Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Portugal: Lisbon

I love learning especially about different people and cultures. This is why visiting Lisbon was so fascinating to me; it is so rich in history and culture.

Lisbon... This city blew my mind. I don't know exactly what I was expecting out of Lisbon, but it surpassed it all. It was better and worse and everything in between. I didn't expect to find such incredible beauty in architecture and such well preserved monuments of history. I also didn't expect to see such poverty and poor living conditions that were generally accepted to be normal. It was a humbling and fascinating journey to live and tour around on public transit and be apart of Lisbon for five days. I think if we had taken taxis or driven our own car, we would have missed out on so much of the culture, the people, and the way they do things. I loved walking for miles around the city and hopping on and off buses, trains, and
 best of all the trolley.  

The best part of this trip was of course being with my family. We had all day long to spend time together, talk about everything, and without the normal distractions of everyday living. I loved spending time with the boys, but it was very fun to get to spend this much time with Stan. It's been a very long time since I have spent eleven days like this with him.

After our long train rides from Portimao, a few buses, and a long walk, we made it to our second destination: LISBON. We arrived to our apartment where we needed to drop off our luggage, but we had arrived much earlier than expected. We found a local cafe that was a block away from our place, and we just dumped all our stuff down and bought lunch. It was fun trying to communicate. Stan would speak Spanish, I would speak French, and more often than not someone would know one of those two languages. When they didn't we still could communicate but they would speak in Portuguese and we would respond in either Spanish or French. I was grateful that this worked, and I was surprised how similar all three languages were. After waiting for the guy to come and let us in, give us a key, and a quick orientation of the city---he even gave us a map, we did a quick unpack, and we headed straight away to our first sight.
  1. São Jorge Castle
  2. George was happy to find out that this great castle shared his name. We pretended that it was named after him. He liked that! Gregory wanted to find his castle, so we said that they should share the castle because sharing is caring, and they both agreed to that. When we arrived to the castle we only had two hours before it closed and to our dismay the line to purchase tickets was very long. This was a bit discouraging because we did not want to pay to enter the castle unless we had sufficient time to enjoy it. But at the same time, we knew our time was short and we didn't want to waste an afternoon not knowing what to do, our plan was to see Sao Jorge Castle so we got into line. A police officer that had been staring at me for a few minutes pointed his finger right at me and waved at me and told me to follow him. So I did, and Stan quietly followed with the older two boys because he, as I, thought we were in trouble and he didn't want them to take his wife away without him knowing where I was going.  Funny story because all he was doing was taking us to the front of the line. He told me to buy tickets and I turned to him and said, "Can my family come up with me?" and he said that yes they could and that I should go and get them, and I just pointed and said they are right behind you :) 
  3. Stan later told me that he wasn't about to let some police officer take his wife somewhere without him knowing where. We later found out that at whichever place we visited, as soon as they saw the baby they moved us straight to the front. We literally saved hours as we skipped past long lines to the front. The kids were our "fast passes!" This was great because if we had to wait 45 minutes to an hour or longer in each line the kids would have not lasted and we would not be able to see as much as we did. It was great! 

 This photo is a panoramic view of Lisbon. It was breathtaking! I loved all the white buildings and orange and red roof tops. We are standing on top of São Jorge Castle!

Next to the castle are some ruins from different time periods and different cultures. These were very cool, and very very old. This castle was built up on the hill overlooking the entire valley and city of Lisbon. Although the first fortifications on this hilltop date to the 2nd century BC, archaeological excavations have identified a human presence in the Tagus valley as far back as the 6th century BC. The first fortification was, presumably, erected in 48 BC, when Lisbon was classified as a Roman municipality.
The hill was first used by indigenous Celtic tribes, then by Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians as a defensible outpost that was later expropriated by Roman, Suebic, Visigothic, and Moorish peoples. During the 10th century, the fortifications were rebuilt by Muslim forces, these included the walls or Cerca Moura (Moorish Encirclment). These ruins are what are left due to a great earthquake in 1755. Many of the places we visited mentioned this earthquake as being the reason parts of the monument were destroyed. However, many monuments were untouched, and others have been rebuilt since.

  1. Belém Tower

This is a beautiful spot. Here's a little info about it. 

Belém Tower or the Tower of St Vincent is a fortified tower located in the civil parish of Santa Maria de Belém in the municipality of Lisbon. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, because of the significant role it played in the Portuguese maritime discoveries of the era of the Age of Discoveries. The tower was commissioned by King John II to be part of a defense system at the mouth of the Tagus river and a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. The tower was built in the early 16th century. This ended up being one of my favorite places that we visited. I loved it. I think it's very unique and it's built right on the ocean which makes for lovely photos.

  1. Padrão dos Descobrimentos
  2. Next we walked to this huge building. I was afraid we would have to walk up to the top, but we didn't there was an elevator. That made me happy! This monument is located along the river where ships departed to explore and trade with India and the Orient, the monument celebrates the Portuguese Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries. 

  1. Jerónimos Monastery
  2. This monastery was incredible. It was really really intricate and everything had great detail. This is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I was glad that we were able to take time here and just sit and relax. We had some fun taking photos of ourselves too, and the kids especially love it when they are the ones taking the photos.

