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It sometimes seemed a pity to see nothing more than the coasts of the islands and countries we visited. So while we were at Vilamoura we decided to sign up for a bus tour to Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. We always felt like we were cutting the umbilical cord when we left Tropic Moon. This trip suited us very well as it was only two days in length. We were picked up at 7:40 a.m. on a Sunday morning. The modern, air-conditioned bus traveled westward along the coast, collecting customers. It was 9:00 a.m. by the time we had a full busload of about 50 passengers.
The tour guide, Jorge, introduced himself, and also our driver, Neto. About half the passengers were British, half German, one French couple, and us. When I had asked at the travel agency if our guide would speak English, I had been told that he would speak all languages that were necessary. She hadn't been joking, because Jorge gave every spiel in English, then German, and then, for the benefit of the lone French pair, would repeat everything a third time. When I later spoke with Jorge, I learned that he was also fluent in Portuguese, Spanish and Italian.
Neto, though he seemed to speak only Portuguese, was something of a wonder in his own right; the ride north to Lisbon was at times quite exciting. We had heard that, when driving, the Portuguese only pass cars on curves, but that wasn't true - we occasionally passed cars on the straightaways as well. There were several times when the car we were passing was most of the way off onto the right shoulder of the road, and the car approaching, off on the left shoulder, while - with horn tooting gently - Neto would drive through the center, down the middle white line.
We reached Lisbon just after noon, and checked into our five-star hotel, the Avenida Palace. It was quite plush, and very comfortable. We had time for a quick lunch, and then it was back on the bus for an afternoon of sightseeing. Lisbon was a beautiful, clean city and we managed to see a fair portion of it that afternoon. We toured monuments, churches, and a "carriage museum" with a collection of gilded and brocaded coaches from the days of royalty. We saw the tomb of Vasco da Gama. Jorge, knowing that Ed and I were from the marina at Vilamoura, pointed out da Gama to us as a "fellow sailor."
Neto drove the bus up through the narrowest of streets to the Castle of St. George. From there we had a beautiful view overlooking the red rooftops of the city, and the Tagus River, leading out to the Atlantic. And all through the afternoon, as we looked at what to us was rather ancient history, Jorge continually stressed what a "new" city Lisbon was. The older Lisbon had been destroyed in an earthquake in the 1750's and the city had been rebuilt since that time, making it young by European standards.
We arrived back at the hotel at 6:30 p.m. An optional "typical" dinner with fado and folklore was available that evening, bus departing at 9:00 p.m., for an additional 2000 escudos. We decided we'd had enough of the group, didn't want to go to dinner that late, and didn't want to spend the 2000 escudos. Instead, we went to the movies! The theater was really sumptuous - gold curtain over the screen, balconies, ushers to tip, and cushy seats to sink into. We saw an American movie, "Romancing the Stone," with Michael Douglas (in English, with Portuguese subtitles).
After the movie ended at 9:00 p.m., we wandered the crowded streets and picked out a restaurant for dinner. Many of the restaurant windows had fascinating displays of the foods available within. Picturesque tableaus were formed with hanging crabs, lobsters, and pineapples, with platters of prawns and other delicacies arranged below. I was admiring the display, when Ed's sharp eye caught the fact that the string-hung crabs and lobsters were still alive. Then the whole thing seemed rather macabre to me. I made a point of not ordering seafood that night. As it turned out, we didn't eat dinner till after 9:00 p.m., and didn't get back to the hotel till after 11:00 p.m. Between the movie and dinner, we spent the 2000 escudos ($13.30) anyway, but we had done what we wanted with our evening and thoroughly enjoyed it.