Lisbon - Back to the Basics

Trip Start May 30, 2012
Trip End Nov 07, 2012

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Flag of Portugal  , Estremadura,
Tuesday, October 2, 2012

One of the iconic things about Lisbon is their old school trams. We didn't really know too much about them before we came, but we soon became well aquainted with them. Our flight from London got into Lisbon at about 11:30pm. By the time we got our bags and got out of the airport it was near midnight. The instructions on how to get to our hostel, located in the southeast part of Lisbon called Belem, were great. They had written out a couple of options using the metro and either the bus or the tram. We got to the proper destination on the metro and then the sign told us the next thing coming was the tram. There were quite a lot of people waiting at that time, because it was a Saturday night, but we didn't think everyone would be going on the same tram as us. Then this small little San Francisco style tram pulls up and everyone pushes on until it is absolutely jam packed. Jess and I looked at each other and unanimously decided that we don't want to wait a half hour for the next bus, and so we need to get on this tram. Reminder, we had our backpack children with us too. I got on first to make the way. I barely got up the stairs onto the tram. I had to angle my bag just right to even let Jess fit on. Then two more people decided to get on after Jess. We stood there for about a minute with the tram doors opening and closing on this guy before he yelled something in Portuguese for everyone to move in. He got in and then a couple of stops up a lot of people got off and we had room to breathe. The trams are designed to be small which makes them perfect for the steep narrow streets of Lisbon, but not so much fun to travel with big backpacks at midnight. We got to our hostel safe and sound. 

As I wrote before, we are staying at a place in Lisbon called Belem. Belem is known for a few reasons. One, it has the huge amazing UNESCO World Heritage site, Jeronimos Monestary which started to be built in 1495. Two, it has a really cool UNESCO World Heritage tower, called the Belem Tower. And three, the World renown Pastéis de Belem. More on the pastries in a bit, but first the Monestary. We decided to go into this instead of the castle in the Lisbon city centre because of the amazing things we heard about it. It did not disappoint! The white limestone was so detailed, and it shown brightly in the Portuguese sun. The Monestary had been a place of prayer for sailors of ships coming and going since it was located close to the inlet of the Atlantic Ocean. The inside was wonderful. The best part was the two-tiered cloister arch square. So much detail. No wonder it took over 100 years to finish it. The Belem tower was beautiful too. It was positioned right in the Taugus River, the river that opens up into the Atlantic Ocean. Usually when you see pictures of Lisbon, you see this tower and the vast Atlantic Ocean in the background. Now, for the Pastéis de Belem. Apparently there is such a thing as the Seven Food Wonders of the World. Last year these pastries, made in Belem, were added to the wonders list. The security guard in the shop was telling us that Forbes magazine declared the Belem pastries the best dessert in the World. Wow! Usually I am never convinced about such hype until I try things out for myself. So one afternoon, when the line was not so long, Jess and I strolled into the little blue shop to get our own. The shop was actually much bigger than it looks because it keeps going and going inside. They also have clear windows letting people see the workers make all the different kinds of pastries. We sit down at one of the tables and order two of them. For being so famous, they were still relatively low priced. Only €1.05 per pastry. They were soooooo good!! We came back two other times because our hostel was just up the street. Other days we walked around Lisbon and the waterfront close to our hostel. It seems that Lisbon is trying to copy some other places. For instance, Lisbon has their own Christ statue that is very close to the one in Rio de Janeiro. This makes sense that they built something like that because Brazil was once a Portuguese colony. But they also have a red suspension bridge that very much resembles the one in San Francisco. I was kind of confused at which city we were in. Lisbon also has another bridge called the Ponte Vasco da Gama. The longest bridge in Europe. You can barely see the other end. Well done Portugal! Walking through the streets of Lisbon was fun. Those tiny tram cars started to grow on us as we saw them navigating through the narrow streets. House windows and doors were so colourful. Laundry was hanging from clothes lines on the balconies high above us and little birds were chirping in their cages outside the front doors of the homes. Other places in Lisbon it is easy to see the effect of the economic crisis, but here it was very peaceful. A bit of a shock it was, leaving the comfortable English-speaking countries we were in for so long. But I think just like the trams, Portugal will start to grow on us. Actually, it has already started.

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Mutti & Father on

Ryan do you remember the trams in China & how Chloe would hang onto the hand strap above her head....even though she was in a backpack carrier on her Dad's back... too cute. Your blogs are so interesting & love the pic's. Miss you both alot, love always

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