Sunday, April 3, 2011

Lisbon, the city by the Tagus

Model caravel, symbol of Lisbon
I wonder whether my Portuguese teacher, Professora Nunez would be happy to know that fifteen years after she tutored me in her language, I finally got to use it! And, people in Portugal actually understood what I was saying to them. And, equally as important, I actually understood their replies. No puzzled or blank stares on either side. God know what they thought of me after I had left the shops and restaurants, but while I was there, I didn't get the "ignorant American" looks.

Welcome to my view of beautiful Lisbon in pictures. I had never been to Portugal before, never even considered it, even though I spent nearly two years learning Portuguese at college until the university cut the language program. Sometimes, I just do stuff ass-backwards. I immerse myself in studying Spain's Moorish period, find many sources in Spanish and learn only a fraction of the language, which would have helped my translations. Yet, I spent nearly two years on a language it would take me fifteen years to use again. Go figure.

Before I left Spain, I realized my study of Brazilian Portguese wasn't exactly going to help me in Lisbon. The differences between the language spoken and written in Brazil versus its mother country may seem subtle, but they are as similar to variations of English in America and England, like check vs. cheque or tire vs. tyre. So, boa tarde (good afternoon / early evening in Portuguese) may be spelled the same way in both countries, but in Portugal, the letter e is not pronounced. In most of Brazil, it sounds like boa tard-ee, the emphasis on the letter e and particularly, in Rio de Janiero, it would sound like boa tar-jay. Basically, I had to un-learn the pronounciation of a language I hadn't spoken in several years. I also had to forget certain phrases and learn others, like putting aside Onde e o banheiro (where's the bathroom in Brazil) for Onde e a casa de banho in Portugal.

Since my flight originated in Spain, I did not have clear Customs in Lisbon, which was a little of a surprise. Wish it had been so easy on the return trip, but that's a story for another time. Within a twenty-minute ride from the airport to the hotel, first impressions of Lisbon filled my head. It doesn't have an ancient, historic feel like Madrid, but there's a very sad reason for that. On November 1, 1755, a devastating 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami waves, more powerful than the recent events in Japan, hit Lisbon. The Tagus receded, exposing the river bed and then rushed inland. Nearly 40,000 died, at least eighty-five percent of the buildings toppled and the tsunami waters reached as far as my birthplace in Barbados. As a result, many of the city's buildings are at most three centuries old.

For two days after my arrival, I got to see several sites driving around Lisbon. It's filled with rich culture, good food, friendly people and fascinating monuments. Instead of telling you all about them, I'll let a few pictures show you the fascinating cultural beauty that makes Lisbon a memorable place:

Lisbon's cobblestones

Waiting outside National Museum of Coaches
(not the handbags. Horse-drawn carriages)

25th of April or Salazar Bridge in background​, built by same designers of
Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

Equestrian troop outside National Museum of Coaches

Floor level at National Museum of Coaches
Ceiling detail, National Museum of Coaches
Baroque-style Coach
Catherine of Braganza, wife of Charles II of England
Eighteenth-century livery of coachmen
Cloister ceiling detail, Jeronimos monastery

Cloister garden, Jeronimos monastery

The tomb of Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama
Masonry detail, Jeronimos monastery

National Museum of Tiles
Wall tile detail in Belem restaurant


This little delicacy, pateis de Belem, has got to be the. best. custard. tart. ever.
Indulged in one. Don't tell my doctor
Next week, I'll wrap up my tour of Portugal. Thanks as always for visiting the blog.      

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