(It did, more or less.)
Bem vindo a Lisboa!
We love bold colours, which is pretty obvious from our style, so seeing what Lisbon does with colour was both inspirational and borderline overwhelming, even for us! Vivid colours everywhere, on everything and everyone, but most of on all the façades, the faces of the city.
Given the Portuguese preference for vibrant colours, it’s small wonder that the street art is omnipresent, in all it’s forms. You’ll find graffiti and murals everywhere, but street art can take many different forms, like a huge metallic whale in one of the side-streets, a house door turned into a wooden mosaic, stencils, stickers, posters, paintings and even a street artist turning beach stones into stone columns. (more on the latter below)
Portugal is also in love with tiles of all kinds. Small stone tiles make up much of the roads and sidewalks (above) which is endlessly charming, but also makes for a pretty bumpy ride. Much more notably, many buildings in the older parts of the city are covered in traditional azulejo tiles. They’re shiny, colourful, exotic and beautiful. I just couldn’t get enough, so along with buying a real, used azulejo to take home, I shot quite a few buildings featuring them. Here are some…
Here are a few random scenes that caught my eye in Alfama and Bairro Alto neighbourhoods.
The climb to the Castelo de São Jorge (castle of St. George) took us all morning. No, not because we’re so out of shape, and no, it isn’t 2000m above sea level. It was a just a simple matter of seeing too many quaint alleys and charming houses to just pass them by without snapping a few ‘quick’ shots.
I won’t bother you with the castle shots, but here’s a panorama of downtown Lisbon which was too good to pass up.
Praça Dom Pedro IV is an interesting square with an eternal reminder of the Portuguese seafaring exploits on its ground. The small black and white tiles form waves, a tribute to the oceans which brought Portugal unimaginable wealth and prosperity… for a time. Here’s how it looks from space.
It turns out that many of the streets and alleys with tram tracks are too steep and narrow to support larger, more modern trams. So they just modernised existing ones (mostly with better brakes) and let them run on!
Pictured here is the legendary eléctrico 28 line, which runs through most beautiful parts of Lisbon.
The before mentioned rock-artist (not the kind you’d imagine). And yes, he takes offence to people asking whether he uses glue. In line with the artsy city reputation, even a juice-stand does it with style and will serve pitcher cocktails with fresh herbs, not lemonade vulgaris in a plastic cup.
There was no special cause for celebration (we checked), they just like their streets pretty. Besides, every day is a celebration, right?
Feelings of inadequacies abound…
And I would have agreed, but then I saw the same thing done with the tram tracks, in the middle of the city. Yikes!
One of those narrow streets I mentioned (above). The tram can just barely squeeze through, and you’d better watch out opening the front door if you live on this street. And just below, one of the places where two trams can’t go by each other because two tracks overlap.
As for the garden we sought and missed, don’t worry — you’ll get to see it later in the article… and it’s spectacular!
The infamous tuk-tuks. They’re a risky, expensive and fun way to get robbed blind while touring the city, all the while feeling like you’re back in Mumbai. And they’re everywhere.
Elevador de Santa Justa, a lift in the downtown Lisbon connecting Baixa with Bairro Alto (which is, well, much higher than Baixa, which warranted the lift). It was built by the Eiffel’s disciple; yes, Eiffel of Eiffel’s tower in Paris. We were curious what’s on the top, but so were around 200 tourists waiting in the queue, so we decided to let them find out and use that time for more magical things… like finally finding that garden we were after!
Well, they were building quaint little houses like these, with a bit of garden around it.
It’s time to get out of Lisbon. A quick train ride took us to Sintra, a confusingly historic place full of old palaces and villas. Why is it ‘confusingly historic’? It’s hard to explain, but the concentration of aforementioned castles and palaces is just off the charts! It’s like a really, really rich neighbourhood with few hundred years old buildings in all directions, but very small at the same time.
If that isn’t enough, there’s a Moorish castle on one hill above it and iconic and colourful Palácio da Pena on the other. Unfortunately you don’t get to see either because I don’t like tele-lenses and we didn’t have time to go up there, but you do get to see something arguably more interesting — Quinta da Regaleira palace.
It was owned by a ridiculously rich Monteiro the Millionaire (cute nickname), who had a knack for architectural experiments, so the vast estate is criss-crossed with unusual “buildings”, tunnels, towers, wells, lakes and waterfalls. Here’s our favourite, Initiatic well, which was so enchanting that we spent all the time we had inside it and didn’t get to see almost anything else. It’s often described as an inverted tower, leading deep underground, with a mystical function known only to its creator. Underground tunnels lead away from it in all directions.
We were out of time because we wanted to visit Cabo da Roca, a lighthouse that also happens to be the westernmost point of continental Europe — a fact not lost on all the Chinese tourists that happened to be in Portugal at the time. I may be exaggerating a bit; there were just a few hundred of them during the half hour we stayed there.
It was quite a spectacular sight! (The lighthouse and the rocks, not the Chinese…)
Our round trip continues through Cascais, a smallish town west of Lisbon. It’s vibe was much more relaxed, but it was still colourful and beautiful.
Farol e Museu de Santa Marta (above) was a mystery lighthouse & museum which was unfortunately closed, so we never did get to find out what kind of exhibits you find in a lighthouse museum (except for, obviously, a huge lighthouse right next to the building).
Completing the circle, we’re back in Lisbon, looking at Torre de Belém (Belem Tower) and a monument to the might and bravery of Portuguese explorers — Padrão dos Descobrimentos (lower down).
I don’t usually shoot food or restaurants where we eat, but I’ll make an exception. This is the Timeout Market in Cais de Sodré, a combination of a fresh food market and a bunch of top-notch restaurants (probably more than 30). And when I say top-notch, I really mean it — we kept coming back there time after time and everything we ordered was beautiful, delicious and fresh. It’s a must-visit if you get a chance!
Elevator de Glória, slowly working it’s way up the hill in the night. Along with us…
…and that’s it. As we’re boarding the plane for Paris, we’re counting all the planes we’ve flown on this crazy trip. Stay tuned for part 2, the Azores adventure!