Exploring Alfama

The next day I am alone. The girls have decided to take a tour of the Douro Valley.

Maybe I should have gone, but city-hopping in Italy wore me out a bit, and I’m content to explore little niches of Lisbon. I decide this will be the day that I visit the cathedral and the museum of St. Anthony located next to the church that stands where he was born. We lucked out with our Airbnb location in the Alfama, because it is so close to most of the things I wanted to see in Lisbon…even if it means stairs and hills.

Cool tree heading down the hill. Women tourists in particular seemed to feel compelled to climb this tree and ask their husbands or boyfriends to take a photo of them playing the part of wood nymph. Fascinating.

There is a woman who appears to be Romani begging on the steps. I give her a coin and she thanks me. Maybe too profusely for my comfort, if I’m being honest.

The cathedral is beautiful, if sparse by Italian and French standards. There is a display that explains the history of the location – its use by Romans when they controlled the area, then as the site of a mosque when the Moors controlled Lisbon, then as the site of the cathedral.

View from Varandim Balcony on the front of the cathedral.

Leaving the cathedral, the Romani woman begs from me again. She either doesn’t recognize me, or she does recognize that I’m a sucker. I give her another coin. Because yes, I am a sucker that way.

Just down the hill, past the trinket vendors and the rickshaw and tuk-tuk drivers, is the museum and church dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua. I first stop at a restaurant next door (called “Dear Breakfast…” Not everything translates well, apparently) to eat and recharge my phone. The servers are cheerful, young, and friendly, and are happy to accommodate both my table-near-a-charger request and my make-my-avocado-toast-vegan-with-mushrooms-instead-of-egg request.

Yes, I had craft beer with my brekkie. As did our Founding Fathers. If it’s good enough for them…who am I to buck American tradition? Also, feast your gaze on my beautiful toast.

I know not everyone is as interested in church-y stuff as I am, so I’ll just add another slideshow below of the museum through which you may scroll at will. But I am going to add that St. Anthony was a follower of St. Francis, and I am partial to the Franciscan charism. St. Anthony is popular around the world, and the museum had many examples of artwork honoring him, along with an interactive slideshow of his life.

And then a French girl took my photo in front of the wall of flowers outside the museum…merci, French girl!

A very popular photo spot for obvious reasons.

On the way back UP the hill, I checked out the outside of this museum with plans to visit in the next day or so. Very fascinating.

I have my thoughts about this in relation to our current political scene, and if you know me well enough and want to ask, I am happy to share my thoughts with you over a beer. Or coffee. Your choice.

The famous Trolley 28 coming down the hill loaded with tourists.

I also decided I HAD to compare Lisbon’s beer, Sagres, to Porto’s beer, Super Bock. So I picked a cold one up, along with an impulse buy of a can of sardine paté since my traveling companions have been raving about it since their food tour on Day 1, with some crackers upon which to spread said paté. I took a cold shower, threw on my kimono, and sat with my delicacies next to our gorgeous view.

I ain’t gonna lie, the paté tasted like cat food smells. But also kinda good. Is that weird? That’s weird. Right? 😼

Took a nap. Woke up. Decided that yes, I WOULD do the touristy thing and go to a fado dinner. This place was owned by a family, overseen by the mother who was an older woman with an elegant, sweeping grey updo held in place by combs, a flowing grey-and-black kaftan, big silver jewelry, the floating gait of a dancer, and the posture of a woman in charge. She showed me to my table, then spent the evening gliding between this restaurant and another non-fado restaurant owned by the family around the corner, managed by her more waif like daughter – Audrey Hepburn to her mother’s Liz Taylor.

And here is my fado dinner experience for you to enjoy vicariously.

It is tremendously difficult to climb 1,342 stone steps with a belly full of bread, olives, wine (and more wine), vegetables, rice, dessert, and espresso. Just so you know. But I finally reached the front door to our apartment, and the girls were waiting on a bench eating pizza. We climbed more (yes more!) stairs to the apartment, shared highlights of the day, and crashed into bed.

(This was posted a week after my return home.)

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