Just before 8am, I was at Faro train station for the app 3 1/2 hour train ride to Lisbon. Or Lisboa in Portuguese.
Time for the big smoke. The last stop on my Iberian / European journey before I return home. 4 nights there.
Fast forward after an uneventful train journey to the Saldanha metro station in Lisbon.
The Lisbon metro system is not far reaching, but the trains and stations were nice and clean. I saw no graffiti although it doubtless must exist.
My Lisbon accommodation was at Hotel Nacional. Its rating was 3 stars and it looked fine from the street at night, but I would describe it as faded glory. Nothing flash here.
Must include this picture of my room’s bathroom design… Or lack thereof…
After check-in and a trip to the local mini mercado, I wandered out for something to eat.
I chose this place along the busy Av. da Liberdade. No worries, plenty of eating places mixed with the traffic, but also trees aplenty.
The restaurant had dourado grelhado, grilled silver bream, as part of dish for the day. That’s what I had in Ferragudo and that was so tasty that I tried it again.
After lunch, I walked towards Lisbon’s centre and stumbled onto one of its “wallet farms”. Also known as pickpocket havens. One of the 3 old tramlines that still criss cross Lisbon.
My loose direction was walking towards Praça Luis de Camões. The Chillout Free Walking Tour starts from there. My plan for next day Saturday.
On that square, haircuts and shaves were happening. I couldn’t figure out for what but…
By sheer coincident, the time now was a few minutes before 3pm. There are two daily walking tours, at 10am and, you guessed it, 3pm.
So I asked the guide if I could join in which of course I could. More tips for him. Here is the guide.
No, I can’t recall why he touched his nose like that either so I include a second photo which gives him more justice. An expressive guy, speaking good English and with great stories to tell.
The guide, I think his name was Noun or something similar, took us through 3 Lisbon neighborhoods. First Bairro Alto / Chirrado, the bohemian district.
Noun pointed out this particular church, Igreja de São Roque. He asked us to enter and have a look. Why? Because the church was much elaborate inside and displayed more gold than any church I have ever been to.
At Comando Geral, the military headquarters, things were pretty relaxed. Two booths for armed guards but only one there. The guard first stood at the right booth, but workmen needed access to it so he moved to the left booth.
Down at Praça do Comércio, in the Baixa district of Lisbon, the sun started to set. At this square by the river Tagus was the royal palace until that devastating 1755 earthquake.
Our guide explained this statue of Portugal’s last king. Portugal became a republic after that 1755 earthquake.
Why? Well, the king, instead of overseeing the rebuild of Lisbon, moved to Rio de Janeiro. He then “governed” Portugal from there. That didn’t sit well with the Portuguese people so bye bye monarchy.
The people of Lisbon raised this statue later to mock that king and it is filled with symbolism. No crown but something ridiculous with waves. The king looks away from the city and towards Brazil. Even the horse is afraid.
There are snakes at the foot of the rest of the statue. To detract birds, in particular pigeons. And according to our guide, it works.
By the way, our walking group was huge. More punters arrived after me and I guess between 30 and 40 in total. It made it sometimes hard to hear everything the guide said.
The name of this interesting looking building is Casa dos Bicos. Now a museum dedicated to the life of Portugal’s only Nobel price winner to date. His name is Jose Saramago and he won the price in literature.
The tour continued into the Alfama neighborhood. I here take the liberty of coping an overview from Tripadvisor:
“The Alfama (Portuguese pronunciation: [aɫˈfɐmɐ]) is the oldest district of Lisbon, spreading on the slope between the São Jorge Castle and the Tejo river. Its name comes from the Arabic Al-hamma, meaning “hot fountains” or “baths” (the name “Alfama” could also be derived from the Arabic word Alfamm, meaning the “mouth” in Arabic. It is pronounced variously depending on the location of the word in a sentence). The district includes the freguesias (parishes) of São Miguel, Santo Estêvão, São Vicente de Fora and part of the two streets, “Freguesia da Sé: Rua do Barão” and “Rua São João da Praça”. It contains many important historical attractions, as well as an abundance of Fado bars and restaurants.”
Case in point. This little square had hot baths in its days (a fountain still has running water) and was built by the Moors. Now Rua da Judaria, a Jewish neighborhood, after the Moors left.
The tour finished here, at a little modest square that our guide said all Lisbon residents knew about. Because of its name.
The background to the little square’s name is it once contained benches and tables. For old men who congregated there to play games and to chat. One night, some comedian created a sign in the city style with the “new name” and erected it. For some reason, the city council thought that it was funny and left the sign there.
Needless to say, the old men moved elsewhere because who wants to hang around at such a place. The council later removed the tables and benches but the name stood.
Great story and ending to an excellent walking tour. I need to return to check out further some of the places that we passed.
I wandered home after the tour, taking a few night pics along the way as the night life began.
Rua Augusta is a pedestrian mall north from opposite Praça Do Comércio. You can see the statue again in the distance above. The mall became more and more touristy as I walked through it so no more pictures.