Our flight arrived in London a little late because we were delayed by air traffic control. Once we landed, we were soon out of the airport and into our overnight hotel just outside the airport perimeter. It was quite a relief after such a long flight to have a shower and change our clothes. Jet lag had hit us with a vengeance and it was all we could do to stay awake until dinner. We had made a reservation in the restaurant for 7.00 pm but just after 6.00 pm we gave up and went down for an earlier meal. Dinner was over quickly and we were back in our room by 7.00 pm, no longer able to keep our eyes open.
Needless to say, we were awake very early in the morning. It was just as well as we had to be back at the airport in time for our 7.40 am flight to Lisbon. After a breakfast in the BA Lounge, we were on our way to Lisbon on a 2 1/2 hour flight to the capital of Portugal. The pilot announced that the weather was very ordinary, but we found that at 21C and overcast it was still a nice enough day for us to wander around in a sort sleeved shirt and feel very comfortable.
We haven’t been to Lisbon before, so after settling in to our room, and having a snack for lunch, we wandered down the road to the main city square for a short exploration of the city. Our first impression of Lisbon is that it is a rather quaint and interesting city (as distinct from beautiful). The topography is hilly and there are many apartment buildings and residences that seem to be positioned on top of each other up the hillsides that surround us. Portugal was very hard-hit by the GFC and there are obvious signs that the economy is very depressed. There seem to be a lot of empty buildings. Footpaths do not appear to have had any money spent on them for sometime and there are quite a number of people in the streets that look to be poor or homeless.
Our hotel is on Avenida da Liberdade. This broad avenue is a 90 metre-wide boulevard, 1.1 km long, with ten lanes divided by pedestrian pavements and a central plantation and gardens. It was built between 1879 and 1886, quickly becoming a preferred address for the wealthy. One of the interesting memorials on this avenue is the Portuguese WW1 memorial. Portugal took a neutral stance until 1916 when it interned a number of German ships that were blockading its transport route to England, its biggest trading partner. Germany then declared war on Portugal and over 50,000 Portuguese soldiers served France with 7,000 deaths.
We found two squares that almost adjoin each other. The first, Restauradores Square is dedicated to the restoration of the independence of Portugal in 1640, after 60 years of Spanish domination. An obelisk in the middle of the square, inaugurated in 1886, carries the names and dates of the battles fought during the Portuguese Restoration War.
The second, just past the main railway station is Rossio Square, one of the nicest open spaces in all of Lisbon. It has been an an important meeting place in the city since the 13th and 14th centuries, when the population of the city expanded to the lower area away from the walls of the Lisbon Castle. The name “Rossio” is roughly equivalent to the word “commons” in English, and refers to a commonly owned terrain. Like most other southern European public places, it contains a state of a famous person and fountains linked to the memory of some old, but not forgotten, noble. The concert hall at the north end of the square was once the location where the Portuguese versions of the Spanish Inquisition were held.
The best fun we had during the day was to catch a little yellow funicular up a very steep street to a park that gave us a great view across the city towards the old castle. Lisbon is famous for its old trams and while there was an old tram track along the street that runs along the hill at the top of he funicular, it was obvious that this route, at least, had been replaced by busses. The view across the city was splendid. Perhaps we will see more of the old trams later in our stay.
We certainly did better with a jet lag on this second day of our trip. We were able to stay awake until 9.30 pm and we felt that this was a much more respectable hour to go to bed. Perhaps our next night will be even later.