The best was probably the...
The best was probably the trolley rides clang-clanging up and down the steep, narrow, and utterly charming old streets in the sections of Lisbon not flattened by the earthquake of 1755, or otherwise modernized. Sintra, a two dollar and forty minute train ride away was awesome. Old Moorish fortifications and castles nestled on top of steep little mountains set in a natural park was simply wonderful.
Before you rent a car in Lisbon, there are a few things you should know:
* Portuguese drive on the right side of the road
* The use of safety belt is always compulsory
* Driving and drinking is not recommended. When you drive the legal maximum alcohol level is restricted to 0.5g/l, the equivalent of a small beer
* Usually, vehicles approaching from the right have priority, except when the signs tell the contrary.
Lisbon can be quite confusing and it is better for you to buy a road map. There are traffic jams, quite often, on its streets.
TORRE DE BELEM
It is a must-see, even if it is probably the most photographed monument in Portugal. This tower used to locate out in mid-stream of river Tagus when Vasco da Gama left to India and other sailors of the Age of Discoveries left to other destinations to be explored.
Belém is linked to Portugal's Golden Age of Discoveries as the site where the famous navigators set sail to discover the world. Today it is a spacious green suburb with many gardens, parks and monuments that are well worth a visit. Amongst Belém's attractions are the Jerónimos Monastery, the Monument to the Discoveries, the Torre de Belém, the Belém Cultural Centre and Rua Vieira Portuense.
Originally it served as a fortress. Nowadays local people seem to gather here around the park during the summer weekends. Wishing I had some sparkling in my backbag...
Portugese looks remarkably similar to French and Spanish and anyone who can read either of these languages should have little difficulty reading portugese.
Speaking portugese is a completely different matter and we had trouble pronouncing words correctly and understanding what was being said.
Many portugese people speak good English, especially in Lisbon.
The House of Wenceslau de Souza de Moraes
My best story from our trip to Portugal occurred on the last day while trying to find the home of an obscure historical figure, one Weneceslau de Sousa Moraes. He is buried in my wife, Miyuki's, hometown and quite famous there as the first westerner to ever visit Tokushima. There are plaques to his memory etc.
So... the Japanese guide book gives me directions to visit his old home,
which is a one hour mile to walk in the heat. It turns out that this address takes me to a narrow-streeted African neighborhood complete with street vendors and music. DeMoraes' house isn't there. I trudge all the way back downtown to find the tourist information kiosk
and they tell me I was almost there, if I'd only gone another quarter mile I
would have found it. So up I go again, this time finding myself in an Arab neighborhood, also with narrow streets. No problem, I'm cruising around eating baklava and drinking tea while searching for the house when whammo, a dog gets hit by a car causing a huge commotion. I still can't find the place so it's back to downtown and a different information kiosk. This guy takes more time and looks it up on the internet, comes back and says it is only a few blocks away! Now my life can't be made too easy so I somehow managed to get lost on the way (and found some cool music stores and sausage shops along the way), and when I
corrected my course, found I had to climb a 60 degree angled hill while listening
to the sounds coming from everyone's apartments, kids fighting in Portuguese,
movies played too loud, the street just kind of echoed. As I got to the top a small boy jumped out of a doorway to intentionally scare me, then turned horrified when he saw I wasn't his mother, who swiftly appeared and apologized profusely.
After that, it was one more flight of stairs to the very top of the hill where, accompanied by the sound of two people f***g inside the apartment behind me, I stood, sweating like a pig, breathing hard, feeling the saudade and looking at the house of Wenceslau de
Sousa Moraes, and realizing it was a simple plaque!
I couldn't even go in, after al lthat work and walk, I could only photograph the plaque you see here. When I got back to the bottom of the hill, just in time for the siesta, I had a beer, the best tasting Sagres in all of Lisbon and had a laugh. it had been a good day and one worth remembering. Furthermore, I'd gotten to see a lot of obscure points in Lisbon, found a used CD store to buy my Madredeus CDs, and tasted a few local (or immigrant foods would be more accurate) foods I wouldn't have found otherwise. Very sad about the dog
though. It didn't die.