May 3-4 Lisboa

We caught the 714 bus from our new campsite into Lisbon, 8.4  km by the most direct route. The bus ride however, was far from direct. It wound its way around residential neighbourhoods, past shopping centres, through the town of Bellum, and finally into Lisbon. It took more than an hour, but the time passing through areas which we would not otherwise have seen was well spent. Clear blue skies, a light breeze, shirt sleeve temperatures, and a sea of mosaic waves rolling across the large open plaza of the Praça da Figueira greeted our arrival in the centre of old Lisbon. Our first priority was to visit the nearest tourist information office for a map of the city. We were met by a line up of 30 or more people being served by a single attendant and soon tired of waiting so we headed off using the map from our campsite. As it turned, it was as good as any we could have obtained from tourist info. There is always a sense of anticipation on our first visit to a city, especially one as storied as Lisbon and today was no exception. The Rua Augusta, a pedestrian mall paved with geometric mosaics in white and black setts (cobble sized rectangular paving stone) connects the Praça da Figueira to the Praça do Comercio on the waterfront. Flanked by clothing outlets, banks, luggage stores, souvenir shops and restaurants, we navigated the umbrella covered restaurant tables spilling across the stone, and florist’s displays in the middle of the mall. Above the shops, a young lady in her night dress took photos from the small wrought iron balcony outside her room, families, couples, small groups of young men and women, and a few tourists strolled, and street performers busked.  One in particular, painted marble white and perched motionless atop a 1 meter high, 20 cm wide pedestal, and held a difficult pose for as long as we could see him. The Praça do Comercio on the waterfront, its u-shaped design of arched arcades opening onto the Tagus, its  bronze equestrian statue of King Jose I, and its triumphal arch is patterned after  the former royal palace destroyed by the 1755 earthquake, subsequent tidal wave, and fire. It was the scene of the 1901 assassination of King Leopold I by the Republican Party who overthrew the government two years later. It was still relatively early (11:00 AM) when we arrived, the restaurants were slowly encroaching on the plaza as they set out their tables and chairs for the lunch trade and hawkers were laying out their trade under the arcade. Old fashioned street cars rattled along the tracks of Rua da Alfândega at the north end of the Plaza and nearby a painted tile mural announced the location of an Italian restaurant. Sheila had two priorities for the day, the Fado (Portuguese hurt music) Museum and the Azulejo (Portuguese hand painted tile) Museum, so we walked along the street car tracks of the Rua da Alfândega towards the museums. Passing the tiny Brunch Cafe, the aroma of coffee and some good looking pastries drew us in for a coffee and carbohydrate fix after which we set off for the Fado museum. We were surprised by the air of neglect and decay. Broken and crumbling painted tile facades suggested past affluence but accumulated garbage, litter, and graffiti covered walls suggested present decline. It took some effort, but with the help of some restored facades, it was possible to overcome the present and imagine a rich, extravagant, colonial past. I knew nothing of Fado, but an hour or more spent at the museum, learning its history and listening to classic Fado pieces done by famous singers and guitarists developed my awareness. Having its origins in the poor working class and dealing with issues of sadness and loss, it reminded me of a American “hurt” music, but is clearly its own art form. We had a decent lunch at the restaurant next door (incredibly friendly although incredibly poor service) before taking on the steep hills of Lisbon's old quarter, the Alfama. The Alfama is yet another warren of narrow alleys, sett paved streets, low rent housing, restaurants, and hordes of tourists but this was different. Predominantly blue, hand painted tiles (Azulejo) faced many of the buildings with murals or pictures. Most were religious themes but were sometimes of animals, food, scenic views, or advertising for the business within. Many had broken or fallen tiles, exposing the underlying stone or brick. On many other buildings fallen plaster exposed brick and rock over large areas, piles of rubble and plaster accumulated in corners, laundry hung from the windows, trash bins overflowed, the streets and alleys were strewn with litter, and graffiti covered most available spaces (mercifully not the azulehos). Despite the masses of tourists and  tourist infrastructure, there was a distinct and disconcerting aura of decay and poverty mixed with increasingly trendy areas. On our way back to the bus a particularly obnoxious Sudanese hawker handed Sheila a cheap string of glass beads and then asked for 3 Euros to buy ice cream. To his chagrin and ire she gave back his beads. On the bus ride back to camp, we passed the famous Pastéis de Belém pastry store in Bellam, the lineup to get in a half block long and mostly tourists.

