Sunday, 9 March 2014


Monument to Prince Henry the Navigator
Having not been able to do Seville Justice due to absolutely awful weather, we made up for it with Lisbon. We bought the 48 hour three tour `Big Yellow Tours’ bus tickets (that’s a mouthful). These tickets allow use of trams and public buses (the Big Red Bus Tours don’t).The open top Hop on Hop off service is fantastic, and there is a running commentary as you’d expect detailing major sites.If there is a problem with it, it’s the musical `fill’ when all we really wanted was constant facts, because you drive past stuff you’re desperate to find out about and instead you just get to listen to `Fado’, not my cup of tea at all. The other minor gripe and this entirely personal, was having at least two stops on the tour at Portuguese Super Malls, with a stream of general advertising codswallop about being able to buy the latest designer brands blah blah blah.
Trafira Docks

Belem Tower

Let’s start at the beginning of our days. We had to rise early and catch a bus near the Orbitur Campsite (see previous post ... convenient BUT), from Costa de Caparica to Trafira, where we then caught the ferry to Porto  Brandao and finally Belem (west Lisbon, or more properly west of the 25th of April Bridge).

Prince Henry The Navigator Monument and his Peers
The river starts in Spain, and is fed on its journey by several major tributaries (see the links below). Having been born near the Thames and having spent most of my life living within a mile or so to a few hundred metres away from the river or it’s docks I have a bit of a big river fetish. The Tagus at its deepest is 46metres at its widest its 18kilometres and its over a 1000kilometres long (see bridges below for how to cross it).

The port of Lisbon runs along the banks and has all the normal functions of a working port such as container stacking and loading, but also a marina, a leisure area, a trendy bars and discos area, the museum of the orient and three three cruise terminals.
Docks and a Giant Baby Jesus Preparing to Clap in the Distance

Expo 98 Area
Looking Inland
This is a slightly odd mix, but is easily explained by the functions of buildings, and technology over time. Where once bagged and boxed goods turned an economy, now containerisation has taken over. This leaves unused warehouses and other buildings (such as the Cod Salting house, now the Museum of the Orient ... the wiki link doesn’t say enough and the museum link is verbose to the point of making the eyes bleed, so you’ll have to take my word on it).

Big Graffiti and they Celebrate It
A Square (Tram cables) (seeing this website you’d just pass on by), the displays inside will bring tears to the eyes, silks, lacquer work, water colours. Worth the visit to Lisbon on its own.

The old buildings and warehouses that haven’t been pulled down have just been converted, and the ports new functions have grown around them. So whereas Londons docks were regenerated elsewhere on the river and completely new docks were built because the size of ships increased over time, Lisbons deep water estuary allowed `organic’ growth without moving the dock site. To give a bit of context, London’s docks broadly by generation are: The Pool of London (from London Bridge to just below Tower Bridge, no locks, just riverside berths, then St Katerines Docks Part of the pool of London but much later, West India Docks (Isle of Dogs), The royal Docks (city Airport area), then Tilbury Docks just beyond the city limits in Essex, and now just being developed The London Gateway Super Container port. These facilities spread over a period of hundreds of years and are all separated in measures of miles (around 30 from the Pool of London to the London Gateway).

The port of Lisbon, in common with Cartagena, is entirely self-contained in all of its generations over those same hundreds of years, due to the vastness of the estuary, the depth of water and geology.

Referring to the video, I said the Tagus/Tejo has a lot of power. It fills on the incoming tide slower than it empties and watching it on the ebb is a site to behold, the ferry journey back to Trafira on the ebb tide was ten minutes quicker than the journey into Lisbon with the tide.
One of a Pair of Fountains that have Small Ornamental Canals
Bridges, Discoveries

There are two very special bridges over the Tejo/Tagus, the 25th of April Bridge (previously the Salazar Bridge). Also a correction to the earlier video: The railway was always under-slung, it was just the station that was built later (some of the guide pamphlets could really do with being re-written by someone with English as a first language ... same in Spain ... maybe English ones are as bad for foreign tourists).
The bridges Top Trump facts can be read from the link below.

Further inland is the bridge that caught my eye: The Vasco da Gama bridge. It’s the longest bridge in Europe at 17kilometres (just over 10 miles). I wish retrospectively that we’d crossed the Tagus using this bridge, because it crossed salt marshes and nature reserves (we could always go back that way instead of crossing Spain in the north).

