12 May 2018

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Lisbon, Portugal

If I have given the impression that Lisbon is just lots of historic buildings and stone tiled pavements, welcome to Oriente station. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, using concrete, steel and glass, the station was built to provide access to the site of the 1998 World Fair. It combines, bus, metro and train stations, providing connections to the whole of Portugal. It’s one of the largest stations in the world, handling 75 million passengers a year.

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The upper train platforms are covered with a glass roof, supported by columns designed to resemble trees.

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The station is the stop for the district of Parque das Nações, previously an industrial area which was chosen as the site for Expo’98, the international World Fair. The entire area along the waterfront was rebuilt, becoming one of the biggest urban redevelopment projects in Europe. When the exhibition ended the area was renamed Parque das Nações, (Park of Nations).

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There is a diverse range of contemporary public art here, from the huge, painted tile panels that greet one at the metro station, to pieces dotted all over the area. I came across statues of humans, not all of a recognisable form like ‘Homem Sol’; a giraffe; and naked women, made of marble, bathing in a pool.

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Pavilhão do Conhecimento

The theme of the 1998 World Fair was the world’s oceans, so water features prominently here, as in the Pavilhão do Conhecimento, a museum of science and technology, and the Vulcões de Água, six, four meter high volcano shaped fountains dotted along narrow canals.

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Gardens also have a water theme.

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This is where the Eurovision Song contest is being held, when I visited, it was all fenced off as work was being done to prepare the site for this week.  The grey space ship looking building in the photo below is the Altice Arena, where the contest will take place.  A cable car glides along the riverside for aerial views of the park.

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The area by the river is pedestrianised, a walk here will take one past the Vasco da Gama Tower, the tallest building here, through landscaped gardens and to the bridge.

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The Ponte Vasco de Gama is Europe’s longest bridge, 17 Kilometres, named after Vasco de Gama who was the first European to reach India by sea. The bridge was part of the redevelopment work for the 1998 exhibition, 1998 was the 500th anniversary of de Gamas discovery of India.

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A final word on the Eurovision Song Contest, which has  brought an additional 100,000 people into the city. The Praça do Comércio in the city centre has been turned into a ‘Eurovision Village’, with screens provided to watch the semi-finals and finals for people without tickets to the main venue, and entertainment provided every night of this week, as part of the build up to the big final on Saturday.

5 May 2018

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Lisbon, Portugal

Chiado is a trendy area, with shops, restaurants, a mix of 17th century architecture, Art Nouveau, old style cafes, theatres and churches, and in the middle of all this, the oldest book shop in the world.

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Livraria Bertrand was founded in 1732, and is (recognised by the Guiness Book of Records), the worlds oldest bookshop. Over the years Bertrand’s has expanded to become the largest chain of bookstores in Portugal.

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On the 4th floor of the Benetton store on Rua Garrett is an old lift, (elevator), originally from the Ramiro Leão department store in 1888. It was one of the first lifts in Europe, the stools were provided for women to sit on during the journey.

Two, of the many churches in Chiado, have beautiful painted ceilings, so worth a photo here. The first are of Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Encarnação, and then the Basílica dos Mártires.

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Largo do Carmo, is a small, shady square with open air cafes, musicians, and  a fountain in the centre, the Charfariz do Carmo fountain used to be the main water source for the district. The headquarters of the Guarda Nacional Republicana is here, and this was where Marcello Caetano fled on April 25 1974 and surrendered power to General Spinola, see previous post for the Carnation Revolution.

When the 1755 earthquake hit Lisbon, hundreds of people were in churches across the city, attending mass for All Saints Day. The Igreja do Carmo was no exception, built in 1389 in the Gothic style, at the time it was the largest church in Lisbon, and hundreds of people died when the roof collapsed on the congregation. Unlike other churches which were rebuilt, this church wasn’t,  left as a reminder and memorial, of the destruction of that day.

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There is also a small museum, the Carmo Archaeological Museum,  installed on the site in 1864, for the storage and display of items from old ruined buildings and items that were found in the rubble of the church. The display includes a  14th century tomb of King D. Fernando I, a 4th/5th century  Egyptian Sarcophagus, and my favourite a 16th century mummy from Peru.

