1 June 2019, Lisbon Portugal, Day 2
Yesterday Mary arranged for a shared taxi to Sintra (World Heritage Sight) and in and around other sights in Lisbon. We met for breakfast buffet at 730 am, then out to check wifi by 815 am, our tour started at 830 am.
Luis drives a Mercedes Benz van (taxi), air conditioned and spacious. We asked questions, finding out that Lisbon is home to less than 600,000 population, very steep hills (not too many bike riders here :), is known for the ceramic tile work that adorns the outside of many buildings; favorite food is grilled sardines (about 6-8 inches) and codfish (They NEVER eat fish on Mondays!); production of glass, rope; and an extensive fishing industry.
There are 10.5 million people in Portugal, 85% of them are Catholic religion. Chinese and Indian “parts of town” are unique. Portugal has many palm & olive trees and cork is harvested also. Very high quality olive oil, cork made into useful products (shoes, purses, hats) and for tourists, even today. Tourism is the number one industry here. Every day cruise ships stop in, 1 or 2 up to 7 on any given day. We take a drive out of the city and spy Staples, IKEA, Starbucks in the “hipermercado” shopping malls. And a Jeep dealership reminds me of home. LOL.
Luis explains and then shows us the brick and mud foundation that is covered by tiles. Some of the tile work is representing a picture, often in blue and white, and sometimes completely covers a building from top to bottom, in uniform fashion. It is all beautiful. Cobblestone streets, each black or white stone carefully hand-cut and decoratively placed making a handsome symmetrical pattern. Buildings and statues, monuments appear to be made from marble or concrete and we are advised it is limestone we are seeing.
Luis offered many historical facts, on 1 November 1755 the city was destroyed by 9.0 earthquake that lasted ten minutes. It was a religious holiday, candles were lit around the city …. fire engulfed the town, many many died. The survivors from the buildings collapsing and fires, went to the gathering plaza by the sea, and resulting tsunami caused even more death and destruction. Some 35,000 died that day.
Some highlights and viewpoints were seen: Christ the Redeemer, very similar to that in Rio de Janeiro; Madonna of the Hill religious site; 7 Hills of Lisbon (kinda like Rome!);
We asked about the Moors, they came from Morocco and some Arab countries, brought the tile work, and introduced the number system from the Roman numeral to present day number system. Many castles were build by Arab people. For 700 years Portugal was occupied by the Moors. In year 1147 Portugal gained its independence. We must have seen a dozen fortresses and tall stone walls that have withstood time, in defense of Portugal from those wanting to take it by sea.
On our way to Sintra we spy an old aqueduct, 24 kms long that took over 100 years to build. “We don’t drink that water”, he advised, they use it for irrigation and cleaning. The tap water in Lisbon, according to Luis is very good. We hear stories about Edward VII Park. We see the beautiful tiles line even the tunnels that we drive through. A huge Monsanto National Park we drive by, described as the “lungs of Lisbon”. We see the longest bridge in Europe, 17 kms long Vasco de Gamma bridge. We talk about the heat wave, 33 degrees yesterday, a tiny bit cooler today to learn that last summer they experienced 44 degree days, and not enough rain this past winter, which may bring problems this summer to come.
We drive on Liberty Avenue, the most expensive street, not unlike Champs Elysee in Paris, lined with Gucci, Prada and other very high end stores. The trees are beautiful linking the decorative tile work on the sidewalks and roads, as well as plaza areas where people gather. We see the purple blossoms on the groves of trees, sorry, I can’t remember their name. (Maybe Jackaranda) Apparently the bloom does not last long, we are very fortunate to see them everywhere today!
Luis suggests two movies to watch, in reflection of what we have seen today: “The Silence” about the presence of Portuguese Jesuits in Japan; and “The Mission”.
The most significant highlight for me was beach walking and wading in the Atlantic Ocean. Cascais (pronounced Kis-couche) is a very upscale part of this area, beaches for surfing, paddle boarding, beautiful homes for the wealthy and famous. Very well groomed and a summer vacation home for many who live in Europe. Today being the first day of June, the beaches were full!
Tour ended with four satisfied women travelers, promptly at 2 pm, back at the ship, Azamara Journey. We had time to have lunch buffet and glass (or two) of lovely Italian Pinot Grigio wine, and double decaf coffee. Perfect!
Tonight we sail away from Lisbon, under the bridge (looks like Golden Gate Bridge). Tomorrow we venture to Porto, which promises to be beautiful, not as hot, famous also for cork and ceramics, and additionally port and wine. We will see vineyards and enjoy where the Duoro River meets the Atlantic Ocean. Luis offers to drive down and tour that region for us also … 3 hour drive from Lisbon. We decline and are so thankful for the fabulous tour today!
Love Pamela, from Portugal. Until tomorrow!