June 19, 2012: Lisbon Day Three, Zoo Day

This is it, our last full day in Europe on our amazing trip.

All of my posts for this trip really should be turned into a book or something.  I have written so much and I am sure that there is so much that I have left out.  We are going to be busy for quite some time recapping this trip!

It is so hard to believe that this is it, our final day.  We spent the better part of a year planning this trip and looking forward to it, stressing about it, worrying about it and, for the last five and a half weeks, actually being here in Europe doing it.  And now, all of that planning, all of that worrying and all of this time is now up.  Our plans for today are to wind down with a nice day at the Lisbon Zoo to let the girls do something that they will both really enjoy for their final day and to keep us from being too stressed out doing anything difficult.

The plan was to be out of the hotel around nine but we did not manage to do that.  We were still decently early, though, getting to the zoo around ten thirty.  From our hotel we just had to walk to the Marques de Pombal and catch the Metro which took us straight to the zoo.  Very easy.  It is odd that Lisbon has its zoo on the Metro line but not the airport.

We got into the zoo and immediately headed off to Dolphin Bay where the Dolphin Bay show was just set to begin.  We got in with perfect timing so that we missed nothing but spent no time waiting for the show to begin either – very important with two little ones who become restless very quickly.

The beginning of the show was all about the sea lions.  I love sea lions.  I mean, who doesn’t love sea lions?  Sea lions are awesome.  Puppies of the seas.  The show itself was really well done.  It felt like a Sea World level show.  Not what you normally expect to find at the zoo.  At least not at a zoo in the States.  This definitely helps to explain why the cost of entry to the zoo is so high – anywhere else you would pay nearly that much for a show like this alone.  That everything, or nearly everything, is folded into the one ticket price is kind of nice but it really forces you to use the zoo more sparingly and only when you are really interested in taking full advantage of it by attending all of the shows and doing all of the attractions – if you only want to come in and look at the animals then the ticket price is outrageous.

After the very entertaining sea lions, the dolphins were up and they too put on a really good show.  In all the show was about forty minutes long which is really long and involved for something of this nature.  I got a lot of good video during this part of the day.  I am really surprised by how well the AW100 was able to do this portion.

Liesl and even Luciana enjoyed the show quite a bit.  Towards the end they moved from the animals doing tricks and being silly to the dolphins and their trainers doing some really impressive underwater ballet stuff.  Unfortunately because they do it underwater it was really confusing to Liesl and she wanted to leave.  She couldn’t figure out what to watch at that point.

After the Dolphin Bay show we went and rode the cable car that goes through the zoo.  We had originally thought that this was a quick ride that just went around the area that we had seen but thought that riding the cable car would be fun.  Boy were we wrong.  The cable car ride was really long and involved and goes over top of the entire zoo and provides some really commanding views of the entire city as it ends up climbing up a hill that I did not even know was there.  It goes right over the top of many of the animals and gardens giving you really cool views of the zoo.  It takes ten to fifteen minutes to ride and is really involved.  This, too, helps to explain the cost of the tickets.  What really surprised us was that considering how great the ride was, there was basically no one taking it!

The cable cars were very small so Dominica and Liesl rode in one and Luciana and I rode in the car right behind them.  Luciana really enjoyed it once it started going over the top of the animals and we could hear her saying “Hi” to all of the animals as we passed over them and she would wave to them as well.  She is adorable.

The animal exhibits at the zoo were really nicely done.  We walked around for a while and had a nice time.  This is the first time that Luciana has been to a zoo since she was old enough to know what was going on so this was a real treat for her.  Liesl has not been to a zoo for a while so was pretty thrilled to be back again.  She loves animals.  We really need to make an effort to get them to the Fort Worth Zoo once we are back home – we are members there but almost never get a chance to use it.  We want to try out the Dallas Zoo at some point too, especially since we can go there purely by the light rail and do not need to drive like we need to for Fort Worth.

The one disappointment today was that the penguin exhibit appears to be closed.  There were no penguins and no sign of where they would be.

I was surprised to find that the Lisbon Zoo really had no indoor exhibits at all.  It is a purely outdoor zoo. Lisbon does have very mild weather but I would not have thought that they would take the zoo to this extreme.  I am so used to American zoos where half or more of the investments are in indoor, museum-like settings.

While walking through the zoo at one point we turned off of the normal path and discovered a really amazing old building, a bath house we were guessing, with amazing tile work.  The building is part of the zoo and not off limits but has clearly not been used in a very long time (but someone is tending flowers in there) and is mostly overrun with plants and birds live in there pooping everywhere.  It had to have been a really neat building in its heyday with fountains and a bath area and amazing artwork on the tiles.  I took a lot of pictures of it.  Even in its state of decay it is really cool.

