Friday, September 24, 2010

Lisbon Day 4 – Museums and Goan gaff

Museo de Arqueologia

Breakfast with Ronnie, beneath the trees on the Avenue Liberdade, before he flew back to Scotland, then off on the 15 tram to Belem and the Museo de Arqueologia. Before taking the tram, we popped into San Domingo church, which retains its 1755 earthquake damaged interior. The tram stopped short as there was a military parade, so we walked the rest. Rather scrappy set of disparate rooms showing Egyptian, Bronze age and Roman artefacts. But good on Roman religion, really political accommodation of local Gods and cults. Rome seems healthily ambivalent towards religion, which served the purposes of the individual, family or state. It wasn’t really a force in itself, unlike the cant of the current Roman Catholic Church, which was all over the news. A good time to be out of the UK.

Museo Marinha

For a chronological history of Portugal’s maritime history, this is an ‘old-school’ museum that’s low on exposition but big on objects. It starts with Henry the Navigator, Cabral, Diaz, Vasco de Gama and Magellan – the great 15th and 16th century age of exploration. It conveniently ignores the murder and mayhem, but is strong on the ships, maps, navigation and trade. There was an interesting exposition on Somalian pirates, showing actual confiscated boats, guns and footage of the boats being intercepted.

Goan adventure

Lunch at the Restaurant Goa, where, after a long walk, we finally found the door of the restaurant in a quiet backstreet. Ken walked in, looked at the 20 or so Indian diners and asked for a table for two. Turns out he had walked into an Indian family’s home. They very kindly pointed us towards the restaurant’s entrance! Goan food is more ‘spice’ based, than ‘curry’ based. Lots of cinnamon, paprika, pepper and so on. After our lunch, we got a little lost but happened upon the Museo de Art Antigua.

Museo de Arte Antigua

Having come across this gallery by accident, we popped in out of the afternoon sun (hitting 30 degrees). The ground floor has a modest collection of European paintings with a room of Zubarin’s, a Bosch, Holbein and so on. On the first floor there’s ceramics and furniture, while the top floor has the huge, but quite wonderful tapestries, showing the Portuguese conquests in North Africa.

From here we ascended the steep hill to Estrela, where we caught the 28 tram which swept us back down into town , round the back of the castle and back to the centre. A last coffee was drunk sitting outside the tiled Pasteleria Aninciada.

All in all one of finest weekend the boys have ever had, and we’ve had a few. Looking forward to next year already!

Lisbon Day 3 - Gulbenkian, Castle, Cathedral

Gulbenkian Museum

We walked up the Avenue Liberdade and through the Edward VII park to the Gulbenkian (Mr 5%). Worth the walk, as the collection is mighty impressive. The Egyptian room has a small but world class collection. The Greek coins were fascinating, really sculptural with big, bold, bossed heads. The Persian collection is held in a huge cool room in the centre, all low key geometrical design and ceramics. The French furniture was OK, but not to my taste, big, bulky and baroque. It reminded us all of the Burrell collection in Glasgow, which is housed in a similar low rise building set in a park. The modern art gallery in the same park had some horrific exhibition by a Portuguese artist.

Café de Versailles

A longish walk to one of Lisbon’s older chandeliered Cafes, where we had lunch and some cakes. Then back into town on the metro and tram 12 up to the lookout, where we had a beer, and a further hike up to the castle.

Castle and cathedral

This was one of the highlights of the trip. It was cool, the views were great and in the keep, a classical guitarist was playing some exquisite pieces, in his natural studio. We sat and listened for ages, then bough his CD, before catching the 12 down the hill to the Cathedral, a rather dull building.

Quayside meal

Tram 15 to a row of restaurants on the shorefront just beneath the huge suspension bridge. Ate at the Duca, and although the food was good, service was slow and the noise of the bridge traffic and nearby clubs was annoying. Old style tram 15 back into town.

Lisbon Day 2 - Trams, Belem

For three days we used the old trams to get to the higher and more distant spots, or to simply sit back and get a cheap tour of the city. Recommend the 12 and 25 (as opposed to the busier 28). They’re single carriage, wooden structures with a driver cranking a big handle while it clanks and wheezes its way up almost 45% gradients, while hurling round corners and hammering down hills and along the straights. It’s alike being in a big, slow waltzer. Word of warning though, the 15 to Belem and 28 are infested with pickpockets. We had an iTouch picked from inside a zipped pocket inside a bag (these guys are good) and witnessed one successful and a second unsuccessful attempts. They work in pairs. Keep wallet in tight pocket or beneath clothes or in bum bag worn on front.

Monastiro Jeronimos

The church itself is a classic Gothic mini-cathedral, with Manueline decoration, which shines like icing sugar on the outside, but is more muted inside. The apse is a later addition and its marble structure is at odds with the rest of the building. It looks like a solid, marble conservatory, bolted on to the end of the nave. The more interesting part of the monastic complex is the cloister, a Manuelian confection, of soft creamy limestone that looked wonderful in the bright sunlight. It was a quiet and beautiful place to wander.

Torre de Belem

From there we walked down to the newish, brutalist monument and along to the altogether more interesting Torre de Belem. This was more than an effective defensive fort, it was a statement of power. Don’t mess with us, as we have the resources to blow you out of the water.

Tram 28

We took the famous Tram 28 which winds its way up and round the back of the castle, then back down to town, up to Estrella, where we disembarked and walked through the park to a small café beneath some cedar trees on one of Lisbon’s many hills, nest to the Museo de Agua. Lisbon has a museum for everything. Later, dinner of spicy chicken, sangria, followed by drinks in the bar near the hotel beneath the trees.

Lisbon Day 1 – Eat & drink

Balmy first night with the ‘boys’ in Lisbon and straight off to the Casa O Alentejo, to eat pork & clams washed down with bottles of modestly priced, but quality, wine in a magnificent tiled room. It’s a no-nonsense, unfussy sort of place that serves great Portuguese food. Then walked up to the livelier Barrio Alto for some beers and chat til early hours. Lisbon’s a laid-back, low-key city and perfect for wandering around or taking a rickety old tram up its vertiginous streets. Sofitel proved to be good value at around £100 a night for five star luxury in centre of town. Taxi drivers rip you off from airport so take the Aerobus for 3.50 euros. It’s quick and easy.