Lisbon #2, Portugal 9/13
I guess there’s no rest for the weary tourist. Our campsite on the dock near the Belém Ferry Terminal was only a few blocks from the National Carriage Museum. Our friend, Rod Hall, the notorious Class 4 Off-Road and now Production Class Race Driver, had recommended it. The Carriage Museum was an astounding collection of dozens of elaborate coaches and carriages, many literally dripping with gold and silver, and mostly designed and built only for a single dignitary or an official event. Beautiful? Wow! But really? How much money can you spend on the wheels of a carriage for a one-time event?
Just down the street of the Carriage Museum was an absolute must-do in Lisbon. Everyone we had talked to since we entered Portugal told us we had to try the famous Pastéis de Belém. These turned out to be very light little flaky cups full of delicious cream custard. The recipe has been in the family since 1837. Best eaten warm with a good cup of coffee, they were wonderful, and we stopped there more than once during our stay in Lisbon.
Catching the tram or bus into downtown, we could see a whole new side of the city. Praça do Comércio, the main plaza, was impressive and it led to a web of narrow streets and alleys lined with stores and little cafés and bars. Even from downtown we could see the ramparts of the Castelo de São Jorge. Dating from the Visigothic times, St. George’s Castle had some wonderful views of the city, as well as being a World Heritage site.
Once downtown, one of the best and most exciting ways to get around are the old trolleys that wind their way through some streets so narrow even a car cannot pass. It was on one of these trolleys where we let our guard down. Packed into an elbow-to-elbow crowd, standing room only, we later realized we had been set up. As the trolley car (Line 28) rumbled, pitched and twisted through the narrow streets, the pushing and shoving passengers easily distracted us.
After transferring my wallet to my front pocket where it should’ve been, I glanced down to see that Monika’s backpack was open and her wallet hanging out. It could’ve been worse. We lost about €50. Right after that she took a picture of the sign, “BEWARE of Pickpockets”. Too late but a lesson learned. According to a fellow camper who was a local policeman, Trolley Line 28 is especially notorious for getting ripped off.
That evening we joined Portuguese friends who had invited us to the Clube de Fado, an excellent restaurant where we were treated to an exquisite Fado performance. Fado is an important part of the Portuguese hearts, especially in Lisbon. It’s impossible to describe except to say that it is a combination of folk music, blues, soul, and wonderful music played on a unique Portuguese guitar.
Not allowing our experience with the notorious pickpockets to taint our visit, after a few more days of sightseeing we stopped briefly at the huge monument of Christ overlooking the river and the city before heading south.