Thursday, July 3, 2014 –
With some boat chores completed we left about 2 pm and walked the mile to the train station and headed into Lisbon. Our heads are swimming with Portugese and figuring out signs and instructions. We are also amazed at how many people speak excellent English or can at least communicate with us in some basic English. Shame on us Americans and our limited knowledge of other languages. People here tell us that they learn English through American TV, which they receive here, and through music, which is primarily in English.
Lisbon is a city of about 600,000, very similar to the size of Boston. It has diverse neighborhoods, also like Boston. Unfortunately the main separation of architecture resulted from a terrible triple tragedy. On November 1, 1755 (All Saints Day), while most people in this very Catholic country were in church, an earthquake leveled the city. Next, the earthquake sparked fires which ravaged the city. Then within minutes a tsunami generated by the earthquake swept into the harbor flooding the lower city. Over 30,000 people were killed and half of the city wiped out. The original city is narrow streets that twist and turn similar to Boston’s North End. The rebuilt section was laid out on a strict grid plan with wide streets and pedestrian boulevards. Just recently a new area was developed along the Tejo River with a convention center, office buildings, condos, hotels, and a huge sports complex.
We wandered the streets through the Alfama, one of the old neighborhoods, winding our way to the highest point of the city and wonderful views. Cafes, featuring Fado music, a uniquely Portugese style of music, are abundant in the old neighborhood. It tells stories of homesick sailors, or so we believe, as we understood none of the language. Some songs seemed happy, others sad. Fado is well known by the locals. We assumed it was touristy until going for dinner at one of the cafes. There was a large group enjoying girls night out. They knew all of the words and sang along having a great time.
We managed to get back to the train station just in time for the last train back to Oeiras and walked the mile back to the marina.