Ahhh we landed in Lisbon on Tuesday March 3rd. The weather was sunny and just on the cool side of comfort… which made it perfect for me. The heat and humidity of Rio de Janeiro was horrible for me. Portugal was too cold for Soon Jeong.
No matter the temperature, our first task after getting our 90 day tourist visa stamped in our passports and entering the airport arrival lobby was to go to the TAP airlines and cancel the return ticket we had to buy at the Rio airport. We were told that we had to do this at the administration building for TAP. Fortunately, this was just across the highway from the airport.
With little difficulty we got routed to the correct office that could handle our cancellation and refund. Well, almost. They said that because the ticket was purchased in Brazil that it would have to be the Brazil office that did the cancellation and refund. They could initiate the process from the office we were in. It took about 40 minutes to do this. When we left I was about half certain that things would get done and done properly.
Sorry to say that this trip around the world has left me with the firm idea that businesses and workers do not do their job correctly and/or timely. They do the minimum quality the public will tolerat. To put it succinctly, they don’t get it right. And that has become my new mantra… Get it right!.
From the TAP office we took a cab to the home of the couple we had contacted through couchsurfing. They had a beautiful apt on the top floor of an old building. They had done a great job of refurnishing it.
To me, Portugal had the real look and feel of a European country. It was a refreshing contrast to central and south America countries. And the weather was early spring. I was loving every minute of it.
The capital Lisbon has a very interesting history, well the whole country for that matter has an interesting tale. Portugal has been inhabited (conquered) on and off since about 700BC when the Celts occupied the area. Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Visigoths and Moors all had their day ruling the land.
Jump ahead to the 15th century and this is Portugal’s heyday. Once again geography is what gave it the glory. The technological improvements in sailing gave the costal country a boost. It was also at the western end of the Mediterranean Sea…kind of. It indeed owned the western most point of land in Europe. All these factors but Lisbon at the crossroads of it all. Thus, for a time, Lisbon was the wealthiest city in all of Europe.
I guess this irritated Spain a lot because they put an end to Portugals glory in short order.
Jump ahead to mid 17 hundreds and Lisbon is a beautiful city with grand buildings. November 1, 1755 a enormous earthquake levels the city. Geologist calculate just about 9 on the Richter scale. They rebuilt and then Napoleon comes in and after him there was a civil war and then … well, the country just ended up being little ol Portugal on the west coast of Europe. The country that I think, most pass up when visiting Europe.
Lisbon is centered between two hills. It is small enough that you can walk most of the main parts of the city center. There are old trams that ding ding their way though the city and up and down the hills. These cars are an attractions in themselves. They gently make their way between the old white buildings covered with red tiled roofs. At sunset, the city puts on a view that is postcard perfect.
On one of the hills there was an old fort/castle, Castel of Sao Geroge, that we visited. It was cool. Old cannons still point over the city.
On the same day we went out to a really unique castle shaped like and “L” and placed in the water. The Tower of Bellet was worth the 4 euros (ea) we paid for it. Good photo op.
On Saturday morning we left Lisbon. Right after we picked up the car I leased at the airport. Now.. Now we were travelling in a different mode… a mode of style and freedom. Yea, got some wheels to cruise down the highway. Just put the music CD and luggage in, and away we go. (Went)
We didn’t go very far from Lisbon. Just to a town called Sintra. There we visited Palacido da Pena. A brick-a-brack collections of odd architecture and fairy tail style castle. A fun place to visit. The tour of the Palace was quite nice because many of the rooms had much of the original furnishings. They say this is Portuguese architecture of the Romantic period! To me, it looked like a king ( King Consort Dom Fernando II) had too much money and an odd sense of humor.
Near to the Palacido da Pena is the Castelo dos Mours, old ruins to a castle that sat strategically on top of the hill. It offered nice views of Sintra and most of the surrounding area.
When we left Sintra we drove out to the western most point of mainland Europe; Cabo da Roca. Got some photos and did some announcing for the textbook there.
From there we drove up to the city of PORTO.
This is where Port wine was created. They take Port wine very seriously in Porto. And yes, there are some excellent port wines that taste very good. We stood in a shop contemplating a purchase for a gift and the owner was nice enough to give us the 20 minute education of Port wine including samples. We bought some. (Don’t ask me what.. I forgot but its still in the back of the car waiting delivery)
Porto was more impressive than Lisbon. We took the Porto City bus tour which was quite nice. We got the package deal that included a river tour as well. That was good too. Just for fun we rode on one of the old trams. The tram include authentic old people too!
We couchsurfed with a woman who lived outside of Porto. Now that we had a car, …plus point was the freedom it offered… minus point was we had to be concerned with safe parking places. Therefore, I selected someone outside of the city who had parking.
For three days in a row, we took a short train ride into Porto to see the city. Porto was full of photo opportunities and had many streets that were a pleasure just to wander through.
In addition to all the fun we were having, I had to do work for the textbook in Portugal. So on a few occasions we video taped me standing in some beautiful spot narrating about Portugal and the sea.
After four days in Porto we were on the road again. This time, on to Spain.
Oh yes, I forgot to say, because over half of Portugal’s boarders are a seacoast there is naturally lots of seafood. And we enjoyed some!