Our third day in Lisbon, we felt refreshed and renewed. We had received our luggage the day before and were showered and had brushed our teeth two days in a row. We were ready to take on the city, but where to start? As we sat eating a lovely breakfast at a little outdoor café, we noticed a large red double-decker bus driving by that we surmised was a sight-seeing tour of Lisbon. We did have help, as it had huge signs saying “Lisbon Sightseeing – Hop On Hop Off Bus” all over it.
We decided after roaming around a bit, and having no idea what was important to see in the city, that we needed help. We kept walking by statues and monuments that meant nothing to us, so we started looking online how to purchase tickets for the big red monstrosity that we kept seeing drive by. As we were both looking at our phones for information we walked past a newspaper stand. Lo and behold, this and almost every other newspaper stand in Lisbon sells tickets for all of the different sightseeing tour buses!
There are a few different busses that you can buy tickets for that you can hop-on and hop-off at your leisure for a specified amount of time. We chose the Red Bus because it was for a 24 hour time period, seemed to hit all the historical and tourist sites, and was the cheaper of the three. We bought our tickets for 18€ each (Zoë was free). There were two different routes (red and blue) and that amount covered both of them. It also seemed like everywhere we turned there was another red bus picking up passengers. Of course, you know how it goes, after we bought our tickets, there wasn’t a red bus in sight. We waited at the bus stop for about 30 minutes and Zoë had an “ice meam” cone while we waited (there are ice cream stands on almost every corner in the city center).
The bus finally came and we decided to sit downstairs for a minute before realizing that it was not air-conditioned. We moved to the upper deck, figuring at least there would be a breeze. We settled in and started listening (with ear buds given to us by the bus driver) to the information about the monuments, statues, museums and parks that we passed. In between the pre-recorded information, they played the same song by a female portuguese fado singer that was beautiful and interesting and made you feel like you were immersed in Portuguese culture. Well, at least at first. After listening to that song for about an hour it lost some of it’s charm.
Just as we started our tour, Chad realized that he had a work meeting an hour and a half later. We were both very glad to have the next day to finish our tour because it was really interesting to see and hear all about the sites of Lisbon.
The next day we got a late start, but we still got to complete the red line of the tour. At first, I felt like a total tourist and it made me cringe slightly inside… here I was on a obnoxious bright colored, double decker tour bus… it was something I had never thought I would do. I always thought I would be the traveler that would have her Lonely Planet guide out, walking around to find all the sites that I wanted to see and learn about. I have to be honest though, I loved this tour! It gave me enough information about everything on the route to help me decide what I really wanted to spend my time checking out more in depth. And on a much more important note… Traveling around the sites on a bus with a toddler is much more comfortable for all involved. Zoë loved the bus ride and saying “Olá” to everyone we passed.
If you come to Lisbon, take a bus tour of the city, it’s up to you which company you would like to go with, but do it! It’s well worth your time and money.
On Tuesday, we moved to an apartment for two days to wait for our long term (a month is long term right?) apartment to be cleaned and prepared for us. After we got all our stuff in the house, we realized that it was a big accident waiting to happen for our precocious genius daughter. It was a bachelor pad, complete with incense burners, just a microwave to cook with, and a broken toilet seat. Don’t get me wrong, it was nice enough, it was clean and if it has just been Chad and I it would have been perfect, but everything that was dangerous for a toddler was right at her level. So instead of following behind her and saying “no” over and over again, we decided a field trip was in order to wear out our little ball of energy.
Oceanário de Lisboa ( http://www.oceanario.pt/) is a must see if you spend any time in Lisbon. Even if you are not the biggest fan of aquariums, you will be amazed and entertained. I am one of those people and I actually wouldn’t mind going to this aquarium again!
We were easily able to take the metro almost directly to the aquarium, which is a plus when you have an almost two year old that really wants to walk on her own, which can take some time and a few tantrums if you have to walk too far.
When we entered the Oceanário, we walked up a long bridge walkway to a huge square building that is built right into the river. As you enter, the first thing that you see is a massive tank with sharks, gigantic tuna and groupers (they must have been over 100 pounds!), schools of fish, and one of the only Sun Fish in captivity today (what a strange looking thing, too). The aquarium is set up to take you through all of the oceans, giving you a chance to see the fish and aquatic life from that area. The amazing thing was that with each ocean, the surroundings changed for the person walking through. For example, the Atlantic area was so cold I was shivering in my hoodie and jeans, and it was a blue, sunset kind of light, then as we walked into the Indian Ocean area, it was hot, humid, and lit to feel more like sunlight. The sounds that they played overhead made you feel as though you were in the ocean and all along the way you could see the large inner aquarium. Each smaller tank was set up so you could take your time and take pictures without feeling crowded by the other visitors.
Zoë had so much fun looking at the “baby feesh” and taking pictures of them with her own camera. It was fun just watching her face. There was a little area that was especially for young children, with play things that teach how to conserve water and recycle and such. It also had a hidden slide, which was definitely a highlight for Zoë, and probably her her second favorite part to finding Nemo.
Even if you do not have a beautiful excited blue eyed baby to watch, you will enjoy the Oceanário. I would highly recommend it. One thing I wouldn’t really recommend is buying the ticket for the temporary exhibit right now. It was only an extra three euros each, but it was just a few sea turtles, which are really cool, but it seemed really hastily put together and kind of cheesy looking. Stick with the main exhibit and you won’t be disappointed.
All in all, I can say that these two touristy experiences have been a great time for all. All I had to do was get over what I thought a real traveler should be and I had an excellent and informative time! If you ever come to Lisbon (and you should), make sure to take time out for these two fun activities!
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