Sunday, January 9, 2011
Lisboa: Day 1
Today was a day of purpose...breakfast, groceries, buying cellphones (so Jason could still easily work on the move and so we can easily communicate with each other when we get separated), and explore the city along the way. Our errands lead us through the straight streets of Baixa rebuilt by the military after the earthquake of 1755 that leveled much of the city (a brief history to follow). Past the Elevator de Santa Justa, designed by the mastermind behind the Eiffel Tower, and up to the Chiado neighborhood where we weaved past the gothic arch remains of Convento do Carmo (also a victim of the earthquake), to the top of the elevator where we soaked in the amazing view over the city. Retracing our steps down to Baixa, we wandered over black-and-white patterned cobbled sidewalks through the eating lanes, lit by Christmas lights and clouded by the smoke of street vendors roasting chestnuts. Through Lisboa's Arch of Triumph to Praca do Comercio where a huge statue of King Jose I, who rebuilt the city after the earthquake, towers in the center of the plaza situated on the Rio Teja. Turning back towards the apartment we wandered past the 1180 AD Se, or cathedral, just barely touching on the winding streets of Alfama. Our wanderings for the day ended at Clara's en Castelo, a tiny, three table bistro boasting a French-Portuguese, husband-wife team. He was very verbose and happily translated the entire menu for us giving us multiple winks and thumbs-ups during the dinner while we enjoyed his wife's wonderful cooking.
A note on the earthquake of 1755: The earthquake is estimated to have been a 9.0 magnitude and came in three jolts. Jittery survivors hopped into boats in an attempt to sail to safety only to be capsized by the horrendous 20 foot wave that followed. If that was not enough, the city then turned into a raging inferno from the overturned cooking fires and candles that burned for five days. Of Lisboa's 270,000 residents, the highest estimate suggests that up to 90,000 may have perished in the quake.
Click here for photos from the day.