tunisian revolution and the uptown m103

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funiculi, funicular

Lisbon is hilly. I mean really unexpectedly hilly. The central downtown valley of Baixa is relatively flat and plotted out along grid-lines. (Pretty much leveled by the great earthquake of 1755, the neighborhood was razed and subsequently planned.) Yet the surrounding neighborhoods of Barrio Alto, The Alfama, and Chiado – the areas that give this city so much of its vitality – spring up higgledy-piggledy on the surrounding hills.  Which means Lisbon, my friends, is not for the weak of leg. Fear not, however, the public transport is excellent:  a spacious and efficient subway is coupled with an extensive bus system.  As for navigating those pesky hills, you can take one of the vintage trolleys that slowly amble along crooked streets, ride one of the handful of turn of the century iron elevators that move people from plateau to plateau, or wait for the funicular, which will slowly ratchet you up a steep incline. Whatever you do, be sure to get the Lisboa Card, a magic wand that covers all your mass transit needs. Certainly you’ll want to be adventurous and do a little hill climbing at first but trust an inveterate hiker on this one: after a day lost in the labyrinth of The Alfama your bloody stumps will be begging you for mercy.

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cascais by night

By the time I left Cabo da Roca the light was fading fast, so it was no surprise when the bus dropped me off in Cascais in total darkness.  My guidebook, alas, neglected to highlight this little seaside town, so I was in the swim without a map, so to speak.  I had heard that Cascais was practically a suburb of Lisbon; a charming Hampton-esque escape for the moneyed classes.  But in the dark – without a map or a clue – the charms of town were difficult to pin down.  After a few minutes walk, I stumbled across the train station and yippie: a large map was posted on a billboard outside.  Thanks to the trusty iPhone I was able to snap a picture and use it to navigate my way towards the seafront and the pedestrianized part of town.  There I had the fresh fish dinner I’d been craving:  a whole snapper baked in salt, along with two bottles of amazingly cheap – and delicious – wine.  Belly sated, my curiosity for Cascais, however, wasn’t exactly satisfied. One day I’ll have to return and see it with the lights on.

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