October 4, 2006
My arrival to Lisbon was non eventful, and quite luxurious, a rather nice change from the daily grind of teaching physics at West Salem High School in Salem Oregon. I was fortunate to get a really comfortable hotel room and I slept well. In the morning I packed my one backpack and headed to the tour bus. I figured I could get a day trip in before the plane left for the island in the evening. At the city center there were tourists from all parts of the world, I joined a group from Mexico, Argentina and England and headed to the hilltops at the outskirts of Lisbon, to a small town called Sintra. A short time later we were winding our way through small villages for a tour of Pena Palace.
This beautiful mix of architecture resulted from a romantic vision of King Fernando in 1839, who rebuilt an old convent that had survived the great Lisbon quake of 1755. It is interesting to note that this was built nearly four hundred years after the co-discovery of Maio by Portuguese Diogo Gomes and Genovese Antonio di Noli in 1460. Portugal was a major influence on the world's seas and you can see this is the Moorish tiled patterns that cover the palace.
After a traditional Portuguese lunch we headed down an old tram railway and boarded our bus for a trip to Cabo da Roco. It is here where you can set foot as far west as you can go, and to the Europeans of this age, it was very much the "end of the earth". You cannot help but sit here and recall your elementary teacher telling you about how people thought the earth was flat and feared Christopher Columbus would fall off the earth. It does give you a glimpse into just how daring the early explorers where. Back in Oregon, we can look out the coast and see where Spanish Captain Bruno Heceta first laid eyes on Oregon in 1775. From this vantage point it is an amazing feat to imagine going all the way around the Cape of South America. Our tour takes us to a few sea villages and then near the end of the day back to Lisbon where the tour guide, (who knows six languages!) kindly drops me off by a taxi. I tip her and head to the airport to catch the evening flight to the island of Sal and then on to Santiago.