The Jerónimos Monastery replaced the church formerly existing in the same place, which was dedicated to Santa Maria de Belém and where the monks of the military-religious Order of Christ provided assistance to seafarers in transit.[1] The harbour of Praia do Restelo was an advantageous spot for mariners, with a safe anchorage and protection from the winds, sought after by ships entering the mouth of the Tagus. The existing structure was inaugurated on the orders of Manuel I (1469–1521) at the courts of Montemor o Velho in 1495, as a final resting-place for members of the House of Aviz, in his belief that an Iberian dynastic kingdom would rule after his death. In 1496, King Manuel petitioned the Holy See for permission to construct a monastery at the site. The Hermitage of Restelo (Ermida do Restelo), as the church was known, was already in disrepair when Vasco da Gama and his men spent the night in prayer there before departing on their expedition to the Orient in 1497

Dom Vasco da Gama, 1st Count of Vidigueira, was a Portuguese explorer. He was the first European to reach India by sea, linking Europe and Asia for the first time by ocean route, as well as the Atlantic. He is buried here in the monastery. It was interesting to learn more about him, and see his final resting place.

This artwork is one of Gregory's. He is getting really good! :)

This was one of George's photos. All the others were upside down or very blurry. I am giving my shirt a little cleaning, having William strapped to me all day long, my shirts always had something on them: milk, crackers, and even towards the end of our trip vomit! That was exciting.

I really like this shot. This monastery is another favorite! It was really enjoyable, and I liked having time to just sit and enjoy the beauty. 

  1. National Sanctuary of Christ the King
  2. The Christ the King statue is a Catholic monument and shrine dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ overlooking the city of Lisbon in the central part of Portugal. It was inspired by the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, after the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon visited that monument. The project was inaugurated on 17 May 1959, at a time when Portugal was being ruled by the authoritarian President of the Council of Ministers António de Oliveira Salazar (permission to build the monument was ultimately given by Salazar). The giant statue in cement was erected to express gratitude because the Portuguese were spared the effects of World War II.

  1. Rua Augusta Arch

We ended up at the Rua Augusta Arch a few times. The first when we just arrived to Lisbon and we weren't trying to sight see, rather trying to find our apartment. However, this time when the photo was taken we were there to see the Arch... and it was beautiful, but what was more memorable was that some random guy who seemed to be somewhat normal before we found out he was trying to sell Stan drugs. He motioned for Stan to come near him and Stan just kind of went towards him, and so the guy just walked up to Stan and as soon as he saw what was happening, Stan just started walking away. The guy tried to keep up to persuade him, but gave up. Honestly, who would try and sell drugs to a young father touring around with a wife and three small boys in the middle of the day?

Lisbon Cathedral

I did not go inside this cathedral but Stan did. So the photos we have are from his visit. By the time we got here I was exhausted and so were the boys. So we sat out on a bench and watched the busy city bustle around. Gregory and George did manage to find a empty beer bottle made of glass and they through it off the hill onto a rooftop. It rolled off the rooftop and hit the street below. I could not believe they did that, and that I was so exhausted that I did not realize what was happening until I looked back to see the bottle fly through the air and land on the roof. I am so grateful that the street below was empty at the time the bottle hit the cobblestone street, and that no one got hurt.

This trolley was so fun. I really enjoyed getting on this everyday. We would take this trolley almost every morning and evening. We lived up a big hill, so it nice not to have to walk up it after a long day of touring. We got off at Garca, it was a cute little spot where we found a marketplace. We were able to buy groceries there each day. We just bought enough for some movie snacks for that night---at the apartment there was an American Movie Channel, and it made for some great movie watching after long days walking all around. We also bought food for breakfast and lunch for the next day. It was great fun to go and buy yummy food. I was grateful they had an assortment of nuts, dried fruit, and sparkling water, so I had some movie treats too! In Lisbon I got addicted to sparkling water again. And since being home I drink at least one liter everyday. I love it. The habit began as we all were getting dehydrated, so everyone in our family drank plenty of water and of course the boys drank a good amount of soda pop! They had all sorts of new types to try, so that was fun for them.

Here comes the trolley, I was so happy to see it come so I could take some photos. We were waiting for the trolley that was going up the hill, but this one coming down made for some fun photos!

On the trolley, we would always have a conversation with someone. I had a long conversations with a woman who spoke perfect French. Stan had a few conversations in Spanish. The Portuguese like to chat, they want to know what we were doing in Portugal and how we like it. For the most part I felt safe, but one night they stopped the trolley and we were told to check our pockets for our personal belongings because there was a pickpocket on board. The pickpockets jumped off the trolley and I think they got away, but that was interesting.

I really enjoyed Lisbon. I am so glad that we made the decision to visit this incredible place. The people were so kind. They treated so well, and they loved, absolutely LOVED our children. They would always tell me how beautiful they were. One lady said they look like glass dolls, another told me they were so perfect they looked like toys. It was nice that they appreciated families and children. The Portuguese are a kind people. I feel grateful that I was able to get to know their culture a bit better.

Next, off to Sintra!

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