Recently, I posted a blog on my visit to Madrid and mentioned that we started in Lisbon. Initially, we were in Lisbon for two days, flew to Madrid for 5 days, and then back to Lisbon for 6 days. The dates noted below correspond to our days in Lisbon this past September. Hopefully, between the two blogs, you will get some insight should you visit these two wonderful cities. As a reminder, some of the places we visited, it was easier and clearer to post information from the WEB site or Wikipedia.
Arrive Lisbon Portugal September 10th - arrive Mid-Afternoon at the Marriott Lisbon Hotel.
Got to the Hotel and we were given access to the Concierge Lounge. Talked with one of the Concierge (not very helpful), but were given directions to the Metro Station. It took about 15 minutes to walk to it, got help with VIVA viagem Metro card and purchased it. Took the Metro from Jardim Metro Stop to Baixa Chiado stop. We are now in downtown Lisbon and we walk around the area and find the location that we need for our Walking tour the next day. Lisbon is a city that has steep hills (much like San Francisco) and can be quite challenging. We end up walking down to the water front of Tejo (Tagus) River and decide to take the Tram 28 which was suggested on the Rick Steve video and tour suggestions. We got the tram (trolley) in Square Martim Moniz in Baixa. We had to wait for at least an hour to get on it as they were very long lines and the trams held about 60 people. Made it on and we sit there as the trams stops and locals get on and off and at times, I felt like we were trying to set a Guinness Book record for how many people we could fit on this tram. It goes through the neighborhoods of Lisbon. We come to the end and our drivers tells everyone to get off (there are about 10 of us and it is not where we started) and we are trying to figure out what to do. We go to the Tram Stop (25 yards from where we got off) and 10 minutes later the Tram (the one we got off) pulls up to our location and we get on (I guess he was on break). We start going back and we get to the downtown area and get off and find out way back to the Baixa Chiado Metro stop and make our way back. When get off the Metro, we went out the wrong exit area and got temporarily lost. Eventually we find the Zoo and make our way back to the hotel.
September 11th - Free walking tour of Lisbon with “Tour of My Life” and our guide goes by the name of Fraga. His English is pretty good and we walked through the neighborhoods and getting a historical lesson on the neighborhoods, the tile on the building, the great earth quake of 1755 and the Tsunami that followed, the fires that destroyed building and how and why structures were rebuilt or not. We end up down at the Riverfront and he explains the Statue of King Jose I, who was the ruler during and after the great earthquake, but he left the reconstruction of the city to others as he moved to the hills away from the city. During the tours we had one Pastel De Nata (custard pie/tort) that was arranged by the guide. Prior to the tour Heidi inquired about a café near our starting location and it turns out Anthony Bourdain ate there when casting his show “No Reservations”. After the tour, we had back to that area where Heidi gets a bifina sandwich (Pork on Roll) at the same café. We then head back to the hotel and talked with other guest in the lounge as we have our flight to Madrid the next day. By the way, we review his show on Lisbon and at the very end we see that it is the same place that we went to for her bifina.
September 17th –We take a taxi to the airport and it takes about a ½ hour. We are flying on Air Europa and we get to the airport and go into the terminal. Much to my surprise, we find the check in is pretty quick and there is no long line to drop our luggage off. We head through security and now we have to wait to find out what gate we will be leaving from. All works and we take off for Lisbon which is an hour and half flight. I arrange for the Shared Van Service and we get our luggage and find the service and drive to the hotel. We have one night that is not on points and we check in and we will be upgraded to a Junior Suite starting the next day. What to do?!!! Fraga, our tour guide from our initial walk, told us about the Ferry to Cacilhas and a restaurant(s) on the water to watch the sunset. We make our way to the river and find the terminal for the ferry. We are able to use our Metro Card and make our way over to Calcihas (about a 20-minute ride). We get off and are just meandering around and walking along the waterfront. There is huge building with graffiti on it and we are just walking along the river and by this building. We finally come to an area where there are couple of restaurants and we inquire about eating there. They do not open for business until 7:00 pm (it is about 4:30 to 5:00). We notice there is an elevator to take you to the city area of Almada and we take it up. Just walking around and the Christ the King monument is located in this area (take off the Rio statue, which I have been to). We have a couple of hours before dinner and I decide to find this shrine (Heidi ops to stay in the town area). I walk to the statue and it takes me about 45 minutes to get there (Probably a mile and a half and a lot of the walk was uphill). I make the walk on the grounds and take a few pictures and head back. Fortunately, a lot of the return walk is downhill and I make it back and find Heidi having a coke at a restaurant/café. As we are walking back to the elevator, I find a bar/tavern called “Cheers” which I was told by the some of the patrons was named after “Cheers” from the TV sitcom in Boston. We make our way to elevator and back to the riverfront. We still have about 20 minutes, so we order two Aperol Spritz to enjoy as we look towards Vasco de Gama bridge and towards the sunset which is to occur about 7:45. We get seated at the restaurant Atira-te ao Rio and just enjoy sitting outside as the sun is setting. It is starting to get cooler (breezier) but we are having good time. One thing we learned is that when they bring bread, it is not free, so we ask from now on. We take some pictures and we saw cruise ships leave and go under the bridge (it looked like one of them was not going to make, but it was deceiving and made it easily. After dinner we had back to the terminal and make our way back to the hotel.
