro across the Praca
There's a pedestrian underpass nearby, with street vendors and one particularly bad street saxophonist to get by, and we crossed the road to arrive at the Praca do Imperio, a very nice park with a large round central fountain, reflecting ponds with the obligatory horse statues, and lots and lots of park benches with shady spots to relax, check the guidebook, and regroup. Right next to the Praca is the Centro Cultural de Belem, where they hold concerts and recitals, and which also contains a museum of modern art, Museu Berardo. We went inside, where it was A) air conditioned, and B) had very clean nice bathrooms, and spent some time looking at and failing to comprehend pretty much the entire collection. I mean, it's obvious in some undefinable way that it is Art, but it's nothing I'd want to look at in my living room or office for any length of time, so who buys this stuff, anyway? There were a couple of pieces I found more whimsical by a South African artist, but the rest of it left me cold.

Manny had been helping his friend, Ricardo, deliver some cases of wine for his mother's business, early in the day, but he drove into town to join us at this point, and we went into the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, which is a 16th century monastery, containing the National Museum of Archeology, for a brief look at the church. The place was crowded with bus after bus of tourists, and we decided we wanted to see the more modern side of Lisbon, instead of taking the full tour of the museum. Manny drove us all out to the area where the 1998 World's Fair was held, and we had a nice time at the Oceanario, looking at the marine life, including one pacific otter who is a long long way from home. We promised to say hello to his Northwest cousins when we get back. There was a great display about amphibians, with a ton of exotic frogs. I do love little froggies.

Interior shots never turn out this well
This entire area was an old deteriorating portion of the city before the Fair, but it is a wonderful example of modernity now. One of my favorites was the volcano shaped fountains that burble along merrily for about twenty minutes, then suddenly "erupt", spraying water far into the air. Couldn't catch an eruption on camera as we were driving through, unfortunately. After exploring the area by car, we headed back up the coast to Cascais, stopped at the grocery store to pick up some cheeses, sausage, olives - there are dozens of varieties to chose from here - then to a local chicken roastery - think KFC in popularity, and with a walk-through pickup window - for a couple of whole roast chickens, one buttered, the other spicy, and back to the house to gather with Manuel and Irene and Robert for a late dinner and loads of good conversation after out on the patio, with the cool ocean breeze blowing. I leave you with a peaceful image from the church of the Jeronimos.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Beautiful....I have never been to Lisbon, but have been to that city.

Also have been to Madrid and Sevilla.

Spain is a beautiful country.....I am not a fan of the cuisine, though.

Italy is more my speed food wise. :)