Padrao da Descobrimientos
What do you do when you land in a city where you have never been and don’t know anyone and it is 6 in the morning? Well, for me that is a signal to slow down, because you are not going to be able to rush through anything.
My flight left Newark Airport an hour late after de-icing (don’t ask about the weather in NYC this winter). I will say this for TAP Portugal Airlines. They moved that plane across the ocean. They had a nice selection of movies, and their Airbus 330 had this cool camera in the nose so you could watch the takeoff and landing from that point of view. I really like the Airbus wide bodies. They are much more comfortable than the Boeings.
My flight landed at 6 AM and even taking my time I was still through passport control and customs before 7. You have to love the EU—two lines at customs, – “something to declare” and “nothing to declare.” The latter just takes you right out to waiting crowds looking for their families. So I got some Euros and sat down and had breakfast. Then on to the Metro and off to my hotel. All in all, I checked in by 8 AM. The only problem? My room wouldn’t be ready until 2 PM. Again, the world was telling me “This is a vacation, SLOW DOWN”
Belem Tower and a monument to the first flight from Europe to Brazil
My decision: Walk over to the bus station at Eduardo VII park and take the double-decker tour bus. “What!” I hear you say. “You claim to be a traveler, not a tourist! How can you do the most touristy thing in a new city?” Well, as a traveler, I haven’t found a better way to get the lay of the land in a city I don’t know. The buses go by all of the major tourist attractions and give me a feel for what else is in the neighborhood. Are there restaurants? Can I walk, take the Metro or do I need some other method? What do I see in the area I want to go to that is not in the book, or on the tourist spiel?
In front of the Centro Vasco de Gama and inside.
Buildings near the Centro Vasco de Gama
So, if I have the time and I am not sure exactly where things are, It is on to the big red bus. Here is was the GrayLine. Their ticket was good for 48 hours and included a trip to the town of Cascais, my second-day destination. All for only €25 at their most expensive.
Gray Line has four bus routes:– Belém. Oriente, Castle and Cascais. I started with Belém. This route went through downtown and then out west along the Tagus River. It passes through the waterfront park, and goes by several museums that I am looking forward to seeing on Tuesday, then changed to the Oriente line.
One of the exhibition halls and some of the fountains at the Park of Nations
Oriente is an interesting neighborhood. It was developed for the 1998 World’s Fair, Expo 98. The Fair was built along the riverfront . Today its buildings have been re-purposed. The main exhibition hall and park has been reopened as The Park of Nations (Parque das Nações) with an exhibition hall, aquarium, the Vasco de Gama tower and the Vasco de Gama Center – a large mall.
Statues at the Park of Nations
There are a lot of restaurants in the area, but truthfully, you could do worse than some of the restaurants in the mall’s food court. Today I ate from a stand called Meta dos Lietãos – a pork restaurant. For €6.95 I had a lechon sandwich, 2 kinds of ham (iberico and smoked), resóis de leitão – kind of a pork arepa, and something called caramujo which was sublime. A wafer filled with what I think was a sweet potato filling. All this and 2 cups of wine.
I walked along the river towards the Vasco de Gama tower. The riverfront is still a park with beautiful trees, paths through developed gardens and a walk right along the riverfront.
Then back on the bus to Parque Eduardo VII and back to my hotel where I could finally check in shower and relax.