End of Portugal

DECEMBER 3-5, 2021: We have reached our last days in Portugal. It’s been an amazing trip. Here is a summary of our vacation in numbers:

32 days

21 different lodgings

2957 kilometers driven

54 cities, town, or villages visited

60 Wandering Jew sites verified

22 new Wandering Jew sites discovered

29 blog posts written

We spent our last three days in Portugal, returning to Lisbon, preparing to go home and we tried to squeeze in a bit more sightseeing along the way.

On Friday, we had a 3 ½ hour drive from Lagos to Lisbon. We could only check-in to our apartment in Lisbon at 14:00, so that gave us one hour to do something on route. The artist that had created the ceramic fish we bought yesterday, had recommended we go to Serra de Monchique – a range of mountain that includes the peak of Fóia, the highest mountain in southern Portugal.

We like mountain views, so we added Fóia as a destination. The views from high up were spectacular. To the south, you could see the whole Algarve coast below.

From there we continued to Lisbon, arriving in the city over the Vasco De Gama bridge. This bridge, opened in 1998, spans the Tagus River and is 12.345 kilometers long, making it the longest bridge in the European Union.

In Lisbon, we checked in at same apartment we had stayed at exactly a month ago at the beginning of our trip. We had come full circle. In the apartment, we prepared for Shabbat – there were literally dozens of vegan restaurants to choose where to order food from.

Shabbat was restful. In the morning, Mark went to the local synagogue. When he returned, we had lunch, took naps and then walked around our neighborhood. There were lots and lots of people on the streets, much more crowded than a month ago. People were doing their holiday shopping. Christmas decorations were now everywhere.  

Shabbat ended early and we spent the evening packing and repacking – distributing the weight evenly among our suitcases, making sure we do not go over the luggage weight allowance. It should have been easy; we had eaten the suitcase of groceries that we arrived with. However, over the month we picked up several books (heavy) and other items that made up for the eaten weight.

Our flight on Sunday was not until the evening, and we did not have to be at the airport until 15:30, when we had our scheduled COVID tests. In the morning, we checked out of the apartment and drove to Museu Nacional do Azulejo – the National Tile Museum, a museum in Lisbon dedicated to the azulejo (the traditional tilework of Portugal) that came highly recommended from a friend. The museum had displays about how the azulejo are made and how the designs of the tiles have changed over time. It is housed in what was previously a convent and included a very opulent chapel.

In the museum, there were signs leading to the Lisbon panorama. I assumed this was a balcony with a view over the city. I was wrong. On the top floor, is a long blue and white panel of 1300 tiles, 23 meters in length, made in 1738, showing the city Lisbon and its surroundings. It is a panoramic view of Lisbon from before the Great Earthquake.

We still had time to go out for lunch. We decided on trying daTerra, a vegan buffet located in the direction of the airport. For 11.50 Euros, it is a vegan eat-all-you-want self-service including soup, appetizers, salads, and several main dishes. There would be no need to eat the airline food after this.

After we had our fill, we still had an hour before we needed to leave for the airport. I knew there was an aquarium nearby and so we thought we would at least see it from the outside. We were pleasantly surprised, that the aquarium is on a very long walkway along the river. Turns out this area of Lisbon was developed for the International Exposition of Lisbon (EXPO’98). It is now known as the Park of Nations.  Many of the buildings, such as the oceanarium and the stadium are leftovers from the exhibition. At one spot is a collection of flags representing each of the countries in the world. Seeing the Israeli flag displayed, felt like one step closer to being home. Also left over from EXPO ‘98, was a cable car along the river. We took the cable car to the end and stayed on for the return trip. It was a short 1.2 km, 12-minute ride above the waterfront. We learned that the narrow park we were riding above was called the Garcia de Orta Park. Another tribute to the Jewish medieval physician we had been following.

It was now finally time to make our way to the airport. After filling the car with gas, we returned the car and went for our COVID test. Israel had changed the rules while we were away. When we left to go to Portugal, the rule was that you needed a PCR test within 72 hours of your return flight. Now, you could also do an antigen test up to 24 hours before the flight. Antigen test results come quickly, and the antigen test is ¼ the price of a PCR test. We scheduled our antigen tests online for 15:30. First, we had lots of trouble finding where the testing was taking place. Turns out there were several companies doing tests, and we needed to find the same company that we had an appointment with. After up and down and through the airport with all our luggage, we finally found the correct place. The line was huge, there were about 200 people ahead of us, and it hardly moved. I was getting nervous that we would not get tested and have results in time for our flight. Mark went to verify and learned that we were in the wrong line, this line was for people without appointments. We moved to the have-an-appointment line which was much shorter, only 12 people ahead of us. Still, it went very slowly, there were only four people doing intake, but we eventually got tested and went to check-in. We waited on the side for the COVID test results to arrive – and about 20 minutes later they came, and we were able to check-in our luggage. It was a totally full flight, not one empty seat. Where did all these people come from? We hardly saw any Israelis during our month here.

Once we arrived in Israel, we needed to get re-tested before we could leave the airport. Here the experience was totally different. They had 77 – yes 77, stations up and running. We were in and out of testing in less than five minutes. From there, we got a taxi and came home in the middle of the night. We first lit last night of Chanukah candles and then collapsed to sleep. Something wonderful about being in your own bed.

And concerning Portugal, as I always say whenever we leave somewhere that I really liked, Bye-Bye Nice Place!