Europe 2010: Figueira da Foz to Lisbon – October 12

Today’s the day we get into our new apartment in the Alfama district in Lisbon. The Alfama is one of the few areas of Lisbon that survived the earthquake of 1755 and so is a maze of tiny streets and twisting staircases leading from the river up to the castle. The area has been inhabited continuously since the days of the Visigoths. Romans, Moors, and sailors have called the place home over the centuries.

The drive from Figueira da Foz went smoothly enough until we got closer to the city and realized that we would probably not make it to the car rental place in time to avoid a late penalty. In calculating the time required to get back to Lisbon, I depended heavily on being able to navigate us back to the car rental place without incident.

I should have known better!

Since when is navigating anywhere easy in Europe — particularly to obscure side streets off huge thoroughfares leading off even huger freeways?

We were on the main ring road leading to the massive Vasco da Gama bridge and of course missed the last turn off before the bridge. And so over the bridge we went–and it’s a biggie! I read later that the Vasco da Gama bridge is the second largest bridge in Europe and it certainly seems to go on forever!  Much of it is a causeway and while quite stunning in its length and water views, it is not exactly what we wanted to see when we were minutes away from a hefty late charge.

But obviously there was nothing to be done but stay on the bridge for an eternity before finally finding a way to turn around and yes, go back over the bridge. We managed to find the right turn off once over the bridge and then proceeded to get hopelessly lost. On the map, the route looked extremely straightforward. In fact, I had chosen the rental outlet because on Google maps from the comfort of my computer back on Bowen, the route from highway to rental place looked simple.

Not so simple!

Finally, we pulled into a Staples (yes, they are here too) and called the car rental place. He told us to just keep on the road we were on and head to the airport where many signs made returning the car a snap. Phew!

And even better, the nice man at the Sixt car rental just shrugged when I pointed out we were over an hour late. No extra charge!

Next week when we go out for a few days to Evora, east of Lisbon, we’ll pick up and drop off the car at the airport – which is what I should have done to begin with.

We enjoyed a wild taxi ride from the airport to our new apartment with a cab driver that had decided it was his personal mission in life to harangue every passing truck, pedestrian, taxi, and car for being on the road. I’m surprised the guy hasn’t yet expired from a heart attack.

Finally, he pulled up at the end of our very  narrow street–far too narrow for a car–and deposited us and our luggage. He also took my 20 euro note for a 16 euro ride and gave no indication he planned to return any change. But whatever–we had arrived and I wasn’t about to be on the receiving end of one of the harangues I knew him to be capable of.

It’s not worth the hassle for four euros!

And so we found the doorway set into the side of the stone wall on a street that Gregg can span with open arms and were soon greeted by the owner and ushered up two floors into the most amazing space. The contrast between the outside of the building and the inside is quite astounding. The owner is a young man who informed us he is an interior designer currently studying to be an architect. He had renovated the space himself and did a spectacular job.

Here are some pictures.

Portion of the living room looking down the hall to the kitchen and up the staircase to the loft bedroom


Sunny and modern kitchen with windows overlooking the rooftops of the Alfama


View from the skylight in the loft bedroom


Top of the stairs leading to the loft




View down the stairs from the loft to Gregg sitting in the living room


View from the outdoor terrace


View over the narrow street from the living room

I think we’ll really enjoy hanging out in this place. We’re here now for 11 nights, although on the weekend we plan to go away for a night or two but keep the place so we can leave our masses of luggage.

And another day of our adventure ends!