November 28th, 2011 (Cascais)
Ah, yesterday was such a fantastic day! Other than the fact that I got a cold, I don´t think it could have gone any better. Before I get into that though, I must share a quote that´s been on my mind a lot. It was used frequently in Stephen King´s book Insomnia and it´s from a poem called "Pursuit" by Stephen Dobyns." It goes:
"Each thing I do, I rush through, so I can do something else."
I´ve been thinking about this a lot (there´s lots of time to think here!), it seems that, especially with churches for some reason, traveling has become checking a bunch of things off a list. So much so that you come to the end and have done a lot of things, but haven´t really seen any of them. Does that make sense? Maybe it´s because I´m sick and snotty, but I´ve been particularly bothered by the feeling that I won´t spend enough time to actually enjoy where I am. Always there´s that nagging feeling "Oh, if I finish here in 5 minutes then I can catch the next bus and get to this cathedral before I have to have lunch." and on and on, you get the picture. Anyway, so yesterday I created what will become my new "10 minute rule." If I get somewhere and really like it (i.e. part of a monastery, garden, museum, etc.), I set my watch for 10 minutes and just sit there.That way I actually make sure that I focus on being there, instead of simultaneously wondering what I´m going to do next. Perfect!
Okay, now back to the blog :P Yesterday I took the train from Cais do Sodre (I just spent 10 minutes trying to get the accent but I can´t figure it out) to Cascais. Cascais is an old village turned surfing destination because it has great beaches. I got there really early so I wandered around the warf and old citadel all while the sun came up and you could watch the fishermen on the dock getting ready to cast their nets. So neat!
My guidebook suggested a church called Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Assuncao, so I checked that out quickly... yeah, definitely people praying there. Nothing like the scowl of an old Portuguese woman to make you slip quitely away. So, you do your best to blend in and avoid drawing attention to yourself. I managed some stealthy photos but then just sat down and enjoyed listening to people with their rosaries. Then it was time to find my way back to the train station, so I could find the bus station! Finding the bus station was only half the battle because then I had to find the right bus stop. I asked at least 3 people. Got it! The bus ride was nothing short of amazing. It climbs along this winding road up a cliff so the views of the Atlantic are astounding. Where was I going? Cabo da Roca (Rock Cape), the most westerly point in Europe. THE BEST PLACE! I greatly extended my 10 minute rule, found myself a perch (that was no small feat to climb to), and chilled out in the sun for an hour. What a view!
You can hear the swallows along the rockface, there was a cool breeze but the sun was great. I could have sat there all day. Ah, so amazing! At this point the pre-cold hit and I struggled not to sleep on the bus ride back. Back in Cascais I walked along the waterfront to Boca do Inferno (Mouth of Hell), a really neat rock formation opening to the ocean. As the waves come in the hole fills up with water, it´s really neat.
The exhaustion was taking over though and everything is sort of a blur from there on out. If I could go back I would spend more time in Parque Marechal Carmono, this crazy awesome park that looks like a jungle. That´s my only regret, that I didn´t get to wander through there more.
Back in the hostel (with a nap on the train, where I woke up with a start because I thought someone was in my purse, but it was just the train attendant checking tickets), I did my laundry (woo hoo!) and then crashed into a dead sleep. So nice. P.S. I forgot to mention that before I climbed precariously down the cliff for the perfect vantage point, I picked up some walnut gelato to take with me, lol. I must have looked hilarious. If you guys have facebook, check out the video of me trying to get to the edge for a better photo :)
November 29th, 2011 (Alfama, as seen by Tram 28)
So, what better way to spend a sick day than by taking one of the rickety old trams through the city? Tram 28 is particulary famous, so I bought a day pass and away I went. First stop (before I even hit the tram) was Igreja de Sao Roque (forgive my lack of accents, if any of you knows how to put them in, fill me in). This is a 16th century church with a particularly famous Capela along the side (A capela means "chapel" and refers to the little "scenes" along the side of the church that usually depict the life of Christ or other important figures. For example, Capelo de Sao Joao Baptista is a scene with paintings and sculptures that depict Saint John the Baptist). People come and pray at these different Capelas. Anyway, in Sao Roque the Capela de Sao Joao Baptista is very ornate and apparently cost $500,000 to make in Rome and then ship to Portugal (in 1724), lol.
I like visiting these churches, but I try not to take too many photos when there are people actually worshipping there, I feel like an intruder. Mostly I just park in the pews and listen to the organ. Okay, on Tram 28 and climbing through the streets of Alfama (district of Lisbon). First stop was Igreja de Sao Vincente de Fora, a monastery built in 1147. This place is huge with its own museum (only 2€ with a student card and proof you´re younger than 25!). I meandered through the church and cloister but my favourite part was the museum dedicated to La Fontaine´s fables (illustrated in azueljos, these famous painted tiles that are found all around Portugal, a trend started in the 16th century). I stopped to read all of them, it was great fun. I also climbed to the top of the church, which affords great views of the city. I kind of just ran around there for awhile, it was really lots of fun.
Back on Tram 28, getting off here and there at neat parks and "miradouros", otherwise described as "viewpoints." Largo das Porto do Sol and Miradouro de Santa Luzia were the best. I took the tram all the way into Estrela because I noticed it makes a stop near the Cemetiros dos Ingles... but it was CLOSED! Are you serious?! This is the third time I tried to find the cemetery, lol. The first time the workers were on strike, the second time it was the wrong cemetery, and this time I was outside of visiting hours. Tomorrow is my last day, and sometime between 10 and 1 you´d better believe I´m going to see that darn thing, lol.
I stopped at my favourit buffet and then decided at the last minute to go up the Elevador de Santa Justa, which takes you to the top of a tower that you can see Lisbon from (great view of Castelo de Sao Jorge). Such great pictures from up here! I met up with a fellow North American-er, Jim from Detroit. Such a great guy and what a pleasure to have a conversation in English! I got to chat about my beloved bacteria :) He was traveling with his friend who had planned a 2 week vacation and called him up to join him at the last minute with the instructions "pack for 14 days" and nothing else! He has no idea what the itinerary is and didn´t even realize they were stopping in Lisbon until they landed, lol. What great fun! Dear my friends: this sounds like a solid idea for an adventure, don´t you think? Anyway, I gave him my blog URL, so Jim if you are reading this, thanks for bringing a little bit of home to Lisbon! Sunset from the tower and sweeping views of Lisbon make the climb worth every penny.
And friends, so concludes the last two days. Tomorrow is my last full day here and so far there is only one solid thing on the itinerary: get to that freaking cemetery!
From a very snotty Vicki in Lisbon!