April 27, 2009

There aren't any pigs in Lisbon

On the bus from the airport to our hotel in Lisbon, James showed me his wallet that was overflowing with oversized European bills awkwardly spilling out. All I could do is laugh. For some reason, I've never had that problem.

James' overflowing wallet

Our first night in Lisbon, James and I checked into our hotel right near the Marques de Pombal, and took a stroll along Avenida de Liberdade. We found a nice seafood restaurant for dinner and ate outside on the sidewalk, enjoying the Portuguese atmosphere. Since we were still wide awake, but it was too late to start sightseeing, on the way back from dinner we stopped to buy a bottle of red wine to enjoy in our hotel room. A perfect night cap. When we turned on the TV in our room, there was breaking news on every channel. The Swine Flu. One hundred deaths in Mexico. The reporters only advice: avoid any unnecessary travel. Well, that was just great to hear, considering James and I were sitting in a hotel room in Portugal! So we drank our red wine and hoped there were no pigs in Lisbon.

Praca Dom Pedro IV Square

The next morning we took the subway into the center of town and began to wander the streets of Lisbon. We started in Baxia and saw the hypnotizing tile and beautiful fountains in Praca Dom Pedro IV (Rossio) Square. We passed by the Santa Justa elevator, which looked like a miniture Tower of Terror, on our way to the ruins of the ancient Church of Our Lady of Carmo Hill ruins and archeological museum. It was a strange sensation stepping inside, behind closed doors, with walls on all sides of you, pressed in between buildings along the street, but with nothing above you. Just the remains of stone arches above your head, bridging the walls on either side of you like ribs, as if you were in the belly of a whale rather than the ruins of a church.

Santa Justa elevator

There were blue skies overhead just long enough for us to enjoy the ruins, but then the gray cloud cover blew in and it began to rain. James and I ducked inside the museum building behind the ruins. It housed the artifacts found there when they started reconstructing the gothic church after the violent earthquake and fire in the mid 1700s. Budget problems prevented them from ever finishing their reconstruction.

Carmo Ruins

James and I walked down to the water's edge in Baxia to see the statue of Jose the First in Praca do Comercio. He was covered in scaffolding and surrounded by swarms of tourists. So, we wandered up through the Alfama district to Se de Lisboa (Lisbon Cathedral). It had a massive wooden door and a gorgeous stained glass rose window. Out back, there was an archeological dig site of the church's cloisters. You could walk all around the exterior of it and look down into the cloisters to see the stone wall remains that used to separate the rooms.

Se de Lisboa (Lisbon Cathedral)

Lisbon Cathedral Rose Window of the 12 Disciples and Jesus

Lisbon Cathedral Cloisters

We started our climb up the hill to the castle and passed a quaint little church with its own courtyard overlooking the river. When we finally reached the Castelo de Sao Jorge, we had a magnificent view of Lisbon and the Tejo River. In the distance we could see the 25 de Abril Bridge, which looks a lot like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fran, and we could even see the Cristo Rei (Christ King) statue, because it was so massive. James and I climbed all around the castle ramparts and saw stunning views of the city from all angles.

A little church we found along the way

Castelo Sao Jorge

Me and James at the Castle

That afternoon, we hoped on the subway and headed across town to the Oceanarium. When we first walked in the building, we were greeted by a giant sea creature, suspended from the ceiling, made entirely out of recycled soda cans. Inside the exhibit were cute little sea otters floating around on their backs and rubbing their paws together. There were penguins splashing around, and in another tank there were sharks, and still another was my favorite: the Mola Mola Sunfish. He's just a big lazy dude who floats around near the surface of the water, soaking in the sunlight. I took a really awesome picture of James and a shark, but it was on his camera since my battery had died. He also had videos of the adorable otters!

Lisbon Oceanarium

Mola Sunfish

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