Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Lisbon Workout plan..

We managed to arrive in capital city Lisbon after turning up to the wrong train station in Porto, but what fun is travel without a few near-misses...?
Lisbon instantly had a lot more of a ´big city´ feel to it, lacking the charm we had enjoyed so much in Porto. Our hostel was right in the middle of what we decided must be the financial district, where we watched, without much surprise, a stock exchange board show consistent 5% drops... turns out the world´s financial problems even follow you on holiday...
Lisbon is both less and more hilly than Porto [makes sense, honest!] The main road through the town from the waterfront up past the old town and into the heart of the city is on only a mild gradient, but to either side there are some serious hills, that after you have walked up, feel rather more like mini-mountains.. One of the most distinctive sights is the Castle of São Jorge, which, conveniently if you are a masochist, is located on the top of the highest hill in Lisbon! Some of the roads/paths leading up to the castle were scarily windy and narrow, but scarier when you realised that cars also used them - in both directions!! The castle itself dates back to the 2nd century BC if you believe the Portuguese, but subsequent raids, earthquakes and general degradation mean that what you see today is a mix up of centuries of renovations.
We also took a walk to the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora, which has the tombs of most of the early kings of Portugal beneath it...but unfortunately they wanted to take euros off us to let us in, so we didn´t get to see much.
One of the most interesting parts of Lisbon is the Baixa, an area of organised grid-like streets, narrow and straight, apparently one of the earliest forms of urban planning, and constructed after the great earthquake of 1755 that seems to have flattened most of Portugal. The tiny side streets are great fun to walk around, though the main pedestrianised street that runs straight up the middle gets less entertaining with each step, as there are people positioned at almost every intersection ready to offer you drugs, which might be a novelty the first time, then it gets old really fast. Together with the feeling of being in ´just´ another big city, the fact that every monument and church in town charges you for entry, the drug-pushers helped lower our opinion of Lisbon.
Still, the weather was beautiful [almost too much so, we can´t even comprehend how stifling it must be to travel there in actual summer!], there were some lovely parks, picturesque views and one hell of an uphill-workout!! And a big Jesus watching over you the whole time... what more could you want? :)

No comments: