The Portugal Adventure – The End of the Beginning and the Beginning of the Long Year

Recap: A dozen red roses led to a transatlantic flight to the Iberian Peninsula – specifically, Portugal. The flight preceded a cross-continent trip to Germany with Portuguese teens for a week. On the return trip to Portugal, Harry asked me to marry him (well, sort of asked), and I said yes. We left him petitioning my dad for my hand in marriage. If you are just joining us, the first post about Portugal is here.

Santa Justa Elevator

Harry, who was paying for the overseas phone call to my dad, was getting a little antsy by the time Dad let him off the hook reluctantly (and a Dad had a bit of a sulk that he never really got over). That was “canja” compared with the conversation he had with his parents. His family had no idea that he had invited me to visit.

Jewelry Store

Young and in love, we meandered over the remarkable paving stones of the streets of Lisbon. We found our way to jewelers row, the Rua de Ouro, where Harry bought a beautiful ring and put it on my finger. We rode the Santa Justa Elevator, which was built by an apprentice  of Gustave Eiffel – a name you may recognize. The steep hills of Lisbon can present challenges for pedestrians!

The rest of our time together we spent looking into one another’s eyes, walking with our arms around each other and stealing kisses. We talked as folks have always talked at such times where most conversations began “When did you…” and ended with a hug. It seemed like we passed through the streets of Lisbon about half a meter off of the ground. The weather was perfect with sun and temperate breezes. Lisbon was made for lovers.

But at last the flawless summer days came to an end. Harry took me back to the airport, and gave me directions for both when I left Lisbon and when I arrived in New York.  Boarding time came all too quickly for both of us, but I had a 7-hour flight and an airport limousine ride to remember, reflect and recharge.

Upon arriving home, I got a phone call from Harry’s parents. He had neglected to inform them that he had invited me to Portugal. They wanted me to come and visit. I did, and they were most gracious to me. Of course, there was some teasing. My father-in-love to-be warned me about “Skip” as they called him. He cautioned me about what a rogue his son was. I was well accepted – and I got the best in-laws in the world.

By the time the post trip dust settled, it was time for me to get into my classroom and prepare for my last school year I would teach for a while.

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Amazing Lisbon

Torre de Belém, Lisbon, Portugal

A tourist may hit the highlights of Lisbon, Portugal in three or four days. However, to really know Lisbon is the endeavor of a lifetime. As you fly into the Lisbon airport, you will have a bird’s eye view of this remarkable city built on hills. The golden sun gently touches the monuments and the water of the Tagus River. It looks like a fairy tale land. In a short time, you will be walking on the ground of a country full of history.

Early in Lisbon’s history a tribe of Celts, the Cempsi, migrated south by way of France to Portugal. Other groups blended into the culture. The Phoenicians discovered the Tagus River harbor, and realized that this port would be a good stopping place for them on their voyages to other places to which they carried cargo. They are thought to be responsible for the name of Lisbon, which means “good port.”

The Portuguese have ever been a hardy, independent people. Rome defeated Gaul in seven years. It took them two centuries to defeat the Portuguese people. You can see what Roman settlements looked like at Conimbriga, a Roman settlement that is a day trip from Lisbon, Portugal.

During the Middle Ages, the Muslims overran the Iberian Peninsula. They built a lot of mosques and their architectural tradition is still seen today. Though the Muslims ruled over the peninsula, they permitted other peoples to maintain their own cultural and social habits, including their Christianity. The Muslim influence on Portugal is clearly seen in the Alfama section of Lisbon that escaped the damage of the great earthquake of 1755. Much of the rest of the city was destroyed, and the tsunami that followed destroyed coasts from Spain to Cornwall in the United Kingdom.

More recently, Portugal’s last King, Carlos I was assassinated in 1908 leading to Portugal’s first Republic. During World War II, Portugal remained neutral, and Lisbon was overflowing with spies from many countries. Many escapees left through the Port of Lisbon.

When you visit Lisbon, you’ll want these stops included:

Monastery of the Jeronimos and Alfama are both part of UNESCO World Heritage.

  • Tower of Belém, Lisbon’s early defense and the Custom House
  •  Palacio de Ajuda – the winter palace of Portugal’s last king.
  •  National Tile Museum – the Portuguese are famous for their beautiful tiles.
  • Castle of St. George and gardens overlooking Lisbon.
  • Palacio de Sintra –summer palace of the last king.

 Where in the world would you like to visit?