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 a Jubilee Church with a Holy Door of Mercy. Pope Francis declared a Jubilee of Mercy from December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016. 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. 

Visit http://travelswithcharie.blogspot.com/2016/06/8-images-from-church-of-sao-roque-in.html for more images of the Chapels of Sao Roque. 

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. 

Panoramic View of Lisbon before the earthquake of 1755
A segment of the Panoramic View of Lisbon  before the 1755 earthquake in the Museo de Azulejo. Read more about azulejos in an article I will be posting soon.

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 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.

The cable car is handy for going up those hills. To explore the Alfama, take a cable car from the Praca do Comercio.

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


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