I don’t think it was a Memorial Day equivalent but there was some random European-wide holiday here on Monday. Chizzy parlayed that with a personal vacation day on Friday and we set out for a long weekend in Lisbon, Portugal. It was the first time either of us has been to Portugal and now we are very close to having visited all Western European countries (at least for a few hours).
The reason for taking Friday off was so that we could catch Dave Matthews Band playing a show there. It was the band’s first time to Portugal and, as usual, I instinctively retreated into skeptic-mode about how the crowd would welcome them. Dave Matthews Band is not popular in Europe from what we could tell up to this point (difficult to find their albums in stores, co-worker of Chizzy’s have never heard of them, etc…). In any case, this was the show that has finally flipped me. From this day forward, I will assume any concert we attend in Europe will be an amazing experience. I will henceforth be shocked and offended if a concert is not a sell out and the crowd isn’t enormously appreciative of the artist and showing it in an extremely loud manner. Dave told the 17,000+ of us himself that it was the loudest audience they have ever played for and they were even obliged to come out for a rare second encore. Which, in all honesty, was a bit too much for me since they had already surpassed the three hour mark and I have a strong track record of shutting down after midnight. Anyway, if you are a fan of Dave Matthews… IN YOUR FACE, FOOL!
The show was in a stadium in the northeast part of the city which was built-up for Expo ‘98 that Lisbon hosted. It certainly had the feel of a World Fairgrounds (think Seattle Center) with plenty of flags, sweeping art structures, big tower to overlook stuff, and a broad pedestrian promenade. It was pretty nice, but we left the camera in the room for the evening thinking it would be an issue when it came time to enter the venue for the show. It turns out we should have looked into it a bit more because there didn’t seem to be any concern about taking photos during the show. Live and don’t learn.
Camera was ready for Saturday though.
You knew you’d see something like this.
Liked the purple trees here. Couldn’t get enough of them really.
Got to love the sidewalk cafes. We were lucky to see them though because the forecast was for rain all weekend long.
Not trying to be artsy here. The color just wasn’t very good. But this was a pretty cool pedestrian shopping area that deserves to be seen.
Coming out here, we both felt Lisbon had the potential to completely blow us away. We’ve heard great things about Portugal and it certainly has a mystic that is a bit outside the stereotypical white Western European culture. The speak Portuguese for crying out loud. But you have probably figured out from my tone that it didn’t completely blow us away as we’d hoped. It was a very diverse city, to be sure, but there really wasn’t much else to separate it from many of the other places we have visited. Is it possible we are getting a bit jaded by it all? Maybe. Maybe.
Classic Chizzy expression. There is some force of nature that prevents her and me from walking at the same pace. I usually lag a bit behind, but sometimes I’m racing out front. One nice move I’ve been working on lately is to stop and have the camera ready to capture the exasperated look back.
Packing into one of these little trams didn’t even cross our minds while tackling the hills up to the castle overlooking the city.
I’d bet you knew you’d get to see a photo like this too.
We thought we were coming up on some construction when we saw this giant covered hole in the middle of the street. It turned out to be some Roman ruins. A theater.
One cool thing that was unique was the interesting use of tile on the exterior of many buildings. Some of it just looked like cheesy bathroom tile from the 70’s but some of it was pretty cool.
All the pictures so far were taken as we wound a lazy U through the “old part” of the city and up towards Castelo de S. Jorge. From there we got a good look down on the city.
The bridge in the distance was, in fact, bright red and we commented that it bore a striking resemblance to The Golden Gate Bridge. We found out before our trip was over that the bridge was designed by an American firm and that was pretty much the model. The Vasco de Gama Bridge over near the Expo grounds was also pretty cool.
I told Chizzy she would have to put a gun to my head before I posted a photo of myself. Touché.
I think the tour gal said there were 3 million people in the greater Lisbon area.
“For the Horde!”
A bunch of the apartments up in this area had bird cages hanging outside. Neat-o.
One other cool thing Lisbon had going was the intricate stone pattern on most sidewalks and pedestrian streets. The white stones were limestone and the black were basalt.
Portugal eats dinner quite late. The majority of the restaurants we saw didn’t open until 7 and we even came across some that had an 8 o’clock opening time. We were looking for a nice place to have dinner all day on Saturday and we finally found one as we were heading down from the castle. We poked our head in to make a reservation, but the guy didn’t take any information down. We weren’t sure if it was because he wasn’t planning on being busy or because our desired meal time of 7:30 was too early to bother with. Looking back, I’m pretty sure it was the latter. Anyway, we didn’t end up going back to that place after all because we found a better looking place just a couple blocks from the hotel. Seafood is monster in Portugal. We’d already had some oysters the day before and every menu we saw was dominated by fish. Good thing we love fish. The waiter brought over a large cart loaded up with whole fish and explained what each one was on the menu. We choose the grilled white fish and he scooped it right up off the cart and took it into the kitchen. We got prawns for an appetizer for good measure. It was all very good… but we did both end up getting sick on Sunday in the afternoon. We will never know what it was for sure, but we have agreed to blame it on the water we were served at the Hard Rock Café where we went for lunch.
After dinner we hung out at the bar for some authentic Port wine, which was absolutely delicious, and I smoked a Cuban cigar for the first time in my life. I don’t smoke, but obviously if you can get your hands on something that is outlawed in the States you are going to want to try it. I have no idea if it was a good cigar or not but I didn’t turn green and I didn’t launch into a coughing fit so I’m calling it an unqualified success. Although, I have no idea how someone can get through an entire cigar in one sitting. Seems like I would have had to dedicate a good hour to the task and I just didn’t have the tenacity.
The people of Portugal were exceedingly friendly. I always like to claim I’m not surprised anymore when everybody speaks English but I still truly am. I personally think it was a good enough reason alone to justify the money we spent to win the Cold War. Anyway, I’m not joking about how nice the people were. Chizzy also noticed it. We furthered the cause by continuing to tip like Americans. You’re welcome.
Sunday, we ventured out with a bus tour to Sintra. It’s a city about 40 minutes outside Lisbon and played a big role in the history of the area. We never really found out what that was exactly, but it looked a little something like this.
This palace was actually the primary draw of the town. It was much cooler inside.
There was just something about a ton of birds over my head on this ceiling that left my unnerved.
I guess the tiles weren’t just for the outside. The tour gal said some of the oldest examples of this style of tile were in this palace.
The fog is starting to roll in here which was quite coincidental to the circumstances that were rolling through my body. It was precisely after this photo was taken that I turned to Chiz and said “I’m not really feeling 100%”. She just thought I was being a downer but later that night she’d also come to understand the pain I was heading toward.
This fog turned out to be a pretty big bummer because the next stop on the tour was a cape on the Atlantic Ocean. The water in Lisbon is just a big river so we were excited to see a bit of the ocean. And the tour stop also had the added bonus of being the western-most point in continental Europe. If that isn’t a tourist stop, I don’t know what is. Unfortunately, the fog was so thick down by the cape that you literally couldn’t see 20 yards.
The last stop on the tour was this place. I was barely holding it together here and had Chizzy panicked that I was going to puke on the bus, so we weren’t totally sure where we were at.
At least we left the fog behind us.
And that was pretty much it. We were forced to hang out in the hotel room the rest of the evening but thankfully it wasn’t a long-term bug and we were feeling fine the next morning heading to the airport.
Nice job, Lisbon. Obrigado