Saturday, August 1, 2015

Africa-Europe 2015 Day 25. Beautiful Lisbon.

How do you see a large and vibrant city in two days? You avail yourself of the tourist bus, which for a flat fee of 30 euros will take us around all over the city for the next 48 hours, with hop on-hop off privileges, so we can spend time visiting whatever is most interesting to us. The city of Lisboa is developed at a bend of the Tajo River (Rio Tejo or Tagus in Portuguese), near its opening into the Atlantic (in relative position it is where Sausalito is with respect to the mouth of San Francisco Bay, so the river forms the south and east boundaries of the city). Our hostel is in what used to be the port of Belem, to the southwest of the old city, although nowadays it is just a far away suburb of the city. This port played a big role in the maritime history of the city, which is why the Marine Museum and other important buildings are located here, so the first leg of our touristy trip took us along the banks of the river, where the original warehouses have been replaced by monuments, museums, and fancy restaurants. We have scheduled a walk through this area for Sunday, two days from now, on the morning of the day I fly to Casablanca.

Once we got to the core of the old city we hopped off the bus and took the electric tram (included in our tickets) for a spin up the hills of the old city. It was fun, but the tram moved very slowly, partly because of traffic, and partly because it never fails that some idiot has parked on the tracks to run a quick errand so we had to wait and wait. Afterward we needed a walk, so we followed the tourist streets, which were pleasantly busy but not packed. We took this chance to get lunch at a small restaurant, where the dish of the day were grilled sardines. We devoured them with gusto, even though Maya discovered that they had not been gutted. Oh well, when in Rome

Back on the bus we headed for the newer portions of Lisbon, and we were very impressed. Yes, the city has a glorious past and its downtown is very quaint, but the modern Lisbon is beautiful, gleaming, and in the high speed lane of commerce and industry. It has many times been compared with San Francisco, and I think it bears the comparison well, even to the extent that it too experienced a devastating earthquake and fire in 1755. This event destroyed much of the old, helter-skelter city, so the then mayor, the Marquis de Pombal, took the opportunity to redesign the city plan, include gardens and avenues, and overall prepared it to grow well during the following 250 years.

In 1998 the city hosted the world expo, and the remaining installations have now been converted into an ultramodern high tech park and living area, which we are going to visit at length tomorrow.

By the time 5 pm rolled around we were getting pretty tired, so we decided to get back to the hostel to get some rest. Maya wants to go back to the city, where they are having a free concert of Portuguese music in the evening, so I thought a nap would be a very good way to prepare for what promises to be a late night. We headed out at 10 pm, and by the time we got to the main plaza the place was packed and the concert was in full swing. The Portuguese are very fond of a music style they call Fado (destiny), which entails a sad and plaintiff recounting of the vagaries of destiny, accompanied by masterful guitar playing. We enjoyed it for a while, but I don’t think it was what Maya would consider “a concert”, so by 11:30 pm she gave the signal to depart, and by 12:30 am we were back in our hostel for a well deserved night of rest.

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