A Busy Easter Weekend in Lisbon
After many years living in the states we had forgotten what a busy holiday Easter is in Europe. It's a time when everyone gets out of dodge and heads somewhere else for the long weekend. Apparently lots of people from Lisbon leave town to visit elsewhere but I have to believe that twice as many people visit from somewhere else to take their place.
We arrived in Lisbon on Good Friday a bit later than planned. After an 8 hour delay due to being bumped from our flight we were feeling tired and weary but looking forward to seeing the city. It's our first time in Portugal. Lisbon seems the place to be at the moment. During the Easter weekend there were hoards and hoards of tourists.
Lisbon occupies a beautiful setting on the Tagus river and the hilly terrain, cobbled streets, and the lively cafe and bar scene are the epitome of a European city. My sister spent Easter weekend with us so we decided to get the lay of the land and explore the main areas of the city. The windy, narrow streets of Alfama, the noble, elegant boulevards in Baixa Chiado and the impressive, splendor of the Praça de Commercio, a wide open square. It was all very beautiful.
Our first impressions of Lisbon were marred a little by our tiredness and the tourist influx. It's not the number of people that put us off since we like cities precisely because they are busy. It's more that feeling you get when everything you see is oriented around the tourist. I'm talking about menus in six languages, elevated prices for mediocre food and hustlers on the street trying to sell sunglasses and selfie sticks. We recognize that we are tourists but that doesn't mean we are asking to be "catered to". Cheap souvenirs, special tours and canned experiences are not the reasons why we visit a destination.
We are staying in the Madragoa neighborhood. Thankfully, it's a short walk away from the main tourist center although it is anything but peaceful. We have learned after a few days that here in the tiny cobbled streets the locals socialize out on their doorsteps. They gossip, sing, laugh and generally yak away in loud voices at all hours of the day and night. It's nice to be in a more authentic local neighborhood but it is also good to have earplugs!
On Easter Sunday we took a bus ride a few miles out of the main center to Belem. We strolled by the river, admired the impressive Torre de Belem and had lunch in the shadow of the "Golden Gate-a-like" 25 de Abril bridge. Here, far from the city center, the crowds were thinner and the sunshine warmed our hearts. Away from the hoards, we felt optimistic that it would be possible to find a different side of the city and have a great month here in Lisbon.
Now that Easter is over, we're excited to explore our surroundings in a less frenetic atmosphere. Stay tuned as we get to know the real aspects of Lisbon over the next few weeks.