Lisbon – trees, trams and tiles …in technicolour

Avenida da Liberdade – Lisbon
Praça Dom Pedro IV

We’re meant to be in Lisbon now, with trips to Sintra and Porto but all is lost, owing to ‘coronavirus’. My first ever visit to Lisbon wasn’t so long ago – so I’m re-engaging virtually.

This is a beautiful city on the River Tagus – which is very wide and rolls down into the Atlantic Ocean. We had a long weekend planned at the last minute, staying in a hotel just off the spectacular Avenida da Liberdade. My first impression of the city is of elegant, tree lined streets, extraordinary, tiled pavements and traditonally picturesque trams.

Trams of Lisbon

We arrive in mid-afternoon – in time to do some exploring – and find supper along the way. Lisbon has steep hills but also a vast, flat square down by riverfront, where people gather in companionable groups. It’s a stupendous sight … full of light … a wonderful introduction to what lies ahead …

Lisbon – Praça do Comércio
Lisbon riverfront at Praça do Comércio
Praça do Comércio
Lisbon – yellow tram
extraordinarily beautiful pavements

I’m besotted by all the tiled pavements, although they can be a menace if you’re wearing high heels – but I’m not. There’s also something seductive about a city by the sea and I’m being happily seduced.

criss-cross pavement
mysterious hieroglyphics …
‘knot garden’ pattern
the tiger’s lair
the red swimsuit and Jimi Hendrix
Lisbon – meet the aliens …
retreat to a quiet square
with an art shop

Roaming around has made us hungry. Behind the main streets are steep, stepped alleys. My eyes are drawn to this blossom, which, by chance, stands outside a restaurant.

Supper time
Lisbon – ghost tram

Night is now drawing in and a comfortable bed hovers like a mirage as we make our way back to the hotel.

Our bedroom is spacious, with a separate sitting area and a small balcony. There’s both a bath and a shower. Joy!

Downstairs, in the semi basement, is a beautiful pool – a glass wall opens out onto a terraced, tropical garden. I want to come here and swim every day. It’s very tranquil – only a couple of other people in evidence. The hotel is called PortoBay Liberdade.

We are awake early next morning and decide to take the metro out to the Aquarium, which is part of a huge modern complex, designed by Peter Chermayeff, on the bank of the Tagus. Blue skies, racing white clouds and ozone fresh air.

on the metro 1
on the metro 2
Lisbon ladies – where are you going?
Parque das Nações
new ideas …
sculpture welcoming clouds
Lisbon – architectural
Lisbon – the Aquarium

It’s fiendishly difficult to get a good photo inside an aquarium unless you have the right paraphernalia – not just a small camera. Below is my best shot. The aquarium is incredibly well looked after and used for a lot of ocean research too.

at the aquarium
outside the aquarium
Lisbon – out on the boardwalk
strolling …
…and time for a treat
before taking the metro back to ‘centre ville’

There’s an astonishing amount of ‘street art’ in Lisbon, some of it really brilliant, some feral, some gruesome, some just bad. We even come upon a blocked off ‘graffiti’ street. It reminds me a bit of ‘The Vaults’ near Waterloo station in London, except that it’s not underground. If you like that sort of thing, it’s worth exploring…

stir crazy
Lisbon – graffiti street
very ‘sixties’

The melodic and melancholic tones of ‘fado’ music entice us out for the evening, followed by a fish supper. ‘Fado’ enters my psyche. We buy some CDs before leaving.

searching for ‘fado’
making ‘fado’ music
fish restaurant
close up …
excellent ‘Vinho Verde’
a place to remember
homeward bound …

Exhausted … I embrace bed … slept like a log …

The Botanical Gardens are near the hotel and we make a quick tour. Our goal is to get to ‘Castelo de São Jorge’ today …

entrance to Botanical Gardens
palms galore ..
a rendezvous?

Then it’s ever onwards – across town to Alfama.

Alfama is the oldest part of the city with narrow, crooked streets winding their way steeply up towards the citadel.

Alfama – small square
Alfama – round square!
Alfama – street art
Alfama – Scooby-doo …
Alfama – picture framing shop

The hill up to ‘Castelo de São Jorge’ gets higher and higher. I’m not a mountaineer! I come upon a wall, showing photos of past denizens of Alfama, which I find very touching. This is the real old heart of the city.


A historic past brought to life by pictures of ordinary people who lived here … it’s a great idea to do this.

Alfama – old woman with broom …
wall of tiles
stairs to a secret garden … (ssh – I’m being nosy)
here lies a tale … ?!
entrance to the castle grounds
view of city from the castle – Alfama

The view of the city is panoramic. I feel so happy to be here, high up, in the fresh air. I now see why mountaineers need to reach the top!

view two …
Alfama – castle grounds
a wall!
strolling along the terraces …
inside the castle walls
Alfama – contemplation
haunting sound …

I don’t know what this musical instrument is but it’s sweet and deeply sonorous. There’s also some arresting street art near the entrance to the citadel. See below.

I notice an old outdoor urinal. Waited to see if anyone would use it – it brings back memories of 1960s Paris. Along with the palpable smell of garlic suffusing the metro.

On my first visit to Paris alone, when I was sixteen, I was intrigued and a little shocked to see the patterned metal, outdoor urinals, with heads and feet (only) in view.

My mother sent me to a lycée in the summer holidays, which led to a lot of exciting experiences – and did help me learn French. And I’ve loved going to France ever since.

She didn’t like ‘abroad’ so I’m forever grateful to her for sending me there. I think it was because she had a friend, who taught French at the local school.

