Lisbon: Day 4

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On my final day in Lisbon, I had hoped to visit the Belém Tower and the Jerónimos Monastery. Unfortunately, I had failed to notice that both buildings are closed on Mondays. Instead, I decided to explore the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, which was very close to my accommodations. I took a leisurely stroll in the grounds around the Museum, first, enjoying the sight of ducks and ducklings in some of the ponds.

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Gulbenkian was a British millionaire and philanthropist who lived in Lisbon for part of his life. The museum contains a fascinating and very eclectic collection, some of which were acquired by Gulbenkian, and others by the trusts he endowed. The museum is arranged in chronological order, progressing from classical antiquity, the ancient Near East, the Nile Valley, European Art, 18th century French Art and furnishings, and Lalique crystal. The pictures below are of the Persian section, which contains a large collection of rugs.

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This Museum is not in the tourist part of the city, which might explain why the visitors were fewer in number (although there were a few). The collections of this Museum are well worth a visit, and I highlight recommend it.

I wanted to avoid the tourist crowds in the afternoon, so I headed to the Centro Colombo, which is the largest shopping centre in Lisbon. I was surprised by how busy it was, considering it was a Monday afternoon, but I have noticed that there are a lot of locals in cafe and shops at all times of the day.  The centrepiece is, not surprisingly, a model of one of Columbus’ ships.

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It was a good place to grab a bite to eat (an excellent veggie burger) and to enjoy the AC, although the temperature in Lisbon has been pleasant and not too hot. There were some excellent cafes in the centre, and I found some very good espresso. It’s so refreshing to not see the mediocre Starbucks everywhere. A fun spot was a cat-themed store A Loja do Gato Preto, which reminded me of the Pier 1 stores here, only with a lot of cat themes.

 

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Back home tomorrow. I have enjoyed my time in Porto and Lisbon. I recommend both cities as travel destinations

 

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Lisbon: Day 3

There is a time lag between days 2 and 3, as the keyboard on my Chromebook acted up while I was away, so I waited until I returned home to continue the travelogue.

Today I visited the Chiado district, which adjoins the Baixa district I visited the other day but, as can be seen from the image above, is at the top of the hill. The streets are steep, as you can see. There is a tram that goes joins the Baixa and Chaido districts, but I found it easier to get off at the Baixa-Chiado Metro station, which exits at the top of the hill.

The Chiado district consists of a number of mostly local shops and, of course, the ever present cafes and pastry shops. I’ve noticed that shoe stores seem to be very popular in Portugal, as they are in Spain and Malta. You don’t see such a large number of shoe stores in Canada. There are a surprisingly large number of watch stores in Lisbon as well, which is odd, given that so many younger people forgo watches in favour of their smartphones.

The most interesting part of Chiado is the Bertrand’s bookstore, which is the oldest operating bookstore in the world.

The bookstore used to be independently owned, but is now part of a chain. The interior of the store is lovely, with lower ceilings and wooden bookshelves. There is a good collection of books, including some in English. The cafe was a welcome respite from the often noisier street cafes.

I walked down to the Baixa district and the Praça do Comércio, where I had an excellent pizza for lunch, made in the true Neapolitan style. I had been craving pizza for days, and the restaurant made me a very good vegetarian pizza without cheese. The Praça was set up with a large screen for a public viewing of the World Cup final later in the day between France and Croatia. In both Porto and Lisbon, the largest number of tourists I encountered were French, so there were a lot of the Tricolore waving in the streets.

Since I don’t have cable TV at home, I took advantage of the situation and watched the final from the TV in my accommodations.

Lisbon: Day 2

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Tomorrow: the Chiado district.

Lisbon: Day 1

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On my first day in Lisbon, I decided to visit the historic district of Alfama, which is the oldest part of the city. The picture above was taken from the terrace of the National Patheon (more about that later). Alfama consists of narrow streets and are mostly steep. There is a popular tram that tourists take to go to the top part of the city, but I preferred to walk, as the trams were too crowded. Besides, it’s better to experience the city by simply walking. It’s hard to get lost because all you need to do is keep an eye out for the river and you can find your way back. This is not a place to visit if you have limited mobility. I saw a few of the older residents negotiating the streets with canes and I admired their resilience.

The National Pantheon is actually the Church of Santa Engracia. Given the lack of seating, I don’t think it functions as a church.

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The Pantheon is the final resting place of a number of famous Portuguese figures, as shown below:

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The Pantheon has an impressive organ, built in the 18th Century by Joaquim Peres Fontana. I saw advertisements for a number of concerts held in the Pantheon; hearing that organ would be a rare treat.

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You can climb up several stairs to the various levels of the Pantheon, called Choir 1, 2, and 3. These choir areas provide a splendid view of the inside of the Pantheon.

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The Pantheon has a large outdoor terrace that provides you with an excellent view of Alfame. The terrace surrounds the Dome, which is closed to the public. I didn’t mean to capture the two women below in the photograph, but I hope they won’t mind.