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Moving away from Chiado, to a castle that sits on the highest of Lisbon’s hills, and where I took the above photo of the city, showing Chiado and the Gothic church in the centre.  Castelo de Sao Jorge was originally built by the Moors in the mid 11th century, the castle that now looks out over the city was built between 1938 and 1940, a result of the impact of wars and the 1755 earthquake. Archaeological evidence has shown that there has been some form of  human settlement on this site as early as  the 2nd century. It was declared a National Monument in 1910.

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There isn’t an awful lot to see in the grounds, there’s access to the towers, one can walk around the ramparts, and there are some, noisy, resident peacocks that roam the grounds. It does provide some of the best views of the city.

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Ponte 25 de Abril
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The line of trees is Avenida da Liberdade

When I wrote about Principe Real, the Botanical Gardens were closed for renovation.  Now open, I visited a couple of weeks ago, not the best time of year to visit gardens, however, I thought I would end today with some snaps of the gardens, some of the plants are quite architectural.

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25 April 2018

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Lisbon, Portugal

Early on the morning of 25th of April 1974, 48 years of Military Dictatorship ended in Portugal. Today, Freedom Day, is a public holiday, a day Portuguese people celebrate and remember  what is known as The Carnation Revolution. The military coup was started by two secret signals, songs broadcast on the radio. The first was the Portuguese entry of  Eurovision Song Contest, E Depois do Adeus, to alert rebel captains and soldiers of the army to begin the coup.  The second was Grândola, Vila Morena, by Zeca Afonso, a political musician-singer who at the time was banned from Portuguese radio, this song was the signal to take over strategic points of power in the country and to announce the revolution had started and that nothing would stop it.

The revolutionaries did not use violence, and no shots were fired, unusual for a coup. As the soldiers entered the city and residents took to the streets to celebrate the end of the dictatorship, flower sellers handed out red carnations, the flowers in bloom at the time, carnations were put in the muzzles of rifles and on the soldiers uniforms, which is where ‘Carnation Revolution’ comes from.  The only deaths that occurred on this day in 1974 was when the Political Police opened fire on people on the streets and killed four people. A plaque commemorates their deaths.

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The Avenida da Liberdade is free of traffic and so devoid of vehicle noise. Over the last week or so the trees have burst into leaf, so it was a delightful start to the day to wander down the unusually quiet street.

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As part of the Freedom Day celebrations  the Câmara Municipal, (the City Hall), is open. City Hall is home to Lisbon’s City Council, the Mayor and councillors offices, and the public sessions hall are here.  The present form of the building was constructed between 1864 and 1880, it was on the balcony that the Republic was announced in October 1910. The stairs, balcony and table all have red carnation displays and every visitor was given a red carnation as they left the building.

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A former political prison of the dictatorship is now a museum, the Museu do Aljube. A leaflet about the museum states,

The Museum fulfils the city of Lisbon’s and the country’s duty of gratitude to, and the memory of, the victims of prison and torture, who, sacrificing their own lives, fought for freedom and democracy. The Museum aims to be a site of memory and a way to promote the values of democracy and freedom.

The building’s name, Aljube, is from Arabic meaning ‘well without water’ or ‘prison’. It was originally a church prison, (it is next to Lisbon Cathedral), then a prison for women. The Military Dictatorship used the prison from 1928, it then became one of private prisons of the political police.

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Between 1928 and 1965, when the prison was deactivated, thousands of men were taken to this prison, either because they had just been arrested, or were coming from torture and interrogation.  The fourteen pens, or drawers, in Aljube prison where the men were held for indefinite periods of time, measured 1×2 meters, with no natural light and unsanitary conditions.

A composition photo of the face of Amável Vitorino, made up of photos of political prisoners. Vitorino was a shoemaker who was arrested in December 1940 for ‘unpleasant comments on the current political situation of the country and its leaders’, released in February 1941, and arrested again, ‘for  questioning’ in April 1952, released in August 1952.

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Being imprisoned did not stop the resistance to the dictatorial regime and the ‘prison press’ existed in a number of prisons. The newspapers in the photo are examples from 1934 to 1945. All prisoners had three photos taken when they were arrested.

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In the afternoon there was a parade along Avenida da Liberdade, with hundreds of people, red carnations, music, banners, flags, placards, balloons, joy and remembrance.

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Today Lisbon is a city of red carnations, people are wearing, carrying, giving away, or selling, the flower.

