A Summer Visit to Lisboa, Portugal

by Imara Renaud-Krutulis on July 29, 2014

in Behind the Scenes, Education, Museum Issues, Travel and Tourism

Part of the ShopforMuseums.com Armchair Travel with Us Through Europe series.

View of Lisboa, Portugal
Lisbon, Portugal (known in Portuguese as Lisboa), is a coastal city filled with centuries of history. The city dates back to 1249.

Portugal is a beautiful place. Music is constantly floating down streets into eagerly waiting ears- mine being one of them, once I realized how full of life the capital is. I ventured to two cities, Lisboa (Lisbon, the capital of Portugal) and Sintra. Both offer tons of history around every corner. I saw more of Lisboa than Sintra though, as that was the place the MV Explorer was docked. The Trade Square, where the last King and his son were assassinated in 1908, was about a 10 minute walk from where we docked. (It could have been longer, I walked there with friends so it seemed quite short.) The only thing I saw of Sintra was the streets passing by, an amazing view from a Moorish castle after zip-lining, and the sensational coastal view after that. I didn’t really get to explore it- which I’ll remedy someday!

Sintra, Portugal Coastal view
View of the Portuguese Coastline from the city of Sintra

My first day in Portugal was spent on a “field lab” as part of my class on Travel Writing. Before I met my class at 9:30 in Classroom 1 to go down the gangway as a group, there was an announcement of events going on in the city for the day: an LGBTQIA Pride parade, a protest march, and a festival were all going to happen. Of the three events, my class and I only encountered the protest march (it was in the afternoon, and about how the Government cut wages by 10%. There’s been a protest for this about once a month since it happened).

We walked down the gangway filled with excitement to see Lisboa. We spent the first part of the morning in Chiado [she-ad-doe]. Chiado is known as the bohemian area of the city, and situated on some of the 13 hills of Lisboa. Walking around the area and learning the history of where we were staying was a great thing to do on the first day. I learned from my wonderful tour guide, Claudia, that Portugal: produces the most corks in the world, has a national day in honor of Luís Vaz de Camões (author of the Portuguese epic poem, Os Lusíadas) on June 10th, and that the beautiful glaze tiled houses weren’t just for aesthetics. The tiles were used since the 1500’s to prevent the humidity of the Tagus River from altering their houses (temperature and structure) too badly.

Now, the limestone and basalt stones (black and white in honor of the flag of Lisboa) placed down one by one into striking patterns is totally for the aesthetic look of it.

Lisbon, Portugal architecture
Lisboa is filled narrow streets, staircases and architecture dating back hundreds of years. Note the limestone and basalt stones decorating this building. These stones are used to represent the black and white colors in Lisbon’s flag.

I also learned that Lisboa is the oldest capital in all of Europe to have the same boundaries today as they have had since they gained independence in 1249. That’s 765 years since they gained Independence. (Portugal and England also have the longest standing alliance; it was made in the 13th century.)

Knowing that they’ve been an independent country for so long you can assume that they are a proud people. That assumption would be correct as their Fado music, now classified as world heritage music, means fate. Fado is the music of the Portuguese. You can feel the past in the music; how it’s all around. This is especially if you are able to go to Pateo de Alfama for lunch as I did.

Lisbon Portugal street musician
You can really feel the spirit of the city in the music of Lisboa street musicians.

One of the walls of the room I was seated in was built in the 14th century to keep out the Moors. The wall was slapped together quickly using any rock they could get. Some of the rocks I saw in the wall had fossils or engraved patterns in them. The wall has a rough unfinished look to it, which I liked looking at before the Fado performance was put on. And what a performance it was!

We had a male vocalist come in first, then a female, before having the pleasure of watching a duet. The duet the two put on was the best thing I saw culturally. I’m being completely honest here. The two went back and forth, him reaching out to her as he sang, only to have her pull away with a look like “that is not how you sing, watch me.” It was amazing how such strong voices could come from the most unassuming people. The training that they must have gone through!

Fado music at Pateo de Alfama restaurant, Lisbon, Portugal
Having lunch at the Pateo de Alfama restaurant and listening to Fado music is well worth your time!

It happened right before we left for the afternoon part of the tour (where I heard a band I saw later that night doing a mic check). Claudia must have said something to the female vocalist, who was sitting out in the afternoon sun on a break, about me loving the performance so much because I got a raspberry blown to me! I was giddy with glee the whole afternoon! I’m still insanely happy about it!

Essentially I fell in love with the female vocalist’s clear, powerful voice just like how I fell in love with Lisboa: quickly.

Imara Renaud Krutulis, Semester at Sea 2014
Imara Renaud-Krutulis is taking part in the Semester at Sea 2014 Summer program. She is taking college classes aboard The MV Explorer cruise ship and travelling through 10 European countries while sharing her adventures with us. Imara is a sophomore at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) and aspires to be a travel writer.

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