I was not expecting that….

Sometimes it doesn’t make sense until you have done it, then revisiting makes the pieces fall together. This was the situation for us visiting the Lisboa Story Centre which we did on the very last day. It was excellent.

Lisbon is big hearted, dirty, dusty, noisy and full of surprises. I did not expect to see a puffin or a sea otter or a sun fish in Lisbon but I did. Nor did I know a sea otter has 155000 hairs per square centimetre but no fat layer!!! The Ocenario de Lisboa is amazing.

When we visited the Museu National do Azulejo we were expecting to find out a bit about the history and see a few tiles but not what we saw. We stood open-mouthed and incredulous! This place is fantastic.

I was not expecting the hurdy-gurdy ride with Anna our tuk-tuk driver enroute to Sintra or the fine examples of Latin outrage as she remonstrated ‘tourist’ drivers on the ridiculously narrow, incredibly undulating and nauseatingly twisted paths up and down the mountain. We met Maree and Grace from Canada truely delightful humans on their last day in Portugal and Eva from Germany who was another engaging, intrepid traveller on her way to new and more exotic destinations. We survived Sintra- the queues, the heat, the hills. It was beautiful. It was interesting and we were pleased we saw it.

Then there was 5 Oceanos. Sara, our daughter, had had salt-baked fish and recommended we partake. Yeah..right…That was a mission. I repeat. Lisbon is not always as it appears.

Google maps placed us the wrong side of a very busy six lane highway with a spaghetti junction hovering above. Our mission…get to the other side. We watched. Pedestrians ahead turned the corner and disappeared. It was mystifying. We followed and descended into a maze of graffiti covered tunnels with multiple exits and signs (in Portuguese of course) as to where the tunnel led.

Best guess? We got it in one. We were in another world. Ahead was Porto de Lisboa (apparently very beautifully decorated inside we found out later) but to the right the place was heaving.

Along the Marina Do Tojo and under the Pont 25 de Abril, we found our restaurant. We had the salt-baked fish and it was delicious. The Pont 25 de Abril roared. I mean, really, it roared. We were very surprised so many restaurants were so popular under this bridge- but they were.

It was excruciatingly hot but we were yet to see Padrao dos Descobrimentos (the monument of the discoveries) and Torre de Belem (16 century Belem Tower) and it would be unforgivable to come to Lisbon and miss these amazing landmarks. We were not disappointed. The history and the architecture- marvellous!!!

Obviously not my photo!!!

Then there is Praca do Comercio. What a stunning square? What an amazing history? On the 1st November 1755 Lisbon experienced a devastating earthquake and tidal wave, then horrendous fires, estimated at killing maybe 50000 human beings or even more and changed not just the city but the fortunes of Portugal. The rebuilding of the city was an amazing story of community effort and incredible leadership as well as the design ideas for a modern city.

Two weeks, two cities and a marvellous taste of an amazing country.

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