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‘No one can defeat a people who resist’

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22 April 2018

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Lisbon, Portugal

The, almost, daily rain of the past few weeks finally stopped for a few days and with Lisbon temperatures warm enough to leave my waterproof walking boots, and umbrella indoors, to make the most of the sunshine, I visited Belém.  An earlier, temporary version of The Padrão do Descobrimento, (The Monument to the Discoveries) was built in 1940 for the Portuguese World Exhibition. The Monument one sees today was reconstructed in 1960 to mark 500 years since the death of the Infante Dom Henrique (Henry the Navigator). The Monument website provides the following succinct description,

Standing alone in a striking position on the breakwater on the bank of the Tagus, the Monument to the Discoveries evokes the Portuguese overseas expansion, recalls the country’s glorious past and symbolises the enormity of the work carried out by the Infante, the driving force behind the Discoveries.

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The Monument looks like a Portuguese caravel sailing out to sea, the caravel was developed around 1451 and was the preferred choice of vessel for Portuguese explorers of the time. Henry the Navigator is on the prow and the other 32 figures, 16 on each side, comprise of royalty, and leading cultural people, such as writers, historians, painters, and colonisers.

Inside the monument provides access to a viewing platform at the top, however the huge queues deterred me from doing this. Either side of the monument are two metal armillary spheres on two parallelepiped platforms. The site also has a fifty meter wide marble map, with carvels marking  the main routes and dates, of the 15th and 16th century Portuguese explorers.

Torre de Belém, Belém Tower, is a ten minute walk along the river from the Discoveries Monument, however the tower is actually in the Tagus River.  Built in 1515 to guard the entrance to Lisbon’s harbour,  it was also a starting point for many of the explorers journeys of discovery. Built in the Manueline Architectural style, a rich and lavish style of architecture, indigenous to Portugal and featuring elements of the sea, nautical and botanical motifs. UNESCO declared the tower a World Heritage Site.

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Another example of Manueline Architecture is the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, The Jeronimos Monastery, is seen as one of the symbols of a period known as the Age of Discovery.  The 16th century monastery was built by King Manuel I, in honor of the successful voyage to India, of the Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama.  The King invited the Order of St. Jerome, the Hieronymites,  to occupy it. The Hieronymites continued to occupy the monastery for 400 years until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1833, when the building became state property. UNESCO declared this a World Heritage Site in 1983.

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The ornate cloisters of the monastery and the refectory of the chapter house with  azulejos tiles from the 17th century.

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View inside the Church of Santa Maria showing the six, 25 metre high, octagonal columns.

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7 April 2018

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Lisbon, Portugal

Baixa, (downtown Lisbon), seen as the heart of the city, was completely destroyed by the 1755 earthquake.  The Marqués de Pombal, was the chap responsible for rebuilding Baixa and he devised a grid pattern for the area that included earthquake-proof construction. The grid was built to  precise geometric specifications, with streets, flanked by neoclassical buildings, named after different trades; fanqueiros-firefighters; douradores-gilders; sapateiros-shoemakers, prata-silversmiths; comercio-traders; correeiros- saddle makers; and, ouro-goldsmiths.

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Praça dos Restauradores

In the centre of Praça dos Restauradores is the Monumento dos Restaurdores, (Monument to the Restorers), the obelisk monument commemorates Portugal’s independence in 1640, from sixty years of Spanish rule. The ‘restorers’ are the soldiers who died restoring independence to the country. The district of Baixa starts here and continues on to the River Tagus.  Looking over the square is the Art Deco, Eden Theatre, it opened in 1931 and was one of Lisbon’s main theatre/cinema buildings. It closed in 1989 and converted into a hotel in 2001. DSC_0121 (1)

DSC_0127 Praça de Dom Pedro IV, is known locally as Rossi Square, (Rossi train station is here) two baroque fountains, one at each end, are the main features of this square.  The monument in the centre has a statue of Dom Pedro IV at the top of the column, around the base are representations of justice, strength, wisdom and moderation, said to be qualities attributed to Dom Pedro IV.

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Praça de Dom Pedro IV

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There are stunning examples of neoclassical architecture in Baixa, however some buildings are in a poor state of repair, renovation plans for the whole district, mean extensive building work is currently being undertaken. Some of the area is pedestrianised, and restaurants line the middle of the streets tempting tourists to stop and eat.

