Lisbon

Saturday 27 April 2019

After an 11 hour overnight train trip from Madrid we arrived in Lisbon at 7:30 am. Unable to check-in until 2:00 pm we dropped our packs off and set out to see what we could in only one day.
Lisbon is also known as the ‘City of the Seven Hills”. There are many almost cinematic viewpoints scattered throughout the city which overlooks the Rio Tejo (River).
Lisbon sits along the northern bank of the Rio Tejo. It was all but destroyed in the 1755 earthquake which was felt as far away as Italy. It is now essentially an 18th century city. Lisbon’s unique style of music called Fado, with it’s mournful sounds has been heard in back street bars for around 150 years.

The city can also be viewed from the many miradouros (terraced viewpoints), great places to get an overview of the city’s districts. Miradouro de Santa Luzia is a terrace offering magnificent views over the Alfama district and is close by the official start of the Portuguese Camino, the Igreja de Santiago (Church of Santiago).

Igreja de Santiago

ALFAMA DISTRICT

The beautiful Alfama quarter with its narrow streets and flowered balconies is located in the heart of the city and one of the few areas to survive the 1755 earthquake. The district which surrounds the Castelo de Sao Jorge was home to the wealthy Moors until they fled the area after the earthquake where it was left to the fishermen and paupers. The area has a very Kasbah feel about it.

A walk up the hill took us to Castelo de Sao Jorge with its sweeping views of the city. It was once a defensive stronghold but after Lisbon’s re-capture from the Moors in 1147, the castle became the residence of the Portuguese Kings.

Next, back down the cobblestones hill to Se (Cathedral) of Lisbon is the oldest church in the city and was built by Alfonso Henrique in 1150, 3 years after the recapture from the Moors. This is where we get the first stamp in our Pilgrim Credential to Mark the beginning of our Caminho.

Lisbon is most well known for it’s century old, bright yellow tram 28E with its wood panelling and polished chrome fittings. We didn’t go on these as they were so crowded but they rattled by us with amazing regularity, climbing up the steep hills.

BELEM DISTRICT

Further south at the mouth of the Rio Tejo lies the Belem district of Lisbon. As advised, we took a tram down to Belem and were pleased we did as it is a long way from the other areas through quite an old urbanised area. Belém is strongly linked to Portugal’s Golden Age. Manuel I came to power in 1495, and built many grand monuments and churches hence the beginning of the Manueline style of architecture.  This style can be seen in the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos and the Torre de Belem and is typified by its all over decoration and maritime motifs.

Mosterio dos Jeronimos (above) was built just after Vasco da Gama’s return in 1501 and houses this famous navigator’s tomb. It is now classified as a National Monument and listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

The long queues outside discouraged us from entering The Torre de Belem which was originally built as a fortress in the middle of the Rio Tejo in 1515. It was where the navigators of the time set out on their voyages of discovery which opened up the trade routes. The Torre is linked to the Monument to the Discoveties by a wide and very busy promenade along the river.

The Monument to the Discoveries built in 1960 to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator stands proudly at the waterfront. It commemorates all those who were part of the Age of Discovery including mariners, royal patrons etc.  It resembles a caravel (Portuguese ship) with Henry the Navigator standing tall at the prow.

BAIXA AND AVENIDA DISTRICTS

The Marques de Pombal built a new city centre after the 1755 earthquake in a grid layout which links the once busy commercial centre the Praca do Comercio (Plaza) and the Rossio (Plaza). The Praca do Comercio with it’s massive city entrance gate, is known to the locals as the Palace Square and overlooks the River Tagus.

Praça Commercio
Ron standing in front of the enormous statue which is dwarfed by the arched gate behind

Between the Praca do Comercio and Rossio stands the Elevador de Santa Justa built by Gustave Eiffel’s apprentice Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard at the turn of the Century.  Once again long queues and limited time deterred us from going up this ornate steel structure in the middle of the city.

After a busy morning an no sleep for over 30 hours we headed back to our hotel to check in and have a rest before heading out to dinner.

We did a bit of a progressive dinner sampling the local Pasteis de Bachalau, a cod fish croquette and local wine. Then shared more fish and potatoes in a cream sauce, very yummy.

I asked our waiter if he could recommend a Fado bar which he did. We were not disappointed with his recommendation and ended up staying until 2:00 am. What were we thinking as we were to start walking later that morning. I fared much better than Ron with my two glasses of red wine but Ron couldn’t resist a little too much of the sweet syrupy port. Fado is the local Portuguese music and we were treated to a young man with a beautiful voice singing to the accompaniment of his father.

Now we stagger back to our hotel to get a few hours sleep befor starting our walk tomorrow. Luckily it is only 10 or 11 kms.

2 Comments

  • Margaret Butterworth April 30, 2019 at 07:23 Reply

    Can’t believe how much sightseeing you managed to do in Madrid and Lisbon!

    • Ron and Susan May 1, 2019 at 04:20 Reply

      Hi Margaret, pre-Camino training without a pack. Wi-fi is not as readily available here so forgive my tardiness in replying and posting.

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