I planned a trip to Lisbon, Portugal for four days at the end of April 2013 with a special mission in mind – to find my retired middle school French teacher, who is actually Portuguese and lives in Lisbon now. The task is actually on my bucket list, and I can proudly check it off now.
About Mr. da Silva, he’s nothing short of goofy. 13 years ago, in grade 7, he became my first extended French teacher – yes, he’s Portuguese, but he’s fluent in English, French, Spanish, and Italian, in addition to Portuguese – and I immediately loved his energy and charm. I would never forget the two years I spent with him in class, not only for French, but also for drama, geography, and history, IN French. It would not be an exaggeration to say that it was because of him that I continued learning French, which was the reason why I never struggled much in France.
I thought it would be no better way to explore Lisbon and its surroundings with an authentic local, and Mr. da Silva gladly agreed to be my guide. He even offered to pick me up from the airport, and I was so excited as he waved to me right as I exited. I went back to my middle school to visit him after graduation, but how many years has it been since I saw him? I don’t even remember, so the fact that he recognized me right away surprised me. Well, I guess Facebook must have helped. Yes, he’s 66, but he has Facebook and we’re friends. Old friends, in fact 😉
In three days, I did quite a lot, including a trip to Cascais, Sintra, Cabo da Roca, and Óbidos. Let’s start with Lisbon, shall we?
As the plane was about to land, I saw a gorgeous view of the Lisbon aqueduct – yay for my window seat! I’ve been to Lisbon two years ago, so I knew that the view outside the window just before landing would be magnificent. And yes, I know I wasn’t supposed to be using electronic devices during take-off and landing, but…how could I resist?
Perhaps Portugal is not as popular a tourist destination as say, the nearby Spain and France and Italy, yet its charm is undeniable. Lisbon, for example, is just such a comfortable place to BE. The blue sky is its mark and I was so glad to see it after a mostly gray month in Belgium. And the colours in Lisbon are so pastel, so gentle, so warm and inviting. I regretted not spending more time in Lisbon two years ago, and am so thankful to have a second chance to spend in this wonderful city!
A monument commemorates Portugal’s greatest poet, Luís de Camões. It is said that while serving in Macau, Camões was caught in a shipwreck with his Chinese lover and the manuscript of an epic poem that he wrote. He swam to shore with one hand holding up the manuscript to save it from being destroyed, but was devastated because he lost his lover. Apparently, this was the first Portuguese-Asian love story.
Little tram running up and down the steep streets of downtown Lisbon. Lisbon is known as the “city of the seven hills”, and it is true – every twist and turn leads to a hill. While the experience in a historic tram would have been unique, I’d much rather explore the steep, narrow streets on foot and discover hidden places on my own (and in this case, with Mr. da Silva).
Ah, yes, a picture of me and Mr. da Silva. This was actually taken in Cascais, a town near Lisbon, on April 29th, which happened to be Mr. da Silva’s 66th birthday! It was such an honour for me to spend the day with him. How I’ve missed this guy!
Mr. da Silva took me to one of the many viewpoints of Lisbon where we could get amazing view of the city from up high. This viewpoint overlooks the part of the city where the 25 de Abril Bridge (named after the revolution of April 25, 1974, which overthrew the dictatorial regime of Portugal at the time) crosses the Tagus River.
Mr. da Silva did not hesitate to emphasize many times that he LOVES Lisbon, especially it’s such a livable city with the most lovely climate. I mean, just look at the sky at the Praça do Comércio. Crystal clear, and SO BLUE! I almost wished I could bring back some sun and blue sky to Belgium.
Graffiti art in Lisbon. I saw a few of these, but this one I quite liked. Seems like someone, or some cat, REALLY likes Lisboa (Lisbon in Portuguese)…
Of course, since I was in Lisbon, I had to meet up with some IDS-FunMates who work at IST (Instituto Superior Técnico). I’ve only seen them a month ago, but every opportunity is to be cherished because you never know when (and if) you’ll see them again! From left to right, we have Carole, my host for the trip who made sure I wasn’t homeless, Annie, yours truly, Alex, colleague in my Bordeaux lab, Tuyen, Tomin, and Lo. I went to Óbidos with everyone except for Alex on day 2, but that’s another story for another post 😉
Parque das Nações, the area nearby the Oriente train station, is where the 1998 World Exhibition took place in Lisbon. Lots of fun architectural designs, all resembling the sea somehow. What is this…Carole is able to move the world around and around with her bare hands?
My companions Carole, Tuyen, and Tomin made the visit to Oriente, which is located right beside the Tagus River, a very pleasant one, though it was a very very windy day!
Another picture that wasn’t supposed to be taken due to electronic devices being forbidden during take-off, but forgive me! As I left Lisbon, this view of the Vasco da Gama bridge took my breath away, like it did two years ago. That river is so wide, so majestic, that I’d believe you if you told me it was the sea. Oh Lisbon, how you’ve amazed me. Bye for now, though I believe one day I will come back again, for you, and for Mr. da Silva ❤