We landed in Lisbon around noon on the first leg of our 12-day adventure to Lisbon and Spain. Feeling jet-lagged, all we really wanted to do was rest. Our tour guide, Sandra, is a passionate believer in getting up and getting going as soon as you arrive at your destination. So she granted us time for lunch and a brief nap and off we went into the Old City of Lisbon.
But first, she announced we were going to learn to take the metro. Seriously, a dirty old metro system, we cried? With a rather smug look, she said that we would be surprised. Lisbon’s metro began construction in 1955 and was first put into service in 1959. Over the years, the number of lines and the many locations is serves has been greatly expanded.
As we descended the long escalator, much to our surprise the station was almost an art museum of its own, filled with mosaics of bright designs and colors. A sleek train can screaming down the tracks, loading and unloading, and off we went.
“Now just remember the red line to the green line and back,” she shouted over the dim of the train. Jumping off at the intersection we hastily made our way off the red line to the green line dazed by the beauty of the terminal itself.
Finally, our stop – the Old City – Alfama, then Baixa. Alfama is the oldest district of Lisbon, a labyrinth of cobbled streets and alleyways, which follow the ancient medieval layout of the city, and leads up from the Tejo Estuary to the castle. Originally Alfama was situated outside of the city walls and was the home to the poor and desperate. Later on, the district became the grim home of sailors and dock workers, but today is a reminder of the mix of old and new worlds.
The Baixa district was completely destroyed by the devastating 1755 earthquake, and the reconstruction followed one of the first examples of a grid-and-block layout. Baixa comprises of magnificent plazas and wide avenues, which are lined with grand Baroque buildings.
We finished our day with ice cream to sustain us for the ride back to our hotel. We had a lovely dinner at a quaint restaurant near our hotel. As Sandra tucked us into for the night, she said, “Get ready for adventure bright and early tomorrow!”