Tuesday, September 18, 2012

PORTUGAL: Lisbon

Munson in Lisbon, Rua Augusta Arch
Everyone was feeling lethargic this morning so it took a good while before we shook that off enough to walk down a long hill towards what may be the closest thing to a city centre in Lisbon. There’s a flat grid of streets behind the Rua Augusta Arch which are a refreshing change from the up and down cobbled streets we’ve been treading in Andalucia over the last week.
An elevator shaft set free Rua Augusta Rua Augusta
We breakfast on simply on coffee and Portuguese custard tarts. Gustav thinks he’s in some kind of heaven when he goes in to pay and gets a full sensory blast of all the pastries on offer.

Most of the stores are having 50-80% off sales; if I were in the market for shoes I’d be buying up big. However living on a farm turns everything into brown variations on the same boot. With Portugal’s economy in a rather awful trough, I get a whiff of desperation from some of the shop staff. The city isn’t in ruins by a long stretch but there’s not much building or renovation going on, and what is seems to be stalled indefinitely.

Praço do Comercio
Beyond the Arch is the Praço do Comércio (Commerce Square), large and empty but for a plywood enclosure wrapping the statue of King José crushing snakes on his horse. Despite Portugal having launched the world’s first global empire, Lisbon doesn’t have a terrific amount of very old buildings since the place was levelled in the great earthquake of 1755. This square faces out into a harbour estuary where the 25th of April bridge crosses the narrowed channel out to the ocean.
25th of April bridge from the Praço do Comercio
Some Chinese tourists got a bit carried away taking pictures of Munson and demanded that he sit in certain photogenic places while they dithered with their camera gear. I don’t have much time for this rudeness so we left them to walk up to the more elevated neighbourhoods immediately west of the central grid.

on a Portuguese pedestal King José 1, crushing snakes
P1110580 P1110577
P1110579This was a slightly ritzier area, sadly fringed by a lot of beautiful but empty restaurants. Travelling on a budget, we restricted ourselves to sandwiches for lunch which we ate out in one of the busier squares.

Gustav thought Lisbon reminded him of Stockholm, which I could see: the central city layout over many hills leading down to the water were indeed quite similar.

If we stopped anywhere for more than a few minutes, water bowls and bottles materialised for Munson. The preferred term for him here was lindo or niño, rather than bonito in Spain.

dragon from recycled parts
Gustav with cocktailsWe were walked out by mid-afternoon, our final rest before the foot ascent to the hotel was taken up with more pastries and some Brazilian fruit cocktails. A parade of tourists on Segways went past – they looked a bit silly, but I slightly envied them nonetheless. I suppose I should have ordered a Muddy Puddle cocktail for Munson, but I don’t think the human version is quite what he likes.

The intention was to have a nap, but we just lay on the bed, read and watched The Simpsons. Unlike in Spain they’re subtitled rather than dubbed – I wondered if this was a cultural thing rather than a budgetary measure.

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