Around Lisbon

Today, some day-to-day images from wandering around Lisbon. The city is built on seven hills, and streets and sidewalks in the older areas of town are often narrow and cobbled. You can hear cars coming a long way off, but fortunately for us our apartment is in a very quiet area. Vehicles need special passes to enter it and usually streets are traffic-free and used as additional sidewalk space or as a yard. In places where sidewalks are wider, the pavers show their artistic side.

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Sidewalk stone patterns.

We walk almost everywhere and get a decent amount of exercise just going to the grocery or butcher. Staircases are incredibly common, and funiculars and elevators move people up steeper hills, though tickets are relatively expensive. In older areas, streets that do allow cars wind around and rarely follow anything resembling a grid pattern; wandering around and getting lost is a good way to spend an afternoon.

The most popular mode of transit for tourists seems to be the Carris trams that run around the old town. They look as if they came directly from the 1920s and rattle around on their tracks between some of the major sites.

It was interesting to discover that old buildings, or at least their outer walls, are not torn down, even when they are gutted inside. Structures are close enough together that walls are shared; it is easier to remodel later than to start from scratch and worry about the neighbors having structural problems in the interim. Even empty buildings are poetic looking; mosses and weeds grow from edges of missing roofs as the walls slowly crumble.

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Hilly staircases, side streets, abandoned building.

One of the fancier areas to grab a meal out is in the waterfront district. The Mercado da Ribeira has been remodeled from just a farmer’s market selling fresh produce and seafood into a major foodie center with chefs and restaurants from around Lisbon showcasing local meals. It is a little more expensive than many small eateries, but the selection is amazing; there is no way to try everything, even with a month in town. A dish I particularly enjoyed there was quail and mushroom risotto; it helped to warm me up after a chilly day of walking.

Overall the food here is just as tasty, though not as spicy, as in Southeast Asia. Local favorites are egg-based pastries, fresh cheeses and yogurts, oranges, and seafood of all kinds. We’ve also eaten horse for the first time, it was similar to bison and really tender. Maybe Ikea was on to something with their meatballs? And for drinking: inexpensive wine. The “expensive” bottle of wine we purchased was almost 6 euro; most are under 3 euro, which is why don’t feel bad bringing home a new bottle to try every time we go out!

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Streetcar, the Mercado da Ribeira, gateway from the Rio Tejo.

Lisbon is covered in art, but many museums and churches don’t allow photos inside. Just imagine lots of gilt-framed paintings and statues of Mary, Jesus, and the Catholic saints, as well as all sorts of golden crosses, celebrations of naval power, and art brought back from colonies around the world.

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Four miscellaneous arts.

Lisbon is justifiably famous for its centuries-old tradition of covering buildings in patterned and painted tiles. There are hundreds of designs and they can make any street feel like a work of art.

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Building tiles and one elephant trying to stay camouflaged.

Lisbon has been a welcoming and fun city to explore, I can’t believe Portugal wasn’t higher on my radar earlier. Fortunately, we will be leaving behind more things to see, so when we return there will be new explorations waiting. We head to Barcelona in just a few days; the final main sight we plan to see in Lisbon will be the palace at Mafra, with its famous library, it has been something I’ve been looking forward to all month.

 

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