Wednesday, May 11, 2011

5 days in Lisbon

Lisbon isn't Paris but it does have some interesting tourist and culture attractions. The best known are the UNESCO world heritage sites of St. Jeronomo Monastery where Vasco de Gama is buried, and Belem Tower, a monument to Portugal's maritime history which stems from the 16th Century.

The inner city suffers from urban blight during the day and badly needs renewal. However the bars, nightclubs and restaurants come alive at night with the primary draw being Fado, the Portuguese version of the blues which developed in Lisbon's poor neighborhoods. We had dinner one evening while being entertained by fado singers  We like it ok but a little goes a long way when you don't understand Portuguese. Ironically, Gertrud and I first heard fado about 5 years ago at an outdoor international folk festival in Salt Lake.  The singer was a tall blond named Maritza who had a stunning stage presence and who it turns out is one of the biggest name in fado and known throughout Portugal.  Here is a youtube link with Maritza singing fado. 

On Saturday we visited several towns outside Lisbon including Sintra where the royal family spent its summers when it ruled Portugal.  Sintra Palace is the first palace I've seen with chimneys as the dominant feature. 

We especially enjoyed Cabo da Roca, the most Westerly point in Europe which is covered with some of the most beautiful wild flowers we have ever seen.  We also visited the elegant beach resort of Cascais and the spa of Estoril.  All of these places are within an hour of Lisbon and serve as bedroom communities for businessmen and officials who work in the city. 

On Tuesday, while I was working, Gertrud took a tour (no, not a pilgrimage) to Fatima, one of the most visited Catholic pilgrimage sites for the worship of Mary.  I took the same trip 5 years ago and was quite amazed by the devotion. The tour bus also make stops in the medieval seaside village of Obidos, in the fishing village of Nazare and the Batalha Monastery. 

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