Making fun of this guy in the ad getting some holistic crap for his cough and congestion. His wife needs to make him go to the doctor and get some steroids and antibiotics!
As for how I’m feeling…...I’ve been putting percentage numbers on it. Today, I’m breaking 90. All of the medications and steroids are apparently doing their job, making me much more functional. Consequently, today was a better day.
We have wandered Lisbon in tiny pieces as my health would allow. Today, we had a full day to explore what we had not yet seen. Our plans for today were to explore the Alfama district, the oldest part of Lisbon. We expect this area to be similar to other “old” parts of town in other European cities, with very narrow cobblestone streets and houses very close together or touching.
The trolley isn't just for tourists. In some neighborhoods it is real transportation.
We leave our hotel and start towards Alfama and pass a tiny dog on the street. It obviously belongs to someone and has a new harness on it. It apparently escaped. On a hunch I walked into a pet store a few yards away and asked if anyone was missing a dog. A very excited local woman figured out what I was saying and I showed her where I saw the dog go. She and her daughter furiously ran in that direction. There wasn’t much we could do so we headed out.
We arrived in Alfama to find it exactly like we expected, an old town area like most in Europe. It’s all uphill and I do cough a little every now and then, but nothing like what I had been. I’m also not as exhausted. If I had tried that climb two days ago, I wouldn’t have made it.
Taking a coffee break
It’s not very easy to find a public restroom in these old neighborhoods. Your best bet is to find a business with one and use it, and they are normally for customers only. The easy way out is to become a customer….so we stop for coffee at a tiny hole in the wall place on one of the corners.
The proprietor is an older Portuguese man who speaks no English, but we struggle through and order coffee and tea for Laurie. Laurie and I get a pastry to share as well. We sit at one of the outside tables and the owner brings our coffee, a full pot of tea, and pastry to the table, along with a tiny napkin dispenser. While we cannot speak, he is a very cordial host and takes good care of us.
The "Perve Gallery". I know it is someone's name, but some things just don't translate.
They don’t do “to go” coffee here, it is an event and you sit down and enjoy it. I haven’t seen a paper coffee cup since we got here. We enjoy our coffee and notice an art gallery across the street. It is named “Perve Gallery”. We are quite aware of how that would play out in the states.
We finish and it is time to leave. The owner shows me the amount on a calculator so I can pay. A latte, a full pot of tea for Laurie, and a pastry. 3.60 euros (around $4). We say “obrigado” which is “thank you” in Portuguese and continue our wandering.
Old time laundry in Alfama. They are concrete sinks with built in scrubbing boards.
We enjoy walking through what is a real Lisbon neighborhood. People live and shop here, and while tourists like us do visit it is a more genuine experience of what life is like here. While Porto was “gritty” and more working class, Lisbon is more refined, more relaxed. We like Lisbon much more than Porto.
We wind up at the National Pantheon, sort of a national monument thing that was a “17th-century baroque church turned into modern-day mausoleum for tombs of national celebrities.” That’s a quote from Google as I really didn’t know how to describe it. There were tombs including poets and writers, sports heroes, and Vasco da Gama the famous explorer. It appears that his tomb may be empty and he’s actually buried nearby.
The National Pantheon
The church was started in 1681 and finished in 1966, for a project duration of 285 years. As a professional construction project manager, I have to say, they may have been a bit over schedule. Our TTU projects run like a Swiss watch compared to this one. We enjoy the views from the roof and head on down.
On the way out we look through many nativity scenes, all being made from salvaged or recycled materials. Certain project managers at TTU come to mind when I see a nativity made out of actual tubas.
We wander a bit more, have dinner, and head back towards our hotel. I’ll put together my blog post and Laurie has written a bit as well that you’ll see below. She is awesome and took good care of me when I was struggling, which I really appreciate. We have to pack as we fly to London tomorrow, our last stop before home.
The last thing I do before heading into the hotel is stop in the pet store. They found the little lost dog.
Tea and coffee at our tiny hole in the wall cafe
Lisbon is, as the cab driver put it, cleaner and better organized than Porto. Much as I hate to admit it, I didn’t really like Porto that much. Lisbon, on the other hand, has been delightful.
One of the advantages of staying in a real hotel is having someone to help with emergencies. I was so glad not to have to figure that out by myself. The staff at this hotel were very helpful. Having a cab take us there and back was wonderful.
Recycled nativity scenes in the National Pantheon
In Chamonix last year it was much more difficult to figure it all out. And logistics were much harder. Trying to find medical care in the Azores seemed impossible. Ponta Delgado is the only city there and much of it was closed due to the holidays and being off season. There were some people who spoke English, but not as many.
A few thoughts about our experience with Portugal health care system. I don’t know what the access is like for local people, but the private hospital urgent care was clean, organized, cheap and efficient. Bill has already written some about it. The pharmacy was organized with 5 cashier stations, all filled. You take a number and wait to be called.
This stuff is a tasty sour cherry brandy type drink. They sell shots of it for around $1.50 U.S. This place has been selling shots of it on the street for almost 100 years.
I thought it was going to take forever since my number was 186 and they were on 171. It actually only took about 10 or so minutes. They take the prescription, scan the barcode and then some place behind the scenes sends it through a tube to the cashier’s drawer and voila, done. None of this dropping the prescription off and waiting at least 30 minutes before it might be ready. Nicely done Portugal.
After our diversion to get Bill back on his feet, we enjoyed walking the city. It is easy to walk the old parts of the city and each neighborhood is somewhat distinctive. Part of the city was destroyed in 1755 by an earthquake and tsunami. The Baxia area was rebuilt by one man, Pombal. It is laid out in a grid and easy to navigate.The rest of the old city, not so much. Streets are narrow, trams and cars have to share the space, sidewalks are also narrow so it behoves one to pay attention.
A tasty fried dough product sold on the street here. It is called, and I kid you not.....Farturas. They roll them in cinnamon and sugar.
I really liked the Alfama area because as soon as we got away from the tourist areas, it was a lot like Venice. Lots of local shops, cafes and restaurants and not crowded. People clearly just live there. There were long lines to the popular tourist attractions like the Sao Jorge castle that is supposed to have a good view of the city.. We rarely will stand in long lines, just not worth the time. There were other viewpoints that were not crowded.
Portugal has a long history and once I’m back I will probably read more on it now that I have been here. Lisbon in particular has a very interesting history and I kind of regret not hiring a guide. I just wasn’t sure if Bill was going to recover enough to do it and didn’t want to waste money if he couldn’t. If we come back, I would definitely hire someone because there is so much history we just missed out on. Even without that, though, it is a lovely city just to experience and we hit the high points that I had researched before we left.
Tomorrow we are off to London for a day. It will be nice to be somewhere we can communicate easily. This has been a bit of a long trip with Bill being sick for most of it.
Gallery o' extra photos!