Thursday, May 15, 2014

Lisbon for a day and two half-days

Health warning  :  Loads of images. Three day's worth. We didn't want to lose a single moment of memories.

Thursday 8 May 2014
Back at the train station for the third time. This time we were well early so sat outside the station, at one of the three cafes, for a coffee (!!!!!) and a Cola Light, to make sure our needs were met before the three hour train ride to Lisbon.

There was a curtain blowing in the wind from a window on the first floor of the station, so what else could I do while I sipped my cooldrink, but snap about a million shots of it as it made beautiful fun with the breeze. You're lucky I'm only uploading one ...

Locals loitering as we waited outside the train station.

When you book this long-distance train, you're allocated seats and are given the chance to change them if possible. The tickets were €26 return for Alan at OAP rate and €46.50 for me at youngster rate  This was the first class price as the economy fare was only €5 less. We chose the comfort in this heat and it really was worth that little bit more. The website for booking is

The views were pleasant and mostly unchanging as there's not a huge range of land-types in Southern Portugal, and a sandwich bought from the not-that-well-stocked cafeteria on the train, kept our sugar-levels happy.

We had booked a room at the 3K Europa and were pleasantly surprised to find that it was a two minute walk from Entrecampos, the station we chose to alight at. We left our bags at the reception - too early to book in - and went in search of a small lunch. We found quiche for me and bacalhao for Alan, in a little cafe across the road from the huge bull ring. Bacalhao is hugely popular in Portugal; a traditional fish dish from sea-faring days, which is sold as large, dried, butterflied, very heavily salted cod, mostly unpackaged, and piled high in the shops. Alan found it a bit uninspiring and bony in its cooked form.

The bull ring building

Later, as we waited for our bus I noticed the real moon
asserting its identity beside symbols it influences.
(above and below)


Back to the hotel, after finding Alan some clip-on sun shades to ease his eyes in this sunshine.

Unfortunately, the receptionist chap who booked us in seemed to have not known that he was working in a four star hotel, and we found his whining complaints at being over-worked that day a little annoying. It took him ages to book us in, with much sighing and phoning of some unknown person, and then he disappeared into a back office to look for our waiting bags, having completely forgotten that they were sitting under his nose at the reception desk. Actually, I'm not really surprised he was a bit brain-dead ... the decor of the whole hotel, every room in the building, is shiny black, very angular, and with no softening accessories, which is enough to deaden the life out of even a rock. What on earth possesses interior decorators to use an excess of black, especially where folk have to work all day! The black reception counter was murky with hot and sticky hand imprints and even I was beginning to feel claustrophic under the weight of all that dead "colour" - in the big reception hall as well as in our room. Stunning bathroom though. And comfortable bed. The air conditioner had long since given up any hope of efficiency but luckily the window opened a bit so we had fresh air, albeit interrupted and noisy nights.

This was cute. Instead of a painting on the wall (which, according
to their interior designer would have had to be black!!) they'd painted
this (black) mural. A colourful painting would have been grand but
in the absence of that, this is very nice, I think. The wall opposite to this one
is a huge, shiny black, built-in wardrobe and complimentary bar.
Guess what colour the tiles were in the bathroom?

Having spotted a double-decker tourist bus, we investigated this option as it seems a rather large city to get to know in just two half-days and one full day. We went for it - for €25 each we bought ourselves a 48 hour pass to the Yellow Bus which offered four tours; unlimited use within the 48 hours of the tram, any municipal bus, the underground metro rail, and the escalator (the funicular) which takes you for a short ride up to a view point over the city. We thought it fair value and determined to make full value of it.

That first afternoon - and it must have been close on 4pm by the time we found the first relevant Yellow Bus bus stop (there'a also a Red Bus and a Grey Bus option, but we didn't find out about those) - we stayed on the bus for nearly two hours just getting a feel of the place. If you can see it from this map, the route we took was the maroon one which went from the city centre out ... I'm going to say to the right on this map because I don't know which is the correct north, south, east or west direction! 


 Our bus driver (in the mirror) and our first view of the square in a
commercial part of the city, from the lower deck of the bus.

The lower deck is not the best place for these tours.

We passed through the main square in town where, if you look up to the right, a park stretches up to a memorial where a hugePortuguese flag waves majestically in the warm breeze. It looks very grand indeed. I remember back in 1974 (when I was a whole twenty years old!) we were in Paris on Bastille Day and they had adorned the Arc d'Triomphe with flags just as big, and all lit up at night. I'll never forget that, it was awe inspiring for a shy little South African exploring the wonders of Europe.

