Monday, February 08, 2016

Lisbon, Portugal

Ever heard of Lisbon, Portugal? No? Yeah, me either. Not until I started looking at places to go in Portugal. Did you know that Lisbon is Portugal's capital? I don't know why more people don't know  about Lisbon, because it is a beautiful city!
After picking up our rental car in Porto, we headed straight down to Lisbon. Since Lisbon is 2 hrs away from Porto we wanted as much time as possible in the city.

Since we arrived earlier than we thought, we weren't able to check into to our apartment, so instead we parked the car and decided to walk into town.

Lisbon is such a colorful city. We must have taken over a hundred photos in the first day! If you ever go to Lisbon I dare you not to take photos around every corner!

Our apartment was located near the Alfama. The Alfama is the colorful sailors' quarter that dates back to the age of Visigoth occupation, from the 6th to 8th centuries AD. During the Moorish period it was a bustling district, before it became home to Lisbon's fisherman and mariners The Alfama's tangled street plan is one of the few features of Lisbon to survive the 1755 earthquake.

On our way down to the main square, we passed the Lisbon Cathedral. It's absolutely beautiful on the outside! There are a lot of tour guides with little 3-wheeled cars, looking to take people around the city. They didn't seem badly priced but we were looking for a place to eat and didn't want to stop.

We ended up at the Praça do Comérico (Trade Square) - it is a riverfront square that borders the Baixa, ships used to dock and sell their good. The locals call this place "Palace Square", it was the site of Portugal's royal palace for 200 years before the earthquakes. These days government ministries surround the Praça do Comérico.
In the middle of the square is the statue is of King José I. He was the man who gave control of the government to Pombal who rebuilt the city after the earthquake. Built 20 years after the quake, it shows the king on his horse looking at their port.
Another main attraction in the square is the Rua Augusta Arch. It is a triumphant stone arch-like historical building and visitor attraction. It is located in Commerce Square, it was built to commemorate the city's reconstruction after the 1755 earthquake.

By the time we made it down to the square, it was time to turn around and check into our apartment, so we started the journey uphill back to the apartment. I rented an apartment through, it was such a cute apartment, free parking (street parking) although the outside was pretty shady- the inside was adorable.

We had the top floor apartment, which gave us a great view of the city and the April 25th bridge (aka the Golden Gate Bridge's twin) The apartment was for 4 people and it was 76 euros for 2 nights! I love apartments. I wish I felt better about airbnb because that's just the way to travel!  By renting an apartment we were able to save money by making breakfast and dinner- even though eating at restaurants in Portugal is pretty cheap.

After getting settled into our hotel, we decided to drive down to the monument, Padrão dos Descobrimentos, it is a concrete monument to maritime explorers. We found parking next to the Jeronimos Monastery, which is a a World Heritage Gothic Monastery. I wouldn't worry about being able to find a spot down there, there were lots of places to park.

The Jeronimos Monastery was build by King Manuel it is made up of white limestone and stretches 300 yards along the Lisbon waterfront. It serves as a thank you for the discoveries made by the early Portuguese explorers. Manuel built the church on the site of a humble chapel where sailors spent their last night ashore in prayer before embarking on frightening voyages. Of course half of it was covered in scaffolding! That's just the price we pay for travelling in the off season.

We followed the crowd of people to the underground walkway. Unlike in Paris, we didn't try to run across the busy street, although we joked about it later. (For those that don't know the story, when we visited Paris, we didn't know there was an underground staircase, and Drew and I ran across the round-a-bout of the Arch de Triumph... which is one of the busiest traffic circles in Europe!)

At the base of Padrão dos Descobrimentos, there is a world map showing everywhere Portuguese explores traveled.
If you look out to the river, you'l notice that Lisbon has it's own Golden Gate Bridge, it's called the 25th of April bridge.  It is 1.5 miles and one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. The foundations are 260 feet below the surface, making it the world's deepest bride! It was built by the same company who built the Golden Gate Bride in 1966. It was originally named for dictator Salazar, but was renamed in 1974 for the date of Portugal's revolution and liberation.

Across the bridge you'll see that Lisbon also has a Christ Rei (Christ of Majesty) which is a mini version of the "Christ the Redeemer" monument in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Lisbon is just a mix of everything! How can you not love this place?!

The Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument was pretty impressive. We talked about heading to the top of the monument, but we weren't sure if we had to climb stairs and pay a fee, and if there's one thing I hate more than heights, it's stairs. (For future reference, you don't have to climb stairs! For 3 Euros there's an elevator that will take you to the top)

From the Padrão dos Descobrimentos we decided to walk down to the white Belém Tower. By this time I was starving and we stopped off at a street vendor for a, HOT DOG. A hot dog in Portugal? I know it sounds weird, but it was amazing! Interestingly enough, Lisbon has street food vendors all over the place, and they apparently LOVE hot dogs!

It's a bacon-cheddar hot dog with crispy onions!!
The walk down to the Belém Tower looks like it would be a short one, but it ended up taking longer than I thought, maybe the jet-lag was kicking in? At the time I thought it was a castle, but after further research I found out that it was built to protected Lisbon's harbor. Today it symbolizes the voyages that made Lisbon powerful with carved stone representing ropes, Manuel's coat of arms, armillary spheres, and shields with the cross of Manuel's military, called the Order of the Cross. This was the last sight the sailors saw as they left and the first as they returned loaded with gold, spices, and diseases.

Once we got to Belém Tower, my feet were aching and all I wanted to do was sit and take a little break. Since Drew loves military museums and monuments, he walked over to Museu do Combatente (Combatant Museum) to see the Aos Combatentes do Ultramar (Tomb of the Unknown Soldier), which is right next to the Belém Tower.

Because the sun started to set, we decided to head back to the car and head back to the apartment, since we were both feeling a little lazy, we decided to walk around and see if we could find a restaurant that had something we might want. We ended up stopping at the first restaurant! For 40 euros total, Drew and I had appetizers, a 3 course dinner, and a pitcher of Sangria! You really can't go wrong with that, and the food was great! If you're a fan of seafood, you'll LOVE Lisbon, they have fantastic seafood at VERY reasonable prices.

The night before we left Lisbon, we decided to head to São Jorge Castle. We heard that it was the best place to watch the sun set. I'm still bitter about this... we got to the ticket booth as the security guard closed the door, and when we tried to open it, it was locked. I guess we annoyed the guard when we tried to open it because he opened the door with an attitude and said that it was closed! If we had gotten there 10 seconds before hand we would've made it! We were both a little bitter, but I took it as a blessing since that was the night Drew rolled his ankle in Sintra! Still, that didn't stop Drew from hopping a fence and climbing on top of the castle's gate to try and get a picture of what we would have seen, had we got in to the castle.

To the top-right of this picture, you can see people standing in the Castle court-yard. As you can kinda tell from the picture, it really would have offered great views of the sunset.
The next morning, we packed up our things and headed off to Porto. Looking back I wish we would've stayed a little bit longer in Lisbon, but I can honestly say I enjoyed Lisbon. If you've ever been to San Francisco and loved it, you'll love Lisbon. Drew loved Lisbon so much, I can't wait to show him how awesome San Francisco is!