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When did we go to San Francisco?! August 18, 2011

Posted by iebailie in Travel Log.
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For our last free weekend I decided it would be a good idea to actually get out of Spain for a bit. Not that the country isn’t amazing (it most certainly is!), I had just come to realization I was already across the ocean and should try and see a little bit more of the continent. And was this a great decision!

Unfortunately for the penny-pincher, the cheapest flights leave at the crack of dawn, making it rather hard to get to the airport. Fortunately, a shuttle bus, which is part of the Madrid public transportation system, caters to the early-birds. So, at 3 in the morning, we trekked to the bus stop and were off. I won’t bore you with flight details (other than the fact I couldn’t resist a delicious, if overpriced, chocolate muffin on the plane), but by 8 a.m. we were walking out of the Lisbon airport and into a great weekend.

Unlike the vast majority of airports in the U.S., which are basically islands unto themselves, we were able to walk all the way from

See what I mean? Lisbon is definitely modern, at least in part.

the terminal to the waterfront, a 5-ish mile jaunt. It great to see “real” Lisbon on our way down to the bay and have uninterrupted sidewalks the entire way! When we finally reached the water, we were in one of the newest parts of the city, and it showed! Modern glass-clad complexes filled the neighborhood, including a rather upscale mall with one of the coolest roofs I’ve ever seen; it was glass, but had water flowing over it. The shining jewel, though, was the area flanking the water. Along about 3 miles of the coast, sidewalks, little cafes and an incredible park ran. In the park, you move from one segment to another, one feeling like a jungle, another like the desert, and another like the backyard of an Italian villa.

Isn't it pretty?

It was amazing! And, all of this led to the gorgeous Vasco da Gama suspension bridge. Needless to say, I was not expecting any of this from Lisbon!

After walking for a good 6 miles, we finally decided to make our way toward our hostel, and, a short metro ride later, were in the historic district of Lisbon, more specifically, El Barrio Alto. There was a marked difference in architecture as we moved back several hundred years in history, but the area is, again, beautiful. After a short detour to find where we’d be calling home for the night, we decided to walk out to see the Jerónimos Monastery. What we miscalculated, though, was the distance. What we thought

El Monumento de los Descubrimientos or Monument of the Discoveries

would be a nice little half-hour walk turned into an almost-two-hour hike! Fortunately, the scenery provided some entertainment. Anyway, after an exhausting walk, we reached another historic district in the city, Belem. Not only did we see the impressive gothic-style monastery, we marveled at the Monument of the Discoveries (in the New World, of course). By this point we were absolutely spent and took a train back to our hostel.

The next day, we were off again. We began by walking up the hills to visit one of the hundreds of churches Lisbon has to offer. Really though, when did we go to San Francisco? First the suspension bridge and now a killer climb! The first church was a standard European church with an incredible painted ceiling and the expected ornamentation. The second, though, was a ruin. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but there was something incredibly beautiful about the dilapidation and missing ceiling. In the museum we saw even more. No only were artifacts

Arches but no roof!

from past excavations on display, and Egyptian and South American mummies sat in their cases flanked by floor to ceiling shelves containing old books, like the 10 volume 18th century census of Lisbon! I was certainly impressed. After a quick lunch we hiked up to the Castle of San Jorge de Lisboa.

The complex sits atop one of the tallest hills in the city, making for great views of the valley and bay, and even the Christ statue that faces Lisbon from across the water. The castle itself was definitely cool, although it was no match for the views of the city. We seriously spent 2 hours just looking at the city! A couple minutes later, we were standing in el Parque Eduardo VII. From the dual columned monument at its center, to the manicured, geometric shrubs, everything was planned and planned well! After a quick stop at El Corte Ingles (the only one in Lisbon!) we headed further downtown in search of dinner.

Here's the park. The views from here were even good!

I am sorry to say we stopped at the Hard Rock Cafe, but Kristina needed a t-shirt and we were famished; after walking all day, who wouldn’t be hungry? We had one of the greatest waitresses ever and a good time was had by all. We left sated and metroed it back to the hostel where we all had an early night in preparation for our ridiculously early flight back to Madrid the next morning.

I was definitely sad to be going. Lisbon is an amazing city, I saw great things, and (surprisingly) didn’t spend all that much money! I can honestly say I will make a point to go back when I can.

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