May 4 Lisboa

Another long bus ride and an even longer walk to the Azulejo museum. Another stop along the way for coffee and a chocolate croissant and then a fascinating exhibition on the history of Portuguese tile making at the National Tile Museum. Presented in a beautiful 16th century convent, the museum traced Portuguese tile making and tile art from its earliest Chinese influences to the modern. Some of the murals contained intriguing subject matter and both made for a fascinating morning and enhanced our appreciation for the many tiled facades, murals, and signs that we would see on our travels. The museum also retained some quite incredible chapels from the original convent. They were decorated, in addition to typical altar pieces, paintings, and statuary, with large azulejo murals of religious images and were unlike anything we had seen in our travels. Equally impressive and unusual were some quite wonderful wood inlay floors  set, like area rugs, into the traditional stone floors to soften the hard stone underfoot. After  an excellent lunch at the museums restaurant, we did the long return to the bus stop via a new route through some of the more modern, low rent neighbourhoods. We arrived just in time to see our bus leave and tried to flag him down between stops. The driver shrugged apologetically and drove on. Supposedly, the buses run every twenty minutes but we sat nursing a couple of $5 beers for an hour before the next bus arrived.
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
by David E. Moon
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
Slideshow Slideshow Route Map Route Map Praça da Figueira The Rua Augusta A living statue, tough way to make a living. A trolley on the Rua da Alfândega Painted tiles help advertise an Italian restaurant. Uncollected garbage, graffiti, and crumbling facades gave an aura of decay. Street life in the Alfama. Life in old Lisbon was not all good. Parts of the Alfama are becoming trendy. Restored facades suggest past glory.

