Greg (aka “the SO”) and I visited Portugal for a week and a half over the Christmas/New Years holidays. I have just uploaded 75 photos for this blog and have little sense of how to keep you interested in them. My initial thought is to just caption them and let the photos tell the rest, so here goes…
Meet my newest favorite international airline. Aer Lingus has great employees, on-time service, comfortable seats and…good food! Who knew? Oh yeah, and the price was so right!
All of the photos have explanatory notes. Hover over lower edge of the photo, then click on the text to start browsing and reading the captions.
The Lay of the Land
We arrived after dark at our wonderful 2-bedroom Air BnB apartment in the Graca district of Lisbon
Same view, daytime. Tagus River heading for the Atlantic Ocean in the background.
Narrow hilly street.
Even narrower hilly street. Only room for one-way tram on this one.
Buildings just climb up the hills here. That’s an old castle on top.
Pastel colors prevail; made me think of Miami….
Lots of murals all around town. This one was pretty spectacular, several stories tall.
Wonderful abundant train and bus service. This subway stop was a short walk from our BnB.
Laundry day in Lisbon.
Lisbon’s idea of a supermarket. This one is probably about the size of a small shoe store. Many “mini-markets” abound too, most of them the size of an average bedroom.
Felipe, gracious host and excelllent chef (made room for us in his restaurant on New Year’s Eve, even though we had no reservations).
Wine list posted outside Felipe’s restaurant. So convenient having a super restaurant 2 blocks from our BnB.
New Year’s Eve fireworks, at least what was left of them. All over the streets. No wonder I thought they were coming from right next door. They were….literally.
Paulo, husband of Ana (next photo). They own the pastry shop at the end of the block.
Ana, who lit up when I said her bread was the best in the world. Which happens to be true. So is her pasteis de nata (custard in a flaky crust) for which there is a national discussion about whose is best.
Sintra is a small town about 40 minutes by train from Lisbon. It features a couple of palaces and a castle, occupied over centuries dating back to the 1500’s–earlier if you want to count the Moors who held court there before the Crusaders arrived in 1147. The town itself is super-picturesque and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We only visited one palace, the Palacio Nacional da Pena, but that took up several hours!
Sintra looks a bit like Disneyland, Portuguese style. Except it’s all very real.
Want to play chess with real castles?
Lots of tile gets used everywhere in Portugal.
Yes, more tile!
This style of pointy blocks shows up in ordinary city houses, too.
Great shot the SO took of this arch.
What the royals must have seen quite often as they gazed out their windows toward the sea.
The SO looking a bit touristy.
Here’s a little video of the kitchen in the palace–L-O-V-E this kitchen, but would need a big staff to keep it going!
There are so many museums of all types in and around Lisbon that you could spend a lifetime and not see them all. We got totally “museum-ed”-out but here are a few of the highlights. First we had to get to Belem, a short bus ride from our Lisbon BnB.
Belem, looking toward the Tagus River.
A horse of course. In front of the Jeronimos Monastery in Belem. It was founded in 1502, funded by the newly discovered spice trade. It now houses several museums.
Another horse, this one also in Belem. I can’t do a post on Portugal without horses!
The Jeronimos monastery is immense. I can’t imagine that a bunch of monks needed all this working space!
Entrance to the cultural center in Belem which houses theaters, performance halls, and the Berardo Museum Collection.
The Berardo featured a show comparing/contrasting Portuguese and Chinese art. This piece is crocheted, it’s huge, it’s powered by air pumps to keep it upright, and it’s Portuguese.
Woodcut at the Berardo. This one by Sun Xun, Chinese. Next photo is a closeup.
The woodcut had various sized clear disks randomly placed which magnified the work underneath.
More from the Berardo Portuguese/Chinese exhibit.
Keinholz study for the Soup Course at the She She Cafe, 1982. This is mild stuff compared to one of his most famous works, Back Seat Dodge. I like the sinister quality of it.
One of the huge paintings I really liked from our visit to the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon. Calouste Gulbenkian made his fortune as the first person to exploit Iraqi oil and then became a philanthropist funding cultural projects in Iraq and Europe. Guide books list this museum as a “must see”.
A white peacock at the Botanical Garden in Belem. I was just walking by on the sidewalk when I glanced through the gate and saw it. First one ever.
Fluorescent sculpture as you approach MAAT–Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology. Greg climbed around the end of the fencing and out to the platform to get super close-up photos, just for the record.
Full-size model of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. Greg is standing next to it for scale. At MAAT.
