In love with Lisbon!

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November 12th 2006
Published: November 14th 2006
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Lisbon at sunset...Lisbon at sunset...Lisbon at sunset...

my favorite photo - in Praça do Comercio
Glorious Lisbon, for whatever reason, seems to have gotten the shaft by tourists visiting western europe. Considering its incredible landscape, history, architecture, people, cuisine, and language, its really a shame that its visited with such less frequency than other cities. I can honestly say that Lisbon is my new favorite city in Western Europe, beating out the big guys like Paris, London, and Madrid. Unless Rome and Florence totally enchant me next month, Lisbon is going to reign supreme...

Being that this past week we had Thursday off, much of Spain goes on little trips for the long weekend. My friends Casey, Katie, and I decided we would head to Portugal, taking advantage of its proximity as well as the fact that Casey and I had both started learning Portuguese. Well it ended up that Casey backed out after getting sick from her weekend in Morocco (mine awaits me November 30th), so it was just Katie (she's from the North Shore, went to New Trier, etc.) and myself for the weekend, and oh was it a good one.

Wednesday afternoon, before our god-foresaken theatre class, the two of us headed to the train station for our last minute tickets. We got beds for the way there (its overnight) and then were to have just regular seats for the trip home Saturday night. After an afternoon of class, a tutorial in the Prado, a stop for coffee, showering, and packing, we were all set to meet up at her place and be on our way. There was a little trauma with me being lent Casey's camera and it being more or less broken, but yea, so we left for the train station and had a surprisingly smooth overnight journey. Our bed chambers were MUCH better than those on that train I took from San Sebastian- only 4 ppl per chamber.

At about 8:45am we arrived in Lisbon. Getting off the train and ignoring the little old man trying to make us stay in his place, we bought a day transportation pass and got on the bus. Now I've been studying Portuguese for a month, but I was definitely scared upon getting on the bus because it seemed like everyone was screaming and really angry-sounding. By the end of the trip, though, I'd be even more in love with Portuguese. We got off at the wrong stop and ended up

in Praça de Restauradores methinks
having to walk all the way down Rua de Liberdade, the main street through the center of the city designed after boulevards in Paris. Our intended hostel was up in Bairro Alto (up on one of Lisbon's seven hills), so we managed to find that after almost collapsing up the hill. There's cute little train cars that carry people up and town, but naturally the famous one basically right next to our hostel was closed down for six months, so we had the pleasure of working our calves and thighs every time we came to and from our hostel. The place ended up being 70euro for a double room, so we instead got a reference to the place's sister hostel, which was much cheaper at 40euro a night split between the two of us. Perfect.

The room wasn't ready right away so we headed to a little cafeteria and got some pastries and coffee, the first of many times we would inhale incredible pastries in this country. Then it was back to the hotel to get ourselves settled and whatnot before heading out for the day. Day one's plan was centered around the western part of the city, the quasi'suburb of Belém, which has many of the city´s most famous landmarks. Walking from our hotel down into the city center we began to see just what an incredibly gorgeous city we had came upon. Since the city is on seven hills, there are breathtaking views from all over, and even from the center plazas its incredible to look up and around at the churches, fortress, houses, etc. etc. that surround you. The white buildings glistening in the sun is truly breathtaking. Take notice of the castle-fortress of St. George in the background and its borderline-stroke-inducing. Continuing to Praça do Comércio, it just continues, with the giant statue of King José I and enormous archway leading to Rua Angustia built after the 1755 earthquake, and then the river Teju and Atlantic ocean are just up ahead. Before departing I bought a really cool canvas painting for 15 euros. It´s going in the Portuguese room of my future home.

Anyway, we hop on our little tram thing and head west for about 15 minutes until we reach Belém. First stop on the agenda is the monument dedicated to the Portuguese explorers, o Padrão dos Descobrimentos. Built in 1960, it features
tram cartram cartram car

these guys, the big bridge, and all the hills are definitely reminiscent of San Francisco...even though I´ve never been there...
the carved images of the famous 15th and 16th century explorers like Henry the Navigator, Vasco da Gama, and Ferdinand Magellan. Continuing our walk down the water we reach the famous Torre de Belém, a 16th century tower (and now UNESCO sight) built in commemoration of Da Gama´s discoveries. Its built in the Manuelinho style, a gothic-derived style unique to Portugal. We couldn´t go up inside due to a worker strike, but seeing it was good enough. Next was O Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, a 16th century church and cloister that house the tombs of both Da Gama and then Pessoa, Portugal´s most famous poet. Also a UNESCO world heritage sight and done in the Manuelinho style, we walked through its cloister and whatnot before heading out. After a quick lunch of doner kebab, it was clearly pastry time...and Pasteix de Belém, probably Lisbon´s most famous and 160 year old bakery, was just down the street. There we purchased pastéis de nata, essentially eggy cream tarts in a flaky outside. With sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on top they´re basically delicious. It is said that 18th century nuns in the monastery came up with the recipe.

After a full afternoon, we

the only street performer we deemed worthy enough of our money. the dog was too much...
retired to our room to relax and watch Floribella, our new favorite Portuguese soap opera. We chilled, read a bit, showered, changed, a pregamed a bit before going out for the evening. Our intentions were to stuff our faces with tacos and nachos at this cheap Mexican bar we read about, but upon arriving, they had basically nothing. We settled with Blue Margaritas and a plate of plain nachos before bouncing. We ended up getting cheese sandwiches at this little whole in the wall, and they were basically orgasmic with fresh bread and a creamy, potent, portuguese cheese. mmm...then it was off to this bar where we bought 1 euro imperials (beers) and made friends with the bartender who happened to be born at St. Mary´s in Chicago. weird. Back at that Mexican place, we downed shots and a beer before heading home to collapse and call it a night....

Coming soon, Lisbon days 2 and 3...

Additional photos below
Photos: 13, Displayed: 13


Padrão dos DescobrimentosPadrão dos Descobrimentos
Padrão dos Descobrimentos

great job, explorers!
King José IKing José I
King José I

statue erected after the 1755 earthquake...
Torre de BelémTorre de Belém
Torre de Belém

me and Katie in front of the UNESCO tower
Vasco da GamaVasco da Gama
Vasco da Gama

the famous explorer´s tomb in the monastery

inside the Monastery...
Pasteis de BelémPasteis de Belém
Pasteis de Belém

looking inside the famous pastry shop...

14th November 2006

Portuguese (RL024) meets TTH 4:30...The prof is nuts, but we love her. take it!
19th December 2006

Thanks for love my city
I´m a Lisboa guy and I love Your photos of my city. Lisboa is not a Queen but sure is a Princess... of Tejo

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