May 3-4 Lisboa

We caught the 714 bus from our new campsite into Lisbon, 8.4  km by the most direct route. The bus ride however, was far from direct. It wound its way around residential neighbourhoods, past shopping centres, through the town of Bellum, and finally into Lisbon. It took more than an hour, but the time passing through areas which we would not otherwise have seen was well spent. Clear blue skies, a light breeze, shirt sleeve temperatures, and a sea of mosaic waves rolling across the large open plaza of the Praça da Figueira greeted our arrival in the centre of old Lisbon. Our first priority was to visit the nearest tourist information office for a map of the city. We were met by a line up of 30 or more people being served by a single attendant and soon tired of waiting so we headed off using the map from our campsite. As it turned, it was as good as any we could have obtained from tourist info. There is always a sense of anticipation on our first visit to a city, especially one as storied as Lisbon and today was no exception. The Rua Augusta, a pedestrian mall paved with geometric mosaics in white and black setts (cobble sized rectangular paving stone) connects the Praça da Figueira to the Praça do Comercio on the waterfront. Flanked by clothing outlets, banks, luggage stores, souvenir shops and restaurants, we navigated the umbrella covered restaurant tables spilling across the stone, and florist’s displays in the middle of the mall. Above the shops, a young lady in her night dress took photos from the small wrought iron balcony outside her room, families, couples, small groups of young men and women, and a few tourists strolled, and street performers busked.  One in particular, painted marble white and perched motionless atop a 1 meter high, 20 cm wide pedestal, and held a difficult pose for as long as we could see him. The Praça do Comercio on the waterfront, its u-shaped design of arched arcades opening onto the Tagus, its  bronze equestrian statue of King Jose I, and its triumphal arch is patterned after  the former royal palace destroyed by the 1755 earthquake, subsequent tidal wave, and fire. It was the scene of the 1901 assassination of King Leopold I by the Republican Party who overthrew the government two years later. It was still relatively early (11:00 AM) when we arrived, the restaurants were slowly encroaching on the plaza as they set out their tables and chairs for the lunch trade and hawkers were laying out their trade under the arcade. Old fashioned street cars rattled along the tracks of Rua da Alfândega at the north end of the Plaza and nearby a painted tile mural announced the location of an Italian restaurant. Sheila had two priorities for the day, the Fado (Portuguese hurt music) Museum and the Azulejo (Portuguese hand painted tile) Museum, so we walked along the street car tracks of the Rua da Alfândega towards the museums. Passing the tiny Brunch Cafe, the aroma of coffee and some good looking pastries drew us in for a coffee and carbohydrate fix after which we set off for the Fado museum. We were surprised by the air of neglect and decay. Broken and crumbling painted tile facades suggested past affluence but accumulated garbage, litter, and graffiti covered walls suggested present decline. It took some effort, but with the help of some restored facades, it was possible to overcome the present and imagine a rich, extravagant, colonial past. I knew nothing of Fado, but an hour or more spent at the museum, learning its history and listening to classic Fado pieces done by famous singers and guitarists developed my awareness. Having its origins in the poor working class and dealing with issues of sadness and loss, it reminded me of a American “hurt” music, but is clearly its own art form. We had a decent lunch at the restaurant next door (incredibly friendly although incredibly poor service) before taking on the steep hills of Lisbon's old quarter, the Alfama. The Alfama is yet another warren of narrow alleys, sett paved streets, low rent housing, restaurants, and hordes of tourists but this was different. Predominantly blue, hand painted tiles (Azulejo) faced many of the buildings with murals or pictures. Most were religious themes but were sometimes of animals, food, scenic views, or advertising for the business within. Many had broken or fallen tiles, exposing the underlying stone or brick. On many other buildings fallen plaster exposed brick and rock over large areas, piles of rubble and plaster accumulated in corners, laundry hung from the windows, trash bins overflowed, the streets and alleys were strewn with litter, and graffiti covered most available spaces (mercifully not the azulehos). Despite the masses of tourists and  tourist infrastructure, there was a distinct and disconcerting aura of decay and poverty mixed with increasingly trendy areas. On our way back to the bus a particularly obnoxious Sudanese hawker handed Sheila a cheap string of glass beads and then asked for 3 Euros to buy ice cream. To his chagrin and ire she gave back his beads. On the bus ride back to camp, we passed the famous Pastéis de Belém pastry store in Bellam, the lineup to get in a half block long and mostly tourists.

May 4 Lisboa

Another long bus ride and an even longer walk to the Azulejo museum. Another stop along the way for coffee and a chocolate croissant and then a fascinating exhibition on the history of Portuguese tile making at the National Tile Museum. Presented in a beautiful 16th century convent, the museum traced Portuguese tile making and tile art from its earliest Chinese influences to the modern. Some of the murals contained intriguing subject matter and both made for a fascinating morning and enhanced our appreciation for the many tiled facades, murals, and signs that we would see on our travels. The museum also retained some quite incredible chapels from the original convent. They were decorated, in addition to typical altar pieces, paintings, and statuary, with large azulejo murals of religious images and were unlike anything we had seen in our travels. Equally impressive and unusual were some quite wonderful wood inlay floors  set, like area rugs, into the traditional stone floors to soften the hard stone underfoot. After  an excellent lunch at the museums restaurant, we did the long return to the bus stop via a new route through some of the more modern, low rent neighbourhoods. We arrived just in time to see our bus leave and tried to flag him down between stops. The driver shrugged apologetically and drove on. Supposedly, the buses run every twenty minutes but we sat nursing a couple of $5 beers for an hour before the next bus arrived.
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
by David E. Moon
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
Slideshow Slideshow Route Map Route Map Praça da Figueira The Rua Augusta A living statue, tough way to make a living. A trolley on the Rua da Alfândega Painted tiles help advertise an Italian restaurant. Uncollected garbage, graffiti, and crumbling facades gave an aura of decay. Street life in the Alfama. Life in old Lisbon was not all good. Parts of the Alfama are becoming trendy. Restored facades suggest past glory.