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The Elevador de Santa Justa, a neo-Gothic iron tower, also known as the Elevator of Carmo, transports people up the hill to Chiado, and provides views over the city and the river, from the viewing platform. Built in 1902, originally powered by steam, it was electrified in 1907. It is the only public vertical lift in the city.

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At the end of Rua Augusta, one of the main pedestrian streets of Baixa, is the Arco da Rua Augusta. Designed as a symbol of Lisbon’s recovery from the devastation of the earthquake, the building wasn’t actually completed until 1875.

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As part of the restoration of the building in 2013, a lift was installed to allow public access to the top of the arch. The lift only goes up so far, then there are two sets of very narrow, steep, steps to climb, before one gets to the top, for a birds eye view of the straight, patterned pavements of Baixa, the Praça do Comércio, and the River Tagus.

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Praça do Comércio

 

25 March 2018

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Lisbon, Portugal.

I now live a short walk from Praça do Marquês de Pombal (Marquês de Pombal Square), the square is in the centre of Lisbon, and three of the capitals largest boulevards meet here. North of the square is Lisbon’s largest park, Parque Eduardo VII, named as a tribute to the English monarch Edward VII, who visited Lisbon in 1903.  The park slopes gently up to the Monumento ao 25 de Abril, a contemporary monument, that commemorates the 1974 Revolution. The April 25 coup is known as the Carnation Revolution, it ended the longest dictatorship in Europe, the Estado Novo.

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One is rewarded at the top of the slope with views across the city. Half way up the slope is the Carlos Lopes Pavilion, it was built in Lisbon, and taken by boat to Rio de Janeiro, to be the Portuguese Pavilion at the International Exhibition of Rio, in 1920. Originally called the Palace of Exhibitions, it was renamed Pavilion Carlos Lopes, in honour of the Olympic athlete who won a gold medal at the 1984 Olympic Games, the first gold medal won by Portugal. It fell into disrepair and the refurbished building opened in February 2017.

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Praça do Marquês de Pombal is where a statue of the Marquês stands, looking towards the Tagus River and Baixa, the area of the city he was responsible for rebuilding after the 1755 earthquake. The lion standing next to the Marquês represents strength, and at the base of the statue as well as various figures and animals,  the jagged rocks are reminders of the shattered city after the earthquake.

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Avenida Da Liberdade, is a wide, (90 meters), tree lined, boulevard, built in the 19th century, which connects Praça do Marquês de Pombal to Restauradores.  Designer shops, hotels and theatres, some in beautifully restored buildings, sit either side of the avenue, and dotted along the cobbled, mosaic walkways are statues, fountains, cafes and seating.

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Half way down the avenue is the Monumento aos Mortos da Grande Guerra, (Monument to the Fallen of the Great War), created by the local sculptor Maximiano Alves. The Avenida Da Liberdade ends at Praça Dos Restauradores, which is in the district of Baixa, more about this next time.

The sun was setting when I was walking home so I went up to the Monumento ao 25 de Abril to take some more photos. The monument fountains had been turned off, which turned the water into a mirror.  While the moon was playing peek a boo with the columns, birds were roosting, a few bats were out feeding, and dogs had brought their humans to the park to throw balls for them, to watch while they jumped over and through the box hedging, or played tag with each other, until they too, decided it was time to take their humans home.

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11 March 2018

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Lisbon, Portugal

I’m moving away from Alfama next week (to more settled accommodation) so I thought while I am still here I would show you some more of this area.  Alfama is the oldest area in Lisbon, the medieval district was a Moorish and then a Jewish quarter before it became a fishing community. It’s built on solid rock foundations, which is why  it escaped the catastrophic damage the rest of the city suffered from the 1755 earthquake. It has a village like quality to it, and is a snapshot of time before 1755. It also provides views over the city.

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The pink building in the photo below is where I am staying, it was a monastery which has been converted into apartments. The other photos show a selection of the decorative styles of building in the district.

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I’ve said before that walking is the best way to experience Alfama: not just because some of the streets are not wide enough for cars to get through; or because you won’t get to see what’s at the end of winding set of steps; or so you can take in the aromas of local dishes being cooked, that waft, tantalisingly, over the cobbles; or missing a tiny bar with only three tables inside, that has some of the best portuguese wine and tapas you will ever taste; it is because you will hear fado. The beautiful, haunting sound of fado will be your companion as you wander along the bumpy, cobbles, it is the soundtrack of Alfama.

