Travel: Portugal (Day Seven)

Today, I spent a good bit of my time simply roaming the streets, watching people, and enjoying vacation time without rushing about. It was good, but I did have one place on my list that I was not going to miss: the ruins of the Convent of Santa Maria do Carmo (founded in 1389).

Most churches are well preserved, even if they have been struck by earthquakes/fire; however, some have reached a stage where nothing more can be done except stabilize the remaining structure and save whatever else is possible. Carmo is such a place.

“The Great Lisbon Earthquake” struck on November 1, 1755, at 9:40 a.m. In Lisbon, it is estimated that 30,000-40,000 people were killed in the quake and tsunami that followed. 85% of the city was destroyed. The royal library—some 70,000 volumes—was lost. Countless works of art were buried under tons of rubble or consumed by the fires that followed and have not been seen since. A loss on many levels, then… you pick up the pieces.

Since the earthquake and through the years, the church has stood as a minder of the tragedy the city experineced, and has also become a museum for treasures that were recovered. And lets face it, every museum should have a couple of mummies sitting around.

Afterward, I stopped for a while in Rossio Square, and after the influencers moved aside to let the rest of us in, I was able to capture a few images of the fountain.

I finally came across one of the funiculars. This is the Elevado da Glória, and it climbs a hill that is a 17.7% slope. You don’t want to walk it!

And, of course, I had to stop and eat: Pinóquio. My timing was perfect. When I arrived, there were several tables free, but for the next hour, there was a line of at least 20 individuals waiting to get in (I did not know that it was a popular place when I arrived. I was just hungry.)

I enjoyed the Prawn Cocktail, Seafood Pasta (lobster—I don’t think there was much, clams, shrimp, and pasta in a thin broth. Very good! This was served with 1/2 bottle of Maria Joaquina red wine and some sparkling water. I finished up with a very yummy café and Creme Catalão—think creme brulé on crack. It was a delicious meal.

Every inch is used for floor space and more tables, so you are essentially having your meal with the people sitting next to you. In this case, I was sitting next to two young Russian men. Well, they were speaking Russian, so I’m assuming here, and for whatever reason, I got it in my pointy little head that these were some of the fortunate young Russian men who were able to escape and avoid military service in Ukraine. I didn’t ask.

Following such decadence, I decided it was time to stop for prayer, so on the way back to the apartment, I stopped once again at St. Dominic’s (the church that was gutted by fire) and prayed a rosary.

Like Rome, being in these places where the saints have prayed for centuries is a truly remarkable feeling.

After doing a bit of complicated math, I discovered tonight was the night that I once again needed to do laundry. It is not that I’m out of clean clothes, but you have to figure in drying time, and I wasn’t up for hair-drying my clothes again or packing a bunch of wet clothes home, so here I am.

Tomorrow… tomorrow is a very full day. I’m finally headed to Fatima, and there are three other stops on the tour. The weather is perfect. It’ll be a remarkable trip.

If, while in Portugal, you need to tell someone to “Get lost!” You say to them, “Vai pentear Macacos!” “Go comb monkeys!” That may work in a sermon someday.

Travel: Portugal (you have to eat)

I had no plans on getting out today and I didn’t get very far, maybe about 60 steps to a delightful restaurant: Tandoor – A Taste of Punjab.

I enjoyed a bright yellowed Garnele Korma. I looked that up before I went because I know that sometimes Indian food can get more than a little spicy. The korma is a mild dish; despite the look of the picture, it was lightly curried, and the shrimp were perfectly cooked. It was served over a very long grain white rice. The Cobra beer was also a first. I can recommend it and I’m not a big beer person.

I’m having a great time trying new foods while I am here.

Travel: Lisbon (Day Five & Six)

I believe I played until about 1 a.m. this morning and did not take the time to write, although there are some jottings in my notebook that I may share here.

On this fine New Year’s Day, it is pouring rain, washing the air and the streets, so it has been officially decided by the powers that be that today will be a true Sabbath rest day. Still, yesterday… 18,000 steps took me many places, the first of which was across town to the Cais do Sodré train station, where I boarded the train to Cascais, but got off on the third stop, Belém. (FYI: it is really cheap to take the trains, ferry, buses, etc. I think yesterday’s ride was 1,35€.)

