The final day in Lisbon was seriously hot. After breakfast we tidied the studio and then set off rather later than usual for a final day of sightseeing in the city.
First stop was the castle, but the castle is in Alfama district and this is separated from Baixa district by a sort of deep gorge which requires going down a lot of steps on one side and then going up a lot of steps on the other. We could have used the funicular tram but at €3.20 I considered this a bit expensive for a five hundred yard journey so we walked instead.
Eventually we reached the castle entrance and immediately ran into a line of people queuing to pay and go inside. After Sintra the previous day neither of us had the patience for another long wait so we abandoned the castle and walked back down the hill to the Cathedral. It was a shame because the castle guide book boasted the best views in the city.
I don’t remember very much about the Cathedral, it isn’t a very impressive building from the outside and these days I am moving closer to Kim’s views on Cathedrals that pretty much they are all the same on the inside. I took some photographs as I always do and wondered why because I am certain never to look at them or use them for anything.
By midday an electronic sign on a pharmacy shop announced that the temperature was 42° centigrade (about 105° Fahrenheit) and at some point around about now Kim declared that she could stand it no longer and had lost her appetite for sightseeing so demanded some money for the funicular tram and set off back to the studio for a quiet afternoon. I decided to carry on – Mad dogs and Englishmen and that sort of thing.
Alone now I picked up the pace and made for the Elevador to Santa Justa, a neo Gothic iron structure designed and built by a student of Gustave Eiffel, I would have liked to have taken the lift to the top but there was an inevitable queue and progress looked positively snail like so still not in the mood for queues I abandoned the idea and moved on. It was a shame because the elevator tower guide book boasted the best views in the city.
Lisbon was so busy and I was taken by surprise by that. I suppose sensibly September is a good time to visit a city in Southern Europe when ordinarily visitors might expect the temperatures to be a bit kinder. Not today.
Seeking the shade of the tall buildings I wandered through the streets down towards the River Tagus and found myself unexpectedly back at the Commercial Centre (Praça do Comércio) and came across a ticket office for a climb to the top of the Arco da Rua Augusta which boasted the best views in the city and as surprisingly there was no queue I bought a ticket and went to the top.
I have no idea what the views would have been like from the castle or the elevator but this one was just fine and I spent thirty minutes or so looking out of the city in one direction and the River Tagus in another. Before going back down I congratulated myself on being patient and waiting for a climb and a view.
After the Arco da Rua Augusta I made my way to the river and then to the city market and as I generally like stepped inside for a look. It was a bit disappointing, I am certain that this was once a thriving working class market where ordinary people came to shop but today it has been gentrified and the shops and the food hall are expensive and geared towards the tourists and the city bourgeoisie.
I didn’t stop long and went to the railway station next door and joined another glacial ticket machine queue and waited to pay my fare to visit nearby Belém, it took forever, I could have walked there in the time it took to get to the front of the line but fortunately this didn’t inconvenience me so much and I didn’t miss the next train.
I immediately liked Belém, it was a little more relaxed than Lisbon city centre. I walked first to the east for a good view of the suspension bridge and then to the west to the UNESCO listed Belém Tower and then to the real reason that I wanted to visit, The Monument to the Discoveries.
Located on the edge of the north bank of the Tagus, the fifty metre high slab of concrete, was erected in 1960 to commemorate the five hundredth anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator. The monument is sculpted in the form of a ship’s prow, with dozens of figures from Portuguese history following a statue of the Infante Henry looking out to the west perhaps contemplating another voyage of discovery.
By now it was late afternoon so after a cold beer I took the train back to Lisbon and climbed the steps and streets back to the apartment. It was surprisingly easy, after four days I had just about mastered the street map and could navigate my way around but it was our last day in Lisbon and tomorrow we were heading north to the small city of Tomar.