Lisbon

My first impression of the center of Lisbon wasn’t as good as I had expected. I got out of metro Rossio to walk into a hectic crowd of tourists staring clueless at their city maps, hoping to find their way to the streets with english menus.

As much as I understand the utility of maps, I don’t share this necessity. I didn’t have a map. I rarely have one. Instead, I’ll start somewhere in the center and then just walk until my legs won’t carry my body anymore.

I get lost many times, but as long as you’re cautious, getting lost is a good thing. It’s the best way to discover a city from a different angle – getting off the usual tourist track that focus on the top historical buildings to hit an alternative road that leads you through completely different stories.

Many buildings were decorated with tiles, but this one was my very favorite one.

The paving stones on Lisbon’s old streets are characteristic from Portugal.

I found orange trees exposing these juicy fruits, right there, on the streets.

Avenida da Liberdade and a beautiful knob on a side street.

Street Art, near Praça do Duque de Saldanha.

Do you follow an itinerary on a map or do you simply walk wherever your heart takes you?

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How do you adapt from living on one of Europe’s top beach destinations to one of its top winter sport destinations? Well, really, you don’t.

I do enjoy the summer at the lake, preparing BBQs, drinking beers with friends and skating along its promenades. I even like the snow during winter – it even encouraged me to try out snowboarding! But there’s something about the sun, the warm breeze, feeling the salt and the sand on your skin, listening to the waves come and go… that can’t be replaced with a BBQ in a park.

On the day of my arrival to Lisbon, I took a cab to Costa Da Caparica – popular for its many beaches and highly frequented because of its proximity to Lisbon. To be frank, I expected a sort of portuguese Benidorm – I was so wrong (again). 40 minutes and 25 euros later, I arrived to a paradise – Praia Morena.

Nothing. I did nothing but lay on my sun bed watching the few people, listening to the sea and, from time to time, cooling down in the ocean. I didn’t turn on my ipod. I didn’t take out my book. I think I hadn’t felt that decompressed in almost two years.

The delicious tropical salad I had over lunch at Borda d’Agua surely contributed to my moment of complete happiness.

Sure I can accept living away from the beach, I can even adapt to this new situation finding different sorts of entertainment. But I will never get rid of the beach person inside me – sun, ocean and sand will always be part of my source of happiness.

I’ve gone missing for a week and I owe you a reasonable explanation – I’ve been traveling. A lot. Not every trip has been worth blogging about it – unless you want me to blog about day trips, bank meetings and negotiations! That was the case of my day trip to Brussels and to Paris, and my 3-day trip to The Netherlands. Ok, this last one was actually more fun than that – it involves argentinian steaks, coffee shops and a visit to the inside of a 10,000m3 liquid tank. But all-in-all, its still work (and there were no pictures that would go with my stories!).

This changed on Thursday, when I finally took off to Lisbon, Portugal – for pleasure!.

Looking back, I can’t believe that, having lived so many years in Madrid, I never took the chance to hop on a budget flight to Portugal. The country has so much to offer in terms of beaches and food, but also art and architecture.

Particularly the Architecture.

During the 16th century, portuguese architects developed a very characteristic style that marks the transition between the late Gothic and Renaissance. The Manueline style, named after King Manuel I, didn’t last long, but its exuberant and sumptuous elements have played an important role in the country’s history.

It was strongly influenced by Portugal’s Age of Discovery – the century during which the country discovered Brazil, established several trading routes through southern Asia and colonized selected parts of Africa. Its maritime strength and successful discoveries have been reflected in its ornamental style.

The Jerónimos Monastery in Belem, Lisbon, is one of the most important achievements of the Manueline style.

As I walked closer, I noticed the less obvious details that makes this building a piece of art.

Each of its towers is unique.

Its windows show the influence of the Far East and are adorned with maritime elements, such as the ropes that decorate this balcony.

Each of its portals is sumptuous and packed with elaborated elements and figures.

I couldn’t stop looking at it – always hoping to discover something else! Did I visit the inside? No, I didn’t – and I somewhat regret this decision. In my defense, it was hot and there were more than 50 people queuing outside, so in case you’d like to check out its interior, I’d recommend to do so at its opening (10am).

In any case, while in the city, you shouldn’t miss it out (even if you’re not that into architecture), after all…

  1. The Treaty of Lisbon, which lays down the basis for the reform of the European Union, was signed in the Monastery in December 2007
  2. Five architects worked during more than 50 years on its design, ornaments and scultures, providing each of them different characteristics – some more using more Gothic elements, others rather Renaissance themes
  3. The Manueline Style was spread throughout the Portuguese Empire, reaching as far as Macau, China

Have you visited the Jerónimos Monastery or seen Manueline elements in former portuguese empires?