Monday, May 16, 2011

Day 189: Lovin' Lisboa: My Favorite Experiences

Hidey-ho blogaroos. I have some super exciting news to share. First I have a confession to make. I'm feeling tired. Seven months of backpacking across Europe has been immensely awesome but also exhausting. Perhaps tired isn't the most accurate adjective. When I get to a new city, of course I'm excited but there's not the same sparkle there was at the beginning. "Oh you big wussy, suck it up," you say. Thanks for being so considerate. Thankfully I think I found the solution.

Hell yeah! I'm going to Liverpool!

I have been traveling very slowly, from place to place, taking busses, trains, boats, or hitch hiking from city to city. The only flight that I've taken I missed, but that's changing. From Porto I was going to head to San Sebastián but I didn't realize how far away it was. Getting there was going to be difficult. There is an expensive high speed train and the bus costed €90. I was lamenting to my host in Porto and she suggested I catch a flight. Then something clicked for me, I'm not tired, I just need to change my method of travel. So, I just bought a one way flight to Liverpool. I leave on Thursday and already feel that spark returning.

I ordered the DIY kit but here's the Original Luna.  ©LunaSandals

On another quick side note, I've been looking for a new pair of shoes for running and exploring. I was going to drop some big money on a nice pair of trainers but I've really enjoyed my Vivo Barefoots over the past 4 years and going back to a 'normal shoe' felt odd. I didn't want to spend the money on another pare of Vivo's yet, but luckily the guy that saved my life in Washington DC posted a link for LunaSandals on Facebook. Sandals sound like the perfect solution because the smell of my barefoots will curl your hair. I just bought the kit and had it shipped to a friend in England. I'll let you know how it turns out! My body is looking forward to freedom, my feet are looking forward to freedom, life is good, and so was Lisboa.

The train hit 225 KM/hr – I think I can almost bike that fast.
Lisboa's Oriente train station is magnificent.

From the first second I got off the train, I could tell that I was going to like Lisboa. The train ride in was beautiful as we crossed over the river and saw the buildings rising up from the water. I quickly learned that Lisboa has seven hills and that climbing them with my pack makes me very sweaty. My host lived in Graça, an old neighborhood rich with history and steep small streets. For once, I met my host without a problem and Machado and I spent two days together. Unfortunately he was too busy saving the world for us to spend a lot of time together. He works 60 hours a week as a biochemist and educating youngsters in the ways of the natural sciences. I was eager to stay with him because he's also into meditation and yoga. I wish we had time to practice together. Since Machado had to go to bed for work, I went out.

Now that's karmic justice.

On my first night I met up with some other CouchSurfers and we had fun in Bairro Alto drinking and having a good time. Bairro Alto is the neighborhood with the majority of the night life. It was a long walk from Graça but I followed the tram tracks so I didn't get lost. We found a bar with good music and sipped on some 750 ml beers while the stories flowed.

This street leading to Graça had sweet graffiti and a community garden.

The next day I met with a friend of my CouchSurfing host in Nice. Mr. Luis and I had been corresponding over the internet and now it was time to meet the man behind the blog. I was meeting him at the Gulbenkian Museum where he was researching for his masters in museology. Though I was nearly an hour late we had a pleasant lunch in the museum's café and he said that I could stay with him tomorrow. Later that night I cooked tilapia with mango salsa for Machado. The fruits in Portugal are so tasty and cheap. If you can track down some yellow mangos, eat them slowly and savor every bite.

No, it's not dog barf, it's tilapia with mango salsa over saffron rice.
I almost forgot to take a photo of Machado, good thing I remembered.

The following morning I found my way to Luis' Palace rather by accident. I knew the area where Luis lived but didn't have his exact address. After a string of texts and battles with public phones, I hunkered down at a cafe and waited for him to send me the address. After about 10 minutes someone taps me on the shoulder and I find Luis behind me. He laughs because the cafe I was sitting at was literally right outside his apartment. His antique elevator rattles us up to the top floor of his building and after satisfying the keyhole, we enter the palace. Luis' apartment is a mix between a museum and design gallery, replete with various paintings and drawings, and designer everything. It is beautiful and spotless, reflective of Luis' OCD. The view from the balcony is stellar, looking out over his neighborhood of Rato. It was my good fortune to enjoy the company of Luis and his husband Pedro for five days. During my five days in Lisboa I did so much that it's a lot to fit in one blog entry.

A square just north of Baixa.
The Lisbon Cathedral was totally burned out in the fire of 1755.
The fire ravaged the church and you can still see the damaged stone.
The square of Rossio. Yeah!
Weirdest looking pastry was also the worst tasting pastry...
Inside Lisboa's famous elevator.
This statue was like "Yo, what's up dawg?"
Self portrait by the river.
I took a nap here and got mega sunburned.
All of these mooring spots were painted.
A great series.

Lisboa is a beautiful city to wander around and each of the neighborhoods has a unique feel. My favorite experiences were... Wandering around Belém, through its large park, two towers, and cathedral. After my night out with the CouchSurfers I wandered through Baixa at 3AM with no one else around and was overcome by the magnificence of the Arco da Rua Augusta and the statue afterwards. The boulevard ends on the water and I sat at the water's edge and listened to the waves before I headed home.

Sunlight coming through a tree in Jardim do Ultramar in Belém.
Relaxing in the park.
... and what an awesome park!
Belém's Monument to the Discoveries - you can also go inside.
Tower of Belém.
Taking photos through the lens of a camera obscura. Obscure!
Jerónimos Monastary, where Vasco da Gama is buried.
Inside the church they were having a service.
Oh yeah artsy manual focus.
I saw this photo on the bus and came back for it.
Tight rope walkin' Jesus.
I couldn't stop taking photos.
It was so peaceful at night with no one around.
Amazing sculpture. One horse leg up means he died in battle.
One of the cars of the funiculair.

The castle of São George is another must see in Lisboa and provides wonderful views of the city along with the chance to explore an ancient Moorish castle. Arguably the views from São George are the best in all of Lisboa. I certainly testify, they are great. Plus they have peacocks. If you can survive the climb to the entrance, you will totally enjoy yourself.

The test you must pass to get to the castle.
But it's well worth it.
Couch Surfing? Cannon Surfing!
The castle guard.
See the rainbow?
The castle was a maze of walls.
Amazing views.

Out of Lisboa's many museums I made it to both buildings of the Gulbenkian and the Mude. The Gulbenkian is nestled amidst a lush garden of plants where many Portuguese enjoy books in the sun. Both museums are excellent and are free on Sundays until 2. As long as you've got your ticket you can enjoy the museum for the rest of the day. The classical gallery is an outstanding exhibition of art from all over the world but my favorite was Gulbenkian's collection of René Lalique's art nouveau glass work.

I was feeling artsy and inspired after René.
Avenue de Libertad.
Another awesome view headed from Baixa to Graça
House texture!
Before I left I chased the trams around.
This was my favorite tram shot!

Lisboa has so much to explore and is so rich in history that I know I missed a lot. For example, I wish I went to a restaurant and listened to some Fado so I can't wait to go back. I enjoyed staying with both Machado and Luis, especially seeing how they live their lives. Luis was particularly interesting because he knows so many artists and designers. He taught me about Marina Abromovic, Ray and Charles Eames, and embarrassingly, Raymond Lowey. I've forgotten a lot since art history class and at some point I would like to start a blog to re-teach myself and help others. Perhaps I could tie it into travel and do an entry on important artists around my current area. Anywho... Like I said, Lisboa rocked. Oh and if you go, remember to pronounce LiSHboa correctly or you won't get any girls.


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