Sunday strolling around a beautiful city. What could be more splendid! However, there was a fair amount of climbing steps as well as strolling for us yesterday. Lisbon is a hilly city; it is built on seven hills, just like Rome only packed into a smaller area so the hills are much steeper! There are street lifts and funiculars as well as trams and even Thai-style Tuk-Tuks to get one up and down. However, the Sunday queues are lengthy so we took the old worn Medieval steps and cobbled streets, trodden by millions over centuries. The views were stunning at every twist and turn.
Our Sunday started with a trip down the cobbled streets to one of the many bakery/restaurants to eat a breakfast of the famous Lisbon custard tarts with coffee. Rather expensive, two small coffees and four small tarts cost 10€, however they were simply delicious and justifiably famous. The flaky pastry cases are extremely light and just melt in the mouth, whilst the custard filling is delicious. Watching bakers making the tarts is something of a tourist attraction in central Lisbon.
After our unhealthy breakfast we strolled down to the river. Lisbon is perched on one
side of the estuary of the Rio Tejo (River Tagus). It is a huge river, with one large bridge, which looks rather similar to the Golden Gate in San Francisco, spanning its width. Beyond the estuary, long golden sandy beaches fringe the Atlantic shore. It is a stunning location, chosen by a succession of peoples from the 8th
Century BC. It is one of the oldest cities in the world and pre-dates London, Paris and Rome by centuries. The Phoenicians developed it as a trading post, the Romans developed the site further, naming the town Olissipo. When the Moors occupied most of the Iberian Peninsular in the 8th
Century, they called it Al Uxbuna and it is a corruption of that name that the city still retains, that is, Lisboa.
The Moors built Lisbon’s castle, in the 12th
Century, founded in 1147. It covers a vast area and the neighbourhood that clusters around its southern walls is the old Medieval Alfama (words that start with Al in the peninsular, both in Spain and Portugal are Arabic, e.g. the Alhambra, the Algarve and our home province of Alacant, which is how Alicante is spelt
in the Valenciano language). We spent time walking along the river promenade before climbing up to the castle, visiting a beautiful African Catholic church on the way; the “Nossa Senhora da Conceicao Velha” (“Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception”). There was a Half Marathon race taking place around that district, hundreds of runners holding up the trams and the Sunday strollers; surprisingly few spectators!
Half way up to the castle entrance we photographed an old urinal in a corner of the street, by the old castle walls (check out the photos). We are pleased to say it wasn’t in use at the time but the smell suggested it had been frequented often, and not just by the Peacocks that roam around the castle grounds either! Nice! In Europe we do tend to be a bit blasé about our ancient monuments, but men rarely pee up 12th
Century stonework legitimately!
After the castle we descended back down to the Baixa, the lower town for, unfortunately, a poor lunch. They serve up calamari cold in Portugal so it is very rubbery. We didn’t know this when we ordered it. Afterwards we spied great piles of cold battered calamari
in the café shop window, cooked earlier and scooped with a spoon into paper bags for take away snacks or to eat there as we did. We so wish we had seen this before ordering! Next, we climbed up more steps to the Alto district for yet more stunning city views. Lisbon (Lisboa). Yesterday was a special treat. Lisbon is a beauty!
Today, Monday, sadly we leave. We have been out for a quick stroll, bought some fruit to eat and shall soon be packing our bags to leave for the airport. We have loved this short snapshot of Lisbon and with easy flights from Alicante we shall certainly be back for a longer taste of this elegant Iberian city.
“Hasta lluego Lisboa”. Toronto here we come!
(NB this blog has 20 photos, you need to scroll to the very end of the post to see them all)
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