Posts Tagged With: Portugal

Lisbon I love you but I had to leave you

I said a while back I would write a few things about Lisbon.

Lisbon is an amazing city! It has a population of about 3 million people but it is the old city that grabs the most attention. It’s history, buildings, culture and people meld into an intoxicating mixture.

We went to the Lisbon Story Centre on the main Comércio square. It is an excellent narration of the history of the city: it’s origins, colonial period, the earthquake of 1755 and its emergence from dictatorship in 1974 – with its secret code in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Armed with this background we explored! The famous 28E tram takes you through the old town and gives the tourist an excellent overview of this part of Lisbon. The problem with the 28E tram is that it is popular. It is Tokyo style peak hour all day. Tourists are jammed into these tiny trams, hanging out of windows and squashed cheek and jowl all the way. We did it once but only once. I had no interest in getting to know the other tourists this well. The locals know that you catch the bus or metro – not as exotic but more effective and pleasant.

We did all the touristy things – castles, churches and etc. but one place needs a special mention – The National Tile Museum – Museu Nacional do Azulejo. Its display and presentation of the ceramic tiles so clearly visible throughout Spain and Portugal was amazing. The history, development and variety were displayed professionally in an old convent whose space was used very effectively.

But Lisbon highlights a problem. Tourists overrun the city. I felt guilty being there. It seems that the lives of the local inhabitants needs to make way for the influx of tourists where 3 cruise ship can disgorge over 10000 people into the middle of the old town in one hit. I haven’t felt the same in other places. Even Barcelona, in the past, was not that crazy, however, on this occasion although loving Lisbon I breathed a little easier once I had left.

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Go West (not so) Young Man

After leaving Caceres we headed towards Portugal. The first surprise was the range of landscapes from dry paddocks filled with granite boulders, reminiscent of places in Australia, through to lush valleys covered in crops and orchards. Closer to Portugal there were tree plantations and even gum trees that were at home in their element.

The biggest surprise was the Roman bridge on the on the Tagus River at Alcantara – quite a magnificent structure despite having been damaged in wars over the centuries.

We then moved to the coast of Portugal staying a night Figuiera da Foz. The camping ground wasn’t much to write home about but the sunset was beautiful and surfers enjoyed their time in the water. In the morning we drove to Sao Martinho do Porto, a beautiful harbour and clearly a popular seaside resort. Here we bought a Portuguese version of a churro which was large, hollow and filled with chocolate. The eyes of my child bride glowed with delight. They also had paddle boats with their own water slide which I thought was an interesting innovation. Then we moved onto Perniche, a fascinating town, although another seaside resort, built in and around an old fortress. In the past this was clearly and important harbour. The geology was also amazing. A trip around the peninsula gives the Great Ocean Road a run for its money. It was covered in rock outcrops, tessellated rock platforms and craggy moonscapes.

Finally we drove to Lisboa but that is a story for another day.

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