First Day in Lisbon: 15 Sept

After a restful sleep, I went out for coffee and grabbed two cappuccinos to go from around the corner and headed back to the apartment to plan the day. I walked down from Chiado, my neighborhood, to the Baixa, along the riverfront. I walked along the Rio Tejo to the atmospheric Alfama district and then started climbing. My first stop was the Pantheon, modeled after its namesake in Paris. There were monuments to many of the great Portuguese explorers, statesmen and writers, including Vasco da Gama and King Henry the Navigator. It’s impressive that little Portugal once controlled a vast empire, starting in 1500. They established forts in India, the Persian Gulf and China. The Jesuits made contact with the Japanese in Japan and it’s said that the Japanese arrigato (thank you) is derived from the Portuguese “obrigado”. They also colonized Brazil and vast areas of Africa, including Angola and Mozambique. They fought a long war against Marxist guerrillas in their African colonies until the Revolution of 1974 and the overthrow of the Caetano regime by the military. The views from the terrace of the Pantheon were stunning.

After the Pantheon, I headed uphill, not an uncommon direction in Lisbon, to the Castelo de Sao Jorge, which dates from the 13th century. The castle remains in pretty fair shape. It’s in the Alfama district, which dates from the Moorish times and means “hot springs” in Arabic. The views from the castle are magnificent.

Also in the Alfama is the stately Mosteiro de Sao Vicente de Fora, one of the famous Portuguese monasteries. Built during the early imperial years, it has all the gold and gilt one might imagine.

Lisbon is also famous for its tiles. I took some pictures from just one neighborhood and was amazed by the variety.

I’ve always been interested in foreign languages and Portuguese is an interesting one. One commonly assumes that it’s similar to Spanish; but, it’s quite different. The Portuguese will tell you that they understand Spaniards; but Spaniards don’t understand Portuguese. Many of the words are similar; for example, por favor and de nada. But others are not. Obrigado is thank you and Calle is Rua, pronounced Hu-a. In Portuguese, the Spanish “l” is replaced with “r”. Plato is prato. They also pronounce the “j” in English style: Jose is Joe-say. I’m learning more words as I go. I think that I’ll be able to handle simple Portuguese by the end of my trip.

From the Castelo, I walked a few kilometers to one of the famous miradouros, or viewpoints, called Graca. From there, the vista is westward, across the Baixa to Biarro Alto and Chiado, which are also higher up. I returned to the riverside down some significant steps through an immigrant quarter. Since it was an imperial power, there are quite a few residents from their African colonies of Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau. Nonetheless, it was perfectly safe.

The owner of the AirBnb suggested that I visit the Central Market on the riverside for dinner and I’m glad I followed her advice. It’s sponsored by TimeOut magazine and is a massive food hall with stalls from some of Lisbon’s famous chefs. I had some cod in the traditional “Bras” style and it was excellent. You sit at common tables. I’m sure native Lisboetas deride it as a tourist trap, but I’d recommend a visit.

My journey home was, of course, uphill. When I checked the Steps app, I saw that I’d walked 13.7 miles with 66 climbs. I crashed that night despite the jet lag.

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