Please Excuse my Portuguese – What To See In And Around Lisbon
Heart-broken and inconsolably sad, that was the state I was in when my loving Dad felt the fatherly need to send me on vacation. I was young, very young and freshly-dumped – Portugal turned out to be my unexpected salvation.
Off I was with my friend to discover a country I hardly knew anything about. We stayed with the family of one of my Dad’s friends; actually we had our very own little house which was perfect for two single girls just wanting to have fun – and we did.
I remember nights spent drinking cocktails at a bar perched high up on a cliff overlooking the raging, Atlantic ocean showing off its multiple shades of blue. I also remember loving the feeling of being back in the Old Continent. Having visited Italy a few years prior, my unfinished love affair with Europe still lingered.
Those two weeks in Portugal were exactly what I needed. Back then I wasn’t the history and photo enthusiast I am today so the agenda basically consisted of a bit of sight-seeing, a lot of sunbathing, laughing hysterically, meeting fun-loving Brits and having one too many drinks at above-mentioned bar. Yup – good times were had!
I haven’t been back to Portugal since then but these monuments surely haven’t changed so here are a few pictures of my best 35 mm photos. You could, of course, spend days just walking around Lisbon’s enchanting streets but following are a few interesting things to visit in and around the capital city.
(This is part of my Early Travel Series hence the grainy photos – see more in Destinations)
PRAÇA DO COMÉRCIO (COMMERCE SQUARE)
With the neighboring Tagus River, this square (commonly known as Terreiro do Paço or Palace Square) was rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake completely destroyed the Royal Palace which was previously located here. The statue of King Dom José symbolically crushing snakes sits proudly in front of the Commerce Square. It’s a wonderful place to just take your time and stroll along the river. The imposing gate is a tantalizing invitation to explore the old town of Lisbon and its wonderful architecture.
PEÑA NATIONAL PALACE (SINTRA)
This palace dates back to the Middle Ages – sitting proudly on top of a hill it imposingly watches over the town of Sintra. Quite an eclectic mix of different architectural styles, it’s best described as romanesque revival. The blue and white mosaic of tiles, yellow-domed towers, intricate torsades and a fiendish ghoul greeting you at the main entrance, Pena Palace is one of the wonders of Portugal. So much so that it earned a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. Nowadays, Peña National Palace is used by the President and other government officials as a meeting place – with those panoramic views I wonder if they get any work done?
CASTLE OF THE MOORS (SINTRA)
Yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site – construction of this castle expanded from the 8th to the 9th century. With views of the terracotta roofs of the town of Sintra, the wall covers a perimeter of 450 meters around part of the mountains. With each step taken, the medieval architecture of the wall certainly doesn’t fail to bring you back in time. It’s easy to imagine the days when armored Moorish men mounted on their horses furiously waved their swords in the air ready for battle.
I remember being fairly impressed. I had no idea this castle wall even existed and there I was walking on the steps of this centuries-old structure. Discovering new places is part of the beauty of traveling and it felt so good to experience that feeling yet again.
A bit of funny: It had gotten quite cold up there so the grandmother of the family I lived with kindly lent me her navy blue, polyester vest. I was grateful for her kind gesture but I can still feel the itchy synthetic fabric scratching my skin. Not only was it itchy and uncomfortable it also smelled awful filling my nostrils with a smell reminiscent of the time the wall was built. I couldn’t wait to go back down where it was warmer so I could take it off without insulting the lovely grandmother!
Located on the Estoril coast, Caiscais was a quaint fishing village when I went all those years ago. Nowadays, it’s more of a popular vacation destination (with a beach) for both locals and foreigners. I can’t confirm if Caiscais kept or not its local charm (which was enhanced by the many colorful fishing boats) but located only about 30 km from Lisbon, it’s definitely worth a day trip at the least.
Have you been to Lisbon and its surrounding towns? Let me know how/if it’s changed!