Day 31: Exploring LisbonMarch 18, 2017 in Portugal
Exploration time! Out of the house at a reasonably decent time, and caught the bus into the city centre. Lisbon is very spread out along the waterfront, and the main downtown and oldest areas were several kilometres east of us. The bus took about 20 minutes where we alighted at the Praça do Comercio, the main square on the waterfront. Hundreds of Boy Scouts around for some reason, I guess they're having one of their gatherings!
Checked out the statues nearby and the waterfront itself, before we walked further east into the Alfama district. This is the only part of the old city that actually survived the earthquake of 1755 (I should mention that modern estimates put it at 8.5-9 on the Richter scale, that approx 45,000 of 200,000 residents perished, and 85% of the buildings were destroyed). But the Alfama is the old Islamic district that partly survived, so it was interesting to walk around.
Very different from the rest of the downtown, with narrow windy streets going off in random directions, unlike the main area which felt very Parisian with wider boulevards. Also a lot of use of vertical space - Lisbon is very hilly so there were steps, ramps and little bridges everywhere making navigating a bit difficult.
Stopped at a nice-looking restaurant for lunch where the staff very kindly moved us a table to the spare front entrance so that we could sit with Schnitzel. Shandos had bacolod, a local speciality made from codfish. Wandered up to the main cathedral where we took turns waiting outside while the other visited. Thought I witnessed a miracle when a young boy in a wheelchair spotted Schnitzel, stood up and walked gingerly over to pat him, but then his broken-legged older brother hopped over and reclaimed his chair! Alas.
The cathedral was another building which had survived the earthquake with only minor damage, but it didn't particularly grab either of us. Very picturesque exterior though, set on a hillside with old-style trams constantly rumbling past. Tram number 28 is the "tourist tram" which basically does a lap of the main tourist sites.
We decided against doing a loop as every single tram going past was jam-packed with people essentially hanging out the doors and so on. It was a sunny Saturday, and Lisbon is apparently the seventh-most visited city on the continent, so hardly surprising! Lots of Brits about probably on weekend trips, and a lot of Americans too. We've noticed far more Americans in Portugal than we did in Spain.
Continued walking and exploring until we ended up at the Sun Gate lookout, where we had a commanding view of the water and the eastern reaches of the city. Quite busy up here as well, trams rumbling past, buskers singing, Africans selling selfie sticks. Had a drink at a kiosk before walking back down past the cathedral and into the downtown area. The streets here are all on a strict grid pattern and flat, so navigating was much easier.
Found a Vodafone store and bought myself a SIM card as I was having withdrawals from no data! Came across the Elevador de Santa Justa, which is one of the world's oldest outdoor elevators. It's from the late 19th century, built of wrought iron and originally powered by steam (now electric) and takes you up to a viewpoint over the city. But given the queue, the cost and the fact that we'd just come from a viewpoint, we decided to skip.
Feeling fairly tired at this point, we grabbed a couple of Portuguese egg tarts (they are everywhere here!) and ate them while sitting in a nice square. We were both quite footsore by now in the late afternoon, and Schnitzel although not complaining was most definitely pooped. Decided to catch an Uber back to the hotel which we did!
The ride back gave us a nice view of different areas - the narrow windy streets of the oldest areas, wide Viennese and Parisian boulevards with cycleways and trams in the centre, leafy suburbs on the hills, and then back down to the grungier university area where we're staying.
Once we made it back we felt fairly disinclined to head back out again, so we spent the evening relaxing, reviewing footage in my case, and sated ourselves with a supermarket pizza for dinner!Read more