We had a lazy day yesterday and a very busy one today. George has not been feeling well, so it was a quiet day. Our hotel is on the Avenida da Liberdade (Avenue of Liberty). There is a mile long park that begins a few yards from us.
The day was beautiful and we took a leisurely stroll up and back. The parks all seem to have an outdoor coffee/beer/wine house with seating. They practically call your name and issue an open invitation to eat yet another pastry and café de leite. I have got to get a grip. I’ve eaten more pastries in the last few days (pastéis de natas to be specific) than in the last 15 years. Seriously. I have to get a grip. Starting tomorrow.
Part of the problem is THEY ARE CHEAP, and I LOVE A DEAL. These delectable bites from heaven only cost one Euro. A fancy coffee and a pastry is around two Euros. Today I had a coffee out of a machine at a museum and it was 40 cents. I kid you not. Food and drink is so inexpensive. Which means I have to consume 16 times my normal daily food quota because I’m saving so much money. This is not a healthy attitude and I must get it under control. Right after we visit the original pastel de nata bakery in Belém tomorrow. I mean it has been churning out these tasty morsels since 1837. It is a national epidemic. They sell 20,000 a day. After that I go straight to rehab. I need Siri to see if there is a Weight Watchers meeting in the neighborhood. AAAGH!
The sidewalks in the entire city are works of art. Indeed Portuguese sidewalks in former colonies and the country reflect the art of calçada. Stones of granite and marble form intricate patterns throughout the city. Their beauty more than makes up for the uneven, and sometimes slippery, surfaces. We slowly walked the broad paths on either side of the park, savoring the experience.
I’m a pescatarian, which means a plant based diet with a fish thrown in on occasion. Much like the pastry, I’ve been munching my way through new fish dishes. Yesterday I really felt the need to get back to my normal fruit and veggie ways. We stumbled on a great restaurant at the end of the park that served local vegetarian foods. It really helped reset my vegetarian ways. Now to find a cure for the sugar!
George was tired out from the walk; I went shopping. We are trying to look at this trip as how we can live as retired people, which includes that 24 hour togetherness. Yikes! George has been a workaholic since he was a child. It is going to be tough for his brain to quit, but health issues have drug his body down to an alarming state. He’s finally calling it quits in December, so this trip is an opportunity to look at the future. Would we want to come stay in Portugal for a few months at a time? Frankly, I’m game to go anywhere at anytime, so the answer would be yes. We wouldn’t be able to do it in the immediate future, but perhaps in a few years! It’s fun to dream and look at the vacation world with different eyes than when we were both working and had to get right back to our old lives.
While George slept, I hit the streets. Cork products are very interesting. A renewable resource, the bark is stripped and the tree lives on to produce more another day. Now, you may think of wine corks when you think of cork, but I’m here to tell you that there are a myriad of products made in Portugal. Wallets, purses, hats, shoes, jewelry. trivets, wall carvings…. I’m sure there are tons more that I just haven’t came across yet.
I got so excited that I started texting pictures back home to my daughter Malea. I found a great store aptly named House of Cork and got a bit carried away. It was apparent that I needed to get out of there before they named me a general partner in their store. I went outside and was texting Malea about potential purchases. I know, there are abundant public service messages about how stupid it is to walk and text at the same time. It’s not a good idea for me to walk and talk at the same time, much less throw texting into the mix.
The skies were darkening with the approaching evening, and now was the time to start heading back to the hotel. As I texted, I turned onto a small street that should have taken me in the right direction. Several blocks in, I noticed that the street had suddenly become very narrow and the demeanor of the neighborhood and dramatically changed. I stopped texting and looked around. Oh, oh. This didn’t look good. I had wandered into a twisted alley of unsavory character. I almost tripped over a young man shooting drugs into his arm on his front stoop. A few people looked out of their doorways at me, no doubt thinking the evening’s entertainment was looking up. And I wasn’t sure how to get out.
Trying to look confident, and not wet myself, I started walking with purpose. Oh geez, now what? I rounded a corner and saw a French couple with their two pretty teenaged daughters. The father and mother looked as worried as I felt, and their girls were seeming oblivious, as only teenage girls can be. Immediately, I decided to stick with them. The dad hauled out his phone and hit Google Maps. Genius! Why hadn’t I thought of that! He pointed in a direction and they took off. I went right behind them. Who cared where they were going; it had to be better than where we were. At first I think they thought I was a stalker, but one look at me and they decided I was harmless and there was strength in numbers.
These folks must hike the French Alps on weekends. Their route went straight up a winding hill and they took it at a breathtaking pace. I couldn’t afford to be left behind, so I huffed and puffed right behind them. They weren’t even winded, and I was gasping. But I was going to keep up, if it caused a coronary.
I whipped out Google Maps on my phone and when we reached a better neighborhood, and I was assured of a route, I left my protectors. But I have to tell you, it was a tense 20-30 minutes. Just like you are supposed to pull off the road to text on a phone, I hereby promise to pull off the sidewalk to text. I am cured! And very lucky. By the way, I do not have any pictures of the scary neighborhood. It just didn’t seem like a wise idea at the time.
Fortunately, I made it back to the hotel as darkness fell, a very happy old lady.
George felt better today, so we headed to Belém, which is a sort of suburb of Lisbon. There are several museums and great sites in this sea town, but the biggie is the Monastery of Jerónimos (St Jerome, not to be confused with the famous American Native American Geronimo!). This place is enormous and a true jaw dropping spectacle of Manueline architecture. It is built upon the site of a small chapel for sailors, who came to pray before embarking on their sea voyages. And if you saw the tiny size of their ships, and how they traversed the world searching out new discoveries, you would be doing some serious praying, as well.
Vasco da Gama sailed in search of India. In 1498, after the longest sea voyage to date, he found it. And the golden age of Portugal began. Sadly, like every civilization before and after, it came at the price of every culture they touched. Part of these riches were used to build the Monastery of Jerónimos by King Manuel and his wife Maria. The queen was from Spain and before they would allow her to marry Manuel, he had to promise to expel all of the Jews out of Portugal – which he did. Another sad and difficult note in history.
Today, the national archeological and marine museums are on the grounds, as well as the incredible church and monastery. We went to the church and the archeological museum today and will return tomorrow to see the rest.
Again, the prices were cheap! Seniors over the age of 65 are pretty much 50% off at all of the museums in Lisbon. To see all of the museums today cost 6 Euros! Such a deal! Plus we had a sandwich for 1 Euro and the outrageously priced cup of coffee at 40 cents. And the ticket is good for 48 hours, so we can go back tomorrow on the same ticket.
There is a giant market that I am anxious to see. If George feels okay, we will go back to Belém. Otherwise, I’ll abandon him and head to the market. And check out pastry rehabs. There has to be several to choose from!