Saturday, August 1, 2015

Africa-Europe 2015 Day 26. Another hard day of tourism in Lisbon.

For our second and last full day in Lisbon we decided that each one of us should chose a place to visit. Maya decided that she wanted to see the Panteon Nacional, which she had seen from the height of the Lisbon Fortress on her first day. The map, I am sorry to say, deceivingly put it by the shore, whereas in reality it was half way up the mountain of the Alfama (the very old quarter of the city, built when Portugal was under Arab rule, and accordingly a maze of narrow streets and cul-de-sacs). The good thing is that we got to see this iconic portion of the city, but we were totally winded and sweaty by the time we got there, only to find that it is a huge mausoleum built in snow white marble, but with little else. We didn’t even go outside because we felt it was not worth the 4 euros they wanted to charge us.

Incidentally, the Alfama district is where the Fado houses are, so in every nook and cranny you find a quaint little restaurant offering live music in the evenings. It is a really pretty part of the city.

Once we got out of our perch we took the tourist bus to the Park of Nations, the complex built when the city hosted the world expo in 1998. There we stopped for my choice of a place to see, to visit the Oceanarium, an aquarium of which the city is rightfully very proud. Before going into the aquarium we lunched on a paella de mariscos, which was good, but not as good as the paella we made in Paris. The aquarium was great. It is build around an enormous tank where all sorts of fishes co-exist. We saw schools of silvery fishes swirling in great clouds around the rocks, sharks eyeing them mournfully, rays, tuna, and two Moonfish, which are about the ugliest thing I have ever seen in my life. They are basically a half fish; yes, just a big ugly head that swims around on left over fins, lacking a body (I wonder if this is what inspired the idea of seraphims and cherubins?). Then, on the corners of the tank, and in two different levels, the aquarium has exhibits related to the different oceans, and to coral reefs, penguin rookeries, and the Arctic Circle. It was well done, and we had a great time, although every exhibit was a bit preachy about the imminent demise of the oceans unless we stop eating fish (good luck telling that to the Portuguese, who seem to have fish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner).

By the time we got back to downtown we were pretty tired. We made a quick visit around the Mercado de la Ribeira, drank a glass of cherry liquor typical of Lisbon, and then headed back to our hostel, intent on having an early dinner and getting to bed at a reasonable time. I am writing this blog in the back garden of the hostel, enjoying a drink, and I can hear Maya chatting and laughing with young people from Holland, Bulgaria, Ireland, and China. I think this trip to Europe will be unforgettable to her!

P.S. We went out for a celebratory dinner and they had caracois (snails). Not the big escargot, but a smaller type about a half-inch in diameter. We asked for a half order and they brought us a small mountain of them, cooked in a tasty broth. I am proud of Maya, who happily tucked in. It is true that we learn all sorts of new things while traveling!

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