Thursday, October 25, 2012

Lisbon in a Wheelchair

Seja bem-vindo a Portugal! Welcome to Portugal!

Over the parliamentary recess in October (I know this is really old, but I've been so busy!), AJ and I spent a few days in Lisboa, the capitol of Portugal. AJ and I always try to experience as much of the culture of the places we visit as we can, and Portugal sure does have a lot of culture to offer.  As you can imagine, I was super excited to visit the city I had learned so much about and to speak Portuguese! As expected, the Portuguese was different from Brazilian Portuguese, yet still so beautiful! Portugal is known for its unique music style of fado, long history of navigation, as well as delicious bacalhau (salted and dried cod fish) and pasteis (sweet or savory treat in a cup shape), so we made sure to check those out. We booked two days on the Sightseeing Portugal bus and off we went! (Note: the green line of this company does not offer regular sized buses that can accommodate wheelchairs, so don't pay for all of the lines! It was still a convenient option for the most part. You can explore regular bus routes or the metro.)

Lisboa was pretty wheelchair accessible. I was able to  wheel down the streets with little problems. There were some slopes that I struggled getting up, so AJ would give me a push here and there. The shops are also a little more cozy and some had steps without lift options, so that was a bit tricky. I think it was most difficult when I wanted to try on clothes, but stalls were not accessible. There is a bit more Lisbon can do in terms of catering to wheelchairs. But I understand the economy is tough here and they're barely keeping afloat. Wheelchair accessibility probably doesn't make the list just as it isn't in many other places. I'm just saying it would be a bit more enjoyable if I could get around with more ease.
However, I had fun in this beautiful city. Some of my favorite places included: the Museu de Marinha (Sea Museum), Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, and the Museu de Fado.
Right next door to the museum is the Mosteiros dos Jerónimos (Jeronimos Monastery), where we found Vasco da Gama (ocean explorer) and Luis de Camões' (beautiful poet) tombs. The monastery is very ornate with intricate carvings and cloisters. We went through it pretty quickly, but got a good view of it. It was fully wheelchair accessible and free!
Mosteiro dos Jerónimo
The Museu de Marinha was awesome as it had lots of artifacts from the extensive navigation the Portuguese were involved with over the years. They were the leaders in this field, hence the many Portuguese speaking countries around the world. We saw belongings of the famous, Vasco de Gama (famed for his navigation around the world. We also saw models of some of the most modern ships of the time period, maps of the world from each era, info. on notes from Brasil, which I got super excited about, rooms on different ships made for kings, and fun navigation tools like compasses. I would have loved some of these things for my "vintage" collection. Maybe next time they'll loan it to me? We easily spent a few hours there.  We also got discounted tickets for being students, and it was wheelchair accessible except for the floor up (there were no lifts). However, the restroom at the shop next door was accessible (thankfully).

An old compass
AJ and model of a great boat
We had lunch at Pastel de Belém, a well-known cafe which was apparent with the long line for both take away and sit in. Those were some of the best pasteis AJ and I have ever had. A pastel can be a sweet dessert or savory treat. The famous pasteis are made from a secret recipe from long ago. Only a few people know it. We compared it to other pasteis throughout the city and there was none other like it. I also had the pastel de bacalhau and loved that too.
scrumptious pasteis in the making
Lastly, the Museu de Fado was also an awesome place to visit. We learned about the history of the music and artists. I fell in love with the beauty of the style of music, unique to specifically Portugal. I loved listening to the accent and seeing the passionate expression of the artists as they sang. The music had variations of sentiments. I especially liked the ones that were more fun and chill.  The museum was fully wheelchair accessible as it is a more modern building.

Fado is joy, fado is pleasure because fado gives us life, and in fado I want to die...
We stayed in a really nice hostel, Lisbon Destinations, a converted historic train station. It was so spacious, well decorated and clean. It was located right in the city center, surrounded by shops and delicious restaurants including our favorite, Hard Rock Cafe. However, the shower stalls were not accessible.

Overall, a great trip to Lisboa! I can't wait to visit the rest of Portugal.


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