In the morning, we left for Lisbon. We passed more vineyards, this time with grapes of muscatel wine, a sweet dessert wine. No stopping, as we were aiming to get to the city just after rush hour. Like Rome, Lisbon is a city of seven hills. You enter over a bridge reminiscent of the Golden Gate Bridge (which was built by the same architect who designed and built the San Francisco landmark).
Our first stop was the Monastery of Jeronimos (Geronimo). This cloister is Gothic but in the manueline style. This style is more decorative than traditional Gothic, which is normally stark, due to King Manuel, who was married to the second daughter of Isabel and Fernando of Spain. He liked more sculptural details, evident in the columns and arches.
Interestingly, there was a huge earthquake, 8.9 strength, that devastated most of the structures everywhere in Portugal in 1755. Throughout the country, most of the important buildings and churches had to be repaired as a result of this earthquake. Due to the type of Gothic construction used in most churches, convents, and monasteries, you may see cracks in the columns, replaced stained glass, but the structures are totally intact. Can you imagine how frightened people must have been during such a monumental event?
Unfortunately, upon our departure from the Monastery, it began to rain. Of all our trips, we have been fortunate to dodge the rainy days we have experienced on this trip. I had my rain jacket but Jim packed his jacket in his suitcase. Our lame umbrella wasn’t much help, either. Oh well… We didn’t melt!
From the Monastery, we stopped at the famous Belem Tower. On clear days, you can see the mouth of the Tagus River, leading to the Atlantic (sorry no pictures – too rainy). That was how the explorers came in via ship. Today, the view was minimal. A few brave souls went up the tower, while the rest of us hung out at a nearby cafe for something warm instead of the 30-minute climb. The few who climbed the 100 steps of the tower couldn’t see much. We just checked our email at the cafe and waited for the brave souls who climbed up the 100 steps.
By the time we got back to our hotel, the rain stopped and we had the afternoon at leisure to could walk around or go to one or two of the many museums. We opted to relax, then walk around toward the river leading to the Atlantic.
We walked on the pedestrian street, lined with shops selling souvenirs, clothes and lots of shoe stores (my favorite). Jim is so patient and just waits outside while I stop in to check out the interesting items in the shops. Sometimes he will come in and look at shoes, but he wears a wide width and almost never can find shoes that fit. We were surprised in Madrid when he found a great pair that were wide enough. They are now one of his favorite shoes, other than flip flops!
Down the center of this walking street, you find a restaurant after restaurant down the middle and on the side streets, with outdoor tables everywhere. There are buskers playing music, a man manipulating a marionette playing piano, and break dancers, all looking for tips by displaying their talents.
At the end of the pedestrian street, you enter Commercial Square through an arch that must be three stories tall and very famous. As you walk through the arch, you can see the Tagus River. There are restaurants all around the enormous square and, of course, the ubiquitous statues in the middle (Vasco de Gama or Henry the Navigator, not sure which).
As we looked at where to eat, a sign on the square caught our eyes. It said, “The Sexiest WC in Lisbon.” Well, we couldn’t pass that up and if it included a real WC, so much the better. I went inside and discovered that it as run by Renova, a paper company that advertises toilet paper in beautiful, bright colors, as well as black and brown. For $1 EU, you go in and get a roll of toilet paper from the wall, taking the color of your choice. It was difficult to select which color. As most of you know, we women never pass up an opportunity to stop at a baño. I actually bought two rolls to bring home, which made Jim’s eyeballs roll to the back of his head. He picked the bright yellow color, so he had a hand in this, too.
Time for a bite for dinner. We stopped on the pedestrian street again, where selecting a restaurant was a daunting task. We settled on one and ordered a pepperoni pizza (very thin, crispy crust) and a grilled vegetable skewer of eggplant, peppers, and zucchini. We cut up the vegetables and added them to the pizza for a fabulous meal. A couple of beers (love that Super Boch on draft) and we were happy campers. Of course, there was the gelato in the shape of roses. You can pick as many flavors as you want and as long as they fit into the cup or cone size, you can have a taste bonanza!
Did we mention that there is a whole store that specializes in cod croquettes with cheese inside (pastel de bacalhau) and port? The store itself is pretty elegant, too. They were yummy and busy with other tourists trying them.
Back to the hotel to enjoy a quiet rest of the evening and a little CNN. Every day, the news is breaking, so we don’t want to be completely out of touch. Maybe that isn’t such a good idea!