Friday, November 30, 2012

Lovely Lisboa

After an impromptu trip to the Canary Islands last year, (and thanks to a little help from home!), Rob and I managed to catch up with our original itinerary in--wait for it--Lisbon! 

colorful streets

casual castles

monuments and monuments

Portugal, once a naval empire famous for producing explorers of the likes of Vasco da Gama, is today one of those little countries you usually hear about as they list off debt figures for the Eurozone. While I can't speak for how Ireland or Greece have reacted to recent economic hurdles, Portugal really left a positive impression of its character. Instead of despairing, the the country seems to be digging deeper to redefine its character. A prominent ad campaign highlighted a reorganization of priorities, wryly noting that while superfluous costs like shoe sales had gone down in the last year, essential commodity purchases had increased. 

Lisbon is a city that shines in its senescence. I was surprised when someone described it is a city that you either love or you hate, but that's probably because I loved it and hadn't imagined an alternative! People who don't fall for Lisbon complain of its decadence, but I think that there is a difference between an ancient city that is crumbling and a history that continues to be vibrant through continued innovation and creativity. To me, both the well-preserved and re-envisioned architecture added a pleasant air of nostalgia to an atmosphere that struck me as quirky and effervescent. With all the European charm but none of the big-time hassle, Portugal's capital city is the perfect place to mingle with tourists and locals to embrace everything the city has to offer.

there were a whole series of buildings like this, but I managed this quick shot from the bus!

creativity and colors

not a bad way to take your coffee

Rob and I made our way from the airport to the city center on the aerobus with no problems--public transport is one thing this city seems to be doing right! Between the art-deco train station, the classic yellow trolleys, and the neon metro stops, which you could (and we did!) confuse with art, getting around is not only hassle-free but surprisingly pleasant. A green via card costs just a few euro and it will get you just about everywhere.




We checked in at our pousada then set out to explore. Our hotel was called Dom José, but the staff were so friendly and the building was so quaint that I doubt you could go very wrong on accommodations. Charm seemed to radiate from the city. While Rob and I had our morning coffee we mused at the strange music. "What is that, a didgeridoo?" Rob wondered. 

Yes, it was a didgeridoo. 

even a miser like me had to shell out some change for this guy

Rob and I, having now become quite accustomed to going with the flow, enjoyed the sights of Lisbon as we stumbled upon them in turn. We ran into some luck when we found the San Justa lift. Completed in 1902, the stylish vertical elevator connects the city center, the barrio baixo, with the trendy barrio alto above. Rob and I waited in line to go up, and were the last people allowed to ride for the night! At the top we took in the view and indulged in a delicious, touristy, and of all things, Italian, dinner! 


The next day we visited the San Jerónimo monastery and, exhausted at the end of our trip, took a pleasant nap by the tower of Belém. The beautiful UNESCO sites are symbolic of Portugal's age of discovery, and the monastery is the location of Vasco da Gama's tomb. This is also the birthplace of the delicious pasteis de belem, or natas as they're called in Spanish. We decided to walk back to the Lisbon proper to pass the afternoon, and I was surprised by how quickly the city faded into country. The quiet streets and small gardens could easily be confused with the ones in Galicia. 

Our time in Lisbon was well spent, but far too short. Hopefully Rob and I will make it back soon, and maybe on a pre-scheduled flight this time!

Monasterio de los Jerónimos de Belém

torre de Belém (as seen from our napping spot)

living art

a random encounter

hidden walkways

the 25th of April bridge

Have you ever been to Lisbon? Has an impromptu trip ever delightfully surprised you? 

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