The origins of fado are disputed, but the fado one hears in Lisbon today came from Alfama in the 1830s. Fado is a form of music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, originally often about the life of the poor, or the sea, today fado is a form of song which can be about anything.  Fado may be melancholic, but it is also beautiful, in 2011 UNESCO designated fado as a World Intangible Cultural Heritage. Amália Rodrigues is fado’s most celebrated performer (fadista), she was known as the Queen of Fado, (Rainha do Fado) and was most influential in popularising fado worldwide. When she died in 1999 the portuguese government declared a period of national mourning. This mural of Amália is on a wall in Alfama.

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The Viewpoint of Santa Luzia is a terrace, with, as the name suggests, views over Alfama. It also has some good examples of azulejo, both on the side of the church and  on the terrace.DSC_0107

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4 March 2018

Lisbon, Portugal

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Fábrica de Cerámica da Viúva Lamego

One doesn’t have to walk far in this city to see a building clad in azulejo, or painted in a bright colour. The Fábrica de Cerámica da Viúva Lamego was originally a pottery workshop founded by António da Costa Lamego in 1849, producing tiles and ceramics.  When he died the factory adopted the name Viúva Lamego, the Viúva Lamego factory is now in Sintra and still produces hand painted tiles, the original building is now a tourist attraction.

Along the same street is the 1908 Hotel, named after the year it was built, a newly refurbished Art Nouveau building, with a sprinkling of azulejo.
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It seems as though it has rained in Lisbon for weeks, torrential rain is not ideal to go exploring with my camera, however I made the most of a break in the weather for a quick visit to the district of Príncipe Real.  The area gets its name, Príncipe Real, (royal prince) from the first son of Queen Mary II. My first stop was to see Sao Bento Palace.DSC_0008

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Sao Bento Palace

Sao Bento Palace dates back to the late 16th century, when a monastery, said to be the first Benedictine monastery in Lisbon, was situated on this site. The building was damaged in the 1755 earthquake, and what was left became the seat of the Portuguese Parliament in 1834, eventually being renovated into this enormous Neoclassical palace, Palacio das Cortes or Parlamento. I couldn’t get any further back to get the whole building in one photo.

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Príncipe Real has 19th century mansions, trendy restaurants and bars, antique shops, green spaces and a ten acre botanical garden, which was closed for refurbishment when I was here. It also provides great views of the city, once the weather is better I will take my camera so I can show more of this district.

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One can just see the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge in this photo, it is one of Lisbon’s most notable landmarks and spans the River Tagus at the narrowest point. The bridge connects Lisbon, on the north bank, with the district of Alameda on the south bank.

Opposite the Portuguese Parliament is this vivid yellow building, brightening up, what was, weather wise, a rather gloomy day.  This striking piece of street art is on the side of a house.

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This is another view of the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge taken near the Praça do Comércio.

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Praça do Comércio is known by the locals as Terreiro do Paço, because it was where the royal palace was before it was destroyed by the earthquake in 1755. It is one of the largest squares in Europe and was completely rebuilt after the earthquake. The chap on the horse in the middle of the square is King José I who was the Portuguese ruler during the reconstruction of Lisbon and the statue was inaugurated on his birthday on the 6th June 1775.

25 February 2018

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Lisbon, Portugal

It was a meeting with a dear friend for a long overdue catch up, that brought me to Martim Moniz Square, with its multicultural spaces and distinctive fountains.  The square gets its name from a noble man who, according to legend, during the siege of Lisbon in 1147, wedged his body in the doors of São Jorge Castle as the Moors were trying to close them. His actions gave the soldiers time to get to the castle and reclaim it. Unfortunately for Martim Moniz, this was the cause of his death, they are quite big doors.

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Martim Moniz Square

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On the morning of the 1 November 1755, one of Europe’s most powerful earthquakes struck Lisbon. Tsunamis hit Lisbon  after the earthquake had subsided and then fires burned continuously for five days throughout the city. It’s estimated that a third of the population, around seventy-five thousand people, died, and ninety percent of the buildings were destroyed, the event has shaped Lisbon’s history ever since.

