Our travels begin 9/12-14 with a delightful visit with Scott, Laurie, Zoe, Mia, Sophie. It is the Jewish New Year - L'shana tova (a good New Year) - and the end of the High Holy Days period with Yom Kippur.
Amtrak from DC to Newark Airport.
Grab a bagel, coffee, the New York Times. Good to go.
Easy. On time.
Check in at TAP. Go to the first class lounge.
Check out the wines, ports, cheeses, breads.
Definitely going to like Portugal.
5:55 pm. Flight takes off on time (that may be the first time in all the years I flew out of Newark this has happened).
More outstanding wines and fresh snacks on the plane.
Quick - get to sleep. It's only a 7 hr flight.
Day 1- Lisboa
6:00 am - arrive in Lisbon (Lisboa).
Get to the hotel. Hotel Britania (a Hertiage Hotel). Excellent. An Art Deco gem designed by Cassiano Branco in 1942.
Our room won't be ready until at least 10 and we are both functioning on less than 4 hrs sleep.
While we wait for our room - yep, eat some more, drink some more. This time fabulous espresso, eggs, fresh baked breads, homemade jams, fresh fruits.
We need a gym. Too much food and drink and it's not even 7:30 am yet.
To stay awake, we go for a walk down the main avenue.
10:00 am, back to the hotel. YEA! our room is ready.
A delightful mini-suite, in the mid-40's style. The windows open. The fridge is stocked with - yep, vino verde (young wines) , port, cheeses (local; mostly sheep milk).
Ignore all that.
Fall on top of the bed and pass out for 2 hours.
2:00 pm. Meet up with our guide, Sandra, and spend the next 4 hours walking the historic areas of Lisboa - Baixa (Bye-sha), Alfama, and the Barrio Alto. Sandra is a wealth in information about history, culture, politics, religious conflicts, the rebuilding of Lisboa after its near total destruction in an earthquake in 1755. University students were starting today and there is a tradition of mild hazing which was fun to watch. We visited the old synagogue and stopped at the site if what will be the new one.
We had a fabulous dinner at Restaurant Sacramento in the Baixa district and an outstanding wine (2005 Douro Reserve Vino Tinto).
Day 2 - Lisboa
We have the tram, metro and buses pretty much figured out and a 24-hr transit card.
We walk down the street about a mile to catch Tram 15 (a trolly car) and ride that for about 30-minutes to Belem. This is at the far west side of town with all the major museums and over-sized tourist attractions: Pastries, Coach Museum, Monastery, Statue of Discoveries; Belem Tower; a duplicate of the San Francisco Bay Bridge (same architect), and the new Cultural Center. After a few hours of all this, we hop on the 728 bus all the way back across town to the Convent/Museum of Tiles (amazing), then the 728 bus to the blue-line metro and the Gulbenkian Museums (more amazing).
Steven and I both go on overload after about an hour in a museum - the Gulbenkian needed at least half- a day. Check out the history - it is one of the most exceptional private art collections in the world, from antiquities to a completely separate Modern Art Museum. http://www.museu.gulbenkian.pt/main.asp?lang=en
The Museum of Tiles is also not on the tour-bus path thank goodness. It is a little difficult to find, but well worth it. An amazing collection presenting five centuries of decorative ceramic tiles or azulejos, tracing the history and production of the art form. (http://www.golisbon.com/sight-seeing/tile-museum.html)
Tonight's dinner is our only disappointment so far and if you are going to Lisboa pay attention. We let our travel arranger select a FADO for us. We should have known - it was a total tourist place - 2 bus loads piled in, and we were seated at a little side table so close to the musicians that we had to stand up and move to the side while they played. It was loud, the FADO was mediocre, the food was a little less than so-so. We left half-way through the dinner/performance and hope to catch a quality FADO performance when we return to Lisboa at the end of this trip. So - take note, do not go to Guitarres de Fado.
Day 3 - Sintra (Seen-tra) , Cascais (cash kish as in ski), and Cabo da Roco
Sintra is a delightful town, lots of nooks and crannies, several really big tourist attractions that are all, actually, amazing. I usually don't go for an entire day of castles, monasteries, gardens, etc but this was all exceptional. We managed to go in the opposite order of the large tour groups so that was a bonus for us.
Here's the list
We started at the gardens of the Palacio Da Regaleira. Underground tunnels, hidden pathways, grottos up or down long pathways, Knight Templar history, etc. Then a snack in the centro, with my favorite shot of the day - the news photographers taking photos of the President, who did a quick visit to a meeting of the big shots of the Socialist Party.
They came over to me after the big shot left and said they loved watching was I was doing - that obviously I knew my way around the camera. I was beaming - and told them that I'd have my shot of them up on my web site before the night was over. They loved the double-twist.
Then to the Pena Palace and Moors Castle. You can check them both out on the web if you're interested in more details.
Hop in the car, taking the coastline drive to Cascais. En route we stopped at Cabo da Roco, the most western point on the continent. The reason to stop is just to say you've been there. There is a ighthouse, a gift shop, a wine store (of course), it's amazingly windy and 20-deg colder. Get the shot, move on.
We continue down the coast line - a lovely drive, not a tour bus in sight, and stop for a light dinner at the Manor House by the sea in Cascais.
Back to Lisboa. Check out the shot - it was a full moon.
Lessons Learned So Far:
Why is it call "Lisboa" -- The mediaeval Latin name was Lisbonensis. As the modern Portuguese Language developed, this corrupted into Lisboa, but the English knew the place before then and had abbreviated the name to Lisbon
Short History Lesson. Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world, and the oldest city in Western Europe, predating other modern European capitals such as London, Paris and Rome by hundreds of years. Julius Caesar made it a municipium called Felicitas Julia, adding to the name Olissipo. Ruled by a series of Germanic tribes from the 5th century, it was captured by the Moors in the 8th century. In 1147, the Crusaders under Afonso Henriques reconquered the city and since then it has been a major political, economic and cultural centre of Portugal. Unlike most capital cities, Lisbon's status as the capital of Portugal has never been granted or confirmed officially – by statute or in written form. Its position as the capital has formed through constitutional convention, making its position as de facto capital a part of the Constitution of Portugal.