The flag in the middle distance ... somehow not showing
its grandeur in this pic.

 The buildings got grander as we inched through traffic to the river-front and main square there and I began to notice that Portugal "does big". Old architecture is not high, but it's big and heavy; memorials and statues are just plain big to huge. Again, reminiscent of the grandeur from times now back in history. And the traffic! We were pleased someone else was doing the driving ... mind you, it was thick but it wasn't static - it moved.

 All the roads in the centre of town are trafficky like this.

 A look backwards from the top of the bus

 Our first sight of the old trams we could have caught with
our bus pass, if we'd had the time.

 Hmmm, an Alan shot, which excited him no end.
A beer museum. Ho hum.

These two shots (above and below) of the grand archway
leading from the old part of town to the (huge) square on
the riverside, were taken from the bus, hence the reflections.

We stayed on the bus at its official end/start point, now being able to move up from the lower level to the upper deck, in the shade under the quarter-roof. While sitting, waiting for the bus to go again, we noticed a huge building behind us, empty except for the garden of weeds growing in its gutters. I remembered my niece Carly's comment about how Portugal reminded her of faded grandeur. This was a sad epitomy of that perspective.

 You can just see the weed-garden on the ledge below the dormer windows.

We followed this tram for a while in the traffic, thoroughly
enjoying its age and character. Not many people seem
to catch it though.

The tour bus followed the river, past this incredible liner - called Costa Fortuna, which, of course, with our heat-befuddled brains, we thought was hilarious!

Egads! Just look at all those little balconies in front of little cabins
and imagine all the other little cabins inside there which costa less
so didn't get a window and patio. And this is the sister ship of
the one which sank a while back. No thanks. Nightmare stuff!

If you look very closely at the horizon line in this pic you'll
see a long, 17 km long, bridge over the River Tejo. More
than spanning the water, it protects valuable birdlife in
a wetlands area.

 This building and sculpture is the only photograph we have of this particular area.

It was difficult to take pics here because of tree-lined roads and the closeness to the buildings while the bus moved swiftly through. It's a commercial zone built in 1998 for a Lisbon Expo which subsequently made a big and positive difference to the Portuguese economy.  Huge, modern, cleanly designed buildings, water fountains and sculpture, shops and offices all abound there with quite a few folk making use of it. The first sign that the faded grandeur which we expected to be the only impression is being swiftly tended to.

 Jardim do Campo Grande

At the top of Jardim do Campo Grande, a large park where University students were being initiated in small, submissive groups as we passed, the bus followed its top perimeter and headed back to the town centre. I was sad we hadn't managed to photograph it, but there was a huge bronzed sculpture of a stocky fella sitting on the ground in the park, holding two huge, beautiful, disconnected boobs, with a daft and goofy look on his face which just said "They're mine!". I loved it.

Going past our hotel stop we headed back in to town on the bus, alighting at the Edward VII's Square from where we could see that huge flag, with a view to finding somewhere to eat, before catching the metro back to the Europa. It was here that we noticed that the tops of the street lights all sport what appears to be the symbol of Lisbon and/or Portugal ... a sailing ship with a bird facing inwards on either end.

Here's Marques de Pombal where he stands
forever in the square

It wasn't that easy to find somewhere to eat as we'd inadvertently put ourselves right in the middle of the commercial and professional part of town where the cafes close up when the lawyers, accountants and engineers go home for the day. Finally our tired selves found a Sushi restaurant .... which seemed closed. However, opposite it was a place called Guilty where we discovered we could get pizza and hamburgers ... but at a price more than we had anticipated spending. Plus they only opened their dinner menu at 7.30 pm and it was now just after 6 pm. We were pretty tired by this stage, so what else were we to do but plonk ourselves down and order the cheese plate while we waited for the pizza menu.

 The cheese plate was so yummy with bowls of olive pate; sardines; white balls of cool, light cheese in soy sauce; a cheese contained in a strip of linen ... and there was something else which I can't remember! ... centred with a basic of crisp baguette toast. So nice, and we were so tired and hungry, that I forgot to record in for posterity with a pic! Above are the remains.

 I chose a pizza with pork ...

 ... and Alan became immediately bug-free with
the amount of garlic in his delicious duck calzone!

 As consolation while Alan wasted time having
a deadly Long Island iced tea... I just had
to have this almond and strawberry ice cream.
'Tis really, really hard, this life.

Really tired now, we headed for the metro station only to find that the entrance we knew about was closed! The joys of learning the in's and out's of a city when you're tired, and feeling old. At a loss, and now in a part of town with hardly anyone around to ask, we flagged down a taxi to take us back to our black hotel. As it so often happens, we had a connection with the taxi driver. He was Portuguese but had been born in Angola, so we all felt like we were neighbours, kin from a far away land, and chatted happily about what it's like to have lived in Africa, until the black hotel hove into sight.

