Friday, May 11, 2012

It's Different There

I wasn't prepared for Lisbon's river, the Tagus.  It isn't like the Seine, the Thames, the Arno, all of which split the city and which you cross in the course of a day many times over several bridges.  The Tagus at this point is enormously broad and looks more like San Francisco Bay than a river.

The resemblance is reinforced by the bridge crossing its width, a virtual twin of the Golden Gate bridge.

Lisbon sits at the very mouth of the river and if you look in the right direction you can see the coast turning toward the beach resort towns of Cascais and Estoril.

Public transportation is good and includes classic old trams that continue in daily use on the narrow streets of Alfama, the part of the city that survived the 18th century earthquake that leveled the rest.

Tram line 28 is the best for tourists, running through many of the sights most visitors want to see.  This kiosk, one of several in leafy locations around Lisbon's center, is in Praça do Camoes, at the junction of Chiado, the shopping district, and Bairro Alto, the nighttime center, full of bars and restaurants on streets climbing up the steep hill.

Lisbon's sidewalks are made of  inch stone pavers set in many cases in mosaic patterns, each more elaborate than the next.  But what's really impressive are the azulejos, the tiles that cover building facades and interior walls.

Some great examples are in the Monastery of Sao Jeronimos.

Or in the pastelleria down the street where the famous pasteis do Belem are sold by the thousands daily.

Although the tile walls at Mesa de Frades, the chapel turned fado restaurant we visited one evening were spectacular, they paled in comparison to the event we stumbled into.

Half the tiny room was taken up by a family birthday party for the 84 year old fado legend Vicente da Câmera, and after dinner we were treated to not only the scheduled fado musicians, but Dom Vicente himself, along with his son and granddaughter.  It was an extraordinary performance and we were incredibly lucky to have caught it.  (I didn't want to use a flash and the lights were turned down, so excuse the photo quality please)

We finally left after 1:00 in the morning when we realized this was going to go on 'til dawn.  He's got that kind of stamina at 84; I'm embarrassed to admit I don't, at a considerably younger age.

For those of you who might want to hear some fado sung by da Câmera, here are a couple on YouTube.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

very cool. xoxo, rrr