Years ago, we went on a cruise around the coast of France, Portugal and Spain. People criticize cruises because of the short one day visits to so many locations. I prefer to think it is a wonderful opportunity to get a taste of a country and scope out where we can return for a longer stay. We visited Lisbon on a cruise and I was smitten; this was a place to come back to and suck it all in. And here we are!
First off, it is flippin’ beautiful. And it has something to offer for everyone. If you are young and still have a body that doesn’t make folks take a shuddering double-take, or too old to care what people think, the beaches are great to show off your attributes. There is even world-class surfing for the adventurous. And the beaches extend for endless miles. Three sides of Portugal are exposed to the sea – from the colder Atlantic to the warm Mediterranean. Something for everyone.
The ancient Romans knew a good thing when they saw it, and realized there were riches far beyond what Italy could offer. The Iberian peninsula provided the riches that allowed Rome to become the Big Boys of the ancient world. History abounds here and you can even go shopping at the Vasco de Gama Mall. Remember old Vasco the Explorer from history class? Now he lives on at the mall.
Lisbon is special. The 18th century architecture, the food, the wine and the people are so nice! George has difficulty walking with his poor gouty feet, and has to proceed at a slow pace. We were walking to get on the funicular, which is a small train car that put puts slowly up a very steep hill. It drops folks off and put puts slowly back down taking a new load of tired tourists, and local folks, with it. Seriously, you could walk the hill in one-fourth of the time it takes to load everyone up and put put up the sucker, but this little car has been doing this for around a hundred years, so it is a must-do touristy thing. And the locals still climb aboard.
George didn’t have any desire to traipse up the hill and as we got on, the tourists shoved us aside in their zest to climb aboard. At least three Portuguese people surrounded George and offered to help him climb up the steep steps into the train car. When we got on, a young Portuguese woman jumped up and insisted he take her seat. They are just plain good people. They laughed with us and wished us a great visit. How nice is that? And it has happened repeatedly since we have arrived.
With a serious case of jet lag, we wandered slowly around and took a local trolley to check out the neighborhoods. George was pooped so he took a nap at the hotel and I headed out on my own. Oh my goodness, there are so many shops and restaurants! Be still my quivering checkbook! And stomach!
I love people watching. We may be from different cultures and countries, but some things are just universal. Wandering alone it a great chance to really notice the folks. There were three men walking in front of me. They sort of looked like business guys traveling through Lisbon and were taking in the local sights. I’m following behind and I notice that one of the men surreptitiously reached around and tried to pull down his underwear. Poor guy, it looked like his undies migrated in the wrong direction. Haven’t we all been there? They walk a few strides further and his hand is back, trying to grab those suckers and yank them down. He laughed loudly with his friends to distract his actions. Perhaps he was wearing a jock strap or g-string, but this poor guy suddenly does a little jump and a jig and is frantically trying to yank those suckers down. He next points at something in the distance, trying to get his guy friends to look away and reached around to grab his backside. I seriously thought about asking if I could help, but since they weren’t speaking English it could have been misinterpreted. It was hard not to start laughing at his gyrations, and it would have made a great YouTube video. The poor man never did get it fixed and the last time I saw him he looked like he had his butt clenched in desperation and had a definite limp going.
Neither of us slept well last night, and this morning George was not feeling well. He went to the hotel breakfast, which I decided to miss. When he came back he was feeling exhausted and went back to bed. I took off for a few hours and walked down to the harbor and enjoyed the sun and people. I found the greatest sign outside a museum:
Now what could the World’s Sexiest Toilet look like? I was totally hooked until I saw the line of tourists from the cruise ship and the price of admission. It frankly looked like a tourist trap, so I decided to skip this one. It is really bothering me, however. I always enjoy a good toilet. My Dad was a plumber and my mom ran their business. For years I would take pictures of toilets from our travels and she would exclaim over the details. It may be that I still take a field trip down there and catch a viewing, if the line isn’t so long.
George felt better by the afternoon, so we took a trolley ride up to the Castle of St. George (English translation). George didn’t want to miss a castle that bears his name. It sits on the highest point in Lisbon and has been the primary spot of defense sing 700 BC. The castle was built in the 12th century and is a grand place to visit. The views were staggering. The footing around the castle was tricky, with lots of places to trip, so George opted for a local beer served on the lower level balcony. I prowled all around and we were both happy.
I was trying to navigate us home on a trolley, and thought I had it all figured out. It was different route than we had taken, but it would be fewer steps to get back to our hotel. After riding for awhile, George noted that we were back once again at the castle. I insisted he was wrong that it didn’t make a circle, but sure enough, we were right back where we started. It took a few more tries, but we made it back. I kept insisting that I could get us there, and everytime a taxi would drive by George would mutter “Or we could take a taxi….” Still can’t figure out where I went wrong, but thanks to a nice lady with a GPS, we made it. For the most part, Lisbon is very easy to get around and there is absolutely no need for a car or even taking a taxi. Unless you have me navigating!