Crazy sunset happening when we finished our visit at MAAT
The Maritime Museum in the Jeronimos monastery in Belem. The SO took this in while I went to….see next photo…
The Portuguese school is located walking distance from the monastery. I got to watch the daily morning training session, which is actual training rather than a performance. They had horses of all levels in training. The one that blew me away was doing ground work and they had the horse doing flying lead changes and canter pirouettes on long lines. Incredible! Unfortunately, no photography allowed.
Back to the boats…they had both old and some not-so-old (those were typical fishing vessels). A couple more in the next photos.
Who decorates their boats like this?
Another cool looking boat
Part of the recovery work being done at the Lisbon Museum’s project, a Roman theater built in the early 1st century AD and discovered in 1798 when Lisbon was rebuilt after the huge 1755 earthquake.
The MAAT is a really new museum–it opened in 2016–designed pretty much without any right angles. I shot this video from underneath a huge net full of discarded ocean trash which was created by Tadashi Kawamata to draw attention to the proliferation of plastic debris in our oceans. This enormous round space holds various temporary exhibits but this one is especially impressive for the way it makes its statement.
Just for neon freaks
Since Greg is a neon artist, he took particular note of what seemed to us to be an unusual quantity of neon lighting on Lisbon streets and even in the museums. So here’s a smaller assortment of what we found and why we thought much of it was rather oddly constructed, at least by USA standards.
Neon sign in front of the Berardo Museum
Berardo sign with square double-backs–seems like a lot of extra work!
Berardo sign, more squares
Neon in Berardo Museum–this squiggly stuff seems to be a trend.
Joseph Kosuth neon (bent correctly, i.e. the American way thank you!) at the Berardo.
Odd little piece of art with that squiggly style.
Neon wordplay on Magritte’s painting “This is not a pipe”
Storefront in Lisbon. If you look at “CONVENIENT” closely you can see how squared off the letters are here, too.
Neon “A” with square top. We both thought this style just wasn’t as elegant and flowing as we expect neon to be…
The neon below was the title of the China-Portugal contemporary art exhibit at the Berardo, some of which appeared in the museum section above. “Saudade” doesn’t have a direct translation from Portuguese, but it refers to a Portuguese state of mind or soul which generally conveys a desire for a past moment that may be forever unattainable. It is the central feature of Portugal’s famous fado music. More on that in a bit. Here’s the sign that introduced the Chinese/Portuguese art.
Odd & Ends
It’s probably a good idea after all this serious stuff to end on a somewhat light note. In that spirit, the rest of this blog will present a short mish-mash of stuff we found entertaining, worthy of a little spoofing, or just making fun of ourselves as tourists.
Odd light-free chandelier of wine bottles hanging from a bicycle wheel at Rossio Station, where we caught the train to Sintra.
Interesting functional infrastructure at the Lisbon airport. It did seem to serve some sort of HVAC purpose.
They’ve got everybody’s bathroom needs covered in these standardized European Union signs.
Sardine emporium in Lisbon.
Closeup of sardine tins. We have no idea whether there are a thousand varieties of sardines or whether they were just packed in a thousand varieties of sardine can labeling.
Get to an ancient cathedral but can’t get a decent photo of the rose window? No problem, just get the lovely light shining through it onto the walls.
Greg gets his espresso shot in Lisbon.
Greg gets his Guinness ration in Ireland. We had a short stopover in Dublin.
Greg gets his dose of fado. See below.
Alli gets her selfie next to a photo of Anthony Bourdain, who apparently helped make the Tasca do Chico bar where we heard fado famous.
Alli gets her sugar rush at Paulo and Ana’s pastry shop. That was some sort of orange-flavored cake roll and it was perfect.
Alli makes like the graffiti artist she isn’t. There’s a LOT of graffiti in Lisbon.
99.9% of Lisbon’s sidewalks are cobblestone. Greg decided to document it.
Cobblestones part 2
Cobblestones part 3
Cobblestones part 4
Cobblestones part 5
And if you need to repair your cobblestones, you get a big bag of these…
We debated what seemed like forever before we finally accidentally came upon a Yelp! rating for a fado bar that seemed to be just right. There were so many complaints about it not having good food, or not having much space, or having surly staff, or shushing people who talked during a performance, that we immediately agreed that it probably was not a typical tourist joint and that we might actually get to hear something genuine. WE WERE RIGHT!!! The performers are not necessarily professional at this place, but they are real. They understand the “saudade” I mentioned earlier, and sing of their personal despair in a way only a genuine soul-seeker can. One of them was so extraordinary that I doubt we will ever find his equal again. We listened to a lot of recording by famous fado “stars” before we took the trip, and this guy was in a class all by himself. We were so lucky to experience this, and also so lucky to recognize it as truly extraordinary.