8/24 – we are in Lisbon for one more day. What should we see? Not too far away is the Igreja Sao Roque, or the Church of Saint Rocco. This is the oldest Jesuit church in Portugal, and perhaps the most ornate. At the time it was being built (1700s), the Portuguese explorers were bringing more gold and jewels home from Brazil and the new world than anyone knew what to do with. Many of the riches ended up here. Here is one of the large gold candlesticks, over six feet tall:
Here is a bone of Sao Roque himself, in a gold reliquary:
This church has so many saint parts, that there are two reliquary chapels on either side of the main altar, one for male bones, and one for female bones:
If you are not familiar with Saint Rocco, he is always depicted as having sores on his leg, and is accompanied by a dog offering him a loaf of bread:
We are staying at the Lisbon Amazing Hostel, so every morning we meet different people at breakfast. Today we met a Chinese couple who are going to grad school in Milan, and have come to Portugal for a summer holiday. They are getting Masters degrees in business. It turns out that David (his chosen Anglican name) already owns several factories, and the degree will help them to run the companies better. As we ate toast and jam, he asked us what type of vegetable oil was the healthiest – he was thinking of starting another company to import healthy oil to China! We marveled at his ingenuity.
As an antidote to the noise and crowds of Lisbon, we are taking the train 30 minutes west to the delightful town of Sintra, where we will spend several days walking through gardens and castles before resuming our Caminho. The New York Times featured a travel section on Sintra just last week, so we fear it is no longer an undiscovered idyll, but we shall see!
8/22 – today we crammed ourselves onto a tourist tram for the 30 minute ride to Belem to see the Monastery of the followers of St. Jerome, or the Mosterios de Jeronimos.
As soon as we cleared the ticket queue and stepped inside, Jim and I both got an immediate rush of déjà vu. This monastery is EXACTLY the same as one we’ve been in before! Was it in Spain? Maybe Italy? We’ll have to consult the archives… Anyway, we got to see the tomb of the great Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, and learned a little more Portuguese history.
Belem is the port where Vasco and the other explorers set out from, so there is a monument at the waterfront of the all the Portuguese explorers looking outward toward the sea. Unfortunately, it was being refurbished, so we only got to see a few explorers, but you get the idea…
There was another tower to climb in Belem, but we’d had enough for the day, so we squeezed onto our return tram and made our way back to Alfama. On the way back, we spied one of many street performers on his lunch break, and another making his dog do all the work:
What did we have for supper? Portuguese Chinese food – an acquired taste!
8/21 – today we took a closer look at the Cathedral where our walk will begin. Dating from 1155, it is a sturdy structure, lacking the curlicues of later churches.
During recent excavation of the cloister, archeologists uncovered a Moorish building, and beneath that, a Roman road and beneath that, Phoenician artifacts dating back to the eighth century BC.
The Cathedral has a beautiful Rose window depicting the twelve Apostles, that drenches the pews in rainbow colors in the late afternoon. St. Thomas is at 7 o’clock, and St. James is at 10 o’clock.
In the crypt is the tomb of Santa Ana, reading her book for eternity: (feel free to bury me this way also…)
The newer part of the Alfama district, by the River Tejo, is a sharp contrast to the narrow winding streets near the Cathedral. Thanks to an earthquake and tsunami in 1755, all the buildings near the shore were wiped out, so huge open squares were built:
We are getting the hang of the Portuguese written language, although we can’t understand a spoken word. Today we successfully withdrew money from an ATM, ordered food and negotiated a supermarket and post office. Fish is mainly what’s eaten here, with the local delicacy of octopus cooked in its own ink. We’ll let you know how it is when we figure out how to order it!
8/19 – feel free to skip the following airline rant: we survived an overnight flight from Minneapolis to Frankfurt on Condor, flyer of planes with the world’s narrowest seats. My knees were jammed into the seat in front, which means poor long-legged Jim had to spend 9 hours practically in a fetal position. Needless to say, no sleep was achieved by either of us until our connecting flight to Lisbon. (And there was no choice of dinner or movie.) But we are here! End of rant.
We did a great job negotiating the Metro ride from the airport to the southern end of the city. We are staying in a small hostel in the historic Alfama district, a stone’s throw from the Cathedral Se. On our first (jet lagged) evening, we walked around to get our bearings. For supper, we ventured into a restaurant that looked like it had reasonable prices, and ordered two random items off the menu, as we could not read a word of Portuguese. We had studied words like frango(chicken) and carne (meat), but could not see any familiar words on the menu! I ended up with sausage and a fried egg, and Jim got purple meat (we found out later that it was pork marinated in red wine). Both dishes came with French fries AND rice – carb heaven! And so we survived our first day.
8/20 – Lisbon! A beautiful sunny city, not too hot, with narrow cobblestone streets as hilly as San Francisco.
Lisbon has it’s own version of the Golden Gate Bridge, called the Ponte de 25 Abril:
We enjoyed a variety of street performers as we walked up and down the narrow streets, including a statue that sprang to life and tried to cut off people’s heads!
As a result of my summer of hiking, I strode up every hill without huffing or puffing. Thank you, Jim, for making me walk 500 miles!