Wednesday, September 19, 2012

PORTUGAL: Lisbon evening

Avenida da Liberdade
After our Simpons-led recovery we pointed ourselves downtown again, taking a detour along Lisbon’s attractive Avenida da Liberdade. About as wide as two Olympic swimming pools, with a central tree-lined park, it' was a much more soothing approach to the city than one normally finds.
building drapes  beer and chips
Skirting the main street grid we climbed many storeys of stairs to get to Bairro Alta. There we stopped for refreshments at an outdoor cafe. I headed for a nearby toilet to fill Munson’s water-bowl and was intercepted by one of the old ladies who manage them, who was one step ahead of us with “água?”, scuttling off to find an even bigger bowl. As we sat enjoying our respective wine, beer and water, a couple of other old ladies circled our table at a distance, winking and cooing at Munson.
Bairro Alta, with vodka
Searching for a place to eat, we passed a number of restaurants in narrow alleys, their tables lining the walls and already filling with diners. A few streets on the mood was more party-like, and I spoke to a couple of Australians drinking in the doorway of a bar.
 overlook park statue of Adamastor
We emerged near the Miradoura de Santa Catarina, a viewpoint park filled with groups of backpackers, drinking and watching the sun go down over the 26th of April Bridge. Surveying them in turn was a statue of Adamastor,  a Greek mythological figure symbolising the struggles of Portuguese sailors against the perils of the sea. The small human figure on the statue looking up at Adamastor seemed to be holding a schooner of beer. I don’t know if that symbolised the peril, the solution to the peril, or just inspiration for the drinkers around us. We hadn’t got far into the park when I overheard “now that’s a dog!” in an unmistakeable Aussie accent. The four guys sitting in the centre of the park had been hanging out in Lisbon for a few months, saying it was an extremely inexpensive place to live.
Munson's new Aussie mates   sunset gold
Munson's new Mexican friendAs I was admiring the metallic gold light falling across the harbour onto our street, a small creature darted out of a shop doorway. The owner beckoned us in to introduce Munson to her rather jittery chihuahua.

After days of Medina-Sidonia’s feisty little dogs having a go at Munson, it was almost refreshing to have one that was happy to return the same measure of respectful interest.
evening in the square
Feeling pretty hungry by now, we returned to the first set of restaurants and picked one out that had an attractive menu. After Salamanca I had my fingers crossed that the actual menu was the same as advertised, but that wasn’t a problem. I think the restaurant had a bit of a French accent to it – the beef was advertised as being Mirandaise, the breed we first had on the farm. The table behind ours had a French couple with their two year old daughter who was rather obsessed with poking Munson. At least I was able to reassure them directly that he was kid-safe. The food at the restaurant was quite good but they had a miserly approach to side dishes – if we ate the bread, butter or other items put out on the table when we arrived, then we’d be slugged for every bite. I think they counted on guests not being able to read the menu, and gobbling up an extra ten euro or so in buttered bread and bits of cheese.

That was as much of Lisbon as we got to see in our available time. If I were planning it out or stayed a day longer, I might have taken one of the sightseeing buses, at least so we could get to the Belém area a few kilometres oceanwards. The other place I meant to get to was Sintra, a World Heritage town not far northwest of Lisbon. However on these sorts of road-trips, too much cultural splendour in too short a time can dull the senses. One day I’d like to return to Portugal and see more of it at a more leisurely pace. I’d hoped to do that when I was travelling with Bondi in years past, but at that time Portugal required that Australians (not malamutes) have a special visa that wasn’t required anywhere else in the Schengen travel zone. Getting these visas was too much hassle as the host countries (France and Spain included) required that you fly back to Australia for an interview just to be a brief visitor!

So even though Portugal was the only country in Western Europe* that Bondi never visited, I’m very happy that Munson now has a couple of unique places on his travel record. Not bad for a kid from the middle of Queensland.

(* not counting pocket-sized places like Andorra)

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