Christ Statue overlooking Lisbon and Vasco de Gama bridge with ship passing below.
September 18th – We have a Jewish Walking tour in Lisbon that I thought began at 10:30. At 9:40, I received a phone call from Julia that the tour is beginning. After a few frantic moments, we get a taxi and we tell them we are on our way. It takes us about 20 minutes to get there (traffic), but Heidi is giving them our progress and they wait for us. We make it down there and find them at the meeting place and apologize for our tardiness and misunderstanding. The guide is Paolo Scheffer, the only authorized Jewish guide in Portugal. Paolo is a lively historian who brings his passion for Portuguese Judaic studies to each tour. Discover the places, important artifacts and stories that no other Jewish tours in Lisbon visit. It is a small tour (6 0f us) because there is much to learn and discover and it allows Paolo to interact comfortably with the group.
In May of 2012 a sensational discovery by Archaeologists of Jena University revealed Hebrew inscriptions on stone which point to the Jewish people residing in Portugal as early as 390 C.E. However, some Biblical Archaeologists believe that Tartessian texts found in Southern Portugal in 1922 suggests a Jewish presence dating to the time of King Solomon.
Walking through the quaint side streets of Lisbon Paolo explains these recent findings and unveils hidden elements in the architecture, explaining the influence of great Jewish sages like Abravanel- the philosopher and statesman, Yossef Caro- author of the Shulchan Aruch, and Abraham Zucato who altered the course of the Age of Discovery. The Jews of Portugal throughout history held social and political ranks with the favor of kings, and conciliatory relations between Muslims and Christians alike. However, these periods were equally marked by inquisitions, forced baptisms and brutal massacres which have been overlooked in many historical references.
On this tour you will discover the amazing story of Crypto-Jews, (Cristão-Novos) a distinctive Sephardi sub-group in Portugal who survived over 400 years of persecution in secret. At the site of the Inquisitors Palace, learn little known facts about the Portuguese Inquisition and the controversy of the Marquis of Pombal whose authority destroyed Jewish heritage and, at the same time, tried to saved lives.
Stand at the deportation point during WWII where thousands of Jewish refugees escaped Nazi persecution, among them famous names like Marc Chagall, Peggy Guggenheim and many others who contributed to the arts, sciences and politics of the world stage. Learn about Portugal’s own Oskar Schindler, a righteous gentile who defied state orders to save thousands feeling the horrors of the 3rd Reich.
Beyond the former Jewish quarters, there are stories in the architecture festooned around the city that will bring you a deeper understanding of the Early Modern Diaspora, The Passover Massacre, Crypto-Jewish practices and famous Jewish families associated with Portugal. The description of this tour, although quite accurate, does not provide the emotion and fervor brought by Paolo. He is not only a scholar, but a gifted story teller and this story needs to be told. Paolo provides some tips for restaurants and other tour sites. After the tour ends where there a memorial plaque that was dedicated by the Portuguese Government as an apology for the massacre on April 19, 1596. The apology occurred 500 years later on the same date and is located in the Rossio area of Lisbon, Portugal. After the tour is over, we say our good byes to Paola and the other tour participants and decide to have a late lunch/early dinner and go the restaurant called the “Fork and Knife”. Prior to going to the restaurant, Heidi sees these food shops that sell food in cans, specifically, eels and sardines and buys a few to bring home. We make our way to the restaurant and share a chicken sausage (recommended by Paolo); I have steak in a brown sauce and Heidi got sardines. After our lunch, we decide to go São Jorge Castle (Portuguese: Castelo de São Jorge; Portuguese pronunciation: English: Saint George Castle) is a historic castle in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, located in the freguesia of Santa Maria Maior. Human occupation of the castle hill dates to at least the 8th century BC while the first fortifications built date from the 1st century BC. The hill on which São Jorge Castle stands has played an important part in the history of Lisbon, having served as the location of fortifications occupied successively by Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, and Moors, before its conquest by the Portuguese in the 1147 Siege of Lisbon. Since the 12th century, the castle has variously served as a royal palace, a military barracks, home of the Torre do Tombo National Archive, and now as a national monument and museum. We took a taxi up to the top as it would have been a long hilly walk all the way up to the top. Up there we walk around, as you have access to the outside area, where you have beautiful views of Lisbon and Tagus River. We finish up there and walk back down to Baixa-Chiado and take the Metro back to the hotel. Also, they relocated us to our Junior Suite and for the first time in a week we can unpack and feel like we are on vacation. It is located on the 17th floor with 1 and half bathrooms, a large sitting area and nice bedroom. Make our way down to the Concierge lounge and enjoy the evening. We decide to go to Sintra the next day and make plans to go on a tour to Porto, the following day.
