Rattling americanos in Lisbon

BOA VIAGEM LISBOA ESPERA POR TI (Have a Nice Trip, Lisbon Awaits You)

IMG_7453

The first thing we were thrilled about was that the city of Lisbon was not very far away from our hotel in Estoril. The second was that it was cheaper and very easy to take the train rather than drive to the busy city. No parking problems, and definitely no driving stress. We chose well. Our hotel was not only fancy, it was just a few steps away from the beach (depending on who’s walking, or talking┬á­čĄ¬┬á), with the train station right next to it, and only a thirty-minute train ride away from Lisbon. We bought a 24-hour return ticket and only paid six euros each! What they don’t tell you though, when you buy the ticket, is to make sure you sit to the right in the direction of travel towards the city. We only chose that side because of the morning sun and were rewarded with a lovely train route along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and as we neared Lisbon, we travelled along the banks of the Rio Tejo (Tagus river). Ooh-aah-ohh-wow! Yep, it was obvious who the tourists were.

We didn’t know where we wanted to start first once we reached Lisbon, nor did we have any concrete plans on anything special we wanted to see. The concierge at our hotel gave us a map and a few tips, but we ended up exploring it our usual way, by getting lost.

The final stop is at the Cais do Sodre train station. This not a spectacular building on the inside, even though there’s quite a few typical Portuguese┬ámosaic panels (Azulejos) and artworks on the walls, but its plus point is that it sits next to the Rio Tejo, the watery introduction to Lisbon, and our orientation or focal point.

Another highlight is just outside at the front of the building, the most popular tourist attraction that squeaks, screeches, and rattles all day long, the one and only, rat-ta-tat-tat, electric americanos. These colourful historical trams haven been rolling, climbing and honking in Lisbon since the first one came over from America (Americano) way back in 1873.

The most famous one used by tourists and locals alike is the yellow number 28. It tends to get very full, but if you’ve managed to get at least a standing space, it is worth the noisy ride. They squeak, that ear-piercing metal on metal kind of squeak, around every curve (there are lots of these), or have to screech to a halt quite often when silly people cross in front of them. Then they honk. All. The. Time. As a “honk-honk-shake-rattle-and-roll-it-is-me” warning, or when a parked car has blocked the line. The rattling, well, it is what it is…┬á­čĄú┬áOuch! It is quite amazing how those drivers manage to move through all those narrow and curvy streets without hitting anything!!

If you stand with your back to the Rio Tejo, beautiful Lisbon lays in front of you, and yes, get your knees ready because it’s only uphill from there!┬á­čžŚ­čĆ╗ÔÇŹÔÖÇ´ŞĆ┬á­čśë┬áWorried? No! Why? If our patellas did not pop in Porto, then they will not limp in Lisbon, so bring it on! Haha!┬áSeriously though, the area between the Cais do Sodre station and the Pra├ža do Com├ęrcio (Commerce Square) is very flat with an interesting and bustling┬áwaterfront promenade. Hmmm. Step to the right, step to the left, step back – one, two, three, now step to the right, step to the left, turn around and hop, hop, hop. Hee-hee! That’s what it felt like trying to decide which way to go as we did not want to miss anything. We zig-zagged. Promenade, little garden next to station, cross over to Duke of Terceira Square, back to Rio Tejo at the Commerce Square, promenade. And in-between all that, there was something fishy!

Keep your eyes peeled so as not to miss the Loja das Conservas, (photos below) a shop created by the┬áANICP – National Association of Canned Fish Industry, to highlight and sell the products from the Portuguese canning industry. An amazing shop if you’re looking for variety. There are hundreds of colourful cans stacked on two walls with information about each of the companies. There is a huge assortment and it’s difficult to choose only one tin to buy. We ended up with three. Oh, and there are also a few free fishy nibbles to try. This is not the only shop selling traditional canned fish in the area, but this one is more touristy, so tends to be more expensive. Whatever, enjoy and feel the holiday spirit!