The Yellow Bus took us to the big square on the river front, from where we thought we'd take a walk around the old part of town. We stopped in at the post office on this square (below) to top up our toll road card for when we took the road from Portugal to Spain in a week's time. Just some pics of the buildings, bouganvillea and art works:

In search of a water ice to cool and quench, our route took us river-wise through the huge square beyond the gigantic archway.

The top of the archway.

 ... archway from the right ...

 ... archway straight on ...

 ... archway from the left ...
(and Yellow Bus!)

 Beyond the archway we caught sight of
two lovely old towers.
(above and below)



From the little people you can see the
size of the statues in Lisbon.

 A great show of lamps in the square with the ship and birds symbol
(using my favourite 300 mm lens)

 Same sculpture from the front :-)

Big, big horse trampling man beneath the man, who is busy
pretending not to notice the violence going on below him,
 on the horse above

 Saudi Arabians happily involving tourists in their
drumming, singing and dancing


We found the water ice and ice cream we'd been looking for and perched ourselves on a ledge at the edge of the square to lick happily. It's amazing how many airplanes zoom in low to the airport which is very close to the city. We amused our small minds by trying to get shots of the 'planes entering and exiting the horse. Well, you have to do these things, don't you, when you're feeling hot and free and old enough to do what you like.

 Missed. But a good shot on the nose.

 Missed again, but close. 

 Perfect one on the pole!

The square stretched out over quite an expanse but in summer
is probably packed full of tourists. It's still a little early in the year.

Walking in a straight line across the square from the big archway,
past the huge sculpture of a man on his horse, you reach
these steps going down into the river. It made me think of the Ganges River.
What tickled me was that on top of each of these two columns was
perched a Seagull, both calmly watching the tourists on the steps.
Here they are in close-up:



 Either side of the steps and columns leading into the river was
a little beach. This one is to the right of the steps.

The heat of the day hit us as we considered walking up into town, so we stopped at one of the pavement cafes on the square for a bite of lunch. 


Not wanting to pay huge tourist prices, and also not wanting to make our afternoon heavy with full stomachs, we settled for the typical olive and bread roll starter (this one came with garlic broad beans as well), with a little bucket of crab cones each and some homemade crisps with garlic mayo. It was so nice that I almost forgot to photograph it for our memory bank and just caught Alan before he ate his last crab cone.

The olive and garlic broad bean starter
(above and below)


Alan's last crab meat cone
 The beautiful arched collonade behind the
pavement cafes on the square.

 Over lunch, we decided to walk back to the square where the Yellow Bus routes began and to take the Blue Route out along the coast to the left. It was just too hot to walk.


 Walking up to the square was great. We passed under the big archway and on up through the old part of town.
 Elevador de Santa Justa.  32 metres high.
This tower houses a lift which takes you up
to a great view of Lisbon. It was put up by
Raul Mesnier in 1902. He was
a disciple of Eiffel (Eiffel Tower in Paris).

Just a shot to show how high Lisbon can go.
These aren't high rise buildings but are built
up on a hill.

Sad old tiled building - beautiful tiles though.

View down a side street

 And then we reached the square where the buses leave from.

 Looking down a street from the square
where the buses are.

 Hip shot of a local

Here follows images, taken from the bus, as we wove back through town, hitting major traffic jams - some of it brought on by a demonstration of some kind taking place and requiring smart policemen to direct the traffic. The loop through the town took a turn along the riverside for a lovely tour of well-known Lisbon landmarks, before heading back and dropping us in the square again.


This building is known as the Diamond Building


 We later discovered that this lovely building
houses a metro station

There were some lovely reflections from the bus window
in these two pics (above and below)


The funicular which we later caught to the top of the hill



 Edward VII's Park - the big flag is just behind us at this point


Big flag which is much bigger in reality

You can hire just about any type of wheels to tour around Lisbon.
Tuktuks, motorbike and side-cars, buses, taxis, trams,
Yellow lines, Red lines, Grey lines ... if it's got wheels, you can hire it.
Lisbon is so good at sweeping views and huge statues



We were stuck in the demonstration traffic jam at this point
and I just loved this really ancient building up ahead on the left.
It's roof had been cemented into place at some time in it
long and useful life.

  This lovely church was built by Queen Maria. She had
promised to build a church if she gave birth to a son.
She did. So she did.