September 19th – we have re-arranged the rest of our tour schedule. Today, we decide to go to Sintra. We walk to the train station Sete Rios train station which is near the zoo, like the Metro. Walking there, we pass by the U.S. Embassy and it takes about 15 minutes. Heidi talks with a young local and his English is good enough to help purchase tickets to Sintra. It is like a commuter train and we figure out which train we can take and the good thing is that it is the last stop on this line. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to get there and the weather is decent (partly cloudy). Upon arrival, there are all kinds of tour people waiting to offer their services and we do talk with young woman guide. After talking with her, we decide to go on our own. We find out that the National Palace is about 15-minute walk into the town and we head over. We walk by a park and many vendors are setting up their wares for sale (bracelets, jewelry etc.) We make it to the National Palace. We get the audio tour from the Palace and, for us, works out much better than taking a tour with an English-speaking guide. The Palace of Sintra (Portuguese: Palácio Nacional de Sintra), also called Town Palace (Palácio da Vila) is located in the town of Sintra, in the Lisbon District of Portugal. It is a present-day historic house museum.
It is the best-preserved medieval royal residence in Portugal, being inhabited more or less continuously from at least the early 15th century to the late 19th century. It is a significant tourist attraction, and is part of the cultural landscape of Sintra, a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. It was one of two castles at what is now Sintra in the Moorish Al-Andalus era that began with the Umayyad conquest of Hispania in the 8th century. The other, now known as the Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors), located atop a high hill overlooking modern Sintra, is now a romantic ruin.
The castle now known as Sintra National Palace, located downhill from the Castelo dos Mouros, was the residence of the Islamic Moorish Taifa of Lisbon rulers of the region. The earliest mention in a source is by Arab geographer Al-Bacr. In the 12th century the village was conquered by King Afonso Henriques, who took the 'Sintra Palace' castle for his use. The blend of Gothic, Manueline, Moorish, and Mudéjar styles in the present palace is, however, mainly the result of building campaigns in the 15th and early 16th centuries.
Sintra Palace chapel
Nothing built during Moorish rule or during the reign of the first Portuguese kings survives. The earliest surviving part of the palace is the Royal Chapel, possibly built during the reign of King Dinis I in the early 14th century. The palace chapel has a tiled floor with tiles in the apse laid to resemble a carpet. The walls are painted in patterned squares that look like tiles and depict the Holy Ghost descending in the form of a dove. The wooden ceiling is decorated in geometrically patterned Moorish latticework.
Most buildings around the central courtyard - called the Ala Joanina (John's Wing) - date from this campaign, including the main building of the façade with the entrance arches and the mullioned windows in Manueline and Moorish styles (called ajimezes), the conical chimneys of the kitchen that dominate the skyline of the city, and many rooms including:
- The Swan Room (Sala dos Cisnes) in Manueline style, named so because of the swans painted on the ceiling. The number of painted swans, the symbol of the house of the groom, Philip the Good of Burgundy, equals to the bride's, Infanta Isabel, age – 30.
- Magpie Room (Sala das Pegas); the magpies (pegas) painted on the ceiling and the frieze hold the emblem por bem (for honour) in their beaks. This relates to the story that the king John I was caught in the act of kissing a lady-in-waiting by his queen Philippa of Lancaster. To put a stop to all the gossip, he had the room decorated with as many magpies as there were women at the court (136).
- Patios: the early wing of the palace features courtyards embellished with tiles and featuring Arabic style water pools.
