On August 29, 2006, Chris and I set out for our three and half week trek across Europe. We started in Lisbon and ended up in Istanbul. Each stop along the way deserves its own entry (and one entry detailing everything would be way too long). So, I will start at the beginning — Lisbon.
We left Austin on August 29th at 7am, had a long layover in Minneapolis, another layover in Amsterdam, and by 2:30 local time (whatever that may have meant to our bodies) on August 30th we checked into the Hotel Residencial Florescente in Lisbon, right off Rossio Square. The room is small, but perfect. Like we often do to start our travels, we went outside and started walking. First, we headed towards the Praço do Comercio.
Then we walked through the hills of the Alfama and surrounding neighborhoods.
The cobblestone streets and tiled buildings are gorgeous. I immediately love it here.
And, a common theme reveals itself for the first time…olá! gato!
That night for dinner we decided to walk around and see what we could find…we were too tired and hungry to do much research. We ended up at a place called Solmar, not too far from the hotel (Rua das Portas de Santo Ant-o 106, Baixa). I had bread soup with prawns and an egg cracked on top. It was delicious and hearty. Chris had salty barbecued codfish. Yum. The wine tasted great — a dry Portuguese white called Planalto. Afterwards, we stopped in to Cafe Nicola right on Rossio Square where I discover how much I love porto branco (white port). Chris ordered an espresso and a custard tart. Tired and full, we head back to the hotel and completely crash.
August 31, 2006 – Day two in Lisbon
This morning we had breakfast at the hotel — rolls, jam, yogurt, and coffee. After breakfast we walked up to the Parque Eduardo VII and went into the Estufa Fria (Cold House) and the hot house — big greenhouses of different climates full of plants and narrow pathways for exploring. This is part of Parque Eduardo VII…
And this is a really tall cactus inside the hot house.
It was really beautiful.
After wandering around the rest of the park, we headed back to the hotel to checkout. We needed to catch a train that night, so we left our luggage at the hotel and headed back out. Our first stop was to the train station to make a reservation on an overnight car to Madrid. After successfully securing our reservation (I think — I never really know if things are going to work until we actually arrive!) we had lunch in the Baixa — ham and cheese on a roll with an orange Fanta…so tasty on hot days!
After lunch we set out for the Torre de Belem. We managed to find our way out there on the tram, which seemed like a bit of a feat due to the fact that I found Portuguese quite difficult! The Torre de Belem is a fortified tower built in the early 16th century to commemorate Vasco de Gama’s expedition.
This is the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) that celebrates the Portuguese who took part in the Age of Discovery of the 15th and 16th centuries.
We walked from the Tower to the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos and Church of Santa Maria – a magnificent monastery that was built in the 1500s to commemorate Vasco de Gama’s successful voyage. His tomb is just inside the entrance. It is beautiful.
Next, we walked around the Cultural Center of Belem and then hopped back on the tram. On our way back, however, the tram suddenly stopped and a voice came over the loud speaker…saying something in Portuguese, of course. Once the statement was finished, Chris and I looked around and noticed everyone started sighing, picking up their stuff, and getting off. This is a bit disconcerting when you have no idea what the voice just said! But, we follow suit and get off…then see that there has been a car accident right on the tram tracks and the driver of one of the cars does not look to be in good shape. We will not be getting back by tram. We see people heading to a bus, so we again follow and happen to find someone who speaks English and tells us which bus to get on to get back to where we need to be. Phew! Once back in the vicinity of our hotel, we head to Cafe Nicola and sit at a table out front. I order another porto branco, write in my journal, and people-watch. This has been a whirlwind glimpse at Lisbon — enough for me to know I must come back and spend more time. But, alas, we have a lot of ground to cover in the 3 1/2 weeks we have for the trip. We leave for Madrid tonight.