Saturday, July 29, 2017

Day 9 & 10: Lisbon's Castles and River


Day 9:
Lisbon! We've arrived! After all getting a good night sleep, we were all feeling well rested, if still a little detached from time. So, after muddling around the house a bit in the morning, and having a breakfast of bread and eggs, we decided that the main event for today would be to explore
São Jorge Castle. Not only is São Jorge Castle one of Lisbon's biggest tourist draws, it also just happens to be a 10 minute walk up the hill from our place, making it a nice mix of "big" and "easy."

The day before, walking to lunch, I'd noticed a sign pointing up a narrow alley saying effective "to castle," so that seemed like a good place to start. Hiking up the steep a winding path, we past a "found art artist" working in a courtyard of rubble, and a musician playing in a short tunnel before ending in a pleasant, white-washed courtyard. There was a small restaurant here, so we took a break, grabbing some cheese, sandwiches and wine (the nice thing about setting out at noon is you get to jump straight to wine). 

Refreshed, we made our way up a short, cobbled road to castle gates. After grabbing some gelato (start courting the number of times the work "gelato" appear in the coming days. It's going to be a lot.) we bought out tickets and headed in. 

"Someday, all of this will be yours!" Taking in the lay of the land, from Sao Jorge.

São Jorge isn't the type of castle with decorated rooms, but rather vast courtyards and plenty of walls to walk and towers to climb up into. In the archeological section there's ruins dating back to the early icon age, speaking to how long it's been an important location for the city. It also has stunning views of the city that surrounds it, giving us our first sense of the geography of the city.


At the bottom of a huge set of stairs (Otto counted them, he could tell you), on a wing of the castle that stretched down the hill. You can tell Stella is getting hot, and not having the idea of walking back up.



As we explored area after area, the kids' curiosity slowly gave way to fatigue, so we stopped for some lemonade and to admire the peacocks perched in the trees above us. Then, after a quick pass through their museum of related artifacts, we headed back to base camp to regroup. 

That evening, Sarah suggested to try to track down a park she could see on the map "north" of us. Winding in that general direction, we became mildly lost in that way were we knew we could get home, but had no idea where we actually were. Eventually, we stumbled across another stunning viewpoint of the city (we discovered, later, it is the highest point in the city), but couldn't linger long because Otto had started doing the pee-pee dance, so we made our way down a short but steep hill to a tapas restaurant. Forgivingly, they were prepared for English speakers, but happily, they weren't just a restaurant for tourists, and we had a first truly good meal in Lisbon. 

Late night kids. Bedtime has been running late here, with the kids generally not headed to bed until after 10pm. But, since there hasn't been too many days where we needed to get up early, and the time in Lisbon is so far gone from Seattle, we figure "what the heck, why not."

Content, and tired again, we headed home. 

Day 10:
For our second full day in Lisbon, we decided to head to the neighborhood of Belem. To get there, we'd have to venture out of the Alfama, down to the water front, and catch a tram (streetcar) there.

To get to the Praca do Comercio, we fell back on one of my few, random abilities. Basically, while Sarah and I were on our big trip we discovered that, if you give me a map, a destination and a few minutes to stare at the map *generally* I can sort of blindly get us from point A to point B. It's not necessarily the fastest or best way to get there, but it's consistent enough that -more often or not- Sarah and I just sort of fall back on it. 

So, after squinting at the map for a bit, off we went, winding through maze-like streets of the Alfama. But, sure enough, we eventually emerged on the waterfront, a short distance from the Praca. 

We'd been presuming (hoping) that our tram would be one of the old fashioned trolley-type vehicles we'd seen rattling through Lisbon, but unfortunately, the tram running out to Belem was a newer model, not dissimilar to Seattle's streetcars. It was boarding the tram that we would learn a hard lesson. When it comes Lisbon's public transportation, there's two types of vehicles: Intolerably packed with people or Soon-to-be intolerably packed with people. This was the former. 

After winding our way along the waterfront, we unloaded from the tram on the far end of Belem, not far from it's premiere attraction: the Tower of Belem. The Tower was originally constructed toward the center of the river, to defend Lisbon from invaders from the sea. But, a large portion of the west(?) shore have now been reclaimed, and you can walk almost the entire way to the tower, which now sits only a hundred feet or so off shore, and is accessible by a foot bridge. Unfortunately, being Monday, the Tower was closed, so all we could do was snap some photos from the outside; but the kids were excited to find steps down to the river, allowing the to splash their feet and shell hunt for the better part of an hour. 

On the shores of the Tagus. The kids seemed fairly indifferent to the one-of-a-kind historical structure, and were more interested in splashing in the muddy water and collecting undersized shells.

After letting the kids play for a bit, we made our way over to a nearby outdoor restaurant so the kids could grab a lunch and Sarah and I could grab a glass of wine. Then, after naming some pigeons*, we started walking to Belem's second biggest destination, the Monument to the Discoveries. 

While the Age of Discovery is a complex period by a modern perspective, it was a Golden Age for Portugal, a sea-faring culture who was able to reap the financial rewards of the newly discovered lands and trade routes, and the Monument erected in commemoration of that period is suitable inspiring, with a host of larger-than-life explorers, royalty and artists all marching forward and staring bravely across the waters to the opportunities they see there. 

Onward to discovery! (And, maybe a little incidental slave trading, genocide and disease spreading.)

The kids enjoyed finding Seattle and New York in the giant marble map next to the monument, but were quickly growing tired in the oppressive Portuguese sun. So, after clicking the obligatory photos, we made our through a well manicure park (with ducklings!) to the bus stop and home again. 

Unloading from the bus, not far from the Placa do Comercio, we decided to do dinner in a large food pavilion, the Time Out Mercado da Ribeira. As someone whose done a decent amount of travelling, Time Out is a weird enigma to me. Any time you type, say, "best food in Lisbon" (go ahead, try it) usually the first result you'll get back (if not TripAdvisor) will be a Time Out list. I guess they do magazine or travel guides or something. I'm not sure. Still, for equally enigmatic reasons they have a food pavilion in Lisbon, and have filled it with what seems to be really excellent food vendors. Anyhow, we had a great dinner there. The kids got gelato. We picked up a couple bottles of wine. And we will likely go back before our stay is through. 

Mercado da Ribeira. Lots of food. Lots of drink. Lots of people.

Full of food and dessert, and with the air cooling, we wandered home. Happy and full. 

Stopping by the Praca do Comercio, at sunset, Stella is rocking one of her unique looks. She's tied her shawl around herself into an ornate dress, of sorts. This has been a default look for ages.

One of what will be many attempts to get this photo: The street car, the church, the narrow street, leading to our apartment. We haven't got the perfect composition yet, but this photo, by Sarah, might be the closest. 

*Quick note on "naming the pigeons": So, I made the mistake of jokingly saying something to the extent of "of look, it's Mortimer, Percy and Eugene" when three pigeons approached us. The kids found me giving the pigeons names that, roughly 5 days later, I'm still required to name pretty much every pigeon we come across. I think today there was a Snowball and Dusty ("but weirdly, the white one is called 'Dusty'"). I'm running out of names.

One other quick note: It's probably worth mentioning that over half the photos in the blog entries so far, on this trip, have been by Sarah. We've both been snapping pictures, but her phone and -thus- her camera are a lot better than mine (plus, she's just a good photographer). So, I keep stealing her photos. 

1 comment:

Susan Hill said...

Looks ( and sounds ) like a great vacation !!! The scenery is beautiful, and the photos ( that Sarah took ) are great!!! Where are the photos of the pigeons? Keep the blog posts coming Tyler!! I miss you lovelies!!