“I can’t believe we still love this city so much,” Cate yelled as her umbrella flipped inside out. “I know! This is the worst, but it’s also totally the best!” I replied, feet squishing inside my boots. The weather in Lisbon on Saturday morning was miserable, but an end-of-the-world style monsoon didn’t stop us from having a great time. Fueled by delicious pancakes from the hostel breakfast, we set out to brave the storm.
Highlights of the second day:
–Museu do Design e da Moda: We didn’t make it far from the hostel before our shoes were squishing, so we stopped to dry off at Lisbon’s Fashion and Design Museum. The owner of our hostel had recommended it as a free attraction to visit and said it was a cool space to walk around for 15 minutes, but we ended up spending close to an hour meandering through the exhibits.
The museum is housed inside an old bank building – the bank closed in the 1960s, but the museum moved in to the vacant space in 2009. Unsurprisingly, the main floor was dedicated to exhibits about fashion and design throughout the 20th century. The basement bank vault, however, acted as a “seed bank.” The safety deposit box area was exhibition space, and many of the deposit box slots were filled with different varieties of Portuguese plant seeds. On the first floor (American second floor), we found an awesome exhibit about shared city space and the unique communities created in urban areas. It reminded me so much of my “City in American Culture” class and all of the readings I did on urban theory, design, and planning. Most of the exhibit had English translations, but the materials focusing on the importance of walking weren’t translated. I was able to get the gist and relate it back to all my Certeau readings anyhow.
–Torre de Belem: We visited the tower because it’s Lisbon’s biggest landmark. It was just ok. It was absolutely pouring rain by the time we made it out to Belem, so we got out of the cab, took some pictures, and flagged another cab to a bakery to warm up. Even if it had been nice, I don’t think I would have been super impressed with the tower. There are cooler, less expensive things to see in Lisbon that are closer to the city center.
–Pasteis de Belem: After our very brief visit to Torre de Belem, Cate and I took a taxi straight to this famous bakery to try out the legendary Pasteis de Belem sweets. The creamy tarts were delicious, especially when we dumped cinnamon and powdered sugar on top!
–Jeronimos Monastery: At the Torre de Belem, we had agreed that we could pass on the monastery if it was raining too hard. We didn’t plan on going in the actual monastery because we had heard that the entry fee was rather steep, but when the rain cleared, we walked over to visit the adjoining church. Good call! We got to see the tomb of Vasco de Gama and some fantastic stonework during our quick loop around the church.
–Parque das Nações: By the time we made it over to the east side of Lisbon (Belem is west), the weather had completely changed. Parque das Nações was built when Lisbon hosted the 1998 Expo to commemorate 500 years of Portuguese discoveries and explorations. The area is totally different from the city center – all of the buildings look super modern. We walked around the park, enjoying the sunshine along the river and straining to see the end of the Vasco de Gama Bridge, the longest bridge in Europe. I even got a little bit sunburned from sitting by the marina.
–Oceanário: The Lisbon Aquarium is situated in near the center of Parque das Nações. The architecture of the building was really cool – it was constructed so that it is completely surrounded by water, appropriate for an aquarium. Inside, it’s divided into four areas to represent four different oceans (Atlantic, Pacific, Antarctic, Indian). The four side tanks appear to merge together at the large central tank, creating the illusion of one gigantic tank. It would have been cool to see some baby belugas, but I enjoyed seeing the sea otters and little penguins.
It seemed like everywhere we went, Lisboans we encountered spoke about a dreadful earthquake. The earthquake destroyed the Baixa shopping district, the earthquake ripped this chapel in half, the earthquake ruined the city. Earthquake this, earthquake that.
The earthquake happened in 1755. The United States wasn’t even a country then. And guess what? In a quarter of a millennia, Lisbon has managed to rebuild into a pretty nice place. So quit griping, Lisbon. You’re not Port-au-Prince. It wasn’t last year. Calm down!
All in all, Lisbon was a gorgeous city. In the historical center, most of the buildings had these lovely painted tile facades, evidence of the Moorish influence on the area. The tiled buildings weren’t just pretty to look at, they were practical too. The idea of being able to hose off and wipe down a building really appealed to the neat freak in me.
There was one major thing that Cate and I didn’t do in Lisbon. We didn’t go to the bars and nightclubs in Bairro Alto. We actually ran into a few Notre Dame students from the Toledo, Spain program when we visited the castle on Friday, and we saw them again at the aquarium on Saturday afternoon. When we spoke to them on Friday, I got the distinct impression that they weren’t really in Lisbon to see Lisbon. They were in Lisbon to see a Katy Perry concert on Sunday night. And I think that’s too bad. Sure, there will be plenty of times to go to bars, but I’d much rather spend my time in a new city exploring and doing things that I couldn’t do in Rome. Cate and I had planned on going out on Saturday night, but after a great dinner in a restaurant that used to be a monastery (home to Portugal’s first brewery), we realized that we had four hours until we had to be heading to the airport to catch our flight back to Rome. We were exhausted from a busy day of sightseeing, so we decided to go back to the hostel. I’m glad we did what we did because it left Lisbon unfinished. Now I have an excuse to go back!