All of our travel this year has been work related and while that's not a complete bummer, nor is it the pure delight of self indulgent holiday. Our office decided to take American Memorial Day despite our location in Spain, because it's nice to have holidays when everyone is not on the road.
For 6 years now, we've been saying in a vague way, "We should go to Portugal since we're so close." Yes, Madrid is relatively speaking close to Portugal compared to say Kansas City, but it's not a day trip either. Ours was a spontaneous decision on Friday night, so we just googled until we found a hotel. While the place we stayed was nice and a good location, I won't make any official recommendations because we paid a lot spur of the moment. It's good we made reservations or we might not have made it to Lisbon. It was a long, long drive for a weekend and I think we might have turned in at Caceres or somewhere in Spain, but once they zap your credit card online your committed.
The good thing was we were a 10 minute walk from the center district of Lisbon. It was a fun walk through the posh shopping district. Can I just say that I'm really out of the loop on these stores? Who knew Porsche sold clothes and FLY was shoes? It was only window shopping 1. because it took us a long time to drive and everything was closed and also closed on Sunday and 2. I can't or perhaps won't afford those stores.
We also strolled through several grand plazas. One plaza was full -- and I mean full of Communist Party flags. A little stunning for two kids who grew up in the cold war. They'd had a demonstration that week against their collapsing economic state. We have those protests in Spain too, but not in the village where we live.
My overall impression of the center of Lisbon was gloriously colorful and rundown. They were refurbishing the waterfront so that was more polished behind the scaffolding, but the rest was shabby chic in a big way. I've never been to Cuba but it gave me a hint of the pictures I've seen, but with modern cars.
We had a bad experience trying to do one of the tourist buses so we could see some of the other famous site in the city besides just the center. Normally, we park and don't move the vehicle until it's time to drive home as the parking is such a challenge. AND we'd found a free place to park.
We waited for the tour bus that comes "every half hour" for over an hour and half. We tried calling but I couldn't get my Spanish phone to make the connection or it was Sunday morning and it was turned off for the day. Either way we were up early(for me anyway) because of the time zone change and we wasted that extra time sitting at a bus stop. The reason we picked the yellow buses was because they also included the trolly. Fortunately we got our money back and just rode the public trolleys.
As in many centers of cities, the roads are tiny and narrow and in the case of Lisbon uphill in every direction. I mean HILL, like the kind that makes your thighs hurt for days. To compensate for this there are loads of electric old trolleys.
Number 28 has a reputation. I don't know if it's the oldest but it was windy and narrow and did not disappoint. Because it was not the expensive tourist one it was jammed, standing room only in the tiny trolley of wood and old fashioned benches. I was so plunged into the middle that there was nothing to grab onto and too many people for me to reach the polls. I figured I'd surf -- that's the word I use when I'm on the metro in Madrid and can't reach a hand hold. Take a ski stance with bent knees and surf it.
Let's just say a trolley is not the metro. I ended up legs in the air flat on my back on top of a little old lady tourist. Then I giggled incessantly and the poor pickpocket felt so badly for me he moved so I could reach the poll and he got off at the next stop. It was definitely the highlight of my trip.
Here's a few photos from the center of old town. That's the only area we ended up exploring. Next time we'll go for longer. Oh, and the food was really tasty. Cod fritters, grilled shrimp and beans and rice. Good stuff. Turns out "Portuguese Stew" is corned beef and cabbage with slightly different spices.