The moment I stepped out of airport, I know this city will offer me something which no other city did before. The sheer beauty of the city and the balance between commercial and tourist life made it one of the amazing places I ever visited. My host helped me reach the place and showed me around the house. She also suggested me the places to visit in and around Lisbon. We talked a bit about each other as I introduced myself. To my surprise, she was from Valencia and came to Lisbon for studies as I visited Valencia few days back before coming here and was really happy to visit it. It was interesting how traveling connects people in a way we can never imagine. We talked a bit about each other and soon I was out to explore Lisbon.
There was a lot to see in Lisbon and I wanted to cover as much as I could. I started with São Jorge Castle, a Moorish castle occupying a commanding hilltop overlooking the historic center of Lisbon and Tagus River. There was a labyrinth of roads uphill to reach the castle. The castle provides a beautiful view of the orange tops of the houses spread across followed by Tagus river.
Also, close to where I was staying, there is a tram ride near the Rossio Square which goes through the internal parts of Lisbon where one can witness the daily life of old style Lisbon. An interesting ride full of rich history of daily Lisbon routine that is still prevalent today.
Next in line was commerce square situated at the banks of Tagus river. The streets leading to Praça do Comércio or Commerce Square (Also known as Terreiro do Paço or palace yard) are filled with restaurants, cafes, and shopping stores. The mosaic tiled streets with bustling crowd comes to life in evening when people walk out to this place to enjoy, dance and relax. The Commerce square situated near the Tagus River, is a huge plaza with cafes on three sides and the Tagus River on the fourth side. I spent my evening relishing a good dinner and relaxed at night time peacefully near the river with moon blooming to the full and waves taking its turn to hit the steps in a synchronization.
The next day I decided to explore a town called Sintra. Sintra is known for its many 19th-century Romantic architectural monuments, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The entire town had a free wifi to encourage tourists which was a big surprise for me as I never expected an entire town to have free wifi. This is a real boon to places which survive on tourism and something which other cities across the world should work on. There was a lot to see in Sintra for everyone. Right from Castelo dos Mouros to Pena National Palace and the Sintra National Palace, everything had something different to offer and my excitement was at its peak trying not to miss the best of everything. The architecture of the palaces, the design of buildings, and the way everything was kept to depict the everyday life that was there in past really took me by surprise. I was touched to see the pain the management has taken to ensure that visitors get to see the way people used to live in past. As I explored the palace more, I felt as if I time traveled to the past.
What really caught my sight was the colorful Pena Palace. It seemed as if the place was straight out of a fiction with its colored glasses and walls. However, nothing matched my feeling of being at the west most part of Europe, Cabo da Roca and I felt that the moment of being there was nothing short of an achievement for me. Silly to think it that ways now, but in that very moment, you are hit hard that you are standing at one of the those parts of the world which you never though you would visit. I guess that's the kind of courage traveling demands from you to set course to the unknown but in return you get a lot more than you bargained for. There is a lighthouse with a small café to sit and enjoy the breath taking view of the endless ocean where I spent my next half an hour to let that feeling sink in.
After coming back to Lisbon, I decided to visit Belem on suggestion from my host. From the famous Belem Tower to the Jeronimos Monastery - Vasco da Gama's resting place, and then to the Discoveries Monument -with carvings of the world's explorer both sides of the monument, there was a lot to explore at this place. The pavement in front of the Discoveries Monument is decorated with a mosaic representing a compass with the map of the world charting the routes taken by the Portuguese explorers (Amazing isn’t it!). There was a perfect example of where curiosity can take you as it did to some of the great explorers from this beautiful country. For me, Belem was a beautiful mix of art and history flourishing together harmoniously.
All the walking I did during the day made me hungry and it was time to treat myself with some delicious pastries and that's when I reached the famous Pasteis de Belem, to try their famous custard tarts or pastries. These were nothing short of little bundle of heaven as I enjoyed them sitting near the river.
It was my last day of an amazing journey which started with a dream I dared to fulfill. Finding my way from one city to another, meeting some amazing people, getting to know the culture, food, art, and the history left me richer than I was before. I was happy that I did a lot more than the usual. Sitting near the Tagus River one last time, I realized that traveling is not to fulfill a bucket list we all make. It is a learning that makes us mature with every step we take, admire the difference with every place we visit, bring us closer to people we otherwise would never meet and, makes us more humble as we breath and respect a culture far different then what we live.