Saturday, January 29, 2011

Lisbon, Portugal (2005)

Our train arrived in Lisbon early the next morning, and we hopped a bus to downtown. There we discovered that Lisbon is quite hilly. Although our hostel was only 500 meters from the bus stop, the distance consisted primarily of 4 sets of stairs.

After dropping off our luggage at our hostel (Pensao Londres, 80 EUR/quad), we went back towards town and got breakfast at A Brazilica, a cafe that seemed quite popular with the locals.

Then, we headed towards Belem, where we saw an old monastery which housed the tomb of the explorer Vasco da Gama, a monument to Portuguese exploration headed by Prince Henry the Navigator, and the Tower of Belem.

We then tried to go to the Basilica Estrela, but got sidetracked at the Praca do Comercio, down by the water. We hung out for awhile, shopping and snacking, before finally catching the tram to Estrela. Unfortunately, when we got there at 7pm, there was a service going on, so we just looked at the exterior, peeked at the adjacent gardens, and then headed back.

We had dinner at Martinho da Arcada, one of the oldest restaurants in Lisbon. Despite its reputation and the nicely dressed waitstaff, the food was only so-so.

As we were walking back to our hostel, we saw lots of people in formal dress emerging from the subway to walk down a red carpet into some kind of event. That, combined with the fireworks setup that we saw in Belem, made us think that it must be some kind of holiday, but we couldn't figure out what it was.

The next day, we took a train to a nearby town called Sintra. There, we visited the very colorful Pena Palace, we walked up and down the walls of the "Castle of the Moors", and admired the view from the mountain top.

It was a comfortable day trip from Lisbon and a nice break from visiting big cities.

(I don't know what happened, but I seem to not have taken any notes on the very last day of our trip. I'm guessing we probably wandered around Lisbon some more? I have a couple photos that look like they were taken from up on a hill. Oops.)

On the morning of the fourth day, we caught our flight to Heathrow, and then back to San Francisco.

Now, over five years later, I'd say my favorite part of the trip was our visit to the Alhambra in Granada. I also have fond memories of eating paella in Valencia, and of our time in Paris; although I'd been before, it was very different having Parisian friends taking us around. In addition, we had never driven in Europe before, and it was really nice being able to see some of the countryside and smaller towns for once, rather than being restricted to trains and big cities.

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