Saturday, October 10, 2015

A day of rest in Lisbon

Rainy day in Lisbon
This morning, I awoke to rain that seemed to come from nowhere. Last night, when I'd retired, skies were clear, without a hint of a change. When I blearily stumbled out of my rented room this morning, drizzle made puddles on the patio outside the apartment and a gray pall cast itself over the city. It's something of a rarity, by Portland standards. Lisbon averages 260 days of sunshine per year, and for the first 3 days of my visit only wispy, feather-like cirrus have populated the sky.

But the rain is just as well, since I had already decided to spend today resting, doing laundry, and making reservations for the next leg of my trip. I had to change residences this morning due to a snafu with my Airbnb accommodations. My previous room was meager, with a mattress on the floor, next to a shared kitchen filled with the residual odors of fried food, and a somewhat nasty shared bathroom. There were four rented rooms in the apartment, which were all occupied. The clientele were mostly young people who didn't mind roughing it. It was the kind of place where I stayed the last time I trekked through Europe: cheap, barely adequate, and highly social. But I'm older now. I like my privacy. My new accommodations, still in the heart of Lisbon, are cleaner and much more comfortable.

Praça do Comércio
Yesterday, I walked down to the Praça do Comércio, a plaza on the banks of the Tagus River and took a trolley tour through the city. The trolley car was equipped with headphone jacks at each seat, where you could plug in your ear buds and tune to any of 10 channels, each reciting interesting facts about Lisbon in a different language. 

Given its strategic location near the mouth of Iberia's longest river, the Tagus, it was inevitable that a city would arise here. It's a natural crossroads at the nexus of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Greeks and Phoenicians established trading posts here, some 9 centuries BCE, meaning that Lisbon was already an ancient city when Julius Caesar was stabbed to death on the floor of the Roman Senate. 

But more recently, the Moors conquered Lisbon and most of Iberia in the 700s, where they remained in control for about 300 years, before Christian crusaders won it back to Christendom. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Lisbon was the seat of a vast trading empire that stretched all the way around the globe: the Americas, Japan, Africa, India.

In short, this city has a long, complicated history that somewhat belies its modern-day modesty.

Laundry day
As I toured around the city, from time to time, I was visited by a déjà vu sensation as I came to places that I had seen before, when I was here with sister Mia in 1999, but that I had subsequently forgotten. It's a rather eerie, but not unpleasant experience.

Ancient aqueduct, still in use today
So, as I said, today, I am resting up and doing some chores. Tomorrow, I plan to take a day trip to nearby Sintra, which I hear is most rewarding. Then, on Monday night, I catch the night train to Madrid. I've reserved a bed in a sleeper car which sleeps four people. I sincerely hope that there will be an available electrical outlet for my CPAP machine. Otherwise, I pity my bunk mates! I can put up an infernal roar when I'm sleeping (so I've been told), which only the snore machine can quell.

Enough for now. I'll leave you with some more photos from this beautiful city.

Dried fish at the supermercado

Tagus river

Pretty police officer

Lisboa, from the top of the Parque Eduardo VII

Ponte 25 de Abril and Cristo Rei in the background

Parliamentary building

Soldiers guarding the entrance to the Parliament building

Beautiful tiled facades
Taking it all in

No comments: