Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Lisboa, Portugal (August 2, 2008)

I was intent on seeing as much as I could of Lisboa in one day. Ana had helped me plan a packed itinerary, and I started in Alfama. This section of town is set on a hill, and the place is atmospheric. Old cable cars parade through the streets, their bells tinkling and old facades of buildings with azulejos, the tilework that the Portuguese are known for, come together with the smell and sight of the blue sea. Ze Pedro told me his favorite thing about Lisboa is the light, and I understood. The sky is a full blue, and the sunlight reflects off the cobbled streets, which in and of themselves are carefully patterned mosaics all over the city, and the light plays off the streets, bounces off the tiles, and creates an ambiance which feels a world away from the rest of Europe, and in fact, I don’t know where I would compare it to.

I fell in love with Lisbon, winding streets and neighborhoods aching of a time of grandeur and splendor which is long gone, small cafes with simple but delicious Portuguese staples…it’s unusual for me to visit the colonizer after having been to colonies, and especially now with my plans to emigrate to Brasil, it was strange to see all the things that I identify as Brasilian or what I had seen in Guinea-Bissau be in Lisboa. Of course it makes sense, but it was strange for me. After Alfama I went back down to Baixa, and went to the Adamastor viewpoint for a big sandwich – which would become my favorite Portuguese staple – the bread in this country is so delicious. Then a wander through the neighborhood roughly headed down to the Praca do Comercio.

Again, the play of light was so beautiful. Wide avenues lined with shops, cafes, streets with white and beige stoned intermingled with black rock, smoothed over centuries, all leading down to the sea, and just before it, the Praca do Comercio. A huge square with a towering archway, from where I could get transport to Belem.

Belem is most known for the Mosterio dos Jeronimos, a huge monastery with great architecture, and then I walked along the coast to the Torre de Belem, a tower at the edge of land looking out over the Atlantic. A compulsory visit to Pasteis de Belem, although I didn’t indulge, and then I was pretty much exhausted. I decided to head back home before going out again with Ze Pedro and Ana.

In the evening we went to the Cantinho de Bem Estar on Rua do Norte in Bairro Alto. This was a really different neighborhood, with graffiti, alternative shops and plenty of small restaurants opening up onto the street. We had a great meal and then had some 2 euro caipirinhas, wandering around the area. Lisboa has an abundance of public places that are really beautiful, with views over the city, gardens, plazas…it’s great. I wouldn’t object to living there by any means. Could have stayed longer, but I was trying to get north to see Eduardo…

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