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Trip Report Part one: Lisbon

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I am sitting by the beautiful pool at the Pousada in Evora and thought I would start our trip report as I imagine it will be long. More on Evora later.

So Lisbon - first an overall impression that I suspect is colored by the part of the city we stayed in (Lapa) - the analogy I keep coming back to is she is a beautiful lady who has raised too many children and worked too many hours. The buidlings are beautiful - marble and many of them covered in gorgeious tiles - but also covered in grafitti almost everywhere, and a lot of trash (though that could have had to do with St. Anthony's day). On our last night we ate out in a different part of town (near the Ritz etc) and that looked a good deal more upbeat - sort of like 5th ave in NY.

We arrived on time but weary of course and cleared customs and got our luggage in very short order. We stayed at As Janeles Verdes on the street of the same name, a bit off the beaten track, but oh my I cannot say enough nice things about them. When we arrived they offered us breakfast in the courtyard. All the front desk staff spoke not only impeccable English but from what I could tell pretty darn good French and German as well. Our room was small but pleasant, and the bathroom was gorgeous and huge. Each room comes with a carafe of Port gratis. There is a library and balcony on the third floor with a lovely view of the river and ships going by (we had a full moon) and an honor bar stocked with drinks both alcoholic and non. Breakfast was in a lovely courtyard with a fountain and honestly, it was my favorite hotel breakfast ever, with Nesspresso coffee maker, fresh breads, cheeses, meats, eggs, etc. All the staff was helpful and friendly. and it was most reasonable.

The hotel gave us a free pass to the Museu of Ancient Art which is next door so we went there the first day and it has a wonderful collection. Very enjoyable.

The next day we tried to get a visit to the Alfama in before St. Anthony's festival started. We took a taxi to the Praca Commercio - only really negative part so far as he literally took us for a ride which was most annoying - grrr). We bought Lisboa cards which cover most museums and public transport. because of the festival and a number of places we wanted to see being closed we probably didn't quite break even, but given that it encouraged us to use the public transport instead of taxi's it probably saved us money in the long run.

A word about the public transportation. We took buses almost everywhere (never ended up taking the subway probably becasue there wasn't a stop near our hotel). Other than sometimes having to wait a bit in the heat (isn't it a truism that your bus is always the last to arrive (: ) it worked quite well. lThe buses were clean and air conditioned and everyone was friendly. It was a little difficult occasionally knowing where to get off as the stops aren't well marked, but when we asked the drivers they did let us know.

Back to the Alfama. I don't know if it was the heat or the festival or that we got rather hopelessly lost and then when we did find things they were closed, but it wasn't my cup of tea. Too crowded, too much alcohol and cigarette smoke in most places.. The castle was lovely and interesting, but disappointing in not being well labelled so not a lot of info re what happened where. the museum of archeology next door was fascinating. And to be fair we were probably still tired from the flight and it was hot hot hot to be climbing those streets and not knowing where we are going (we are finding that maps don't help much in the little ancient maze like streets - gps is better for walking).

The next day we took the bus to Belem and loved it. The Monastary is gorgeous, my husband really liked the maritime museum, and the monument is great. Had a fun italiian lunch next to the water. Unfortunately once again things were closed due to St Anthony and that was disappointing..

Day four we followed my passion and went to the Azulejos museum, a bit off the beaten path but absolutely exquisite and worth the trip, and then took the bus back to the Chiado and ended up eating lunch at the museum of modern art there which was really pleasant, and the museum was a good education re Portuguese painters, in all different eras, that we had never heard of. It is small, but really worth the visit.

I will do a separate post on food and restaurants after the trip is over.

The next day we said a sad farewell to our hotel and then picked up our rental car and took off for the Alentejo.. After slight cconfusion getting out of the airport, the trip was easier than i could have imagined. As others have reported the roads were empty and beautifully maintained (and i usually hate highway driving), signs are easy to follow, plenty of rest stops (that sell fresh cherries!) the only difficult part was finding our hotel once we got to Evora - following the gps was a mistake as it lead us into a street that was for pedestrians only - it was quite an adventure, but we arrived safely at last.

More on the Alentejo and Bussaco in part II. Tchau

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