Posted by: Leap of Faith | September 28, 2010

Lulled in Lisbon


In a few weeks, I will be moving once again to (somewhat) uncharted territory.  Somehow, I never anticipated that  a move to the Land Down Under would cause considerable anxiety to me our family especially if we consider the fact that, at least in terms of living environment, where we are going to is – as I perceive it – better than where we came from.  In fact, it was a standing joke amongst us Filipinos based in Saudi Arabia that we could survive anywhere in the world if we made it through our own little sandbox in the Middle East.  I guess, however, there is only one way to prove this and that is to pack my luggage, once again, and fly-over to Kangaroo Crossing soon.

Speaking of luggage, however, one of the most difficult things we experienced when joining a coach tour (or in travelling, for that matter) is packing and unpacking your things whenever you make a quick overnight stop between cities.  Pinky and I hated this and eventually gave up orderly arranging our clothes in our suitcases.  At one point, we decided to just dump all the used clothing in one luggage while using the remaining luggage for the rest of our clean clothing and souvenirs.

Souvenirs? Oh yes –  those small knick-knacks you buy from each stop thinking they don’t weigh much at all until you find out too late that your luggage is several kilos over the allowed limit!  Nightmare. 😥  Thank goodness we learned the hard way from previous travel experiences! This time around, my wife and I decided to just take lots of photographs – the best kind of souvenirs, if you ask me – to bring home with us.

We hope you enjoy this set, which we took in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal.

This souvenir postcard properly depicts the once strong maritime industry of this country.  During the period of discoveries, it competed with Spain in exploring the main ocean thoroughfares and controlled some major trading routes that connected Europe with the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, most of the city was destroyed by a large tsunami and earthquake in 1755 that resulted in the near-total destruction of this place and the Kingdom of Portugal.  Combined with political instability, this catastrophe eventually led to the kingdom’s downfall and lost glory.

The buildings in the very commercial area of Rua Augusta (shown above), are relatively newer and less impressive compared to the ones seen in its other European counterparts.

This yellow tram remains a popular mode of transport for the locals and usually passes through the famous landmarks of the city such as the Belem district, which is known as the place from which many famous Portugese explorers – such as Vasco da Gama – set off on their “voyages of discovery.”

One of the few surviving structures from the earthquake is the one shown above, which is more famously known as the Torre de Belem (Belem Tower), a UNESCO world heritage site.  This used to be a fortified lighthouse (built between 1515-1521) that guarded the entrance to the port of Belem.  Interestingly, it was originally located on an island right of the Tagus river until the infamous Lisbon earthquake changed the flow of the river.  Now, the tower is located close to the main thoroughfare of the city.

The impressive Praca do Imperio where the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos is located (also a UNESCO world heritage site) is the burial place of Vasco da Gama.  Unfortunately, we could not marvel at the interior of this impressive piece of architecture as the church (as were the other tourist attractions) was closed to the general public on Mondays, which, unfortunately for us, was the scheduled day we were to go around Lisbon.  😦

We were not particularly paying much attention to our “not-so-good” local tourist guide when she was explaining about this monument (so we just googled it and found out that this was apparently the “Airplane Monument” which commemorated the first transatlantic flight from New York to Lisbon in 1921).  I guess it was also partly because we were more excited to see this contemporary (and more well-known)  monument, which is a fitting tribute to the once great stature of this place…

… the Padrao dos Descombrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries).

Another, more detailed, shot of this remarkable monument.

I guess, in a lot of ways, Pinky and I can relate to the joy these travellers must have felt when they discovered new territories.  Our experience, although not as difficult as theirs, is definitely an eye-opener in many ways.  The world is definitely getting smaller now specially with all the improvements made not only in the travel industry but also in the areas of technology and communications systems.

Another shot – now with (almost) the whole gang (sans myself – the “designated lensman”).

Of course, many Portuguese still enjoy exploring the ocean in their private yachts and who can blame them when they have a little of Vasco Da Gama’s blood in them?

Other “more recent” city attractions include these…

… the neo-gothic elevator, the Elevador de Santa Justa, circa 1901-1902…

… the beautiful fountains of Rossio Square, where the Neoclassical National Theater is located…

… and this poor man, who caught my attention since he was lying down very close to the locals who seemed to be ignoring him completely and were conveniently withdrawing money from the nearby automated teller machines.

It is within the same area, the tourist district of Rua Augusta,  where we discovered many sidewalk restaurants.  Most of the waiters there were also very effective sales people (read: hard-sellers) who effortlessly convinced passers-by to try out the local delicacies their respective restaurants had to offer.  Needless to say, we were one of the many tourists who were “sucked in the tourist trap” that evening…

… where we found ourselves sampling fresh bacalao (codfish) cooked with a generous serving of extra virgin olive oil and topped with sweet onions, garbanzos, black olives and potatoes…

… and this special seafood rice, which I figured was cooked in a somewhat similar way as the Spanish paella.  Of course, these were downed with the usual glass of red wine which we all developed (or tried to, at least) a taste for while on this trip – made perfect sense since wine usually was even cheaper than water in this part of the world! 😀

While we were, admittedly, quite disappointed with the sights Lisbon had to offer – we were obviously expecting more – we were happy nonetheless to have been given the opportunity to at least see glimpses of what was once one of the most powerful kingdoms in continental Europe.

The following day, it was back to the southern part of Spain for us – into the city of Seville – claimed to be the birthplace of the flamenco.

And yes, another post awaits. Stay tuned!

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Responses

  1. very informative post! 🙂

  2. Thanks TA!


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