Sunday, June 4, 2017

Eric Conway: We only had one full day in Lisbon, Portugal to see the many sites of this country. We knew that we were certain to see the top tourist attractions

Dr. Eric Conway writes:

We only had one full day in Lisbon, Portugal to see the many sites of this country. We knew that we were certain to see the top tourist attractions in Lisbon and learn about the history of the region.

Portugal is a small country in size, about the same size as Indiana.  Despite the size, due to half of the country being adjacent to the Atlantic, the country played an important part in the westward expansion of Europe.  Although, Columbus is credited with discovering America,  both tour guides stated that the Portuguese sailed west to the Americas prior to Columbus and knew of the North and South American continents.  Our Portuguese guide said that the sailors hoped to sail to North America but, due to wind and weather ended up in South America (Brazil).  We all in America could have been speaking Portuguese in America, rather than English!

The one significant piece of Portuguese history that we did not know was that in 1755, there was an earthquake that destroyed virtually all of Lisbon and much of the coast of Portugal.  Much like California in the United States, Portugal is on the edge of the continent next to a major ocean.  Earthquakes, although not as frequent as in California, occur and are severe.  On All Saint’s Day, November 1, 1755, an earthquake hit Portugal that killed over 60,000 persons.  Due to the religious holiday, candles were lit for the dead in most of the homes.  After to the earthquake, a massive fire occurred what did was not extinguished for ten days.  As often is the case with earthquakes, an hour or so later, a huge tsunami hit Portugal with thirty meter waves in Lagos, and fifteen meter waves in Lisbon.  How tragic!  The entire southern part of Portugal had to rebuild.  Most of the history of the region was destroyed.  Most of the buildings in Lisbon were built in the eighteen century.  There was not a tour guide that we met who did not mention this tragedy  as though it happened just last year.

Our first stop was to the town of Belém (Bethlehem) which is close to Lisbon. There, we visited three of the top attractions in Portugal: the Jerónimo's Monastery, the Belém Tower and which houses much of the history of Portugal and Monument of the Discoveries.  The Monastery was significant because it had some of the greatest Gothic architecture in Portugal.  Because of where this monastery was situated, it suffered little structural damage from the earthquake, which was good for Portugal to retain some of their history.

We then walked to the Belém Tower which was built to protect the city of Lisbon. When it was built, it was fifty yards or so in the Tagus river, however, due to the river water receding over the years, the Tower was about 10 meters from dry land.  We then walked to the Monument of the Discoveries, built to celebrate the Portuguese Age of Discovery when their ships travelled to the Orient and India.

It was now time to go the site of our concert at a former Portuguese Palace - the Palacio de Ayuda.  Prior to our concert we took an extensive tour of yet another castle.  Portugal, like Spain, had monarchs for many years prior to changing to a republic.  The palace is now used for official state dinners of the President.  We realized that it was quite an honor for the Morgan choir to perform in a structure such as this.  In fact, the room where our concert was scheduled, is similar to the White House East Wing, where the Portuguese President will give major announcements and share news of the public.

Given that we will leave for home the following day, our final concert was earlier in the day at 4PM.  The room was completely filled.  I could not try my Spanish out on this audience, as those who were in attendance spoke Portuguese, so our guide superbly translated for me.   We believed that we had a great final concert, as the room was a perfect room for music-making.

After the concert, we drove to our group farewell dinner.  Given that we had so very much pork in Spain, we were pleased to see that the main course was Salmon or Cod fish from Norway! 

We were to leave as early as 4AM, the next day for nineteen hours of travel back home.  During the dinner, we were almost preoccupied with the task of packing and possibly not sleeping as to not miss our plane.  We had a great day in Lisbon.  See photos attached.


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