Lisbon Day 1

We arrived ahead of schedule on Saturday morning (we think), but to be honest we were all pretty disoriented. We noted that there isn’t any paperwork to fill out for customs or immigration as you enter Portugal. As we were going through immigration we were mildly chastised by the police for having a lousy passport photo for Everett. He is a couple days old and Chris is holding him. Apparently the officer didn’t like the way that Chris’ hand had pushed Everett’s ears forward. In any case, he will have to pose for a new passport photo because his current one expires next year.

We got our luggage immediately thanks to the fact that Melissa somehow figured out which baggage carousel was ours on the far side of the airport. Then we followed the instructions we were given to catch a cab from the arrivals drop off area and headed toward our apartment. The cab driver took us on a scenic and circuitous route through downtown, which wasn’t anywhere close to the most direct route, but it did provide us with some nice views of the city. Thankfully, our apartment was available when we arrived in the morning! We meet Tania and settled in for a few minutes, then went for a walk to see the Castelo. To get there we followed her instructions to the grocery store, and to take the elevator to the 7th floor above it, which puts you on the street just below the castle. We walked around the perimeter on the street, then stopped for groceries and headed home for lunch and nap.

We considered bring a stroller on this trip only because we thought that Everett might benefit from it at times when he was exhausted. However, Melissa read that Lisbon isn’t really made for strollers, and we wholeheartedly agree. Many of the sidewalks are very narrow; there are many steep hills; most of the streets and sidewalks are made of cobblestones. This wouldn’t be a problem for the Bob Stroller, but the sidewalks are too narrow for it and there are too many steps and major obstacles. Anyway, Everett really doesn’t need it. Even when he is exhausted he is still able to walk.

We woke Everett about 4:30 in the afternoon and decided to go find out about the Metro and the electric rail cars. Tania had advised us to buy 24 hour Metro cards for 5 Euros each, which we were able to do after several attempts at the Baixa-Chiado Metro Station thanks to Melissa’s persistence with the machine that dispenses them. We rode the entire #28 electric trolley line, which was much longer than we expected. The trams are packed with people, so if you try to get in anywhere between the first and last stops then you are unlikely to find a seat. We found an empty car near the Metro station and rode it to the western terminus, then caught another car to the eastern terminus in Alfama, and finally caught a third car back toward our house in Baixa. By this time Everett was really starting to fall apart, so we got back to our apartment as fast as we could. Chris took Everett while Melissa went out in search of food. She came back with an assortment of salgadas (literally “salted”) from a nearby bar. These are small meat pies, some deep fried and some in the shape of cupcakes. They are delicious, but might have been more so if we could heat them up in a microwave for a few seconds. Alas, our apartment has everything but this appliance.

A couple notes about the public transit: The transit system is very good in terms of coverage, frequency of trolleys/trains/trams/buses and the number of hours they run during the day. The electric trolleys are especially popular, and this seems to be true even with locals. However, we have found it virtually impossible to find a map of the electric trolleys, bus or tram lines either at the stops, the Metro station or online. It seems like the operations and routes of these public transit lines are simply known to the autochthons of Lisbon, perhaps analogous to The Knowledge of the London metro area, except that it applies to all inhabitants rather than just prospective cab drivers.

One neat surprise: our apartment came with a special map of the city that appears to be printed on Tyvek or some similar material. They are called Crumpled City maps. The neat thing is that, as the name suggests, they don’t need to be folded. Rather, you just sort of crumple them up and stuff them in your pocket. Reading them is also much easier than a regular map because you can expose an area the size of your palm rather than unfolding an entire map. And carrying them is much easier than a folding map. There were several times where Chris forgot he had a map in his front pocket.

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