Frenchmen seem to be less reserved than most Englishmen in this department. Over many years driving through France, we used to count the Frenchmen insouciantly ‘baring all’ at the side of the road, when the need arose.

no takers …
arresting street art …
Alfama – street sculpture? – spot the ‘kitkat’
gene genie

Starting the long trek downhill. A concatenation of brilliant colours …

sherbet yellow, pink, red, blue, green …

We eventually find ourselves at the ‘Museu de Artes Decorativas’, which includes an 18th century backgammon and chess table in rosewood.

entrance hall – Museu de Artes Decorativas

Lisbon is a wonderful city to explore by walking. We make our way parallel to the Tagus through small streets and alley ways. I am curious by nature and this is one of my favourite things to do in a city.

Lisbon – picture postcard
Lisbon – traditional dancers

I don’t know what the picture below signifies but Lisbon cuisine is very much about fish – which seems plentiful and is tasty.

ruby red
verdigris green
beatific blue …
yellow ochre

When I hear the word, Lisbon, I do see/think ‘yellow’. The days of the week I see in colour too. Some people have synaesthesia – a syndrome which means that words and numbers strongly conjure up the same colours/tastes all the time. You can take a test to see if you have this syndrome.

Lisbon – fish ‘kiosk’

There are quite a lot of these picturesque ‘kiosks’, which sell ‘take away’ fish dishes in the centre of Lisbon – often with a few tables and chairs outside. I like the look of them.

We’re almost back at Praço do Comércia. John reluctantly agrees to a photoshoot! I have to take it by reflection …

on holiday in Lisbon 2019

We’ve been walking for seemingly hours now (not complaining!) and I’m famished.

dizzy with hunger …

We could have a very late lunch but I am sidetracked by looking into the window of a bakery – immediate gratification! I wouldn’t pass the ‘marshmallow test’ at this moment …

‘immediate gratification’
These ‘hit the spot’ too …

Recovery …

man in black …
dog in black …
stars in black …
swirls in black

You can tell how fascinated I am by Lisbon’s pavements!

keeping going …
interesting – how do I get up there?
blowing in the wind …

I look at the European flag and I want to weep that my birthright of being European may be taken away from me. Brexit was the main topic last year, like ‘coronavirus’ is now … so … to drown my sorrows …

I went swimming in the hotel’s gorgeous pool, which I had all to myself. The air smells like the ocean. I am revived – for the moment… and the warm night draws in …

Lisbon glamour …

‘To sleep, perchance to dream …’

It’s already our last day, so we make an early start after breakfast. There’s an art gallery close by, opposite a statue of Fernando Pessoa, ( 1888 – 1935), a famous Portuguese poet and writer, translator, publisher and philosopher.

Fernando Pessoa 1888 – 1935
Carlos Botelho 1899 – 1982

A well known painter, illustrator, cartoonist and humorist, born in Lisbon.

contemporary art
bizarre … and disturbing … and unknown
the one that got away …
unknown but handsome …

Final decision made, after wavering as to where to go next. We’re taking the metro out to the Gulbenkian Museum, stopping en route at a patisserie, as it’s almost time for elevenses …

beguiling shopfront ..
odd one out ?

Emerging from the metro we can see the Gulbenkian Museum, but it means crossing innumerable roads and roundabouts to get there. It’s worth it!

Calouste Gulbenkian was born in Istanbul in 1869 – his family roots were Armenian. He became one of the richest men in the world as an oil magnate but he was also an avid art collector and philanthropist, living all over the world. His life story is fascinating. A lot of his private art collection is on show here. The building also houses contemporary exhibitions. It’s surrounded by lovely gardens, which are dotted with cafés and is a great place to visit. You can easily spend all day here.

Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian 1869 – 1955
Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian
Gulbenkian Museum – Lisbon
giant carpet – featuring oil pipes?
an extraordinary individual
Gulbenkian Museum – garden
Gulbenkian gardens – turtles – real ones!

There’s also a contemporary exhibition about mysteries of the brain, robots and language.

map of Indo- European languages
brainpower 1
brainpower 2
and then there was this octopus

I couldn’t help feeling that the tentacles of the octopus and the spread of the language map had similarities. Our brain travels in various different routes from birth, depending on who we are as an individual, where we came from, what we do and what happens to us in life.

And then there’s this astonishing individual, Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian, who made the most extraordinary connections. He had a brilliant financial brain and made a lot of money, he loved art and collected more than 6,000 pieces and he also used the huge amounts of money he made to help others, funding schools and hospitals and scholarships. His international reach in the world is also somewhat like the tentacles of an octopus. Octopuses are known to be super intelligent …

In London, Gulbenkian built St. Sarkis Armenian church as a memorial to his parents and is buried there. In doing this, he wanted also to provide a place of ‘spiritual comfort’ and a gathering place for ‘dispersed’ Armenians. (Wikipedia).

I’m so glad to have visited this place and to have learned more about this man.

Portugal has always been a seafaring nation. Every morning we passed this nautical floor sculpture but I’m not sure of its provenance.

Lisbon – nautical floor sculpture

It gives me a chance to put in the pirate, who we also pass every day.

Black Jack
pirate ship – top right

But the fire engine is tempting … I know a little boy who would love that …

Time’s running out. We’re now waiting at the hotel for a taxi to the airport…

waiting for the taxi … under these graceful trees

I just had time to race down to the bakery to get the best ‘pastéis de nata’ in town … I hope I get them home in one piece.

the famous Portuguese ‘pastéis de nata’

Our short stay has been super enjoyable. I wasn’t to know then that ‘coronavirus’ would delay our return to Lisbon but at least there’s something to look forward to in the hope that the state we find ourselves in will be overcome in the not too distant future and we will be free to travel once again.

!Adeus !


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