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The Bairro do Mocambo

In the National Azulejo Museum there is a twenty three meter long tile panel, The Bairro do Mocambo, depicting fourteen meters of the coastline of Lisbon. It was painted in the early eighteenth century and is iconic because it is the most complete view of the city before the earthquake of 1755. It shows some of the most important buildings of Lisbon at that time, which were subsequently destroyed by the earthquake, such as the 70,000-volume royal library and the royal Ribeira Palace.

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The museum’s collection is the only one of its kind in the world, displaying azulejo from the early 15th Century to the present day. The museum is in the monastic buildings of the Madre de Deus Convent, which was renovated after the earthquake, and also appears on the Bairro do Mocambo. It is the building on the far right of the following photo.

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The following is a selection of the azulejo on display at the museum.

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Madre de Deus Convent is richly decorated with every surface covered in either paintings or azulejo. The azulejo panels are not just decorative, they depict historic events, or stories about daily life in Portugal.

I went to one of the many theatres here in Lisbon, the Teatro da Trindade opened in 1867, located in Chiado, it is one of the oldest theatres in Lisbon. Extensive renovations were undertaken in the 1920s, and  the biggest names in Portuguese theatre have performed here. The buildings adjacent to the theatre are just as colourful.

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Orange trees are in fruit now and can be seen dotted around the city streets.

17 February 2018

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Lisbon, Portugal

I am currently living in an area of Lisbon called Alfama. It’s one of the oldest districts in Lisbon and got it’s name from the Moors, alhama means springs or bath, and is a reference to the hot springs found here.  The Moors are responsible for Alfama’s maze of narrow, winding, steep, streets, which at the time were a defense system, but also help to keep homes cool in the summer. Walking is the best way to see Alfama, if only to see just how narrow the streets are and how close some of the buildings are to each other.

DSC_0017Every Tuesday and Saturday morning, Alfama is the venue for a flea market, (Feira da Ladra), known locally as the thieves market. In Portuguese ‘ladra’ translates as a female thief, however it originally comes from the word ‘ladro’ which is a bug found in antiques. A market has been in Lisbon since the 12th century. The stalls are spread out over several streets at Campo de Santa Clara, next to the National Pantheon.  DSC_0042

Santa Engracia Church, although originally built as a church, was never completed, and is now designated as the National Pantheon of Portugal. It contains the tombs of Portuguese Presidents; Amalia Rodrigues, the iconic Fado singer; and Almeida Garrett, a leading literary person.

 

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National Pantheon

 

 

If the buildings aren’t covered in azulejo, they are usually painted in bright colours, giving the streetscape of the city, a vibrate and colourful, jumble of windows, doors and balconies.

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Police Station

The Algarve

I have friends who live in the Algarve, which is in southern Portugal, a couple of hours from Lisbon either by car or train. I visited recently and on a sunny, Sunday morning,  we went for a walk along the cliffs at Benagil, Lagoa, which as you can see is quite beautiful.

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After lunch we stopped off at the beach at Vilamoura to ( have a drink) watch the sail boats taking part in the Vilamoura Carnival Sailing Regatta, you can just see the little white dots of the sails in the photos.

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22 January 2018

Lisbon, Portugal

There was a moment, I’d been here two weeks, I was looking over the city from one of its many viewpoints, that I became overwhelmed when I realised just how much there is to do and see here. I am reminded of this now as I decide what to write about. I did think to do a district at a time, this isn’t going to work for me as I have already been to quite a few of the districts either to eat, visit an attraction, or see an event, so I think as I do something I think you would like, I will write about it. Today there are two quite different experiences in two different areas, I hope you enjoy getting to know Lisbon with me.

Belém, a district to the west of central Lisbon, is where, on the third Sunday of the month the Guarda Nacional Repubicana (National Republican Guard) performs the changing of the guard ceremony at Belém Palace.

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The ceremony begins with the arrival of the new guard, then the band plays a few tunes, there was a  lovely moment when the national anthem was played, the people in the crowds sang along.

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The arrival of the mounted troopers is next, including a mounted band, they all gather on the road, which has been closed, there’s another performance by the Band.

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Once the ceremony was over the mounted band put on a more informal display in a park near the palace. It is quite impressive how they manage to play an instrument while riding a horse. The music the band played at the changing of the guard ceremony was quite formal, in the park they began the display with the theme from Star Wars and ended with Phantom of the Opera.

