A small group of us hit the roads today, so I was out all day from about 9:30 in the morning until being joined by others mid-day and then a a couple more for dinner and just getting back at 11:30 at night. It was a long day with a lot of walking.
We began by heading to the Castle of St. George which is an oddity, built in the 12th century but destroyed in the Earthquake of 1755, and rebuilt though not really used as a castle in the traditional sense. So, although it's a real castle, it's not the actual castle of its origin.
Unlike some castles, there are no inside rooms that you really can take a tour of, but instead walk around the convoluted twist of parapets and walkways around the place, with a wonderful of the nearby estuary and surrounding city.
Maybe the most interesting attraction of the castle was the period Camera Obscura. I'd never seen one before, and it was absolutely fascinating. Not just for what it is, but seeing the guide operate with it was ropes and levers. A "periscope" is located at the top of the castle, and a mirror reflects the image surrounding the castle down to a large, white concave bowl, and the ropes and levers manipulate what angles are seen and the focus. The remarkable thing is that although it all looks like a color photograph, it's not, and you can see people walking at a distance, and boats moving, as well as cars.
Almost more odd than the castle are the incredibly narrow and winding streets of the Alfama District it's in, on the western end of the city up against the waterfront. Many of the streets of Lisbon are narrow, in part because there weren't many cars in Portugal until the 1960s. But in Alfama, being the Old District, it's even more pronounced -- and since the area is especially hilly (even for the Seven Hills of Lisbon), it's quite an adventure getting around.
This isn't a back alley. This is a street. And it's what so much of the area is. It's odd passing by stores and restaurants and wondering how and why they got located there, and if any customers can find them -- but they do, and it's a lively district.
We stopped for lunch at a nice, little place, with the cafe on one side of the street and its outdoor seating on the other side. It was very tasty, and I tried another of the city's main dish, cod, this time grilled with potatoes. And it confirmed my position that cod just is not my favorite fish. They make it well, though. Oddly, the best part of the dish were the stunningly delicious small roasted potatoes -- and everyone who had them agreed. Soft, with olive oil permeating the inside, they were great.
Cable car trams are common in the area, and they aren't for quaint show. Because the streets are so narrow and winding the cable cars are often the best mode of transportation in some parts of the area.
It's not like all of Lisbon only has these narrow streets, though they certainly are prominent. But so too are public squares. And the one in the Commercial Center, located in Baixa District that borders Alfama by the estuary, has one of the largest.
Lots more walking, including past an interesting iron, standalone two-story elevator built by a student of Gustave Eiffel, and its influence are apparent, though for anyone in Los Angeles it looks a bit like the elevator in the Bradbury Building. The structure has no specific use anymore, other than as a tourist site to head up to its observation deck, but it had been used for getting people up to a second floor in days long past.
Then a very good dinner -- at which I did not have cod, but gnocchi with gorganzola sauce. (There's a heavy Italian influence in the city, so I felt justified.) It was a birthday event for one of the group, and took about 2-1/2 hours. Which is why I got back so late. And why I'm going to bed now.
The elves who are taking care of the homestead said that as a treat for when I get back, they are going to prepare a dinner for me. I thought that was very thoughtful of them, but then they said it would be poached cod and burst into laughter.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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