Saturday, May 28, 2016

Why you should visit Lisbon now

This city of seven hills has long been sidestepped by travelers to Europe. And this is a good thing for those of us who are traveling to Lisbon because it means less crowds, no lines nor jostling for the best views, no distressed people in the service sector and just plain "having the place to ourselves". But interest in Lisbon and, Portugal in general, has climbed significantly since the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels. As travelers search for alternative destinations in Europe, Portugal sparkles as one of the best value destinations this summer. 


 Ruins of Santa Maria do Carmo
In 1755 a powerful earthquake hit Lisbon and left the Carmo Cathedral in ruins. This is what remains of what was once the largest church in Lisbon. The bones of the Carmo are hauntingly beautiful as it reaches up to the sky. It isn't hard to pray in this church without a roof. 

There's an archaeological museum at the back of the church with artifacts from other ruins and items found in the Carmo rubble. Some of the items on display are a mummy from Peru that dates back to the 16th century, a 5th - 4th century sarcophagus from Egypt and fine examples of Portuguese religious tile panels, among others. Entrance fee covers visit to the museum.
Address: Largo do Carmo
Metro: Baixa Chiado/Santa Justa elevator (requires a ticket)

Lisbon
Came to Portugal expecting some sunshine but no such luck. I think the adage "April showers bring May flowers" was coined here. But one afternoon the rain stopped for a bit and I was able to take a photograph of the terra cotta rooftops of Lisbon and the Castelo São Jorge in the background. 

One of the best locations for taking a panoramic photograph of the city is from the top of the Elevador da Santa Justa. You don't need to take the elevator which requires a ticket. Go to the back of the Carmo ruins and take the stairs to the elevator platform.


Chapel of St. John the Baptist
The Igreja de Sào Roque doesn't call attention to itself. It's rather plain. But when you step inside, you'll find the richest chapels, perhaps in all of Potugal. The Age of Discovery brought prosperity to Portugal and the navigators were eager to give thanks to God for their safe return. And these Baroque chapels, all 8 of them, are testaments of prayer and gratitude.

The Chapel of St. John the Baptist is the most expensive of the lot at the time of its construction. It was built in Rome, dismantled, shipped to Lisbon then reassembled. Blue lapis lazuli columns frame the Baptism of Christ. Gold gilding shines throughout the chapel as angels watch over the scene. 

São Roque has been designated as a Jubilee Church with a Holy Door of Mercy. 2016 was declared a Holy Year by Pope Francis. If you cannot make a pilgrimage to Rome this Holy Year, you can enter the Holy Door here at São Roque and say the prayers of faith to receive a special indulgence. So blessed to have visited this Church. 

Address: Largo Trindade Coehlo
Metro: Baixa Chiado - walk along Rua Garrett from the station to Largo do Chiado then make a right at Rua da Trindade to reach the Church. It's an uphill walk. There's also a cable car that goes up along Rua da Miserecordia and stops in front of the Church. 

Electricos
Lisbon and San Francisco bear many similarities. They're both hilly, they use cable cars (electricos in Lisbon), the 25th of April Bridge in Lisbon looks a lot like the Golden Gate Bridge and they have dramatic vistas of the sea (San Francisco Bay and Tejo River).  All we need now is a little Tony Bennett melody.
"I left my heart in San Francisco (Lisbon)
High on a hill, it calls to me
Where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars
The morning fog may chill the air
I don't care
My love waits there"

Sardine Paradise
It was pouring so hard on my first day in Lisbon that I wished it was raining instead in drought stricken San Francisco. My umbrella was useless. I was soaked to the hem of my jeans as the wind turned up. Luckily for me I was in front of a store so I ducked into dry land and was immediately caught up in canned sardine paradise. The Loja das Conservas would have brought a smile to Vasco de Gama's face. Who doesn't love Portuguese sardines? I grew up fortified by this stuff. 😂 What's more, the cans are arranged by brand name with the history of each cannery posted above every display. And the selections are as varied -- with traditional tomato sauce, extra virgin olive oil, pickles, picante, tuna and mackerel as well. All I needed was crusty country bread to dip into the sauce. And I bought one at a bakery on Rua Augusta where I spent some time indulging in sweet pasteles. Life's simple pleasures. 😍😍😍

Address: Rua do Arsenal 130 (by the Tagus River)
Metro: Cais do Sodre and walk away from the river and across Avenida da Ribeira das Naus to Arsenal.

