“Viva America!” July 4th, what a great day for Americans! As we all know well July 4th marks the anniversary for our great country declaring its independence from Great Britain in 1776. So where better else for us to spend the holiday but in…Lisbon, Portugal (what?). I know that doesn’t make any sense, but this was the weekend that offered the best prices for us to travel to Lisbon so we decided to take advantage of it. I know that it would have been much sweeter had we traveled to London to celebrate the holiday and spite the locals. However, we were proud Americans on July 4th so we made sure to incorporate some celebration and reflection. July 4th , also, served as the two weeks remaining mark until we depart Barcelona and return to the United States and what better place to re-enter the country than the city from which we declared our independence, Philadelphia, PA.
Lisbon, however, was a beautiful city and I am glad that we took the opportunity to visit. It is just a little bit off the beaten path of the cities that American tourists usually visit on their excursions to Europe and that is why we chose it. We figured that we should go now while close, because it would be highly unlikely that we would make a special trip back from the United States just to visit the Portuguese capital city. And Lisbon was a very good choice since it is one of the cheaper cities that we have visited. We got good deals on flights and lodging and stayed in a really pleasant hotel in the middle of most of the action of the city. The food in Lisbon and surrounding areas was quite reasonable in price and good (a stark contrast, in my opinion, from Italy). Furthermore, Portugal was a very nice, quaint, and picturesque destination. It is filled with a distinct architecture and many narrow, cobblestone streets. In addition, there are many historical sites and beaches to entertain oneself, but it was really just a pleasure to be in the city, relaxing and taking it easy a bit. The people of Lisbon were very friendly as well, however, I have never been offered drugs so many times before in my life—and this was in the nice part of town. Yes, I kid you not, we must have been offered marijuana and cocaine by seven different individuals in a really sort of open fashion on the first day of exploration. The good thing was that this was the only real downside to Lisbon.
Upon our arrival Thursday, one of the first places we decided to visit was Aqueductus Liveras—a large Roman aqueduct that served as a testament to Roman ingenuity. There were many such aqueducts across the Roman Empire that were ages in advancement of providing irrigation and water to all areas of the Roman Empire. From the aqueduct we walked down the main avenue in Lisbon passing through the beautiful Eduardo VII Park with its impeccably trimmed greenery. This was a real surprise and treat for me to stumble upon since I immediately remembered the park from the cover of a European travel magazine that my dad had given me to read (because of an article on Barcelona) before I left the United States. At the time I did not read about what was on the cover, but I will certainly seek that magazine out when I return to get some narrative to go along with my first hand experience.
Friday was the 4th of July and while I did not stage a large celebration like I would have liked to I still did what I could to commemorate the holiday. As I have mentioned in previous posts this experience abroad has reconfirmed and deepened my pride in my country, especially with the present occurrences in the political race for the highest office in the land, doing much to prove the ideals that this country was founded on. Naturally, on my country’s birthday, I busted out my Obama ’08 shirt to signify that I was a proud American. In the morning, Javier, Juan, and I set out down the coast a bit from Lisbon to Belem, a sort of suburb, that boast several beautiful monuments and castles set along the river that opens up to the Atlantic Ocean. I wasn’t real sure what all of them were intended for, but they were nice none the less. From Belen we continued a bit down the coast to Cascais which was a very nicely put together small town with some beautiful beaches. These beaches were not Barcelona or Miami Beach, but they were nice none the less. And the compact little town of Cascais was so picturesque, clean, culture filled, and such a pleasure to visit.
After spending most of the afternoon on the shores of the Atlantic in Cascais we headed back to Lisbon. The evening served as the main part of my celebration. I tried to do as many American things as possible (which is not really that hard since our influence in Europe is on every corner…from McDonalds, to Burger King, to Coca-Cola, to Ford, to GM, to FedEx, to our movies, music, etc. one can take great pride in the influence of our country). I ate dinner at the ‘Subway’ restaurant (which was next door to McDonald’s) not far from the hotel complete with pictures of the Big Apple (New York City) pasted across the wall paper. After dinner I went to take in one of our most popular exports, our movies, and saw the new movie ‘Hancock’ which, by the way, was shown in its original English version with Portuguese subtitles displayed at the bottom of the screen for the native viewers! In fact, all of the movies showing in that popular Lisbon movies theater were de Los Estados Unidos (from the United States)! After the movie we walked home signing our national anthem throughout the streets of Lisbon!
In reflection, July 4th is essentially a global holiday. July 4th 1776 was a day that would prove to change the world and shift its dominating countries from France, Great Britain, and Spain to the symbol for freedom and opportunity, the United States. While we all know that we are far from perfection, the beautiful thing is that we do posses freedom, hope, and possibility. Everything in our history has not been good. Trust me, I descend from ancestors who were enslaved by this country and then legally segregated until just this past generation. I am part of the first generation in my family not to pick cotton in America either as slaves or as sharecroppers! But, as recent happenings evidence, we are a sincerely blessed country that may have its problems but strives to realize and improve them and keep the hope and ideals alive that it was founded upon and has made it what it is today. The thing that makes our country so beautiful is its diversity both in its landscape and people. That is what makes us who we are and strong. It is the fact that people from all different heritages and unite together as one in the melting pot that is the US. For the most part we were all, at one point in time in the not so distant past, immigrants (whether arriving by force or choice). The United States is only 232 years old which is but a speck in the spectrum of time that is human existence! Yet, in this short time we have risen to be the leaders of our globe. With this, however, comes a great responsibility to be an example and a beacon of light to the rest of the world. And in my opinion, the present developments in the political process of our country are a momentous step in that direction!
The full Lisbon album can be viewed at:
Keywords: Day 52, Lisbon, PIRE