John I's son, King Duarte I, was very fond of the Palace and stayed long periods here. He left a written description of the Palace that is very valuable in understanding the development and use of the building, and confirms that much of the palace built by his father has not changed much since its construction. Another sign of the preference for this Palace is that Duarte's successor King Afonso V was born (1432) and died (1481) in the Palace. Afonso V's successor, King John II, was acclaimed King of Portugal here. The tour takes about an hour and half and we finish up and decide to have lunch.
We actually find a French style restaurant called Café Paris. I had the Codfish Croquettes and we had a nice little table outside looking to the Palace. After lunch, we have decided to take the bus to the Pena Palace. We make it up there, about a 20-minute bus ride (it is walking up many hills) and make it to the ticket office. We purchase tickets to get in and to get to the Palace requires walking (uphill) or taking for 3 Euros the Palace Bus. We walk (10 minutes). I go ahead of Heidi to get the audio headsets. I get them and cannot find her. Fortunately, I do have wi-fi and I am able to message her on the: Whats App” and she responds that she is at the entrance to the castle. I go up and find her and we enter. The Pena Palace (Portuguese: Palácio da Pena) is a Romanticist castle in São Pedro de Penaferrim, in the municipality of Sintra, on the Portuguese Riviera. The castle stands on the top of a hill in the Sintra Mountains above the town of Sintra, and on a clear day it can be easily seen from Lisbon and much of its metropolitan area. It is a national monument and constitutes one of the major expressions of 19th-century Romanticism in the world. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. It is also used for state occasions by the President of the Portuguese Republic and other government officials. After visiting this castle, we walk back down to get the local bus back to the town center and eventually back to the train station. We get the train and decide to go back to the hotel, where we decide to eat at the Concierge lounge as we have to the tour to Porto the next day.
September 20th – We signed up for a tour through the Concierge Service at the Marriott Hotel. This one particular Concierge was not as helpful as one would hope for when doing something like this (will explain later). We needed to be downstairs in the hotel lobby by 8:00 am as we were picked up by bus to get to the train station (what a waste). We travel in Lisbon picking up other guest (at other hotels for all kinds of tours) and are transferred into a van that gets us to the train station for the 10:00 train to Porto (when we return it is up to us to get back to the hotel). We could have taken the Metro and made our way to the train station and left at 9:00 am (the concierge should have known this). One woman is on the same tour, but a different train car. We talk with her (Katherine from California near Sacramento) and make plans to meet her when we get off the train (about a 3-hour ride), which we do. We arrive and have an hour before our guide meets us, so we get lunch near the station. At 2:00 pm, out guide meets us (We call him G) in a van that can hold up to 10 people and we have to pickup two other couples. We find them and both are from Melbourne, Florida and, as we find out, one was an attorney that practiced in Massachusetts and knew a friend of mine (small world). Anyhow, G takes us around the city and points out some of the significant buildings and locations (and as you expect in any European city) various churches. After touring around the city and taking some pictures, we head off to the winery and wine tasting that is part of the tour. The winery is called Real Companhia Velha The name translates to ‘Real Old Company’, and Real Companhia Velha surely is that. At 258 years old, this is the oldest wine-producing company in Portugal. During a tour, visitors can learn about the wine-making process, even dating back to the 16th-century. After the wine tour, we dropped off the other 2 couples and G brought us back to the train station. We had about 40 minutes, so we got some sandwiches to bring on the train. The train arrived and we were all on the same car and found our seats. We can just sit back and relax and enjoy our dinner. Made it back to Lisbon and got off (I think we got off one station to early) and found the Metro. It was the Red Line and we had to take it to the end and switch to our line. Made it back to Metro Stop at the zoo and walked back to the hotel. The weather forecast for tomorrow is rain, so we may have to come up with some alternative plans.
September 21st – As predicted, it was raining off and on and we are trying to figure out what we should do today. Well, we find the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum is about a 15-minute walk from the hotel. We get down there (it had stopped raining) and we buy an all-inclusive pass for the main museum and the special exhibits taking place. First, we saw The Rise of Islamic Art. On the year that marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Calouste Gulbenkian, this exhibition seeks to understand the growing Orientalism, that the collector and his contemporaries developed, through masterpieces of Islamic art from the Founder's Collection and other important international collections.
