Lisbon: City of Seven Hills and Billions of Cobblestones part 2


Yesterday (Tuesday) I managed to spend 16 hours out and running around Lisbon so I am actually looking forward to being able to take things a little easier when I get to Mexico (and sleeping just that little bit more). I started my day in the central square downtown and spent most of the day zipping around Lisbon in an army style jeep with 3 others, spiraling up and down the hills, squeezing through the narrow streets of Barrio Alto, skirting the Moorish castle Castelo de Sao Jorge, heading over the 25th of April bridge and climbing the Cristo-Rei statue to gaze upon one of the best views to Lisbon from across the river.


After a brief window of downtime cleverly utilized for boot shopping (Portuguese leather is second only to Italian), I met up with another small tour group (consisting only of me and a couple from Ottawa) and our guide took us traipsing through Alfama, the birthplace of the Portuguese music genre fado (translates to fate or destiny).


Fado songs are characteristically infused with sentiments of resignation, fatefulness and melancholia (loosely captured by the word saudade, or “longing”), although modern fado is slightly more upbeat (which is good as I think otherwise you would end up with a seriously depressed nation).
Fado is meant to originate from wives singing to their sailor husbands as they left on voyages – the songs were full of emotion as they did not know whether they would ever see them again.


From the central square, we climbed the tallest of Lisbon´s seven hills to have drinks at a rooftop patio just under the castle looking out at Lisbon lights in the twilight, and then walked down to a restaurant in the Alfama area for a tapas menu, the meal included with the fado performance. Of course this menu included 2 codfish dishes (the Portuguese joke they have 365 recipes for codfish so you can have it every day), and we sat in attentive silence as the fado singers performed on a raised stage in front of our tables. Not understanding Portuguese, the songs were still moving and very emotional.

Afterwards we walked the winding cobble-stoned streets of Alfama to get a taxi, as we rounded corners we could hear other fado performances, and looking through the open doors of the small bars each had it’s own silent audience sitting rapt in the narrow spaces. I shared a taxi with the Canadian couple and walked back up my hill (thank goodness for wellington hill training!) at about 11:30pm, quite safe with restaurants still in full swing and people heading home.


Today (apart from catching tram 28) is all about gelato, finding somewhere for dinner and wandering as tomorrow is another long day in which I travel to Boston via Zurich (as you do). Its weird to think that I will be sleeping in Oaxaca on Wednesday night. I know I am going to miss the sharp light, intricate streets and friendly people of Lisbon.

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