The day after discovering Sintra, Raquel was desperate to show me city she studied in and loved: Lisbon. So far Raquel had been an awesome tour guide as her knowledge of Portuguese history was impressive but considering that this was the city she loved I could only imagine that she would go all out on making this a good day.
However before we actually got to seeing the city we met up with Leo for a quick coffee as he was heading up to Porto for the day before heading back to the Dominican Republic. It was good to see Leo again, just a pity that we could not hanging for more days, but considering that always seem to bump into each other I´m sure that we will have another adventure in another country in another continent.
After seeing Leo off, Raquel started the tour of Lisbon at Praca de Marques de Pombal, which has a statue comemerating the life the Marquis of Pombal who was a Portuguese prime minister and is famous for rebuilding an earthquake proof Lisbon after a disasterous earthquake in the 18th century. Much of downtown Lisbon was rebuilt to modern urban rules as opposed to simply rebuilding a medieval town. Unfortunately we were stuck with glum medieval weather instead of sunny skies.
Off the Praca de Marques de Pombal, lies the Avenida da Liberdade which is Lisbon’s ‘main’ street, a wide boulevard flanked by trees, upmarket hotels and shops. We walked past many of Lisbon’s theatre which sprung up along the boulevard during the liberal upheavels. These theatres didn’t always look the same, we soon realized, as we stumbled upon a very art deco looking theatre. This was followed by the majestic looking Lisbon central train station, though to be fair only the façade is majestic looking as the interior isn’t much to write home about.
In the rain we walked down to Praca do Rossio towards one of the elevadores for some breathtaking view of the city. Having built up an appetite our next stop was the Confeiteria Nacional. This patisserie is the oldest in Lisbon’s Baixa area and was the patisserie elect for the city’s upper classes. It was here while I was drinking my coffee that Raquel shared a story with me of the inventor of the sugar stick who committed suicide due to people lack of understanding of his invention (read here for more). Isn’t my girlfriend the coolest person ever for even knowing this little insignificant detail!?
After this we headed towards Praca do Commercio, which after the great Lisbon earthquake took on a central role in Lisbon’s economic activity, as the building around the square were filled with government bureaus that regulated customs and port activities. Here we took the modern trams towards Belem to see some more Lisbon’s famous landmarks.
In Belem, we went to Mosteiro dos Jeronimos which holds the tombs of Camoes, Portugal’s most famous poet and Vasco da Gama, among others. The church is a awesome piece of Portuguese late-gothic religious architecture. Next stop was the Padrão dos Descobrimentos which was built in the 1940’s to commemorate the Portuguese who took part in the age of the discoveries. Then we made our way to Torre de Belem and it was as we walked there that I made a discovery of my own… My wallet had been pick pocketed. Obviously I was not too thrilled about this and went about cancelling my bank cards (and wishing death upon the person who stole it).
As you can imagine I lost all will to do more sightseeing, but soldiered on for a bit, as Raquel took me to her favourite part of Lisbon: The Mouraria. The name comes from the fact the neighbourhood is where the Moors were confined to live after the conquest of the city. As we were taking in the view the sky opened up and the rain pelted down on us. We took this as a sign to end our day and make our way home.
That evening we once again made our way to the Bairo Alto for drinks with Raquel’s friends. This was my last night in Portugal as Raquel and I would be making our way back to London the next day.
And with that my first real trip to Portugal ended… A special thank you to Raquel for making it such an awesome trip! Love ya!