Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Woke up at the crack this am and went to the terrace for our last breakfast on board. Sweet French David took care of us and gave both of us hugs as we left. He told mother one night how much he appreciated our mother/son relationship. His parents don’t accept him being gay and he doesn't see them much anymore. So sad.
We bid the crew adieu and head to the hotel. Our driver and escort in Lisbon, Nuno, picks us up and takes us to the Lapa Palace.
I have wanted to stay here for quite some time. My friends over at Brandman PR have Orient Express hotels as a client and have raved about this hotel for ages. I was happy to finally have a chance to stay. I met the Hotel Director, Sandro, at an Orient Express lunch last year and we have been in touch. Lapa Palace is a former mansion converted into a hotel in the early 1990's. It is a beautiful abode with a great staff and Raleigh-esque pool.
Sandro was there to greet mother and I as we arrived. Dave and Russ came with us to tour for the day. We all had coffee in the drawing room and then headed out with Nuno. He was an amazing guide and took us everywhere we wanted to see in his sleek and very air conditioned black Mercedes.
First stop was the incredible Jeronimos Monastery with its famous cloisters built in the Manueline style. We strolled under these cool and calm arches for about an hour before heading to the newly built Museum of Modern Art. It wasn't ideal to be inside a white box while in sunny Portugal but I wanted to see the latest art news going on in Lisbon so that was interesting.
We then spent the rest of the day touring all the main sights, eating lunch on a beautiful little street (albeit with too many beggars and sunglass sellers) and admiring the gorgeous tile work around the city.
At 5:30 we pulled back into the Lapa and said goodbye to Russ and Dave and headed to our room. The view was amazing over the pool and harbor. I had a quick jaunt to the pool while mother organized her suitcase and chilled in the room.
We had dinner with Sandro at the Cipriani restaurant in the hotel we dined outside on seafood canolini, an amazing egg soufflé and a chicken and lobster entree that was pretty spectacular. Sandro was a great host and we enjoyed chatting about Lisbon, NYC and of course food.
At 10pm we realize we are going to be late for our evening events- a BULLFIGHT. Sandro was kind enough to secure us tickets to a fight and I couldn't wait to check out the ring, the bulls and the toreadors!
The bullring, Campo Pequeno, was built in 1892 and is quite spectacular with its Moorish onion domes and elegant brickwork.
I was in 7th heaven the entire time we were there. We sat in second row behind a famous Toreador and I couldn't stop taking pictures of all the men in their elegant regal costumes strutting around and inside the pit smoking cigarettes, patting each other’s back and waving to their patrons and fans.
The band was high in the rafters and they would whip themselves into a frenzy when the Cavaleiros would enter the ring on their regal horses and wave to the crowds. I wasn't too worried about watching this fight since in Portugal it is illegal to kill the bull. Although it does have spears lunged into its neck, it isn't stabbed to death in the ring.
I tried to watch it more as a cultural event and to appreciate the horsemanship and courage of the fighters. It was such a spectacular experience. Mom and I had no idea we would be so enamored with the entire experience.
We left after three bull fights. We knew that, like a baseball game, it would be impossible to get a cab if we stayed until the end so we headed out and home for a nightcap.
Our bartender was the sweetest boy name Goncalo Rafael. Tall and lithe, he was quite the chatterbox and mother and I enjoyed talking to him about Lisbon, bullfighting and the hotel. We told him we were going to Sintra and he mentioned these amazing pastries from that region that we must try. He made us two great cocktails and we sat outside listening to the fountains and the pianist inside. At 12:30 we called it a night. We had a long day ahead in Sintra.
So far Lisbon has been a real highlight. I love the architecture, the faded glory of the capital and the warmth of the people.