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After all that climbing, I needed a treat, so I had a vegan ice cream from one of the local gelaterias. I’ve noticed that many restaurants in Alfame offered vegan options. Fortunately, it was overcast today and on the cooler side at 24 degrees, so walking was comfortable.

The Fado Museum was next on my list. I was treated to a Fado performance by some University of Porto students at the conference, so I was very interested to learn more about this musical form. The museum features a beautiful collection of Portuguese guitars, as well as late 19th and early 20th-century music boxes and phonographs.

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The Baixa district tomorrow.

 

 

 

Porto: Day 4

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Today is my last full day in Porto. After the conference sessions, I walked to the Rua San Catarina, which is the main shopping strip of the city. Along the way, I stopped to take a look at the interior of the famous Lello bookstore, seen above, which is held to be the most beautiful of its kind in the world. There was a very long queue to enter the store, so I didn’t go in, as being cooped inside the store with that many people would have taken the fun out of it. Travelling in July is always problematic in that so many of the places I want to visit are simply too full. Being an introvert has its disadvantages at times.

Walking along the Rua Carmelita, I came across the famous Clérigos church and tower. The church is in the Baroque style, which is common for a number of the churches I have seen here. Baroque is not to my taste, as I find it too ornate, especially when it comes to churches; the philosophy seems to be “more is more.” I grew up surrounded by Baroque churches. The church has a lot of gold on the walls, which is typical of this type of architecture. The sanctuary and altar are marble, with lots of gold. I rarely take photographs of the interior of churches, as I find it a little disrespectful; to me, a church is a place of worship first and foremost, rather than a tourist attraction. The views from the tower are beautiful

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Rua San Catarina is a pedestrian thoroughfare, lined with shops on both sides. The stores are average on the whole; nothing on the high end in this district.  Nothing to tempt me, which is good, since I have only carry-on luggage.

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For lunch I ordered what I was told is a traditional Portuguese sandwich: the Francesinha. When I saw a picture of the item, I didn’t know what to make of it. The restaurant had a vegetarian version with vegan sauce, so I thought: why not? The sandwich looks like a flattened hollowed out loaf filled, in my case, with broccoli, green peppers, carrots, and onions, and covered with sauce. The dish is always served with thin french fries. The sandwich is usually filled with meat, and sometimes also with eggs. It’s an odd-looking dish, but absolutely delicious.

20180711_140258I walked by the Mercado do Bolhão, which is a large indoor fruit and vegetable garden. Unfortunately, the market is closed for renovations.

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Since my days here have been shortened because of conference attendance, I didn’t get to see as many places in Porto as I would have liked, but I got a good feel for the city, mostly from walking around. You do need a map to get around, be that physical or Google map, as there is absolutely no grid system of streets here, and streets often change their names. I am never afraid to explore any city, as long as I have a good map. Once I know which way is North, my compass App never lets me down. It’s fortunate that English is spoken by so many people here, as I find Portuguese very hard to understand. Spanish is much easier for me to follow, given my knowledge of Italian, but Portuguese pronunciation is very different.

Off to Lisbon tomorrow.

Porto: Day 3

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After attending conference sessions, I headed down to the Ribeira District, which is the most tourist-intensive section of the city.  The Ribeira lies along the banks of the Rio Duoro, featured above and below. I debated going on one of the river cruises, but I didn’t relish spending that much time in the sun, as most of the boats have open decks.

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The streets here are very hilly. The buildings are old; many are in rough shape, but they certainly have a lot of charm. There are many bars, restaurants, and cafes, as well as plenty of the usual souvenir shops. Some of the main areas of the Ribeira are featured below:

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The buildings below, in particular, caught my eye:

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Here is the obligatory shot of one of the port-tasting stores:

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The walk back was uphill all the way; seriously, there wasn’t a single flat street, so I’m now cooling off in the apartment. I’ll be trying a vegan restaurant this evening that is a few blocks away on my street.

 

 

Porto: Day 2

I spent most of this day attending the conference and giving my paper in the morning. The photograph above is the view of the Rio Duoro, taken from the patio of the university building we were in.

After dinner, I decided to visit the São Bento train station, which is supposed to have very beautiful walls. The city of Porto would certainly pose a challenge for people with limited mobility, and for those who need assistive devices to move around. Many of the streets are steep, and the cobbled streets and very narrow sidewalks would be very hard to negotiate.

Along the way to the train station, I saw the Paços de Concelho, shown below. I thought it was a church, until I saw the information about it on my map. It is certainly a very ornate building for a city hall. The photo was taken from a side street. The lighting from the main street was not very good, because the sky was too hazy.

Pacos de ConcelhoThe train station has very beautiful walls. The station was inaugurated in 1916. The walls are covered with azulejo tile, and depict a variety of historical events.

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The return walk to my flat was all uphill. The humidity was at 100% this evening, so it was quite a slog up those streets. Winding down now with a cup of lavender chamomile tea.