I visited the Baixa district today. I started at the Praça Marques de Pombal, who was pivotal in the construction of this district after the massive 1755 earthquake that hit Lisbon. The first section of the district, along the Avenida de Liberdade, is a wide promenade with a central walkway covered with trees. There are very few trees in Lisbon and Porto, I’ve noticed. This is probably why I have not had any hay fever while I’ve been here. Coming from Toronto and Halifax, which both have thousands of trees, their absence here is particularly noteworthy. The shops in this section are on the higher end: Bulgari, Gucci, Cartier, Burberry, Valentino, Prada, and Louis Vuitton. As you keep walking towards Praça Rossio, the shops become less expensive, and the streets rather noisier.
The Baixa district culminates with the very grandiose Praça do Comercio, which features a very impressive triumphal arch (the first picture in this post), and a large statue of the reigning king when the square was completed. The walls of the buildings are yellow. The sides of the square have walkways under archways.
I went to a museum that gives an interpretive tour of the history of Lisbon. Like other parts of the southern Mediterranean, Lisbon was occupied by the Phoenicians, the Romans, and the Moors. You see the development of Lisbon as a naval and exploratory power. A lot of attention is paid to the 1755 earthquake, which destroyed most of the city. The Marques Pombal was instrumental in rebuilding the city, giving it a grid structure and constructing the massive square. This museum was not visited by too many people, which is a shame, as it’s very informative. The picture below shows the “flying Jesuit” Bartolomeu de Gusmão, who built an airship in 1709. The airship was never tested, which was probably lucky for him.
Tomorrow: the Chiado district.