Thursday, 14 October 2010

Four days in Lisbon and Sintra and around

Easyjet are having a cheap flight sale so it is off to Lisbon for a few days of being a regular tourist rather than the travellers we usually are (question for you – what is the difference between a tourist and a traveller?) The last time we were there was about 40 years ago and it has suffered a major fire and an earthquake since then so much of it may have changed. Never-the-less, a few days wandering around old streets, visiting galleries and eating interesting food should be fun. The only downside to this trip is that we have to get up at 0440 am in order to get to Luton Airport for an early flight.Luton does not have a great reputation as an airport – it seems to exploit every possible avenue for extracting money from the unwary traveller including charging £1 for four plastic bags (even though you are only allowed to use one) within which you can put your liquids if you have forgotten your own, £3 to go through the fast track security lane, £1 for a car to drop off passengers at the terminal – the list goes on.
Never-the-less, the airport is operating efficiently and two and a half hours after leaving Luton, we arrive in Lisbon, one of the few European airports which is close (7 kms) to its namesake city.  The plan is gentle sightseeing on Wednesday, serious sightseeing on Thursday, Friday go to Sintra, and Saturday visit Belem then fly home.
At this time of year, the weather is neither too hot nor too cold and therefore suited to tramping up and down the numerous hills upon which the city is built.
The themes to this blog entry include Buildings, Tiles, Trams and Food, interspersed with a few other things along the way. There are few pictures of the regular tourist sites since you can find those on the web.
Lisbon is famous for the large number of buildings  displaying the style and wealth of an earlier ages which it is has managed to retain despite earthquakes, fires and property developers.
This old Art Deco theatre seems to be under refurbishment and is part of a small complex of buildings in a similar state of disrepair.
Buildings - Art Deco Buildings - Art Deco 2
This theatre has been restored and now forms part of an arts / housing complex.
Buildings - Balconies Buildings - balconys and cobbles
Buildings with balconies and their original cast iron railings are very common throughout the city. 
Buildings - Majestic
The grandeur continues through to shops.
Buildings - Old 5
Scattered around are some buildings which look so old that they are only just standing. Some buildings seem to be held up by those on either side, this one is still lived in:
Buildings - Old 1
and this one is being repaired.
Buildings - Old 2
Buildings - Old 3
Buildings - Old 4
This alley is a reminder of how narrow the old streets would have been
One can image horse drawn coaches going through the arch and up the alley

There are new buildings around the city however which display a lack of style and are too like the mass slabs of characterless flats found anywhere in the world.
Buildings - horrid
Portugal is famous for its tiles and these are to be found throughout the
Tiled Building
town. Some buildings are covered with tiles, others have tiles above the
Tiles above a door
door or tiles on the wall, sometimes just a pattern, other times a picture,
Tiled Wall Picture
or simply a design to improve something like a fountain
Tiled Fountain
or a station booking office window.
Tiled Station
The 21st century equivalent of tiles seems to be Graffiti, which came in all shapes and sizes, some of which was the most impressive we had seen anywhere in the world. Starting with the simple:
Grafitti 1
we move towards pictures
Grafitti 2
then almost to wall murals
Grafitti 3
and onto paintings which use walls as their canvas
Grafitti 6
Grafitti 4
Grafitti 5
Not even the plants in the park escaped!
Grafiit on Plant
Lisbon is not a good place to drive around but it is a good place for public transport. If you come into town on the airport bus then your €3.50 ticket is valid for 24 hours on all public transport except the Metro and once in town, you can buy 24 hour electronic rechargeable tickets for €3.75 which are valid on all public transport including the Metro but excluding the Airport Bus!
Lisbon Tickets
Amongst the travel modes on offer are: trams, buses, metro, trains, ferries, funiculars, and lifts. Because Lisbon is built on hills, riding
Funicular Hill
the funicular (dating from 1885) becomes essential unless you want to
Funicular on Hill
exhaust yourself. The original control equipment is
Funicular 2
still in use and shows that it was made in Wednesbury in England
Funicular 3
Trams are both new and old although the old ones are the most interesting to travel upon. Yellow trams are general trams following a route
Yellow Trams
and Red trams are the more expensive ones following a tourist route.
Red Tram
The lifts are very grand affairs such as the “Elevador Santa Justa”
elevador santa justa
Portugal is famous for its fish and Lisbon is famous for its Pastéis de Belém - essentially wonderful custard tarts. Whilst “Pasties de Belem” are
Pasteis de Belem
available throughout Portugal, we have to say that the best are those made at the shop in Belem which starting making them in 1837. They say that
Pasteis de Belem outside
they are using a secret recipe passed to them from the “Convento de Jeronimos” and that the secret recipe is recreated every day by hand using
Pasteis de Belem inside
only traditional methods. The shop is always packed with visitors and looks like it has not changed since 1837! Their website gives more details about the history.
A few doors down the street is an local restaurant called “Adega de Belem” with Sardines on the menu. Packed full of locals and tourists, we
Pat enjoying sardines
managed to find the only free table and for €7.90 enjoyed a freshly cooked meal.
Portugal is famous for “Fado” – and TripAdvisor advises anyone going to Lisbon to avoid the Bairro Alto area of town with its numerous tourist  presentations and go instead to the Alfama area of town to hunt it out. We were lucky when we went there in that the first place we went to was full and so we walked down the street and came across a small
cellar restaurant with Fado advertised for that night. What we felt was special was that Fado was performed by the staff in the restaurant rather than visiting singers. The Fado was also the more important than the food because when the Head Waiter decided he wanted to sing, you just had to wait for your food until he finished. These pictures are not the greatest quality because they were taken without a flash in order not to spoil the
Ana Sera singing Fado
moment. (There are better pictures on the restaurant website). We did however learn that Fado is not just mournful, it can be happy and upbeat and even though we did not understand any of the Portuguese, it could probably be saucy as well. If you are not sure what Fado is, then click here and you will be taken to a site which explains it all in pictures and sound.

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