Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Farewell to Santos, Lisbon

It rained last night in Lisbon, a real downpour at about 3:00 in the morning. It's the first rain we've experienced since we were in London a month ago. When we awoke the bucket on the little airshaft behind our AirB&B apartment was full of water.  Time to go home I guess. Good thing we're ready with our flight and our taxi to the airport booked. After five weeks we're looking forward to Victoria. This is our elegant flat in the barrio of Santos, facing onto the neighbourhood street where kids sit on the doorstep.

Today, our last day, we finally visited the Marionette Museum, which we've walked by every day on our way up and down the hill. I'm so glad we didn't miss it. It has puppets and masks from all over the world but most of the exhibit focuses on puppetry of Portugal and Lisbon. It seems there's a tradition of puppet making that continues today.

Puppets are made of stuffed and sticked stockings, wood, papier mache and cast resin.

Really inventive puppets. These last ones are used to create an animated movie, very contemporary.  They made several faces with different expressions that they would use for the filming, as well as different props and hand gestures.  (These are for you LainĂ©.)

We enjoyed seeing this fellow introduce puppets to this group of entranced children.

And when we exited we found ourselves in a beautiful courtyard that was in fact the cloisters of an old convent. The building was used as a convent for a long time before it became the Marionette Museum.  What a great way to end our trip to Portugal.

Tonight one last dinner at one of the neighbourhood restaurants and then off we fly on the silver bird.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Belem, Alfama, and Sintra

Over the past three days we've seen some of the "touristic" sights around Lisbon.  Only a few of them though, as it's a big city.  Here are some highlights.

Belem -- along the Tagus River is an area of gardens, museums and a river walk.  We visited the Coach museum showing horse-drawn coaches from all over Europe going back 400 years. most of them were incredibly ornate along the lines of this one.

But the one below reminded us of Darth Vader.

Surprise: when we got back outside there were horse drawn carriages for hire.

We also visited a museum showing the history of electrical plant on the Tagus River. We could walk all around the huge building and see the coal fired boilers and condensers and all of that. Adjacent to that is the very modern Museum of Architecture and Culture, built right on the river bank. Within that building was an enormous oval room with huge screens showing video loops of water and traffic over bridges filmed from underneath along with sounds.  On the floor were a number of puffy mattresses where you could lie down and experience the sound and video. We spent a delightful 20 minutes resting our tired feet in the coolness of the gallery. 

Coming out of the gallery we found that the weather had changed. The photo above is looking west; the one below looking east along the same walk. Those clouds above have brought in much cooler, breezier weather--and I can't say I'm unhappy about it. Two days ago it was 90 degrees F in Lisbon.

Alfama -- one of the oldest parts of the city with narrow winding streets and a castle. Yesterday we rode up there to see the view and then wound our way down through the stairways and alleys

Sintra -- a charming town about 20 km away where nobility went to escape the city. We took a bus and a train to get there today, passing this huge aquaduct built in the 18th Century to supply drinking water to the city. Not sure if it's still in use, however.

Sintra is full of flowers and winding sidewalks and tourists of course.

Some of it was badly marked by graffiti though and many of the buildings seemed to be vacant. This was surprising as it's one of the prime tourist destinations. 

We visited this palace with the two tall towers, very unusual structures. They are actually chimneys built above the huge kitchens to remove the smoke. We toured this place and it's really lovely with hundreds of years of history and many Moorish elements as well as elaborate painted ceilings.  The photo on the right is part of the enormous kitchen. Those metal things are spits for roasting meats.

We've pretty well finished our sight-seeing now. Tomorrow is our last day in Lisbon and we'll just do a couple of little things nearby and get ready for the long flight back. We leave here at 4:30 am, then fly into London, then take another plane to Calgary and home. It's about a 24 hour trip.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Transit and street life in Lisboa

After days of driving and walking all over the towns we were visiting we thought we'd have a day of taking buses and trams to wander around Lisbon. It didn't quite turn out that way.

We bought two 24-hour transit cards yesterday but only one of them worked. it wasn't really a big deal because we had the cash to pay the 2.80 Euro fare but somehow it put a crimp in our plans to hop on and off trams.  That said, we managed a ride on the "must see" Tram #28, which runs up and down the hills and around sharp turns up to the Afalma district and back down.

Lisbon continues to use (and upgrade the workings) of these cable cars from the early 20th C. While most cities would have put them in a museum Lisbon needs the short size of these cars for some of its twisty routes. It's a very popular tourist route although residents use it as well. To avoid having to stand for the trip we walked up to where the line ends and begins, passing a few more noteworthy tiled buildings, or at lease those that caught my eye...

Once at the top we waited with a few others to board our tram and were able to get seats for the rollicking ride. Here's what it looked like on the tram.  The driver sits in the very middle of at the front and there are lovely polished wooden seats and windows that actually open.

Before very long the tram was crowded with people standing in the aisle. (It has room for 20 seated passengers and 38 standing)

There are large signs on the tram warning of pickpockets; apparently this route is a favourite because of the crowding and the bumpy ride. We took good care this time!  Here's what it looks like passing another tram going downhill. This picture is taken from the window of our tram into the window of one going the other way.

We ended up wandering around the commercial district where the tram ride ended rather than hopping on and of, but that allowed me to sort out a problem with the data on the iPad. We've become used to using it for finding our way around the city and downloading information about museums and sights. When it didn't work this morning we were at quite a loss. Fortunately we found a Vodaphone store and were able to quickly resolve the problem.  

The central part of Lisbon is like most large European cities with fountains and statues and people selling things on pedestrian streets.

We always like seeing the statues with the pigeons roosting on them. These two looked particularly peeved at the indignity.

After a bite of lunch in the touristy area we bused our way home to find our street being set up with chairs. 

I mentioned our street yesterday. It's a kind of grungy narrow almost alley with barely room for a car to get through although from time to time that happens. In the afternoon it's a gathering place for everyone who lives here.  And today I got to enjoy a brass band concert by a small group of children.  

People are very friendly here in spite of our extremely limited communication skills. It's a challenge coming from a country where we have some basic ability to talk to people. Here we feel like dummies whenever we try to communicate. Although Harry is pretty good with sign language.

Things dispersed fairly quickly after the concert was finished. These two young women enjoyed it too. It seems they're waiting to meet their AirB&B host.

One final thing about this neighbourhood, although it seems a bit grubby it is actually a very trendy area, called the design district. This weekend it's hosting a film festival, there's Fado music on the corner and a large number of tiny but good restaurants, wine stores, fruit and vegetable markets and coffee bars. Last night we were lucky enough to get into this hole-in-the-wall Italian place. They were all booked up but allowed us to eat so long as we left my 9:00. (Not an issue for Harry and me!) The food was authentic and fabulous and very reasonable. The Portuguese vinho verde wine is to my taste and Harry likes the red too.

We're gradually finding our way around the neighbourhood.