If Lisbon isn’t on your bucket list, you need to get it on there. Right now.
Why? Great food, amazing history, beautiful sights, wonderful side trips, friendly people, affordable hotels, great public transportation, and relatively painless flights–what more could you want?
Our stay in Lisbon was just long enough to convince us that we have to return to spend more time taking in everything that it has to offer.
Although the weather wasn’t perfect during our visit, it certainly was better than what we are experiencing today, the day after Easter, here in New Jersey! But then, snow days are made for us retirees to look through our travel photos and blog about our sojourn. Am I right?
Because we were on a Grand Circle Tour (Sister company of Overseas Adventure) our time was planned for us, with a guided tour that included Lisbon’s more popular sights.
The Parque of Eduardo VII was a great vantage point, offering a panoramic view of the city and the Tagus River.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a European city tour unless you stopped at a cathedral. This one, at the Jeronimos Monastery, happens to be Vasco de Gama’s final resting spot. It is also the place where explorers and sailors went to pray before heading off on their journeys to the edge of the earth.
To honor those seamen, the cathedral roof was designed to resemble sailors ropes and knots. You can’t tell from the photo–you’ll just have to trust me on that one.
At the end of our visit, JuanJo, our tour guide, surprised us with a special treat, the custard tart for which Portugal is famous. This particular bakery is supposedly the one that does it best because it was the sole recipient of a super secret recipe, developed by monks. This recipe is as closely guarded as the coca cola formula, or so we were told. I didn’t have the heart to share that I had equally delicious custard tarts from a bakery in Beja. I was told the nuns developed THEIR recipe to use up egg yokes. Why? Because they used the egg whites to starch their colors and headgear, so had a mountain of excess yokes they didn’t want to waste. On our drive to Belem Tower, we passed this street art, made entirely of garbage. The raccoon’s eyes are discarded tires!
Sorry the photo is so pixilated–it was shot from the bus, with my iPhone. But I hope you can see that this is a beautiful and imaginative piece. The artist, Artur Bordalo, has created many murals throughout Lisbon. What I didn’t realize was that I had seen his work already, in beautiful Beja. Remember the rooster from my earlier post? Check out Bordalo’s signature at the bottom right. I loved that rooster even BEFORE I learned it was constructed out of cast off materials.
The Belem Tower was built in the early 1500’s near the mouth of the Tagus river to defend Lisbon from the bad guys. Really? THIS is what their fortress looks like? All decorative and ornate? It looks more like Cinderella’s Castle than Fort Apache!
The second landmark on this side of the Targus River is the Monument to the Discoveries, created in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator.
What is really cool is the pavement in front of the monument, a mosaic map of the world, complete with ships and mermaids.
Climbing the sides of the monument are important Portuguese historical figures, like Vasco da Gama, Magellan and of course, Prince Henry at the front. St Francis Xavier made it onto the monument, but not into my photo.
Across the Tagus you can see what looks like a cross. It is actually a statue of Christ, with arms outspread like the one in Brazil.
Also notice the bridge. Remind you of any place in the USA?
After hitting many of Lisbon’s “must see” attractions in the morning, we had the afternoon to wander. Our hotel, the Mundial, was ideally located near cafes, shops, restaurants, and beautiful squares, perfect for people watching while munching on one of those delightful pastries.
Dinner that evening was in a former Moorish palace that was briefly a casino before becoming the restaurant– La Casa Do Alentejo. We dined in the gorgeous private room on the third floor.
The next day we visited the Royal Palace in Sintra. Sintra is a lovely little city an easy day trip from Lisbon.
As one would expect, the Royal Palace was filled with beautiful art and treasures of all kinds. I particularly liked this chandelier. Hard to believe, but my iPhone 7 took a better photo than my Panasonic Lumix.
The other unique item that caught my eye was this painting. That sure looks like a negligee that he’s (our guide said it was St. John the Baptist–but who knows) either wearing or holding in front of him, and is that a toy horse? If not, then what is it? This has to be one of the strangest paintings I’ve seen in a LOOOONG time!
On our way back to Lisbon, we stopped at Cascais, a lovely seaside town, which is even closer to Lisbon, and is serviced by frequent trains. We arrived just in time for the heavens to open in a colossal downpour, but no biggie. We were with 36 new friends, so several of us ducked into a restaurant where we enjoyed delicious roasted chicken, great wine and even better companionship. No photos of our bedraggled, sodden group will ever be posted. I promise!
Because I had spent two weeks with Global Volunteers before joining the tour, I was able to visit Evora, another great site about an hour by bus from Lisbon. But I’ll save that for another post.
Portugal in general and Lisbon in particular will not disappoint!