Friday, April 16, 2010

Lisbon Touring

I am pleased to report that all 18 people in our little group arrived without incident in Lisbon Wednesday morning...before ash from the Iceland volcano eruptions began causing flight cancellations at key connecting airports in northen Europe. We were fortunate, indeed, as I know many travelers are still in limbo.

Lisbon is an interesting city, not yet as prominent a tourist destination as other popular European cities, and that makes travel here all the more enjoyable. AMA Waterways booked us in the delightful Tiara Park Hotel north of the downtown area. Our half-day city tour Thursday took us to key historical sites such as the Torre Belem, which originally served as a lighthouse and a defense against pirates; the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, the monastery housing the tombs of Vasco da Gama, the first Portuguese navigator to reach India, and Louis de Camoes, the country‘s most famous poet whose tomb is actually empty since he died impoverished and his grave was never identified; and the Monument to the Discoveries, dominated by a statue of Henry the Navigator. A cool map of the world, inlaid in the pavement at the base of the monument notes the dates of the amazing exent of Portuguese discoveries and settlements.

Free time in the afternoon gave me the opportunity to locate a famous glove shop I‘d read about. Yep, only leather gloves are sold at this tiny shop behind the Elevador de Santa Justa in the Bairro Alto secton of the city. I had not intended to “buy,“ but my hands have never been treated so well nor fitted so expertly for gloves. Happy early birthday to me!

Then we hopped on the metro with friends Jaime and Belinda to check out a more modern section of the city. Their fluent Spanish proved a definite asset during our little adventure.

As a perfect end to the day, all 18 in our group taxied to an area of the city famous for less touristy fado performances. Fado is a Portuguese music tradition known for its wistful, melancholy style. We enjoyed dinner and performances by four different singers in a very quaint restaurant.

Next, I‘ll write about our tours of Sintra, Cascais, and Fatima--all part of our pre-cruise package through AMA.

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