Where I stayed:
Marriott Lisboa Hotel
Avenida dos Combatentes 45
The Marriott is close to the airport but far from the city center. There is a metro at Jardim Zoológico which goes directly to Baixa Chiado station in the heart of Lisbon. The walk to the metro station from the Marriott takes about 15-20 minutes. It's downhill from the hotel. Taxis are readily available at the hotel. 

Where to eat:
The streets that feed to Rua Augusta are dotted with restaurants with outdoor seating, the better to people watch. In Lisbon I always search for restaurants that serve sardines and espada (swordfish) and go for places with a lot of locals in the dining room. 

Some restaurants on the top floor of the Armazéns do Chiado have terrific views of the Castle of St. George. And so does the Ladies Room. The prices of the meals are reasonable and there are many to choose restaurants to choose from.

Transportation
The metro is the easiest way to get around. There are ticket machines at the station and a one way ticket is less than 2€. Always have coins ready. Otherwise pay by credit card.

From the airport to the Marriott the fare is around 12€ depending on traffic. There are shuttles to the city center from the airport. Check with the airport information desk if the shuttle is a better option to your hotel. 

*****

Images by TravelswithCharie


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Disappearing Act

Now you see it
This is the Pyramid in Paris by I. M. Pei which I took on my last visit in 2014. JR, an artist best known for his works, Portraits of a Generation and Women are Heroes, has made the Pyramid disappear as only a magician can.

Now you don't 
The image above is reposted from JR's Twitter account.  JR, in the article on the Wall Street Journal has this to day about this art installation, “I always seek to attract people’s attention toward something, generally other people. Here, it is the absence of something that will make people bond,” said JR. “When arriving to the Louvre, people will all notice the absence and that will make them talk to each other and seek the right angle.” For more on this story check out this article from Wall Street Journal. 

The Pyramid will stay hidden until June 28, 2016

*****


Saturday, May 21, 2016

What to look forward to this summer

Here are some places and experiences you might wish to include when planning your summer travel. Plus an essential guide on tipping and a word about sayonara. Happy travels!

France
Art trains in France
From Paris to Versailles (Condé Nast Traveler)
http://www.cntraveler.com/stories/2016-05-18/france-decorates-trains-to-look-like-versailles

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Dublin Docklands Walk

Customs House
The current Customs House is a reconstruction of the original structure designed by James Gandon in 1781 and opened in 1791. It was burned down in 1921 by the Irish Republican Army during the Irish War of Independence. The Customs House was originally built for the purpose of collecting customs duties from ships plying the Liffey River which is across the street. It became the headquarters of local government when the port was moved downriver and is currently the home of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Coastal Village of Howth

Ireland's Eye

The coastal village of Howth is a short train ride from Dublin yet a world away. This is the getaway of choice to rejuvenate and clear the air, so to speak. 

A homeless Jesus sleeps on a bench at Christ Church Cathedral


Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral or the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity is the oldest cathedral in Dublin. Founded around 1030 by the Hiberno-Norse, it has welcomed worshippers for nearly a millennium. It it is the mother church of the Church of Ireland United Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough. The roof, the south nave and west walls collapsed in 1562. It was extensively rebuilt in the 1870s with Victorian Gothic features. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Why Dublin is a fun city to explore

The Emerald Isle

We arrived in Dublin in late April to overcast skies which quickly developed into rain.  But we decided to explore anyway. The rain didn't last long and by the time we got to Fleet Street from O'Connell Street, we were walking in chilly sunshine. All that rain keeps Ireland green so it can live up to its poetic nickname, The Emerald Isle.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Natural Beauty of Pilar

Balisong Cave
The Battle of Balisong Hills (Ang Away sa Balisong) was fought between Capiznon Revolucionarios and Spanish soldiers in Pilar in 1887. The local fighters bravely defended their town's freedom against the Spanish troops whom they routed. Notice the white limestone surface of the karst formation. Pilar has a trove of karsts begging to be explored.