Near our apartment and the Alfama District of Lisbon

There are so many hills in Lisbon.  It is said to be on seven hills, like Rome and I so believe it.  Today, we decided to visit the Alfama district.  It is a lovely place but trying to avoid the hill climbing as much as possible, we took a different route.

From our apartment, we walked uphill on a nearby street where I found a cute and friendly neighborhood store.  I went there a couple of days ago and the women were so helpful.  They couldn’t speak any English and my Portuguese is next to nil!  Still a smile and attempt to say the word in their language made them smile.

When I arrived, there were 2 women chatting away with the lady behind the counter.  They were probably exchanging the local gossip.  As the cashier totaled up their order, she wrote it down in a book….credit?  It was a fun place to shop!  Today, I took David in so he could see what I was talking about.  He said that if I had the language skills, I would probably be a regular there. I agree!

At the top of this street, we walked down a little way and came to the Campo dos Martires da Patria Square.  In the center of this square was a statue surrounded by marble plaques saying thank you to Sousa Martins.  So, who was this Sousa Martins?  His full name is Jose Tomas de Sousa Martins and he lived from 1843-1897.  He was a doctor who is best known for his work among the poor.  After his death, it is believed that he was poisoned because someone was jealous of his popularity, a cult-like following began to give thanks to him for their miracle cures.  This following believe that the Dr’s spirit is able to assist in the cures. That is what the marble tablets are for, giving thanks to Sousa Martins for the miracles. I read one and if I understood it, it was giving thanks for not one but 3 miracles that gave the person the gift of hearing.  This is the statue of Sousa Martins with the tablets of thanks at the base. In the background is the university building for Medicinal Sciences.

We didn’t get to the Alfama district walking this way.  As it turned out, we walked down over the hill until we came to another plaza.  This plaza had a figure of the Cock of Barcelos. This is a famous and beloved emblem around Portugal.  The legend goes that silverware was stolen from a person in Barcelos, which is a city in northern Portugal.  The people were looking for the thief when a man from neighboring Galacia showed up on his way to a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela to complete a promise.  He immediately became the suspect and was arrest despite his continued pleas of innocents. He was found guilty and was sentenced to hang.  The day of the hanging, he asked to be taken before the judge who sentenced him.  
This wish was granted.  The judge was home, entertaining friends at a banquet.  The condemned man once again plead his innocences, which fell upon deaf ears.  Before leaving, the innocent man pointed to the roasted rooster on the banquet table and said that he was innocent and that when he was hanged, the rooster would crow to prove he was innocent.   

The judge still ignored his pleas.  However, as they were putting the noose around the pilgrims neck, the dead, roasted rooster stood up and crowed.  The judge ran to the gallows to save the man and fortunately, he was still alive due to a poorly made knot!  The man was allowed to go free.  Years later, he returned to Barcelo and sculpt a stone cross called the Crucifix to the Lord of the Rooster.  Today, this sculpture is in the Archeological museum in Barcelo. 

This rooster is found everywhere and on everything in the souvenir shops. I love the rooster corks to put on opened wine bottles.   Today, I saw cute little appetizer forks topped off the the rooster. I actually bought a paper mache one from a workshop for low-income people. They had several handmade articles for sale at this shop and I really like the Barcelo Cock, so bought one my first day here.  I am certain I will buy a few more souvenirs with the beloved emblem before I leave!

After passing the Barcelo Cock figure in the square we finally made it to the beginning of Alfama.  Wouldn’t you know it, there was a major hill to climb!  I took a picture of the stairs after we got to the top and titled it, “Yes, Virginia, there are hills in Lisbon!”

Our reward at the top of the stairs was this adorable picture of the cat watching the pigeons outside his window.  He almost looks like he is saying,  “And what are you looking at?”

We continued our uphill climb to the Castelo de Sao Jorge.  I have the Kindle edition of the Rick Steves Portugal travel guide. He has a walking tour that I wanted to do and it started at the gates of the castle.  We still had quite a hike to get to it.  We finally arrived and was rewarded with a downhill walk…actually, there was no place to go but down!  This is the street view looking from the entrance gates along the wall of the castle.

