Excerpts from 1,500-word article. Concludes with "If You Go" information

WELCOME SURPRISES AWAIT LISBON'S VISITORS

By Pam Hobbs

Breakfasting beneath a plum tree in the sun-drenched courtyard, where purple bougainvillea cascades down ancient walls and flowering plants burst with colour all around us, we find it easy to visualize this as the seventeenth-century convent it used to be. Or even a country inn off the beaten track, in some white-washed village of northern Portugal. But I never expected a hideaway such as this in the heart of old Lisbon, without a hint of city traffic beyond the cobbled entrance.

Our hotel, now known as York House is one of several nice surprises for visitors to Lisbon. At night a convivial atmosphere pervades tiled dining rooms as guests swap stories about the day's activities. There is an attractive little bar, and the English-speaking staff is particularly helpful....

Like so many cities, Lisbon is best explored on foot. Especially the old sectors, where you find yourself walking along one alley to see what's in the next. And studying walls. Not just any old walls, but those elaborately carved some 500 years ago, crowded with scenes and symbols influenced by the seas and adventurers who sailed upon them. A word of advice before setting out on your own explorations: much of Lisbon is hilly, with uneven, cobbled streets, so you will need to wear your most comfortable flat shoes.

When it was constructed across from the monastery, Belem Tower was actually in the water. Now, since the river changed course, part of it is on dry ground. At this tower, monarchs, noblemen and loved ones would wave their goodbyes to the explorers as they set sail from here. Resembling a fancy wedding cake, the tower is five stories high. King Manuel used to watch from the terrace for returning ships. For visitors there's a panoramic view....

In this same area, the Monument to the Discoveries is almost stark beside the Manueline architecture. Erected in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Prince Henry's death, it represents an enormous ship's prow. At the head is Prince Henry, followed by his pupils, King Manuel 1, and an assortment of VIPs from that era. Behind the monument is a mosaic compass dial embedded in the ground, and a map of the world pinpointing the Portugese discoveries.



Excerpts from 900 word article. Pictures available.

BRING COMFORTABLE SHOES FOR VIRGINIA'S ALEXANDRIA

by Pam Hobbs

It is said you can tell the natives from tourists in this town because they all wear running shoes. Not quite, but certainly Alexandria's citizens are sufficiently wary of the brick and cobblestone sidewalks to wear sensibly flat shoes. Uneven roads and pavements lead to the prettiest part of the city's Old Town, where a hundred blocks square are peppered with more than a thousand buildings preserved or restored to the 18th and 19th centuries. An attractive aspect of this enclave is that it is no sterile re-creation. Most buildings are in everyday use, as offices, shops, homes, galleries and restaurants. The city's oldest dwelling houses the tourist office. Taverns serve meals from recipes used when George Washington was a regular. So dress for comfort, and enjoy....

Since 1732 there has been a settlement of sorts here at the foot of Oronoco Road, a "rolling road" that, so called because hogs' heads filled with tobacco would be rolled down to a warehouse beside the Potomac River. A community sprouted around the warehouse, and by the mid 1740s plans were underway for a proper town. When in the summer of 1749, lots were auctioned, a youthful George Washington assisted in the surveying. Named for Scottish merchant John Alexander who owned much of the land, the town flourished as a seaport through the l8th and l9th centuries. Now tourism is its most important industry...

The Scottish influence is everywhere. Homes and warehouses belonging to some of the original Scottish merchants are here still. The city has its own tartan, and bagpipe and drum corps. Shops display Scottish imports, restaurants advertise finnan haddie. Summer brings the Celtic County Fair featuring Highland games, Scottish music and dancing. While the Scottish Christmas Walk each December has everyone turning out in their Sunday-best tartans.....