|Tagus River and 25 de Abril bridge|
Another of my favorite bits of history was Napoleon's attempted takeover of Lisbon in the early 1800s. While his troops physically did take the city, the royal family fled to its South American colony of Brazil beforehand, essentially transferring the Portuguese crown across the ocean so that Napoleon had no political dominance over Portugal and its empire. For thirteen years, Rio de Janeiro functioned as the head of the Portuguese empire instead of Lisbon, and Brazil gained more power and independence out of the deal.
A must-visit is the district of Belém, located a bit down the river near the Atlantic. You can get there the easy way by tram, or the difficult way by metro and train, which is what I did. There are several popular attractions in the area and it's worth spending perhaps 3/4 of a day there, depending on what season it is and the length of lines. I was most attracted by a free modern art museum, Museu Coleção Berardo. While it again had some art that was way too far out for my taste, I enjoyed seeing works by some major artists like Kline, Picasso, Dali, and Warhol.
Walking back to the train stop, I came across another UNESCO site, St. Jerome's Monastery. The next time I find myself in Lisbon, I will definitely brave the line to see the inside, but this time it was too hot and I was still a little under the weather from being ill in Porto. I did admire the outside of the place, which is already stunning and made up of intricately-carved white stone.
|Monet at the Gulbenkian|
São Roque was right next to my hostel, also near to a lookout point on one of Lisbon's seven hills. The lookout point, called the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, was also home to food stands, artists, music, and dancing at all hours of the day. Another of my favorite lookout points was on the opposite side of town, the São Jorge castle. While you do have to pay to enter, and while the castle itself isn't much to marvel at, the view at sunset is not to be missed.
|View from Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara|
|View from São Jorge castle|
Two other not-to-be-missed food items are the heated breakfast ham and cheese croissants at cafés, which are much doughier than their French counterparts, and the pasteis de nata, a small custard pastry.
Any visit to Lisbon is incomplete without at least a day trip to nearby Sintra, which can be accessed cheaply by train. Sintra is a small but charming town surrounded by coastal foothills and castles. It's one of the most picturesque places I've ever been to; I only devoted a half-day to it but would certainly return for more. Sintra has its own castle, but you can also hop on one of several bus circuits through the hills to visit other castles and views. It's efficient, but the lines of people during tourist season can get very long. With the time that I had, I chose to visit the Palace of Pena. It's a fascinating multi-colored castle nestled in the hills; you can go on a short tour of the inside, but the main plug is the breathtaking view and interesting architecture. It began as a monastery built around the year 1500. Various kings and queens later inhabited it until the early 1900s, and it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.
Portugal certainly merited a place on my list of places to return to. Everyone I met was kind and welcoming, and the country has a unique beauty that can't be found elsewhere.
At the end of August, I boarded a flight from Lisbon to Lyon, and the next day took a high-speed direct train to Lille to begin a new life chapter.