The Commerce Square is probably the most important square in Lisbon. Eavesdropping on one of the guides, he said that at the last New Year celebration, hundreds of thousands of people gathered here to welcome the new year. There are two long archways on each side of the square where you will find restaurants, shops and…a beer museum. Slurp! We only looked, even though one of us was starting to get thirsty, lol. We bought a take-away snack instead, the traditional Pasteis de Bacalhau or codfish cakes. It was lekker, BUT the price shocked us though. Oh well, tourists we are…

Now we start to climb. Up. Up. Up. Then, ta-daa, a church. Hallelujah! All those pews just waiting for weary feet ­čśç┬á­čśç┬áThis is a very special Catholic church. This is where Saint Anthony of Padua was born, a gifted preacher, teacher and patron saint of lost things and small miracles. His birthplace is accessible for everyone to see, though the room is a bit tight, especially when there are a lot of people. The Church of Saint Anthony is right next to the Lisbon Cathedral and has colourful ceilings with a very attractive altar. It is also much quieter, so easy to while away for a few hours. We did not have the time, so up and out! Lisbon Cathedral was waiting hee-hee…

The Lisbon Cathedral, or Saint Mary Major Minster or simply the S├ę de Lisboa┬á(below) is the oldest church in Lisbon and has survived many natural disasters in its eight hundred and seventy-odd year history. During this time many renovations have taken place that is why there are so many architectural styles to be seen, like Gothic, Baroque and Rococo, to name but a few. To visit the cathedral does not cost anything, but if you want to see more, like the cloister and the treasury, then it costs a few euros each. It was worth every penny because the view from the gallery is awesome! It’s also quite something else being covered in bright rainbow colours while standing under the rose window! The sun shone through the window for only a moment, covering the walls, and us, in beautiful colours! Ooh, getting emotional here…

Outside the Lisbon Cathedral is a tuk-tuk “terminus”. One of us had to empty the bladder, hop-hop-squeeze, so we asked one of the drivers where the nearest waterhole was. A few minutes later he had convinced us to take a ride with him. The most hilly part was still to come, he said. Just then an┬áamericano┬ácame by, seeming to drag itself up the hill, honking and squealing as if to say, take-the-tuk-tuk! We took the tuk-tuk. A very expensive ride! A one hundred euro adventurous ride. Getting in and out was not something for short legs. The only way was to do a bum slide, then drop. Don’t ask. Besides, the beauty of Lisbon can NOT be enjoyed to the full when you’re being tailgated by an angry americano! The┬á28! Yep, he was one of those always in the way. Honk-Honk! LOL! No problem, he said. It is normal, he said. So we’re not going to get bumped or pushed out of the way then? Nooo, everything okay. Alrighty then. So we wobbled our way up to Our Lady of the Hill viewing point. What a breathtaking view over Lisbon! The weather could’ve been better though…too many clouds…BUT, no rain!

Next stop was the oldest neighbourhood in Lisbon, the Alfama District. WOW! We were gobsmacked! It is a maze of narrow alleyways, cobbled streets, old houses, little squares, restaurants, cafes and what else, lots and lots of stairs. It survived the big earthquake, with subsequent tsunamis and fires, in 1755, so has retained its cultural and historical heritage. We really enjoyed our time here!

We tuk-tuk’d our way through many other interesting attractions. At some we asked him to stop so as to have a closer look, bum slide drop, and others were enough to see in passing. Our tour ended at the Baixa Food Market. YAY! We were famished! We said good-bye to Mr. No Problem and followed the smells of food. It is not a big place, but there are more than enough choices of meats, cheeses and other traditional foods on offer. We had the typical fried sausage washed down with a sangria. Dessert was past├ęis de nata.┬áThey were created in Lisbon, so, when in Lisbon, nom-nom-nom, then eat what the monks created so many years ago, custard tarts!

Lisbon can be seen from many viewpoints across the city. One can take a boat ride and enjoy the view from across the Rio Tejo, or use a tuk-tuk (pricey), or the trams, or go up in a lift. There’s a metal thingy, the Santa Justa Elevator, with an observation platform presenting panoramic views over the Baixa District and beyond. This lift is also used as an easier way get from upper Lisbon to lower Lisbon or vice versa. It’s very popular, and only twenty or so can use the lift at a time, so long queues.

Below are some very interesting buildings, statues and artworks Lisbon has to offer. Click on the photo for more information. Enjoy!

There are only two bridges over the Rio Tejo in Lisbon, the Vasco da Gama and the 25 de Abril. The latter is the one you see from most viewpoints, and also has the Christ the King Statue almost next to it, but it’s a bit arduous to get there. A fifteen minute ferry ride to the other side of the river, then another twenty minutes with a bus.. Too much hassle for us, and it was too late anyway. Hotel!!!!!!

IMG_7203

Our walky-talky-clickety-click-snap-slurp-munch-munch day in Lisbon was over and we had not even seen half of what is has to offer. We were tired, but happy. We spent the night rubbing shoulders with VIP’s and drinking cocktails. Tum-di-dum. Shh…