Lisbon – Hastings Battleaxe takes a break.

The first Bishop of Lisbon was an English Crusader monk called Gilbert of Hastings, back in 1147. I can find little about him except that he was born in Hastings. Unfortunately we forgot to look for any trace of him in the Cathedral (the ) he founded.
    Our hotel, the Lisboa Plaza, suited us admirably. It was in a quiet road off the Avenida da Liberdade, a wide and busy boulevard that sweeps down through the centre of the city towards the coast. Our room overlooked a strange semi-derelict Art Deco amusement park, now being restored, so I expect the hotel and its surrounding area will go more up-market quite soon.

Deco gateposts of old Amusement Park next to our hotel

That’s how I like to see the Metro!

     The hotel was very handy for the Avenida Metro, and also the bus to the airport. Public transport in Lisbon is very good and very cheap – of particular interest to Battleaxe  and Philosopher were the old-style trams, and the various funiculars and lifts that carried you up the steep hills at both sides of the city centre – a bit like Hastings! There were great views from the tops of the hills. On our first day we went up in a wonderful iron Victorian lift, the Elevador de Santa Justa, which takes you up to an older quarter, the Barrio Alto, and rode a rickety old tram.

Elevador Santa Justa

View from the top of the Elevador

View down to the Tagus
The No 28 tram

On a funicular

     We saw many attractive Art Nouveau buildings, and in the Barrio Alto we visited one such, the Cafe Brasileira. Many buildings are covered in tiles – some have tile pictures.

Cafe Brasileira interior

Tile picture on an old shop

The lower city was largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1755, and was rebuilt on a grid pattern, with very imposing large squares with massive statues and fountains in the middle. As when we went to Funchal in Madeira, we were struck by the attractive patterned pavements, and again I ask why can’t we have some nice paving like this on our bleak Stade Open Space?

Nice paving….

Impressive arcchway

     The best museum we visited was the Calouste Gulbenkian Collection. Gulbenkian was an Armenian Turkish oil magnate, who, I read, originally wanted to house his collection in London, where Sir Kenneth Clark had been one of his advisers.  Unfortunately he fell out with the British Government, who declared him a ‘technical enemy’ at the outbreak of war in 1939. After the war, he took his entire collection to his adopted country, Portugal, where the current building was developed to house it. Our loss, methinks.
     Architecturally, the building was an interesting example of Brutalism softened by greenery and water, and inside it was quiet, spacious – and wonderfully empty. I particularly liked a room full of exquisite Art Nouveau jewellery, by Lalique who was a personal friend of Gulbenkian. There were also some fine paintings, in particular French impressionists.

Lalique hair ornament

Lalique hair ornament

Lalique owl bracelet

     We spent most of the time on our favourite foreign city pursuit – just wandering the streets, looking at the buildings, peering into shops and visiting the odd church. The city felt quite safe, although there were a number of beggars, and plenty of rough sleepers. The citizens seemed friendly and helpful.

Rococo gone mad – Church of San Rocque

Shop interior

Was it? we tried it. Not really

     Eating out was also quite cheap – one day we had a lunch of a huge bowl of home-made soup, a big sandwich and a glass of fresh orange juice all for 4.95 euros.
     I ate the obligatory sardines once – Philosopher, who is not that keen on fish, not at all.
    Weather was better than here – not difficult – we had one wet day, when Tempestade Stephanie rocked up…..

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