Thursday, May 11, 2006

5/9/06 Once again we are a bit rushed for time but I am determined to tell you something about this place. We are happily established in our Pension which is very
well located on one of the busiest plazas in the historic center of Lisbon. The rooms are very clean and comfortable, and every form of public transport is nearby making it very easy to get around. We have purchased transportation passes and are going everywhere. In fact, when we got off the ship last Saturday, and we could not find a taxi to take us to our hotel for less than 25 Euros, we just went out on
the street and jumped on the tram and were here in no time.
This is a very easy city to poke around in and there is lots of atmosphere. The part where we are staying is called the Baixa, and is an area between 2 hilly areas, which was leveled by the horrible earthquake of 1755. It was rebuilt in a grid pattern and has lovely pedestrian streets with smart shops and good restaurants. We took tram 28 and explored in the Alfama, one of the older areas where the streets are
very narrow and convoluted. This was to confuse invaders who were trying to get to the castle which is at the top of the hill and which dates from the 700s.
We explored the castle another day.
Sunday we spent in the area called Belem, which is right on the river and not far from where our cruise ship docked. Most of the museums and other attractions were free on Sunday and we saw the huge church and monastery there call Jeronimos. It was
built in a new style called Manueline and was very interesting architecturally. The Monument to the Discoveries honors such famous men of history as Henry the Navigator, Magellan, Cabral, and Vasco da Gama. It was due to these explorers that so much richness came to Portugal in the 14th and 15th centuries and also accounts for all the places they colonized. We saw a video there about Lisbon, and also took the elevator to the top for stupendous views. There are statues of all the famous explorers on the outside, so we took lots of pictures. We also visited the Belem
Tower, the Maritime Museum, and the Coach Museum. This building was full of old carriages used by the monarchs and nobility. Not as good as the one at the
Nymphenburg Palace in Munich. To get to Belem, we took one of the old trolleys,
and just short of our stop, it hit a car!! Everyone was fine, even the woman driving the car, although she was pinned in for a while, so we just got off and
walked the rest of the way. All the books say the traffic here is heavy and dangerous and we believe them. Lee got clipped by a car the very first day here, but he is OK. They only stop for you if you are in a crosswalk.
Today we toured the fabulous Gulbenkian Museum, one of the finest collections of paintings, furniture, glassware, jewelry, etc. in the world and all donated
by an Armenian oil magnate who was offered refuge here during WWII. Then we joined Alistair and Paul for lunch and showed them around. We met them last year on our ship to Barcelona. They are sailing to England on the Jewel of the Seas and were only here in Lisbon for a few hours today. It was great fun to see them
again and be their tour guides for a few hours.
Tomorrow we take a train to a nearby town called Sintra, to see several more palaces. Then we will leave Judy and Lou here while Lee, Susie, Elaine and I
go off in our rental car. Ken and Carolyn left yesterday and are also in a rental car and have already sent us some tips by e/mail. Thanks Ken! We all have been having a great time, very nice and sunny weather, and the people are friendly and nice. More next time from another Portugal town.

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