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Looking up the Lisbon Sky: Circumnavigating the Portuguese capital the Second Time Around


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Under the intricate web-like structure that was the ceiling of the Jeronimos Monastery, I found myself in the middle of Sunday mass in Portuguese on my first day back in Lisbon. The ceiling -- with its palm-like branches supported by columns that mirror the small group of churchgoers and early tourists spread throughout the otherwise enormous church – reminded me of the train station on the other side of the city.

Photos of Jerónimos Monastery, Lisbon, Portugal 1/4 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Jerónimos Monastery, Lisbon, Portugal 2/4 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Jerónimos Monastery, Lisbon, Portugal 3/4 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Jerónimos Monastery, Lisbon, Portugal 4/4 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Estação do Oriente, Avenida Dom João II, Portugal 1/4 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Estação do Oriente, Avenida Dom João II, Portugal 2/4 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Estação do Oriente, Avenida Dom João II, Portugal 3/4 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Estação do Oriente, Avenida Dom João II, Portugal 4/4 by Unshod Rover

We actually arrived last night. And while I would have wanted to start my second time in Lisbon in full “Age of Discovery” mode, straight from the airport at almost midnight we were already clamping some prego and wolfing it down with a glass of Super Bock. We landed instead in “modern” Lisbon, at the former site of the ’98 expo now turned pub-resto-discohouse boulevard. Above the entrance of the place where we were, a sign said “There are no strangers, only friends who haven’t met.” Yet and/or again, I added.

Photos of Pavilhão de Portugal - Expo 98, Lisbon, Portugal 1/1 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Tagus River Apartment, Lisbon, Portugal 1/1 by Unshod Rover

By the Tagus river, a pair of cable cars hung like broken lamps. But here, was life, night life in Lisbon flavored by the post-expo effort to move forward. For a city and a country so much in love with its glorious past – if not attached – here was some hint of facing the future.

Two artists, one on the guitar, the other on the drums, performed The Beatles’ “Come Together” spiked with Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”. The old and the new coming together, losing oneself. When people come together, one definitely has to lose himself, lose in the sense of letting go and lose in the sense of wandering.

Lisbon was not an exception. There were all sorts of people here. And that night, amid the crowd, I found myself again with a bunch of foreigners for a vacation that included the south of Portugal, Morocco and then Spain. It was for them, mostly, that I had wanted to start this trip right: by being at Belem where boats and ships started, now site of the tombs of Vasco da Gama and Luís de Camões.

Photos of Belém, Lisbon, Portugal 1/2 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Belém, Lisbon, Portugal 2/2 by Unshod Rover

One’s a voyager, the other a poet: two things that in me come together, where I lose myself in. That was where I would have wanted to start because slowly, slowly it was coming to my attention that as I continued traveling some moments and experiences in my life were coming full circle. But then again, in a circle, the end is the beginning as well as the other way around. Also, there’s not just a perfect beginning.

As we reached the Monumentos dos Descobrimentos, I found on the pavement a map of the nation’s early conquests. I stood it, as many thoughts came invading the unchartered territories of my tourist sensibilities. I remembered how I felt in Genoa, as I took a moment by the Garibaldi monument, the very same spot where the Italian national hero gathered a thousand volunteers (i Mille) on May 5 in 1860, and left Genoa to unite the north of Italy with the south.

Photos of Padrão dos Descobrimentos, Lisbon, Portugal 1/2 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Padrão dos Descobrimentos, Lisbon, Portugal 2/2 by Unshod Rover

Little did I know that just left of Thailand across the pond, in a year or so I would find myself coming out of the Vasco da Gama airport in Goa. And there I will find a little piece of Belem and a little piece of the Tejo. And somehow, another episode could come full circle. I knew then though that in a few days’ time, the tomb of Columbus in Seville, Spain awaited us in one of our stops on our way to Morocco.

Photos of Sintra, Portugal 1/3 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Sintra, Portugal 2/3 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Sintra, Portugal 3/3 by Unshod Rover

Before that was a day spent in Sintra, where among the castles there one features initiation wells that seem to be inverted towers. From the bottom of these wells, you can look up and sense the depth of the skies.

Photos of Quinta da Regaleira, Rua Barbosa do Bocage, Sintra, Portugal 1/6 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Quinta da Regaleira, Rua Barbosa do Bocage, Sintra, Portugal 2/6 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Quinta da Regaleira, Rua Barbosa do Bocage, Sintra, Portugal 3/6 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Quinta da Regaleira, Rua Barbosa do Bocage, Sintra, Portugal 4/6 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Quinta da Regaleira, Rua Barbosa do Bocage, Sintra, Portugal 5/6 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Quinta da Regaleira, Rua Barbosa do Bocage, Sintra, Portugal 6/6 by Unshod Rover

Later, sitting by the edge of Cabo da Roca, at the westernmost extent of mainland Portugal and the rest of the Eurasian land mass “where the land ends and the sea begins…”, I stared at the horizon where the sky kisses the Atlantic.

Photos of  1/4 by Unshod Rover
Photos of  2/4 by Unshod Rover
Photos of  3/4 by Unshod Rover
Photos of  4/4 by Unshod Rover

By sunset, it may have looked like the sea was swallowing the sun and that the day was ending. But then again, in a circle, the end is a beginning as well as the other way around. Somebody else from the other side for sure was just waiting for the sun to rise and signal the start of another day.

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