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Northwest of Lisbon in the suburb of Benfica is the Palace of Fronteira.  The palace and the gardens were built around 1670 as a hunting pavilion for the first Marquis of Fronteira, Dom Joao de Mascarenhas. From the road the building looks like a large house rather than a palace, however a step inside the entrance reveals the walls and stairs of the palace covered in azulejos.

Although the style is very Portuguese, the palace and gardens were heavily influenced by Italian Renaissance Architecture. It is the only surviving suburban private house and gardens, of its period, that still retains its original characteristics. The palace is built in the Mannerist style with Baroque decoration, reflecting a 17th century palatial style. The house is extensively decorated with artworks and azulejos, photography is not allowed inside the palace.  Access to the palace is by a guided tour, which ends on the terrace.

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The 16th century chapel, is the oldest part of the palace, and is covered with stones, shells, broken glass and porcelains.

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Both the palace and gardens are decorated with the largest and best collection of Portuguese seventeenth-century azulejos, depicting hunting, battle scenes, mythical figures, religious scenes and animals.  The formal gardens have statues, fountains and a large pond.

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15 January 2018

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 Lisbon, Portugal

Hills, (some ridiculously steep!); narrow streets; steps, (hundreds of them); stone tile pavements, that turn into skating  rinks when they are wet; castles, mosques, cathedrals, palaces and monasteries;  beautiful beaches; buses, trains, trams, the metro, funiculars and lifts, (to aid getting up the steep hills); countless museums and places of interest; situated on the River Tagus; a mild winter climate; Fado; a mix of  Gothic, Romanesque, Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassicism and modern architecture; and decorated with millions of azulejos, (ceramic tiles); welcome to Lisbon, Europe’s second oldest capital city, only Athens is older.

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It’s easy to get around this city, if one doesn’t want to walk, there is an excellent transport system. Perhaps the mode of transport Lisbon is most famous for is the old Remodelado trams that clatter around the streets. Trams were first used here in 1873 when they were pulled by horses, the first electric tram appeared 1901, with the whole system converting to electricity a year later. Today a cobweb of electric cable hovers over the remaining operational tram routes.

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There are practical reasons Lisbon is the only city in Europe that uses old trams like the Remodelado trams, which originally date from the 1930s. It’s because of the tight corners and narrow streets of historic sections of Lisbon, particularly in an area called Alfama, where the tram tracks are the world’s steepest, and the turning circle of the carriage is centimetres from the edges of buildings.

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The Elevador de Santa Justa, is also part of the transport system of Lisbon and moves people from the Baixa district to the Largo do Carmo, a steep climb on foot, although more popular now for the viewing platform at the top of the lift, providing panoramic views of the city.   DSC_0010 (2)

The Glória Funicular, also known as the Elevador da Glória, is a funicular that takes one up a very steep hill. The tram operators were on a break when I was here, so I walked up!

The reward for getting to the top is a view of the sunset lighting up São Jorge Castle (Castelo de São Jorge).

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While I’m writing about transportation, access to Rossio Train Station, in the city centre, is through horseshoe shaped, arched doorways of a Neo-Manueline building, built by the architect José Luís Monteiro and completed in 1888. Topped with small turrets and a clock tower, it looks more like a palace rather than specifically built as a train station.

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Dotted around the city streets, are roasted chestnut sellers, like the one pictured outside the station, and one is never far from nut scented smoke wafting up from the burners, at this time of year, the signature smell of the city.

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24 December 2017

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

It’s Christmas eve, where has the time gone, I can’t quite believe I have been in Asia for nearly a year. I had originally planned to stay here for longer, however I have decided to move to Europe to be nearer to a relative who has become quite poorly. I want to be nearer so I can visit regularly. This decision prompted a hastily arranged trip to visit places that interested me in this region, that I had not previously been to, before I leave. Unfortunately this trip was cut short by an erupting volcano, so one can only plan life so far ahead. I am flying to Portugal in early January, where I plan to settle, however this is what I said this time last year about Asia, so who knows what I will be sharing with you this time next year.

This is my last post from Asia and for this year.  Thank you for your comments and support over the last twelve months, I am looking forward to sharing my adventures in Portugal, and Europe, with you in 2018.  I hope you are doing what ever makes you joyful over the festive season, and wish you a healthy and happy, new year.

