Things to do in Lisbon – Around the World Day 17

The capital city of Portugal, Lisbon, is the last stop of my European part of the trip around the world, and the first twenty-four hour were spent hitting the tourist spots. Some of them I went there because that was the thing to do as a tourist. Some of them I went there because that was the thing to do.

As soon as I arrived in Lisbon, I had enough time to drop off my bags and take the ten minute walk from my apartment to the Comercio Square. This is not the big touristy square that everybody needs to see on their visits to Lisbon, but it is where everybody was on this night. Portugal was playing Uruguay in the World Cup, and this was a win or go home game. The Portuguese were a little upset that it was on Saturday night because they thought they would have been the winner of the round robin play. To celebrate the game though, the city of Lisbon had set up a massive three story television so the whole town could come together to watch the game. There were numerous beer booths, and venders selling all kind of food. And even though Portugal lost the game, it was the perfect way to watch the match, and the best introduction to the city.

The next day started off by wandering the windy streets of the Alfama neighborhood. This is the oldest section of the city that survived the 1755 earthquake, and walking through its skinny streets reminded me of what it would have felt like to live during that time. There were thousands of decorations, and many beer booths all along the streets out here as well, and at first, I thought it was because of the World Cup, but later I found out that St. Antonio’s Day was the weekend before. He is the patron saint of Lisbon, and they have a huge celebration from that event. The decorations were just the hangover just waiting to be cleaned up, and it was nice of them to leave them up for me, so I could see what fun I had missed by being a week late.

The walk through this part of the city took me to the top of the highest hill in the city where sat Sao Jorge Castle. This is a military structure that was first built during the 7th century B.C. by the Moors, and then added on to by Romans and Christians over the centuries. It is a great military fortress designed to withold a long siege. It was not created so a king could live in the ground even though it was later adapted for that purpose. It shows you what a military castle would have been like, and it had some amazing views of the city. Everywhere I turned there was another example of the perfect picture.

After a long day of hiking through the city, there was only one place left to go, Time Out Market, for dinner. This is a long hall that reminded me of a modern day mead hall. The sides of the hall were lined up with small kitchens where I could choose from various kinds of food. They also served wine and beer, and once I got my meal I found a place at one of the long tables to enjoy my food. It brought me back to the community of Lisbon which seems like one of the important things about this town, and the main reason I am enjoying it so far. I can’t wait to see what the next couple of days have in store for me when the first one was so exciting.

Salamanca’s Living Room – Around the World Day 6

I have left behind the busy pace of Barcelona on my quest to constantly head west to the slower pace of Spain’s college town, Salamanca. The major feature of this town is its university which was established in 1154 and at one time was considered one of the more prestigious learning institutions in Europe. Even though it is still held in high regard today, it is not considered at the level it once was. It does not matter much because it is not like I am going to take the time to enroll in a class, and I am pretty sure that there are not many classes going on right now due to the fact that they are probably out for the summer. Either way, it will be a change of pace from Barcelona.

Most of the day was spent on a train transferring in Madrid, so when I finally arrived at my final destination I was looking forward to some tapas, a quick beer, and an early night so I could really explore this town the next day. I was in for a little bit of a treat though. Christine had booked a hotel room overlooking one of Salamanca’s greatest features, Plaza Mayor.

A plaza is the main feature of any Spanish town. Barcelona has a few of them, and they were interesting, but nothing like the one in Salamanca. The whole square is surrounded by one single large building with arches placed strategically in many places to allow entrance into the place. On the ground floor, there are numerous tapas bars, gelato shops, and restaurants. Because of this this is where the people of Salamanca come together to catch up on their days.

On a typical Wednesday night this might mean a few people, but the thousands of seats were all taken up last night because what better way to enjoy your city’s family than to get together to watch a World Cup match where Spain is looking to overcome the tie they had the opening night against Portugal. There was a lot of excitement as people found a place to settle in to watch the game, and even though I was hoping for an early evening, I knew I wasn’t going to get it because this place was going to be loud tonight and my room overlooked the noise.

Now as an American, I don’t understand the mass appeal to World Cup soccer, but as a world traveler, I do understand that it is the largest sporting event in the world, and if your country happens to make it, any time there is a game, it becomes a major event. It becomes a completely different sport when you find yourself in a large group of people who are excited about the outcome, and it is also a way to show national pride as people wore Spanish jerseys, waved Spanish flags, and even draped them over their shoulders to wear like a cape. It made for a memorable start to my visit to Salamanca, and I can’t wait to see what other exciting things this town has in store for me.