Visiting Lisbon, I did something different – I booked a guided walking tour of the city for my first morning there. It turned out to be a good move, not only because I got an overview of the city, but because my guide was so knowledgeable and entertaining.
The tour filled my head with new names, history, and tidbits of information, including:
Luís de Camões, considered the greatest poet of the Portuguese language. His most famous work is the epic Os Lusíadas.
Fernando Pessoa, a 20th century writer whose statue is in front of Cafe A Brasilia. Having seen the statue, I noticed stylized representations of him numerous places.
The devastating 1755 earthquake, which killed tens of thousands of people and destroyed most of the city. Under the leadership of the Marquis of Pombal, the rebuilding of the city was planned and executed; it included the world’s first buildings designed to withstand earthquakes. Interestingly, part of the plan was that churches would not face main squares – they were either at least one block off a main square or the front doors did not face the square – in order to de-emphasize their place in the city and culture.
The Carnation Revolution of April 25, 1974, which overthrew the dictatorship in power and was the beginning of the end of Portuguese colonialism.
How to avoid the fee for the Santa Justa Elevador and still enjoy the great view!
The tiled buildings are picturesque, but when the entire building is covered in tiles, there’s no way for moisture to pass through, to the detriment of the walls’ stability. In places, tiles are falling from the buildings and ‘nets’ are in place to catch the tiles and protect pedestrians.
The story behind the city coat of arms, which I loved and took pictures of in all kinds of places. In the coat of arms, the ship is carrying the bones of the city’s patron saint, St. Vincent, escorted by the crows, who prevented animals and birds from scavenging the saint’s body.
The fish for the iconic bacalhau – dried, salted cod – does not come from the waters around Portugal; cod is a cold water fish. I should have realized this after all my years in New England.
St. Anthony of Padua, as he is known in the Christian world, was born in Lisbon. Igreja de Santo António is a church built on the site where, according to tradition, he was born. The inside of the cupola is lovely.
By the end of the tour, my head was swirling and I was reminded once again of how much there is to read and learn about, which is reassuring because I’d hate to be bored.
After lunch, I visited the Museu do Fado. The audio guide was helpful in explaining the origins and development of fado and included song excerpts. I put on my list for next time going to a place where I could hear the music live.
After walking nine miles and up and down hills, my after-dinner pastry was completely justified!
My thanks to Nuno of Lisbon Spirit for the wonderful Introduction to Lisbon tour.
Images © Melissa Corcoran.