From the neat old building we ended up in some formal gardens.  Liesl loves trimmed hedge gardens and ran around in it for a while having a very good time.

I had to leave the family early so that I could return to the hotel and work for a while.  So at three in the afternoon, after a little over four hours in the park (we had eaten some lunch as well) I ran and caught the Metro and rode back to the hotel and worked until lunch time in Texas.  Not very exciting sitting in the hotel alone working.  It was only for the short, morning stretch so wasn’t too bad.

On the way back to the zoo I tried to take a shortcut, oops, while walking to the metro and ended up walking way out of the way and walking up the hill on the far side of the circle and had to walk back down to the metro so I was hot and sweaty instead of being relaxed and was running twenty-five minutes late for getting back to the girls at the zoo.

I got to the zoo and Dominica and the girls were pretty much done for the day.  They had had over three hours on their own after I had left and they had exhausted what they wanted to do in the zoo.  Everyone was tired and just wanted to get back and call it a day.  We grabbed some quick ice cream, mostly because we wanted to get a picture of Liesl eating her “pink foot” ice cream that she really likes here.  This was probably her third one.  She is doing great at sharing all of her ice cream with her sister now too.  She actually enjoys sharing it with her and requires no prompting from us.

We ended up staying in the zoo for probably half an hour or more because the girls were having fun playing in some of the little garden areas off of the main park paths.  We think that a lot of the zoo was likely part of estate grounds before being converted and that a lot of the original gardens were just maintained.  They are often very odd for a zoo setting but they make it neat that there are these little, out of the way escapes in the midst of the busy zoo.   So in the end we stayed until only about thirty minutes before closing time at the zoo.

We tried to eat at the “food court” area at the zoo but just about everything except for McDonald’s had already closed so we decided to just return to the hotel and deal with food from there instead.  We didn’t want to do McDonald’s on our final night in Europe.  Boy that is weird… our final night in Europe.

The trip back to the hotel on the metro was quick and easy.  We got to the hotel and I got back to work.  A little later on in the evening I ran out to pick up sandwiches and pizza for everyone from the little place around the corner that we have been using every night that we have been here.

Once work was over for the evening I took a long walk around up at the Marques de Pombal to find our bus stop for the morning to make sure that we knew exactly where it was and when it came so that we would have no issues.  The only public transportation that runs to the airport is the city bus system so we have to take that.  There is no airport shuttle early in the morning and no trails ever (although they are trying to build that now – it is really needed.)  So I had spoken to the girl working at the hotel desk and she thought that there was a bus and that it would start running at six in the morning.

Six in the morning is later than we want to be heading to the airport.  Our plane leaves around eight thirty so we want to be at the airport before six thirty.  This is an international flight and we have had issues before.  You  really need to be early for flights when you are in Europe.  You have even less cushion when flying, from a time perspective, than when doing so in the States.  But the buses don’t even start in the morning until six so we just have to make do.  Can you believe that a city of three million and a national capital has no infrastructure for getting its populace from the downtown transportation hub to the airport for mid-morning business flights?

It took be probably an hour of walking around to find the bus stop (there are so many of them that I had to walk all over looking at each one to determine which one was which) but I finally found it.  Hopefully using the bus in the morning will be easy.  I asked at the desk and she said that you just pay for the bus in cash when you get on, so no big deal.

While I was gone Dominica had most everything packed.  We are ready for the morning.  The girls were in bed and we went to bed ourselves very shortly thereafter.  I uploaded the last of the pictures and the videos that I was able to get out (there are a few left at this point) so that people would have something to look at while we are traveling.  Tomorrow is going to be crazy.

So the plan for tomorrow is, awake at four thirty (that’s just about four hours of sleep, max), leave the hotel at five thirty with all of our stuff, six o’clock bus route twenty-two from Pombal to the Airport, arrive at the airport around six forty and board our plane for London and on to JFK.  We are supposed to arrive at JFK sometime around two tomorrow afternoon, local New York time (the first westward causes you to arrive only about an hour after you leave by the clock.)  It is going to be a busy day for sure.

To get from JFK to dad’s house we have reserved a rental car, hopefully a Chevy Cruze, from Avis at JFK.  So that should be pretty easy.  They have the carseats that we need there.  So we should be home to dad’s house late tomorrow night without much of a problem.

Well, this is it, it’s over.  No more Europe for us.  Time to return home.  We’ve had an amazing time and have really exhausted ourselves.  We never want to leave but we are definitely ready to be home.  We need our space and our stuff and our family and to stop moving every day, day in, day out.  Unfortunately that is not going to stop for a while.  Even once we are back in the US we are going to be doing an awful lot for at least another week.  I expect to be back in Dallas on Tuesday but Dominica and the girls will not be back for quite some time longer than that.

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