Beware – this is a long post! We have seen so much in the last couple days. I like writing to not only share, but to have a record for ourselves!
Have Paddles, Will Travel?
We have learned that travelling with precious paddles adds excitement to the adventure! We want to use our own paddles on our kayak trip down the Douro and so we figured, to keep them safe, we would just take them as a carry on bag. Well, that isn’t possible because the case is too long for most overhead compartments. So the desk agent in Nanaimo said “just do a gate check; leave the bag on the jetway (or tarmac in Nanaimo) and pick them up when you deplane”. Sounded simple enough. Worked like a charm on the Nanaimo-Vancouver leg. And then in Vancouver, we left them on the jetway and boarded the flight for Montreal. But when we landed in Montreal, we were told we had to pick them up at the luggage carousel. It was unclear if he meant Montreal or Lisbon. So we did not know where the paddles were. To top it off, air travel has returned to normal so we landed 30 minutes late in Vancouver and our our Lisbon flight was supposed to be boarding at that time. Oh, and our departing gate was at the opposite end of the terminal from where we landed. So with adrenalin rushing, we started through the terminal and stopped at a customer service desk to plead our case; “can you please find out where our paddles are?” When she started making the 3rd phone call, after 2 unsuccessful ones, she said “just go to your gate; they will not hold the plane and we will find them”. That gave us a lot of comfort. NOT. So we literally ran/ fast walked the length of the terminal and arrived breathless and sweaty at the gate, only to find out they had not yet started boarding. The desk agent there said “don’t worry, the bag is tagged to Lisbon, you are fine”. That gave us a lot of confidence. NOT. We had no choice but to board, hoping that it would all work out. And low and behold, just as we were settling into our seats, the agent came on and found us, and told us that someone walked the paddles down to this gate, and they are now on the plane. It was wonderful that the staff followed up like that, and even more gratifying that our babies were safe. I think there was some misunderstanding at the jetway in Montreal; the person there did not really understand what we asked, because the paddles were found on the jetway, after we left to go to the gate. All is well now, we were reunited at the Lisbon airport, but we had to endure a 1.5 hour trudge through the customs hall. A lot of planes land early in the morning, full of sleepy tourists. We could easily pick out the American tourists; they were not wearing masks in the overcrowded hall.
Anyway that is a long story but shows what crazy people do to use their favourite light, carbon fibre paddles on trips in foreign lands!
So we have just finished our second day in Lisbon and have seen so much already. Yesterday we took an e-bike tour in the afternoon, for two reasons. First, to keep us awake long enough to help adjust to the time change and secondly, it’s a great way to get a first impression of the city. We covered a lot more ground than possible on a walking tour and the e-bike made quick work of the hills. Our guide was fantastic; we learned so much. Today, when we walked around the city we had a much better understanding of the layout and main features of the city.
Lisbon is actually a river city, situated along the River Tejo, a large river that empties into the Atlantic. We learned that salt water extension 40 km up the river. The city is essentially the San Francisco of Europe. Lots of steep hills, a bridge across the river that mimics the Golden Gate bridge because it was built in the same era (see above), and several tram lines snaking through the city. There are about 6 distinct neighbourhoods, each with their own flavour. We are staying in the Alfama district, which is between the castle, Castelo de Sao Jorge, high on the hill, and the river. So it was a busy place being so close to the harbour and river. Alfama is the birthplace of Fado, the soulful and intricate singing/ guitar playing music. We have heard it as we walk by restaurants in the evening, and while we can’t understand what they are saying, the instrumental music is beautiful. Our flat is on a street not accessible by car. We are enjoying the lovely rooftop terrace, that affords a beautiful view of the river and surrounding neighbourhood, complete with red clay roofs. We have to climb a ladder to get there, but it’s worth it! It’s a great place for breakfast and then relaxing after a long day of sightseeing to watch the sunset and lights come one.
The city was devastated by an earthquake, tsunami and fire in 1755 ,so most of the buildings were destroyed. In the old sectors, buildings were simply built on the same medieval streets so there are lots of narrow, winding streets and we are very reliant on Google Maps. In the commercial centre, new roads in a grid structure were created and that area has a very different feel from the old areas. Almost all the streets and sidewalks are cobblestone, often in a beautiful black and white pattern of some kind. Not a city for spike heels; I left mine at home 😉
Tiles are another characteristic feature of Lisbon. Many facades are faced with tiles in a myriad of colours, styles and sizes Some are geometric designs, others large paintings over many tiles. They are beautiful and help moderate the inside temperature from the heat.
Lisbon is also known for its pastries, particularly “Pastel de Nata”. It is a custard tart, in a really flaky crust dusted with cinnamon and sugar, and if you go to the right shop, it will be fresh and still warm. So so good!
Today we walked and walked and saw many of the sights that we had on our list.
The castle, Castelo de Sao Jorge (Castle of St. George) was by the Crusaders who invaded Lisbon in 1157. It afforded great views of the city and was really interesting to visit.
We also visited several churches, from the huge and ‘simple’ Romanesque /Gothic Lisbon Cathedral to the overwhelmingly ornate Baroque inside of Sao Roque.
The highlight for both us was the Convento do Carmo. It was destroyed in the earthquake, but the southern facade still stands. With arches soaring above where walls would have been, contrasted with the blue sky, it was magical to walk though the ‘open air church’.
So far we have really enjoyed our time in the city. It’s interesting, though, that it has not captured our ‘heart’ like other cities such as London, Venice, Barcelona, and we can’t quite figure out why. There is lots to see, it’s picturesque with the red roofs, winding and hilly streets etc., but it is not ‘magical’.
We have really enjoyed the warm high 20’s weather and cloudless blue skies; a welcome respite from rainy Ladysmith. Stay tuned for more adventures!