First Time in Lisbon
We departed from Madrid at about 06:30. We arrived in Lisbon at about 12:00 Madrid time, 11:00 Lisbon time. It was a very easy drive. We all found it odd that it seemed to be so much greener once we crossed the border into Portugal.
As we entered Portugal we found ourselves on a toll road. There was very little traffic on the road. As we drove along we noticed we were going through a forest. Leslie noticed the bark on many of the trees was missing to a height of about eight feet. That is when it dawned on me that they were cork trees. If we had not been on a toll road we would have stopped to try to get a closer look at one of the trees.
We were about 30 minutes out of Lisbon when we came to the toll booth. A cool 27 Euros later we were back under way. Heading north from the toll booth we soon found ourselves at another toll booth. Thankfully the charge was only about 3.35 Euros. That road took us onto and across the Ponte 25 de Abril (April 25th Bridge). The bridge is a little more than two kilometers long. It looks almost exactly like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I found out later that the bridge was built in 1966 by the same company that built the Golden Gate Bridge. The name of the bridge commemorates the revolution of 1974. The revolution overthrew the dictator.
Upon arrival we checked into the AC Hotel Lisboa. It is part of the Marriott brand. As soon as we dropped off our luggage, we took a taxi to Praca Restauradaures. We arrived there and walked into the tourist information office. We had wanted to go there specifically to buy a LisboaCard. These are cards that provide access to all public transportation. In addition, it provides discounted or free access to many of the local attractions and museums. For 48 hours, one card cost 29.50 Euros. We thought that was quite a good bargain.
In the center of the Praca Restauradaures is a large obelisk. It was erected in 1886 to mark Portugal’s independence from Spain in 1640. While walking around the plaza we were able to find a magnet for Leslie’s collection as well as a Lisbon guidebook. For lunch on the plaza we opted for the Hard Rock Cafe. We must have all been starving. We each greatly enjoyed our sandwiches. We gladly paid the 54 Euros and moved on.
We walked south out of the plaza. We immediately saw the Santa Justa Elevator, our destination. The elevator was built in 1902 by an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel. I estimate the top platform is some 100 feet tall. This was the first place we were able to use our LisboaCard. Our ride on the elevator was free. The car was spacious, probably ten feet by ten feet. We rode up with about a dozen other people.
Once the elevator car stops, one is presented with two circular staircases which led up two levels to the uppermost viewing platform. From the platform the view is spectacular.
From the elevator we walked a couple of blocks east to the Rua Augusta. This is a pedestrian street with lots of shops, restaurants, and street performers. Along the way we stopped at a small ceramic shop. We bought a small holy water font that was a reproduction of a 15th century style. Leslie also bought a beautiful dish towel. She plans to use it as a center piece on our kitchen table.
We stopped at a street cafe called Roman’s. We had a drink and watched the world go by. Very near this restaurant was one of the most unique street performers I have ever seen. The man was wearing clothing and makeup that made him appear to be a bronze statue. The amazing part was that his feet were about one foot above the ground. His left hand was on a cane which did touch the ground. Other than that there was no visible means of support. I am not sure how he did it. On the ground in front of him was a poster size piece of paper. Among other things, it recorded three different records he has held in the Guinness Book of World Records. The most recent of which was from 2003; he stood in his position for more than 20 hours straight.
We left him and continued our stroll along Rua Augusta to the Praca do Comercio. That plaza is very large and right at the water’s edge. To get into the plaza we walked under the Arco da Victoria (Victory Arch). It was really quite striking. The main feature in the center of the plaza is a large bronze statue of Dom Jose I.
We spent a little time at the water’s edge listening to a local band. They were really entertaining. We left there and walked to the Terreiro do Paco Metro station. From there we made it back to our hotel for a well-deserved nap!
For dinner we went to the Restaurante ze Varunca. I came up with that idea based on a recommendation from the travel guide called “Lonely Planet”. The restaurant was a little off of the beaten track. It was in kind of a seedy looking part of town. In fact, without the guidebook taking me there, I probably would not have entered the restaurant. Boy am I glad we went inside!
To start, the waitress brought us warm bread. It came in a cloth bag to keep it warm. It tasted like sourdough bread.
The waitress brought a platter of items from which we could select a starter. We chose the black olives.
To drink with our dinner, Leslie and I chose the red wine. She poured wine into a ceramic pitcher and brought it to our table. The pitcher and the plates were kind of rustic. Each one had the name of the restaurant on it.
The decor in the restaurant was sort of a hunting lodge look. There were open beams in the ceiling. On the walls were several copies of publicity articles for the restaurant over the years. At the head of each table, on the wall, was a small mural made of tiles. They were each about two tiles by four tiles. Each depicted a different country scene. Hanging under the beams were old street light type fixtures.
For dinner, Tyler had monk fish/shrimp soup. He and Leslie both thought it was tremendous. Leslie had lamb chops. I had lamb in rice with a rich brown broth. The dinner reminded us of what one might have gotten many years ago at a hunting lodge.
After dinner, the check was rolled up and placed in two shotgun shells; one 20 gage and one 12 gage. We found that very unique. Our server for the evening was Orlanda. She said we could keep the shells. Our bill came to about 55 Euros. I don’t think any of us finished our main course. They were just too large.