From the station, I walked to my first destination, The Padrão dos Descobrimentos, The Monument to the Discoveries. As with all such sites, it was crowded, but I can only imagine what it would be like during the high tourist season.

The monument (170 feet tall) was originally only a temporary structure with a minimum of material for the 1940 World’s Fair, but twenty years later was reconstructed for permanence. It is Henry the Navigator (Dom Henrique of Portugal, his statue is 26 feet tall) at the front who was responsible for choreographing much of the early Portuguese maritime expansion. Other figures represent princesses, cartographers, clerics, etc., who participated in the expansion work. I took a moment to be in Oklahoma on the map in front of the monument.

A half mile further up the street is the Belém Castle, the Tower of Saint Vincent, built in the 16th century. Its location was originally an island, guarding the entrance of the Tagus River, but the river did what rivers do—changed course—and the castle is now quite near the shore.

I then made my way across the main road/train tracks to see the Imperial Gardens (closed for remodeling) and St. Jeronimos (Jerome) Monastery (closed for the holiday), which was built in 1502. It is epic in size. To be able to walk through those doors would make it all worthwhile.

Then for lunch at Queijadas de Belém where I had a pretty good steak cooked in olive oil and garlic. And, yes, that was an exceptionally generous pour of wine. The espresso following the meal helped me to recover.

From lunch, I found a nearby park and just sat and enjoyed while looking up at this handsome fella. Researching it back at the apartment, I discovered that he is Afonso de Albuquerque, 1st Duke of Goa and Viceroy of Portuguese India. To demonstrate the power he commanded, one hand rests on the hilt of his sword while, with the other hand, he points at the guns under his feet (under his command).

This is where I chose to sit and write for a bit. Choose for yourself…

I’m sitting here thinking about how much/far Christianity has reached and helped the world to discover itself, and now that we have, we turn our backs on this faith. You cannot escape the symbols of Christianity, but like so much of the past—the world has thrown the baby out with the bathwater. It is sinful, but sin is no longer relevant in a world that chooses its own relevancy. It is out of fashion and has been discarded like last season’s dernier cri. We are dying, and we believe we are living.

Who is this man atop this pedestal—a pedestal supported by angels and the waves of the sea? Does his sword save him now, or has he become like us? Dead in shoes, going from place to place with no home or friend beside us. Ah! Now a seagull sits on his head and shits upon it! HA!

Children running in circles in play—aren’t we all.

I don’t know if those are good thoughts, odd thoughts, or no thoughts at all, but having spent my time out and about in this city without access to the internet, voicemail, email, text messages, Facebook, you name it, I have found myself once again thinking on my own and chasing ideas that have no bearing on the grand schemes of the world, but are enjoyable to let bounce inside my head. Enough of that…

The train took me back to my apartment and to the grocery store, which was jammed with holdiday shoppers and included a fight between a customer and store manager (when I say fight, it was more than words!) It was then that I decided to stay home for the rest of the evening. I’ve never been much on participating in these kind of holidays, but then I got hungry. I went in search of sushi (closed) so walked into the nearest restaurant, Taberna Da Baixa… my goodness! Delicious.

For starters, I ordered Bacalao (I didn’t know what it was) and it was… amazing. Bacalao is actually dried and salted codfish which is then rehydrated and combined in other dishes. For the maincourse, I had the Sea Bass. Also amazing, especially when paired with a good wine, which the waitress was kind enough to do for me, because the only thing I really know about wine is whether or not I like it (oh, and how to make it.)

The restaurant would only hold about about 30 people and I was the only single person there (New Year’s Eve and all). I must have been an oddity (or made one particular couple nervous) because she took a picture of me and then held it over for her husband(?) to see. He then kept taking these hard glances over his shoulder and staring at me. I have decided to immortalize their odd behavior in a short story. They will not like it if they read it.

I returned home after my meal and then at about ten minutes to midnight said to myself, “Self, you are in Lisbon, Portugal and it is New Year’s Eve. They’re about to shoot off fireworks and celebrate. What are you doing sitting here? Get yo bee-hind moving!” I listened and I cheered with the crowds.

Feliz Ano Novo, meus queridos amigos.

FYI: I had checked schedules for when sites would be open, but they did not account for the holiday. My plan is to return later this week in hopes of getting in.