The Castle of Sao Jorge was used by King Afonzo Henriques as the royal residence after the recapture of Lisbon from the Moors in 1147. After the 1755 earthquake, much of the castle remained in ruins until it was completely restored in 1938.

From here, we walked down to the Largo Santa Luzia and enjoyed a sweeping view of the Alfama district.   This view is looking east with the Tagus River in the background.  The noticeable white building is the church Sao Estevao.  

On the top of the hill with the double steeple domes is the monastery of Sao Vicente de Fora.  In 1173, St Vincent was proclaimed the patron saint of Lisbon when his relics were transferred from Algarve, in southern Portugal to a church nearby this monastery.  This monastery was designed by Italian Filippio Terzi and was completed in 1627. It was built by King Philip II who wanted to pay tribute to St Vincent, the patron saint of vinegar and wine.  Unfortunately, it was closed for repairs.  So, we were unable to go inside. 

To the right of the monastery, you can see the dome of Santa Engracia.  It is one of Lisbons most notable landmarks. The first church, that was on this spot, was destroyed in a storm in 1681.  The rebuilding of the damaged church started the next year later in 1682. However, it took until 1966 for the rebuilding to be finished.  The interior is all marble. Today, it is the National Pantheon and houses monuments to many of the Portuguese famous. 

Santa Engracia the National Pantheon

The dome of Santa Engracia is imposing on
this narrow neighborhood street.

Next to the lookout at Largo Santa Luzia, is a church.  In the courtyard behind the church were two tiles from the 18th century depicting the Praca do Comerico before the 1755 earthquake.  To the right, is the royal palace that stood in the plaza before it was destroyed in the earthquake.  

On the opposite wall of the church was another tile depicting the recapture of Lisbon from the Moors by Afonso Henriques in 1147.  I know I have said it in earlier post but the tile work throughout Lisbon is beautiful.
The church yard was very inviting and peaceful.  There was a nice flowered covered terrace that offered the same view that we had at the nearby Largo Santo Luzia.  

My guide book said that the Alfama neighborhood survived the 1755 Lisbon earthquake unscathed.  So, today, it retains the narrow, winding streets that were originally designed to frustrate invaders.  This neighborhood has been here since the sixth century.  It is a very lively place.  Locals were rushing to get their fresh meat from the butcher for the lunch meal, dogs were laying in the streets watching life go by, tourist were peeking into shops and clicking pictures trying to capture the moment.  

Rua Norberto Araujo

We passed this wall that has been in place for over a thousand years.  Imagine the process it took to build it and the fact that it is still standing today.  I think it is quite impressive workmanship.

David and I wandered through the streets and when we passed a small bar, the Tasquinha, we stopped in to have a taste of port wine.  The owner, a friendly lady, offered us a pastel de nata (a custard dessert) which is very popular here.   We had never had one, so agreed to trying it. I am not a huge custard fan but this was really good.  It is different from our custard in the states, I think a little sweeter.  Of course, the port wine, a dessert wine is sweet and is now, David’s favorite!

Once down the hill and through the streets, we found ourselves back at Praca

do Comerico.  It was definitely a warm day, close to 95 degrees.  The one nice thing about being near the water, is there is always a breeze flowing through the streets of Lisbon.  We decided that it would be a good time to get an ice cream at the Gelados Santini store we had seen on the corner of Rua Garrett and Rua do Carmo.  It has been in business since 1949 and after having their gelato, it is understandable why…it was very, very good.  The flavors were so intense and rich.  My favorite flavor was the cream caramel. A nice treat on a hot afternoon.  

After relaxing in the apartment for a few hours, we went back out in the early evening and enjoyed a glass of wine while people watching.  David had a glass of port – I told you it was his new favorite!  I had Sangria that was served in an adorable clay pitcher.  It was another nice day…..

Leave a Reply