Lisbon, Portugal (Laura)
Madeira did, in fact, prove hard to beat. Lisbon is a beautiful city, but it being a city rather than a tropical island, means we had to take along with it the stress of navigating, the occasional patches of city grime, and a bigger sprawl on our map of places to see. The four of us were up to the challenge, but a poor night’s sleep from monstrous waves and a lack of caffeine meant we were somewhat dragging the first part of the day.
We caught a taxi outside the port to take us to the start of Rick Steves’ walking tour that would take us through Lisbon’s main historic neighborhoods: Barrio Alto, the Alfama, and Baixa. Barrio Alto (and the Alfama) was one of the few parts of Lisbon to survive the 1755 earthquake, so here we were able to take in the beautiful tiled buildings, ironwork, and meandering cobbled streets. We got a great view of the city before we struck out at the Port Wine Institute. Apparently this is an extremely old, original building, and if it works the way it’s supposed to, you can order from a huge list of port wines. Unfortunately it did not work that way for us and we sat there with empty glasses like the only other table there until Mike got up to ask if we were supposed to do something and the lady told him to sit down. We finally cut our losses and left sans port to continue our walk.
Our stroll through the Barrio Alto took us to the oldest beer house in Portugal (originally the rectory of a 1775 monastery), beautiful plazas, and a cathedral with the most expensive chapel per square inch owing to the fact that it was built for the Vatican using the precious stone lapis lazuli and then deconstructed, moved, and rebuilt here. From the Chiada neighborhood we hopped on an antique trolley (very akin to San Francisco. And did I mention Lisbon also has a golden gate bridge and hilly city streets?), and rode over to th Alfama neighborhood. This was the old Moorish neighborhood and was designed with small confusing alleyways to trick intruders…but we were not to be fooled! We first got a gorgeous view of the city up against the River Tejo from Plaza Luzia and then walked over to the castle. Much more exciting than the castle was peeing on the castle wall in a designated screened off section that said “urinal.” We eventually wound our way down to a plaza with a sunny snack bar that we completely raided of all its treats: two tuna empanadas, one pork empanada, one ham croissant, one “sausage croquette” which ended up being a deep fried hotdog, and the winner: a beautiful plate of cured meats, cheese, olives and rustic bread. We enjoyed our treats with beer and finished it off with
“Bicas” (espresso) and Lisbon’s famous pastel de belem, a heavenly custard tart, all the while thinking that one of the things we were eating was the “fado” Rick recommends in his book. We then learned that fado is a type of music, but we are still really unclear on it.
Spirits were high after our feast, and the espresso reminded us not to let so much time pass between caffeine injections next time. We took off on foot for the Baixa neighborhood and enjoyed roaming the more modern promenades, plazas, and stores. We stopped to buy a glass of cherry liqueur and chatted with the guy behind the counter. With this extra fuel we decided we could walk all the way back to the ship rather than take a cab. It was a beautiful sunny evening and we enjoyed the walk and the consequent 22,000 steps we earned on Lindsey’s pedometer (over 9 miles over the course of that day.) We rewarded ourselves with drinks, dinner, ice cream, and hot tub back on the ship before going to bed. Now we have two more sea days and then Le Havre, Dover, and Amsterdam!