Founder’s Collection that houses the Founder’s Collection was designed by the architects Ruy Jervis d’Athouguia, Pedro Cid and Alberto Pessoa (1969) to accommodate around six thousand pieces amassed by Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian. It is located in the north of the Gulbenkian garden. The galleries of this building are home to displays of around a thousand pieces divided into groups corresponding to Egyptian art, Greco-Roman art, Mesopotamia, the Islamic Orient, Armenia, the Far East and, where Western art is concerned, sculpture, the art of the book, painting, eighteenth-century French decorative arts, and works by René Lalique. The collection of works by René Lalique, which Calouste Gulbenkian purchased directly from the artist, is considered to be unique in the world for its quality and quantity. Last we saw Sarah Affonso and Folk Art from the Minho and this exhibition focuses on the relationship between the work of Sarah Affonso and the popular art of the Minho region. Often remembered as the wife of Almada Negreiros, Sarah Affonso was a modernist artist in her own right, with a remarkable career. We spent several hours at the museum and we had drink at the café before we left. We saw that it had rained outside, but had stopped and we headed back to the hotel. We made it back (started to rain again) and opted to go into the Concierge Lounge. At this point, we are going back and forth as to what to do. The forecast does not look good, but it does indicate that the rain should stop around 6:00 to 7:00 pm. Heidi wants to go to the Fado (Portuguese Folk music). Anyhow, the weather appears to improving and we decide to go and take the train downtown. We make it down and the first recommendation does not have FADO anymore (or at least that night). Heidi has a 2nd recommendation which appears to be close by and we find it, Ja Disse. You have to order some food in order to get a table. We do and make an order (like appetizer dishes) as we had eaten some food back at the hotel. The music starts and we stay for a couple of performers. We do not understand any of it, but you can feel the emotion of the singers as they perform and are telling stories of loved ones that have been lost or missing (you get the gist). We make our way back to the Metro and get back to the hotel.
September 22nd – Our last day in Lisbon and we decide to go to the Belem Area (the weather is good). We take a taxi down there as getting there by public transportation would require a couple of changes. Anyhow, we make it down there and our 1st stop is the Belem Tower. The Belém Tower, officially the Tower of Saint Vincent is a 16th-century fortification located in Lisbon that served both as a fortress and as a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. It was built during the height of the Portuguese Renaissance, and is a prominent example of the Portuguese Manueline style, but it also incorporates hints of other architectural styles. The structure was built from lioz limestone and is composed of a bastion and a 30-metre, four-story tower. After our tour, which was just going up to the top and down (the stairwell was very narrow and they have green light for going up and going down), we started walking along the river as we made our way to Jeronimos Monastery and we passed a monument dedicated to the Discovery made by Portugal during the height of their Naval Power. Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon: Stunning the World Since 1501. Jerónimos Monastery is a cultural point of reference that has attracted artists, historians and travelers in the course of its five centuries of existence. With vaulted ceilings and sophisticated decorative elements, its architecture is unlike any other; as it reflects the royal commissions that characterize the era in which it was built. Supposedly, Vasco de Gama and his crew spent their last night at this monastery before departing on their voyage. We just walked around the outside as the line were very long to get into the inside. Finally, we made our way over to Pasteis de Belem (original place) and from the tip we received from Frago, we make our way to the seating area and get a table. We get an order of Pasteis de Nada along with some lattes and just enjoy the setting. We decide to take the ‘15’ trolley to downtown which lets us off at the river front near the Ferry Terminal, Cais do Sodre, and from there we walk up to Baixa-Chiado where Heidi does some shopping and I sit in the park area watching the people. About an hour later, we make our way back to the Hotel and as we are walking, Heidi says that she wants to see the restaurant that we walk by and see the menu. We walk up and find out they are not serving until 7:00 pm and their specialties are grilled seafood and I see some steaks on the menu as well. We make our way back to hotel (5-minute walk) and Heidi is talking with the Concierge (a different Concierge person) and getting superb recommendations for this restaurant. We end up talking with this Concierge and he is really nice and we share many stories about our travels. We go to this restaurant, Carvoeiro De Palma, and are seated and Heidi gets Sea Bass and I get Steak on Stone. The meals are brought to us and Heidi’s is pretty much what we expected, but my steak in only cooked on one side. We talked with the waiter and he tells us, I should cut the steak and it will continue cooking on the Stone which is like a very hot grill. It actually comes out great and we enjoyed our last meal in Lisbon.
September 23rd -Got a taxi to the airport in plenty of time. Had a mix-up on our seats, but it worked out ok as we split up and had an open seat beside us. Got into Boston without any problems, made it through Customs using our Global Entry and Dave P. picked us up and got us home. Good to be home!!!!