Friday, March 20: last day in Lisbon

..

Today we planned to take a tour of the old and grand opera house, the National Theater of Sao Carlos. The opera house was rebuilt almost right away after the 1755 earthquake that leveled Lisbon (and killed 30,000 people). The king tried to rebuild most of the city within a year, and the original theater had only opened months before the quake. So this one was built in 1756 (and took just six months!) and it’s magnificent.

Our hotel tried to arrange our visit, but didn’t get a response to two emails. The tour started at 11, so it was suggested we get there early and see if we were able to get in. They gave us a copy of the email they sent, thinking it might be helpful to have.

When we arrived at 10:30, all the doors were locked. I stopped a woman standing near the place: she spoke English, she was in charge of the guest relations, and she welcomed us with open arms. It turned out that the email address the hotel was using had a letter missing so she never got either of them. She seemed so concerned for our happiness that it was astounding.

She told us the group at 11 was made up of German and French visitors, and that we wouldn’t get anything out of it since she wasn’t going to repeat the information in three languages. So she let us sit in one of the viewing boxes for just a few minutes and watch a rehearsal in progress. We were content with that unique experience but then she said we could come back at 3 and watch the whole rehearsal of the opera that’s opening 3/25, La Cenerentola.

We did go back and we sat in a box with her friend, Maria (who quickly became my best friend in Portugal) and watched and listened to the rehearsal. It was quite a thrill to be sitting in almost the best seats in the house and watch opera stars from around the world (there’s an American in the orchestra and we were asked if we knew him, as though all of us from the U.S. know each other.)

Then she gave us a backstage tour, snapped a few photos of us, kissed us goodbye, and we were on our way – four hours later. Maria has invited us to her home in Belem, the area we visited yesterday, on our next trip – which could be soon because I love it here.
—-
(Yes, those are new spring pants and a new top seen pictured. I may have enough clothes now, but will still probably do some shopping in the week ahead (why not?!)

There’s no talk of food today because I am writing this before we go to dinner. 9:30 reservations are late for this girl but that’s what our friends from last evening arranged for us, since the live music doesn’t begin until 11. So by the time I get back to the hotel, it will be very late. )

Adios,
Susan

.

At the opera house. That's the President's box/viewing chamber behind us - it used to be for the king.

At the opera house. That’s the President’s box/viewing chamber behind us – it used to be for the king.

It was a beautiful spring day here. I shouldn't have brought my jacket since I had to carry it around all day.

It was a beautiful spring day here. I shouldn’t have brought my jacket since I had to carry it around all day.

Another view of the magnificent opera house. You're not allowed to take pictures of the stage, so I didn't dare. I'm trying to be a great ambassador!

Another view of the magnificent opera house. You’re not allowed to take pictures of the stage, so I didn’t dare. I’m trying to be a great ambassador!

Thursday, March 19: Lisbon

Today was a wonderful day!
I had read an article that suggested a number of must-see places here in Lisbon. Yesterday we went to that crazy bar and today I wanted to visit the Pasteis de Belem, a bakery that sells the traditional Portuguese custard tarts. Although these can be found all around the country, this particular place is supposed to make the best ones. They have a secret recipe that only three people know in its entirety and the exact ingredient list is in a safe with “100 keys,” as a woman told me today.
We got there at about 11 and there was a long line out the door and into the street. I noticed that there was a sign for Table Service and an arrow to go indoors. We found an empty table and enjoyed a snack of the delicious tarts. They are small pastries filled with a lemon/vanilla custard, and served warm, right out of the oven. I could have eaten 10 easily and understood right away why people queued up for these tarts.

President Silva’s house is not far away on the same street and it was amazing to see, with guards in uniform standing at attention in front and police directing traffic in that area. I think this was because he was there, at home today. There were demonstrations across the street but it was nothing like Washington D.C.: much smaller and generally calm. Portugal is a peaceful country and seems remarkably safe. This feeling of safety is noticeable right away (although there are pickpockets like any big city, of course).

Next we went to the Conserveira de Lisboa, a little shop that sells a variety of canned fish: salmon, octopus, tuna, mussels, sardines. They are canned in Lisbon, then labeled and wrapped in the shop. I enjoyed this unusual place and got some tuna, octopus, and mussels to (hopefully) bring home. (I read up on the customs restrictions just now and fish products seem ok to transport.)

We did some shopping and I got running shoes but no bathing suit. I still hope to swim while I am here but at least I can run now.

We went back to the seafood restaurant on the water for dinner tonight, mainly because we loved it for lunch yesterday. I had grilled squid. We met a super-nice young couple there who live in Lisbon. They made reservations for us for tomorrow night at one of their favorite traditional Portuguese restaurants that plays live fado – music of their culture. It sounds like fun.
We are also taking a tour of the opera house here tomorrow . It is hundreds of years old and still used during their opera season.
I am loving Lisbon!
Adios,
-Susan

…..

It is remarkable that the city keeps these stone sidewalks maintained. Laying rocks seems so tedious but two workers were adding rocks very quickly.

It is remarkable that the city keeps these stone sidewalks maintained. Laying rocks seems so tedious but two workers were adding rocks very quickly.

The Conserveira de Lisbon

The Conserveira de Lisbon

Pasties de Belem! Two coffee, two bottles of  water, two pastries =a bargain

Pasteis de Belem! Two coffees, two bottles of water, two pastries =a $6.25 bargain. Everything here is very inexpensive

The cans of fish are all wrapped by hand.

The cans of fish are all wrapped by hand.