Vasco da Gama by the way was the first person to sail around the Cape of Good Hope and navigate from Europe eventually to India (he wasn’t the first sailor to specifically navigate around the Cape, just the first person to go far beyond and discover a route to India by sea).

As an aside it was Portuguese aviators that first crossed to Brazil across the south Atlantic from Europe (not the first non-stop crossing of the Atlantic that was Alcock and Brown British, However the Portuguese effort was significant in using new technologies and of being such a duration and distance ... and using three aircraft to do it. Their actual flight started from Belem a few hundred yards from where we disembarked from our ferry from Trafira.


What have the Romans ever done for us? Apart from Irrigation, medicine, public order, education etc. They gave us Aqueducts, and the principle has been copied and re-engineered down the centuries The Livres Aqueduct spans nearly 60 kilometresas canals, tunnels and water bridges, its top spans are 65metres in the air. In town we saw scaffolding under a section and copies amounts of water spilling from it, as a team of workmen try to maintain and repair it by cleaning the stone without chemicals. Dotted around the city are incredibly ornate drinking fountains, the lower level for animals the upper levels for people.

Drinking Fountain

You can’t talk about Lisbon without talking about the tiles on so many of the buildings, patterned in the Moorish style (geometric), or in far more European styles with murals, or hybrid picture patterns. Those are the distinct types:. Moorish or Islamic influenced tiles don’t have pictures per se, just pattern, hybrid have recognisable pictures of flowers or birds, but just form repeats (like wall paper), and murals are just pictures made from tiles.

I commented to Amanda that were someone from Portugal to come to the City of London they would recognise the building types but maybe believe them to be unfinished because they haven’t been tiled.
If buildings aren’t tiles they are frequently painted in rich pastel colours, the Presidential Palace is pink (and referring to the video, we know the president wasn’t in because his flag wasn’t flying). We should also say that this tiling isn’t just the grand houses or places of commerce, it’s the tenements, road side walls, tunnels , almost any and all spaces have tiles of one sort or another. Where they are in a good state of repair and the pattern is complete they are spectacular.

Generally we liked Lisbon, the expo 98 site outside of the old city (like London’s Docklands)'98 was a stark contrast; a juxtaposition of the new and the old Lisbons (and we don’t use words like juxtaposition unless we mean it). The new Lisbon like Docklands nods to the old city but stands alone, in terms of architecture and stature. Tall buildings, glass curtain walls, odd geometry, gravity defying structures like the Pavillion of Portugal, designed to look like a sheet of paper resting between two bricks (and currently an umbrella to a 20ft tall fibre glass Tyrannosaurus Rex).

Giant Cubist Nob Sculpture

Tile Wall Oceanarium
The Central Station of Expo98
The train Station, the Spinnaker like building at one end of the citys cable car ride, the twin towers with their Carvel Lateen sail shapes, and old tower from a refinery that stood on the site previously, and all those names we are now familiar with for all the wrong reasons ... the banks and their Bang without Boom lending.

Brick Supporting Paper and Tyrannosaurus 
Super Heroes Mural DC and Marvel Universe

For me it was an interesting mix, a microcosm of the cityscape I am so familiar with London; by a River, the seat of Government, home of museums and culture, a gateway to the world from the distant past to the emerging future. A bustle of buses, cars and trams, and trains and ships and people all viewed in one mind expanding eyeful. In some ways I was also reminded of the Liffey in Dublin, the city stretches to the gates of the Irish Sea. London is inland, protected from the ferocity of the North Sea, Lisbon looks out everyday onto the Atlantic. Between it and Ocean City Maryland in the United States (if I read my maps right), lies the specs of the Azores and lots of open water, when the wind moves the Atlantic Lisbon feels it. It deserves more than two days, and maybe we’ll come back one day. Given its position, close to resorts and inconsideration of its antiquity and once might, I would put Lisbon way up the list on your must sees. There are grubby bits, but aren’t there everywhere, those bits just waiting for the eye and imagination to take them into the future. Portugal isn’t really in the Algarve, be under no illusion, it’s in Lisbon.

No comments:

Post a comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...