Mini-Tour of Lovely Lisbon

The month of March is still quite cold in many parts of Europe. However, when Jesse came to visit that year we were having spring-like weather and decided to go to Lisbon, the capital of Portugal for a couple of days. It was too far to drive so we booked on TAP Air which is the national carrier of Portugal.

Bourg en Bresse the city where I lived at that time does not have an airport, so everytime I wanted to travel by air I had to go to Lyon, and take a flight from Saint Exupery Airport the fourth biggest airport in France. From Bourg en Bresse I usually go there by train (an hour's journey) and then take the Satobus which runs a shuttle service between Lyon Part Dieu the primary railway station of Lyon and Saint Exupery airport.

The flying time from Lyon to Lisbon is around two and a half hours and we arrived there sometime in the afternoon, and checked in at the Hotel Fenix in downtown Lisbon. The hotel was a nice one, the best part being its central location. Just opposite the hotel is a very busy square and also an underground train station. In the square there is a big monument and statue in honor of the Marquis of Pombal a well known 18th century Portuguese statesman. Just a little further away is a large park called Parque Eduardo VII which is named after Britain's King Edward the Seventh, and is the largest park in the city. That afternoon we just walked around within the vicinity of our hotel which as mentioned above, is in a good location of Lisbon.

Breakfast was included in the room rate at the Hotel Fenix. It was served in the main restaurant and consisted of a variety of the standard breakfast fare, plus a few local specialties. Later on we ate lunch and dinner at a couple of restaurants around the city, and I found the Mediterranean cuisine of Portugal much to my liking. Lisbon is situated at the mouth of the Tagus River which flows into the Atlantic Ocean. As such, there is an abundance of great seafood, and although I am not a fan of European dishes I really enjoyed the food in Portugal.

After breakfast we went for a full day of sightseeing around Lisbon. We took the bus, tram, the underground train and did a lot of walking as well. The city is full of monuments and statues. Portugal was once a colonial power and Lisbon, being its capital, is rich in architecture. One prominent building we visited was the Jeriminos Monastery constructed in the 16th century. The tomb of the famous Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama is inside this monastery. The huge monastery itself is a magnificent piece of work with its beautiful cloisters, each column differently carved to represent the period when Portugal was a dominant seafaring nation. I was not surprised to find out that the Jeriminos Monastery is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as is the nearby Belem Tower where we went to next.

The Belem Tower is a 16th century fortress on the banks of the Tagus River near the harbor. Built from the locally found limestone the 30 meters (99 feet) white structure is composed of a bastion and a four storey tower. It's original purpose was to guard the entrance to Lisbon's harbor, and was the starting point for many of Portugal's sailors on their voyages of discovery. We found a lot of tourists at this popular attraction. I recall a man there who approached me with a bunch of postcards slung on his shoulder with strings. He spoke to me first in Japanese, then switched to Mandarin, English and French. I then found out that he could speak 13 different languages!

We walked along the picturesque harbor with the quaint little houses on the hill behind it. It was a sunny day and both of us enjoyed the nice March weather. For your information, Lisbon has a subtropical-Mediterranean climate with mild winters. I think the temperature rose to +25 degrees C (+77 Fahrenheit) in the afternoon while we were there.

We arrived back at the hotel, tired but happy, after having dinner at a restaurant somewhere in town. It is impossible to take in all the wonderful sights of the city in just a day and half. So, I made a vow to myself that I would come back again to Lisbon to see much more of what the city has to offer, and also the rest of the country. That was ten years ago. I have yet to fulfill that promise!