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Monday, October 12, 2009

Seven Hills

I have come to Lisbon, and Portugal in general, with no expectations and no agenda. I spent the first day wandering the steep cobblestone streets up and down the seven hills that make up the city. With me are Chris, who has a fever, and Lauren who is coming down with a sinus infection (I'm popping Vitamin C).

The Castelo de Sao Jorge at the top of the highest point, is a natural first stop. While taxes and buses do head up there, we walked through the sleepy neighborhood of the Alfama, which was just starting to wake up on a Sunday morning.

The timeless alleys and squares are like living museums with white-washed or tiled houses with red-tile roofs, flower-laden balconies and old-world looking people in the windows or in the streets offering a friendly "Bon Dia" as we walked by.

At the top of the hill, we entered through the gates of the castle and were instantly transported back to the 11th century when it was built by the Moors, the Arab invaders that controlled the city until Dom Afonso Henriques led a siege in 1147 that ultimately drove them out.

The castle, once home to kings and queens, now has peacocks, turkeys, cats and tourists roaming the ground. We were fortunate enough to arrive before the nine o'clock buses carrying the masses. We took in the city from the castle's vantage point atop the hill. Boats were sailing in the Rio Tejo, a church bell was ringing somewhere down below and more areas to explore were beckoning.

The rest of the day, we meandered and really fell in love with the picturesque city. We finished the day at a small but packed restaurant serving fresh seafood and meat dishes, typical of Portugues cuisine.

As we fell asleep, a trio of musicians performed under our window at an open-air cafe four stories below us.

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