I’ve always wanted to visit Portugal

Although extremely comfortable in my little room, I woke on my second day in Lisbon to find myself so tired I could hardly face getting out of bed. Hardly surprising, I suppose, but I got myself vertical somehow and popped around the corner to see Senhor Portugale for a strong coffee. The elderly gentleman who had helped me the day before got that name when he was watching me explain my travels to some of the other customers over a map and a glass of something delicious.

As I pointed my way across the countries, my audience sang out with names of the various destinations, all except the patron that is. He interjected the word “Portugale!” at every juncture, obviously anxious to get me speedily to the only place of any importance on my itinerary. It was lovely to find myself in such a friendly place so I knew I just had to do it justice by putting my best walking boot forward and getting down to the historic port of Belem.

I don’t know what I was expecting but the Monument of the Discoveries drew a gasp from me when I realised that the little dots on the top were actually people and that the whole thing was about five time bigger than I’d imagined it. Mind you, it is still a slabby, 1960’s edifice in questionable taste. I thoroughly enjoyed photographing the tourists and the rest of the monuments, had another wonderful (and affordable) lunch and learned a bit of Portuguese history. Basically, it was all downhill after the loss of Brazil in 1825 but up until that time the wealth had been pouring in and lots of it went into building some extremely ornate religious and¬†commemorative¬†buildings. This style of architecture is called Manueline, named after the sixteenth century King Manuel I, and I think that it has photographed rather well.

On my final morning I went around to Senhor Portugale’s for breakfast but I wasn’t getting any. He was on his own and he wasn’t going to cook and that was that. No amount of drawing eggs, chickens, ham hocks and other sundry eatables in my notebook was going to avail. After shaking his head at each effort he finally smiled and said “Ah! Praca Zoologica?” and started to give me directions. But for breakfast it was coffee and a cheese roll and that was that.

The painting collection at the nearby Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (see how the Portuguese just flows after a glass or two?) was stupendous. All that money had bought Masterworks from all over Europe but there were not so many Portuguese works on display. They must be housed elsewhere and I’m sure I will be seeing them in due course because I have discovered that choosing the Lisbon finish has been the perfect compliment to my Stockholm start. They have turned out to be two highly individual cities that I knew nothing about, have enjoyed being introduced to and will look forward to visiting again one day.

When the time came to pack up and say my goodbyes it was with mixed feelings that I left for the airport. I wasn’t sad to be finished with the rail travel but Lisbon is beautiful and looks out across the oceans with a sense of romantic longing that will be hard to shake off.

Categories: Europe

1 Comment

  • Chris says:

    Lisbon is definitely on the list. You have left a lot for the next visit, including the Cristo, which may be easier for me to get to than the one in Rio.

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