Sunday, January 11

Thursday, December 18, 2008

We started the day with a bus tour of the downtown Lisbon area. Parts of this tour were sort of lame, we thought, since we saw them in last night’s driving tour. We drove by the presidential palace (at least five times), saw a bridge that was built by the same guy who designed the Golden Gate Bridge (a guy who was not very creative, I imagine, for this bridge looked startlingly like the GG).

Our first stop in Lisbon (or Lisboa, as it is spelled in Portuguese) was at Torre de Belem, a fort that was once used to fight off pirates coming up the Tagus River.

The Tagus, by the way, is a really, really, really wide river. Can’t see across to the other side.

Our second stop was a two-minute drive down the road to Padrao dos Descrobimentos, a sailing monument. Incidentally, in the two-minute drive, the fog came in and we could hardly see a thing. Seriously, in less than three minutes, it went from being a perfectly clear sunny day to misty, foggy, murder-mystery weather. Crazy. So the sailing monument wasn’t very interesting, you know, since we could hardly see it.

The third stop on the tour was at the Monastery of Jeronimos. We heard a lot in Lisbon about the great earthquake of 1755 that pretty much wiped out the city, but this monastery was one of the things that survived. It was pretty neat—sort of nautical themed, and it had some unique elements, like these elephant statues that were supporting tombs. But you don't get to see them because none of my pictures from in there really turned out. Too dark.

At the end of the bus tour, we were dropped off at Rossio Square and left to wander on our own the rest of the day. First we walked around the shops downtown. Since yesterday was so warm, I didn’t wear my coat today, just my fleece. Big mistake, obviously. With all the fog, it was quite cold. We stopped for pastries and coffee (so we could warm up and use their bathroom) before deciding to head to the Castle of Saint George. The castle was way up on a hill (apparently Lisbon is built on seven hills, just like Rome). We climbed and climbed, steep streets and lots of steps to get there. Climbing up steep things is sort of becoming a theme on this trip. Just ask my quads, they’ll tell you.

All these buildings are covered in tile.

The castle was awesome. There were stray cats everywhere, so many of them that I started taking pictures of them just to show how many there were.
Travel hint: don’t take pictures of strange cats. It is lame.

Anyway. It was still super foggy, so the view from the big hill wasn’t spectacular. We walked down a bunch of steps to this little outpost thing, I think originally it was just designed to get a better view of approaching intruders. There were so many steps that we counted them on the way back up. Andrew and I counted different numbers of steps, but it was somewhere around 140. We spent about an hour at the castle, and by the end, the fog had started to lift, so we got a few better pics.

After we left the castle, we walked back downtown and ate lunch at a little café that had outdoor seating in the sun. Our food was delicious; I had a turkey sandwich on the best bread and Andrew had garlic sausage with a fried egg on top. And if you know Andrew, you know that anything with garlic is going to be a hit. It was warming up, around 50 degrees, but by the time lunch was over, it was cold again and I considered going back to the hotel for my coat. But we decided not to, because Andrew is nice and he gave me his coat (awwwww).

We took the subway to the part of town where the 1998 world expo was. We’d heard it was very modern, very different from the old part of Lisbon. And it was. We saw lots of shops and restaurants, a big mall, a long, skinny park—where three teenage couples were making out—along the river. It was foggy again, though, so we could barely see the river. We took a gondola ride along/above the river. Fun, and a nice rest from all the walking, but because of the fog, still no view.

We stopped for coffee in a little place called Extraordinarily Good Cappuccino. It was not, in fact, extraordinarily good. I’d even call it Sort Of Bad. It was connected to the aquarium gift shop, so maybe we should have known. And they put whipped cream from a can on my coffee. Who does that? After the coffee disaster, we walked back to the mall and window shopped for awhile. We were exhausted, but it was too early to quit sightseeing. To give ourselves a rest, we decided to go see a movie. There were several American movies in English playing there, but what kind of travel experience would that be? We decided to see Bolt, the Disney kids’ animated movie in 3D. Since kids aren’t so good at reading subtitles, this was dubbed in Portuguese. The tickets were 7€ each, comparable to U.S. prices. The man taking the tickets could tell we were American from a mile away (everyone could, actually) and he said to us, “You’re making a big mistake.” We said, “Huh?” and he said, “You know this movie is in Portuguese.” We said, “Yep.” He asked, “Do you understand Portuguese?” We said, “No.” He stared at us, trying to determine just how crazy we were. But we went in and enjoyed the movie. And I’m fairly certain we understood at least 80 percent of the major plot points, and at least 15 percent of the jokes.

After the movie, it was time for dinner. In lieu of going out, we shopped at a grocery store for bread, fruit, and cheese and we decided to picnic in our room. At the grocery store, we had to put our fruit in bags just like at home, but then we had to take it to a special counter in the produce section where an employee weighed it, put a sticker on it, and ran it through this machine that taped the bags closed. I thought this was strange, that they found it more economical to pay someone to do this rather than have the checkers weigh produce. Buying cheese was hard, since we couldn’t read any of the labels. After picking up package after package, we ended up randomly picking a cheap one that was already sliced (since we didn’t have any utensils). It turned out to be pretty good, a mild Swiss-like cheese. We also bought Pink Lady apples (still called Pink Lady in Portuguese) and gigantic grapes with seeds. The bread we got was fantastic, too. All this for only 4,19€. Very economical dinner. Plus, we had the wine from the winery. It wasn’t as cold as we would have preferred, because there was no mini-fridge in this hotel room (the first one, I think, that didn’t have a fridge) so we just out it out on the balcony. Oh well. It was still good.

Only one other story from today—we had a slight problem getting home on the subway. Or really, I had a problem. They have a time-zone system, so you pay for the distance you’re traveling, which means you have to run your card through the machine on your way out as well as on your way in. And on our way out, Andrew left, but then the machine wouldn’t let me go. Said my ticket didn’t have enough money on it. But Andrew and I paid the same amount for our tickets. I was getting sort of panicked, trying different machines and such. Then a nice woman said a bunch of things to me in a language I couldn’t understand, then handed me her card from the other side and gestured for me to swipe it. So thanks to the kindness of a stranger, I was able to leave the Lisbon subway station.

1 comment:

Courtney said...

What, a Disney movie with a plot so simple you can understand it in another language? No way! :-)

I was kind of intimidated by European grocery are you supposed to know what to do with your produce? Where do you pay? But definitely a cheap, yummy way to get a meal.