Monday, October 6, 2014

PORTUGAL, Beautiful And Grand 9/17-9/23, 2013

Lisbon…land of the great explorers

Rossia District-Lisbon

After seeing the 2011 movie called "The Way", I was instantly inspired to walk The Way.  In this true tale, a 40-something, misunderstood by his Father for his entire lifetime, decides to walk the Way of St. James.  He starts off in Ronciveau St. Jean, France, with his first days spent crossing the Pyrannes Mountains.  He dies, due to sudden weather conditions.  The Father comes to France to identify the body, is so moved to hear of the adventure that his son was on, that he decides to finish The Way for his son.  Its a life-changer for him, and he vicariously comes to understand his son after all the years that have passed in misunderstood Flying Business Class on an overnight flight from Chicago to Lisbon Portugal was sweet perfection.  Carol Allen, my dear friend of 28 years, smiled happily as we started our adventure with wine in the Delta Flight Lounge, a few snacks and taking pictures of our happy faces!  We agreed that our 60's are, indeed, very good years for us and that we are both uniquely happy at this time in our lives.  We boarded our on-time flight, had great service from Nicholas of Paris, starting with mimosas, and laughed our heads off watching "Hangover 3", while we ate great steak dinners and drank copious amounts of red wine before drifting off to sleep for the quiet flight to Paris and then on to Lisbon.  Our daily motto:  to say to each other, all day long, "that was easy"!  And so it went for us in this manner, as we checked in to our Holiday Inn for two days of non-stop exploring of the historical city of Lisbon!

We hit the ground running, jet lag be damned, grabbed a taxi to the historic section of Portugal, originally a trading post for The Romans, followed by 4 centuries of Arab rulers, before Alfonso Henriques  ousted them in 1147.  In the 15th century, it became the main base for the Discoveries", and many of the greatest world explorers, such as Vasco de Gama and Columbus set sail from Lisbon!

We started taking in the breathtaking sites outlined in our Camino de Portugues handbook, our guide to walk "The Camino...The Way of St. James"...but we agreed we would enjoy a week of sightseeing by car before the walk began!

With our "Pilgrim Credencial" in hand, we got our first stamp (the sign of the traveler) at Lisbon Cathedral Se, one of many stunning cathedrals and basilicas in this country.  To say these churches are breathtaking can't begin to describe the immensity of the gilded altar areas, each with their unique design, each with their portrayal of the stations of the cross, their bell towers, and their reverent atmospheres of stillness.  It made me almost wish I was Catholic (kidding).  Our visit included stops at Igriga San Tiago, the Church dedicated to St. James, with the telltale Yellow Arrow on the front of the church, the sign of "The Way" for the travelers on Pilgrimage to Santiago...a sign that we would look forward to seeing as the guideposts for our daily walks.  We also saw the Castle of St. George, the Arco Augusta depicting great world explorers Columbus, Cabral, Magellan and Vasco de Gama.  Even though the earthquake and ensuing tsunami of 1755 leveled Lisbon, destroyed 90% of the buildings and killed a quarter of its population, 2 buildings survived, Jeronimos Monastery, where Vasco de Gama rests.  The Tower of Belem also survived.

Then we slept...trying to adapt to the 5 hour time difference!

9/18:  we enjoyed the Rossio shopping district, although we won't buy anything that we don't wish to carry for hundreds of miles in our backpacks!  On that district is the austere Teatro Nacional de Dona Maria, formerly the site of the Court of the Inquisition in front of which the hanging of heretics and ritual burning of many of Portugal's wise women took place.  I could feel the sadness of this unpleasant spot.  Onward to ride up the antiquated San Justa elevator tower to enjoy the unparalleled
views of spectacular Lisbon.  Who could leave this city without a night of Fado at Velho Pateo de
To be clear, I LOVE's such a beautiful country, so EASY to move around and to see all of its beauty and to be on familiar ground!  But there remains in me a deep desire to see the rest if the world, to walk the streets of historic countries, to eat the food and drink the wine of the unfamiliar places, without being sure of myself, without knowing the languages, without a definite plan!  This is where the magic can happen!

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