Atlas North: A Tour through Portugal, Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria
Arriving in country 61, Portugal. Touring the main sites of the capital Lisbon in a day with stops at St. George’s Castle, Palace Square, Jeronimos Monastery, and Belem Tower.
Travel to Portugal
With an evening flight from Newark, I arrived in Porto for a short layover before going through security to switch to the domestic flight. Country 61 check.
The hop to Lisbon was very quick. From the window of my TAP Portugal flight I could see the city and the Vasco da Gama Bridge, the longest bridge in Europe at a 17.2 km length.
Arriving in Lisbon, I only had four hours to see as much as possible.
At the information booth, a lady advised I wouldn’t have time to see everything I planned to. Challenge accepted.
I took a 45 minute metro ride from the airport with one station change to get downtown. The metro was modern and clean. Stations were clearly marked so the transfer was painless.
My first stop out of the metro was a souvenir store where I picked up my Portugal “shirt of the country”. The vendor was from Bangladesh and we talked about my recent stay there.
St. George’s Castle
This national monument dates back to the 2nd century B.C. and was used throughout the history of the city. The castle is perched on top of a hill so I wandered through some graffitied streets to find it.
The grounds offered great views over Lisbon with cannons pointed downward.
You can also climb on the ramparts which were quite slippery in the rain.
In the garden area there were many peacocks which seem to be a fixture at this site. There was a small museum with artifacts found in the area so I briefly stopped by.
Leaving the castle I was making great time. Only one hour down.
I made my way down the hill via some very narrow paths and found the square.
This square is famous for the Royal Ribeira Palace which was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake and is also the site that Carlos I was assassinated in 1908. A statue of King Dom José I stands in the center.
I wandered the square and then waited fifteen precious minutes for the traditional tram to arrive. Unfortunately when it finally came I found that Tram 15 was an upgraded modern tram not the touristy one.
The tram made many stops and the ride was slow. A lady seemed to have gotten her wallet stolen right in front of me. A man jumped out of the tram right as the doors were closing. As the tram left the lady started screaming and getting hysterical.
I debarked at the UNESCO World Heritage Site monastery. This was the home of the Hieronymites. Vasco da Gama was known to have prayed here before his expedition in 1497. He is also buried here.
After the crowded visit, I walked over to the city’s other UNESCO World Heritage monument, the Belem Tower. Built in the early 1500s, this structure sits right on the side of the river.
The tower is actually quite small and to climb to the top is difficult, not because of the height, but the width. The single person staircase has a traffic light and beeping system to signal when to climb and when to wait. I was in line with a school trip of yelling kids, which made the experience quite unbearable.
Leaving the tower I hopped into a Mercedes taxi and chatted with my driver about Portugal and Morocco.
I got to the airport with an hour to spare! I rushed and accomplished my itinerary within four hours only to find that the flight was delayed two hours! On the bright side, I didn’t miss it!
Relaxing in the TAP lounge over a beer, I was glad to have a glimpse of a beautiful city. I look forward to returning and visiting more of Portugal.
Next stop, Morocco!