Policemen helping out with the demonstration
traffic jam

 The most incredibly imposing aquaduct, serving a still working
reservoir is right in the middle of a part of town, resplendant
with it's grand arches and ancient blue tile artwork.

This was another part of town which surprised us. We could
have been visiting Sun City in Southern Africa. Tall, modern, new,
glass-fronted and dominant buildings forming a town on its
own on an edge of the city. This is new glory which is super
and impressive, and somehow doesn't overshadow those parts
of Lisbon where ancient history is still alive and well.

The bus reached the river front and brought us past Henry
the Navigator's famous memorial, this cool fountain, and (below)
the most fabulous ancient monastary.

The monastery is known as
Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, dating back to the 1500sand built to
commenorate Vasco da Gama's discovery of a sea route to the orient.

Bridge over the River Tajo.


 Castle along the river front

A modern monument guarded by two well-dressed chaps who
swelter in the heat there probably wishing for a quick dunk in the pool.

Lisbon proudly displays the work of a number of its
graffiti artists who are encouraged to depict relevant
historical events and movements.

  Padrao dos Descobrimentos - monument to The Discoveries.
Erected in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the
death of Henry the Navigator.
That was another two hours spent on the bus but the day was yet young so we headed towards the funicular we had spotted an hour or two earlier, stopping at Starbucks on the way for a Coconut Chocolate milkshake for me and coffee for Alan.

Starbucks lives in this building on the bottom right.
Lucky Starbucks.

These weren't the best graffiti artists and I doubt they were
chosen to paint big on buildings

The funicular coming down to meet us

More approved graffiti

Going up .....

Alan nearly got his elbow ripped off by
this passing funicular - he didn't see it coming.

Getting off at the top

 We followed our noses up a little and found this cool park
overlooking stunning views of Lisbon, with the castle on
the hill opposite.






I took a few close-ups of the castle with my 300 mm lens




 The tea garden a level down from the terrace we were
standing on.

 Painter, Oleg Basyuk was busy doing what artists do.
His work is colourful, vibrant and captures the energy of Lisbon.
I bought one. What else could I do?! I've been that artist
and know the feeling when someone likes ... and buys! ... your work.


 Here he is signing the back of my painting, and
just to be sure, we took another shot ...

 The painting I bought.

 A detail of the painting.

 Happy and tired after a very full day, we took the hill up a little farther, looked down an alleyway, and found our resting place for the late afternoon and dinner.

 Shanti Shanti - with its Indian-inspired decor
and view across Lisbon, through wind-protective plastic sheeting

 This is the view before we went in ... you can see its plastic
windows in the upper left corner of the pic

Inside, on the terrace we sat on

Himself under the canopies

We were too early for the dinner menu as usual, so it was a
plate of cheese and a bottle of Mateus rose wine

Alan chose prawn curry

 Mine was probably the best fillet I've ever eaten ... really.
Fillet of veal, rare, with a creamy Dijon mustard sauce.
I didn't want the meal to end!

My poison after main dish heaven,
and it was as incredible as it looks.

Alan, his usual poison.

Back in the day .... waaaay back in the 60s, Alan had seen Nubar Gulbenkian, the son of Calouste Gulbenkian, in his wicker-painted London taxi, sitting in the car with his hand on his walking stick, being driven to destinations wealthy. Ever since then he has held a mild curiosity about the family so was happy to find the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon, within easy walking distance of our black hotel.

The Gulbenkians were a wealthy Armenian family in the late 1800s, having made their fortune from mid-eastern carpets, and then oil. Calouste Gulbenkian had also been Oil Consultant to the Ottoman Court. To cut a long story short (google it!) Portugal, being a neutral country in the Second World War, agreed to shelter Calouste Gulbenkian after he had auctioned himself off to whoever would have him for the duration of the war. In return he promised that country his incredible collection of art.

The museum. like all museums, was superbly laid out, full of tourists, quiet and fairly soulless, with orange strips on the floor (and guards) telling you not to go any closer ... even although your eyesight meant you couldn't see stuff from that distance. There were some incredible art works there, ranging from Lalique jewellery and glassware, eastern carpets, ancient Egyptian artefacts, Middle Eastern lamps, clocks and pottery from places like China and Japan ... and walls of valuable paintings. A Turner painting (below from the book we bought) just sang for me, as did a Singer Sargent painting and most of Ruben's work.


A picture of the museum from our book.
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Museum Catalogue
ISBN 978-972-8848-77-4 (3500 copies)

Last bit of Lisbon graffiti, spotted as we walked back
to our black hotel to collect our bags.

Goodbye Lisbon.
We love you and will be back.