 

29 November 2017

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Kuala Lumpur

The keen eyed amongst you will notice that I am back in Kuala Lumpur. Well my travel plans were interrupted by a volcano in Bali. The last stop on my trip was going to be to the island of Flores, still in Indonesia, I was going to stay on a small island resort near Flores, and visit the Komodo National Park to see the dragons.

I had a 6am flight from Lombok to Bali on the 28 November, the plan was then to fly from Bali to Labuanbajo on Flores. I knew before I got to the airport on Tuesday morning that I wasn’t going to Bali, Bali airport had been closed for two days due to Mount Agung erupting, I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to get off Lombok though. When I got to Lombok airport the only airline that was flying was Lion Air and only to three destinations, one of them was Jakarta, and I managed to buy a seat, thank goodness. I had a seven hour wait for my flight so I had time to decide what to do next. I did think of going to Thailand but I decided I had had enough of sitting around at shitty airports for hours so I managed to book a flight from Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur. I then had an anxious wait to see if the flight from Lombok would go ahead, it did and on time. I got to see views of Indonesian rice fields as we took off from Lombok.

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When I landed at Jakarta I was delighted to see that my flight to Malaysia was delayed, for 2 hours, it ended up being delayed for over fours hours and I finally got back to Kuala Lumpur at 2.30 on Wednesday morning.  I am really disappointed that I haven’t managed to see the Komodo dragons, however I decided I couldn’t take the risk of hanging around in Lombok to see if conditions got better in case I got stuck there, and I have friends flying over to  Malaysia for the festive season.

This is it for Asia, for me now. There isn’t anywhere left in the region that I want to see. Over the years I’ve visited, China, Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea,  Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia, although only the last six countries since I started this blog. My top three of Asia would be Japan, South Korea and Vietnam, in no particular order.

 

26 November 2017

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Lombok, Indonesia

When I use the word ‘ferry’, when referring to a boat, I have a rough idea of what this is. The ‘public ferry’ I took to go to Gili Trawangan, was one of the more ‘interesting’ journeys I have taken on this trip. The ‘Gilis’ are three tiny islands just off the coast of Lombok, I had intended to visit all three, but decided just the one was enough. Each island has its own features, Gili Meno is the smallest and least developed, Gili Trawangan is the largest and the most developed, the ‘party’ island,  and Gili Air is in between the two.

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The harbour

My day started with getting to the harbour to catch the public ferry.  Having discussed how to get to the islands with the very helpful chap at my hotel, I decided to use the public ferry. The ‘harbour’ is the beach and the ‘ferry’ is a little, wooden boat moored up on the beach, that one has to wade into the water to get on.  All the provisions on the Gilis are taken over by boat and I found myself sitting on a little wooden seat surrounded, not just by humans, but by baskets of provisions and bags of grass, the ferry only leaves when it is completely full.

As I was ‘enjoying’ my journey, I was pleased to see that the ferry had life jackets, it looked like there were enough for all the humans on board. However, I was just very slightly concerned as to how they could be accessed, if the boat started sinking, as they were all very snugly tied up to the roof of the ferry.

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It took about thirty minutes to get to Gili Trawangan, and once the ferry had moored up on the beach we all waded through the sea again to get onto the sand.

There are no motorcycles or dogs on any of the islands. If you have experienced an Asian country where motorcycles are a popular mode of transport you will know that motorcycle riders tend to ignore traffic lights, or any road traffic signs of any kind, and invariably they will ride on the pavement if this is the best route to get to their destination. So motorcycle free sounds idyllic, however on Gili Trawangan, horse and carts are the mode of transport. So as I was walking up to the pathway that runs parallel with the beach I was greeted by an aroma I rarely experience in my daily life, and that  aroma was horse shit.

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The pathway running parallel to the beach

The beach is busy with people leaving and arriving on the island, boats also run from Bali so there is a constant stream of people and luggage, to and from the beach, and then off and on the horse drawn carts. When the carts aren’t being used to transport tourists, they are used to clear what looked like huge piles of rubbish, dotted along the beach, in between the seating areas of the bars and restaurants. I wasn’t particularly impressed by the beach, or the bars and restaurants that I saw. I was told that the beaches further around the island were better, but I didn’t really want to walk through all the hubbub to get there. 

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