Travel: Portugal (Day Three)

Yes, I posted earlier today but decided I needed at least one early night because who knows what New Year’s weekend will bring in this city. Let’s begin with the lights. Disclaimer: I have not found them all but I will continue to look.

I was standing next to the Christmas tree at a few minutes to six and thought it would surely come on at six. It did, and everyone in the square cheered. You had to smile.

I discovered more lights as I wandered the streets, but I haven’t yet found the street lined with jellyfish. I will keep searching. (Now that I think of it, I haven’t come across the pink street either! that will definitely be an intentional search because I don’t think you’re allowed to come to Lisbon without seeing it.) Some additional lights, and they are spectacular.

The restaurant I was having supper at did not open until 6:30 p.m., so I wandered about for a bit and came across a church (no pictures because…) that I did not expect. I went inside, and there was a service of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament underway. It was the time leading up to the prayers, and I had the opportunity to sit in peace with a dozen or so worshippers. I would have stayed, but the stupid cough kicked in, and I did not want to disturb folks. I will return at another time because the church was lovely (as was the service!) and I would like to spend more time there.

Supper: now, all you people who can’t stand my canned mackerel… don’t freak out! because it was so very good! It began with fresh oysters on the half-shell, followed by…

It was soooo amazing—octopus (when in Portugal). I’ve had octopus sushi style, which is definitely “chewy,” but this was so tender—served over pureed sweet potatoes, with an olive oil, tomato, onion, and other lovely goodness sauce. Had it with some sparking water and a nice red wine. Desert was ridiculous: Baixmar Floating Island—this was two scoops of a dense merangue ‘floating’ in a heavy vanilla creme. Lord, help us all. Had it with a nice flamed brandy and followed that up with an exceptional heavy port wine. People. People. People. When in Lisbon, please go to BaixaMar Lisboa for dinner. The service and the food were exceptional and you don’t have to order the octopus (although you should!)


Remember how Florence and Rome were about not forgetting to look up? Lisbon is about not forgetting to look down. Every sidewalk is made of tiles…

Someone was making hundreds of bubbles, and the children were delighted. Some strange old guy taking pictures was also.

Everyone loves a giant Panda.

And at the beginning of the evening was sunset, looking out across the river toward Cristo Rei and the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge.

I’ll be taking the ferry across the river tomorrow to visit the Cristo Rei.

Bênçãos para todos vocês.

Travel: Italy (Day Three)

After a quick breakfast in we headed out for the Basilica di San Marco. The original Benedictine monastery was established in the 13th century and was later occupied by the Dominicans who then refurbished and expanded the facility with the support of the Medici family. The architecture is phenomenal but the reason you are there is for the frescoes that grace the walls, which were painted by the great Dominican artist, Fra Angelico. Every monk’s cell has a scene from the life of Christ along with many of the walls along the hallways and cloister.

There are also works by several of the other brothers and this one of the Lord’s Supper caught my eye in particular but it wasn’t Jesus I saw first…

A few more from other artist.

I ended my time in this most holy place by praying the Rosary before this crucifix. It was a peaceful spot.

After a quick lunch (some tasty pasta) we worked our way through the crowds to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (aka: Duomo).

I’m still not entirely sure how it happened but will standing gawking (I apparently was silently screaming, “Gullible Tourist!) I managed to get swindled out of $25 Euros. I’ll try not be so nice in the future.

The interior of both the baptistery and the main church are quite austere when compared to some of the others we’ve seen, but as I said yesterday, “Look up.”

Below the Duomo is a church dating back to time between the 1st and 4th centuries. Only fragments remain but it provides a glimpse of our very distant past.

We made out way back to the VRBO by mid-afternoon. The heat today was wearing on us all, which allowed us time to rest and freshen up before heading out to dinner where we enjoyed some of the best Florence has to offer and what they are famous for: red meat/steak. You tell them what you want, but you do not tell them how to prepare it (rare/medium/etc). You order and they deliver. Trust me: they are the experts and you will not be disappointed.

And then we ate…

There was salad and bread and roasted potatoes and Florentine steak and Prosecco and Chianti Classico and caffe corretto (Sambuca was the correction to the coffee) and limon cello and Amaro and tiramisu and Tarte Della Nona with pine nuts and Strawberry Pavlova.

Nighty night!

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