Postcard from Portugal - Pt 1October 9 in Portugal
When I was putting this trip together, almost 2 years ago, I have to admit that I had no idea what to expect in Lisbon. In fact, if I am being totally honest, I would have to say that my expectations were pretty low. The only recent news I had received from Portugal suggested that the whole country was struggling with a huge debt problem and was in danger of going bankrupt. Now that we have been here for a day and a half, it is worth mentioning how my opinion has changed.
Many people would already know that, when I arrive in a city for the first time, I love to just wander the streets and observe how the city really works. Rightly or wrongly, my opinion is often formed within the first few hours of my arrival. Our arrival in Lisbon yesterday was dramatically punctuated by Douglas leaving his backpack on our taxi. Although this could have easily been a minor disaster, we were amazed when the taxi driver had turned his car around and then came looking for us in the crowd. My opinion of this city immediately took a quantum leap upwards.
After breakfast this morning, Mary, Pam and I walked in the direction of the Sao Jorge Castle. This structure is situated on the highest point of the city and can be seen from just about anywhere. Yesterday the girl at reception had warned that it was a very hard walk up to the castle and went on to add that "even for young people" it is a struggle. Obviously she didn't realise that the Ghostriders are made of stronger stuff.
Although most tourists resort to jumping on one of the continual stream of tuk tuks that convey visitors to the castle, we made our way through a series of narrow back streets. On either side were graffiti covered old houses - the sort of places that the normal visitors never get to see. We actually found it fascinating and the walk itself was not that hard at all.
Soon we were at the entrance and found ourselves embedded in a heaving mass of tourists that had been disgorged from the three huge cruise ships that we could see docked in the harbour. I always think these monstrosities look like live sheep transports and I could not imagine anything worse than being imprisoned in a floating sarcophagus with 5,000 other people.
Once we got through the entrance it was possible to have a little more space (but not a lot). At least the views down to Lisbon were spectacular and the morning air was fresh and cool. We spent several hours wandering the battlements and looking through the museum, before making our way back down to the waterfront.
Lisbon is a modest sized city of some 500,000 inhabitants and we soon felt that it would not take too long to find your way around the place. It certainly has a lovely combination of architecture, seaside location, great climate and lively nightlife. The main city streets have numerous buskers who add vitality and interest to the place.
I have just returned to the hotel after having a slow stroll back through the city. My GPS tells me that I have walked over 20 km today, no wonder my legs are tired. These so called "rest days" are starting to wear me out.
So what is my final score for the city of Lisbon ? I think I would happily score it an 8 out of 10. If it had not been for the excessive number of cruise boat tourists, I would have actually given it a 9. It would have been good to have an extra day or two here, but tomorrow we must move on to begin our cycling adventure.Read more