We’ve had a few wonderful days exploring Lisbon and it’s environs. We took a trip out of town for a fabulous fish lunch where, following Rick Steins recommendations, Gerry tried (and enjoyed) the local barnacles.
We’ve taken in the sights from the open top bus and walked and wandered the alleys and avenues. We’ve glimpsed history, both local and from further afield and we’ve taken trains, trams and cable cars (yes I went in the cable car and yes I loved it). We also followed in Rick’s footsteps and enjoyed some of the best Lisboan Piri Piri chicken… in short we’ve had a great time.
We spent a few happy hours learning about Azulejos (tiles) in the National Museum, with five centuries of decorative tiles on display. If that sounds a little dull you’ll be pleasantly surprised! It’s a fascinating display housed in the monastic buildings of the Madre de Deus Convent, which following the Great Earthquake had its interior turned into one of the most magnificent in the city. The last exhibit was an amazing blue and white composition of 1300 tiles, (23m long) of Lisbon’s cityscape made in 1738, just prior to the earthquake which destroyed so much of Lisbon.
I also found it really interesting to see how these ancient designs had clearly influenced modern art. Gerry is a big Art Nouveau fan (our wedding invitations included the Rennie Mackintosh rose) and the more we wandered through the collections the more we could see similarities and references.
The Camhino Portuguese passes right by this museum so if you’re walking, plan to stop for an hour… you wont be disappointed.
A few folks had recommended we visit to the Gulbenkian Museum which houses a magnificent collection of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Islamic, Asian, and European art. This is one of the world’s finest private art collections, amassed over a period of 40 years by oil magnate Calouste Gulbenkian… one of the 20th century’s wealthiest men. In his later years he adopted Portugal as his home, and donated all of his stupendous art treasures to the country when he died in 1955 at the age of 86.
I’m always amazed how these fragile objects can remain intact after so many years. Arabic glassware, a 2700-year-old alabaster bowl, beautiful silks and rugs and pottery. I loved the colours used in the Chinese pottery and standing in front of original art by Rembrandt and Rubens and Claude Monet and Renoir, the sculptures of Rodin and René Lalique jewellery. If you are in Lisbon and you have the time, it’s worth a visit.
And, another excellent find was the coffee and Pastel de Nata that we enjoyed in a tiny little cafe close to the museum… thick, flaky pastry tarts that could well be the best we’ve ever tasted!
We’re leaving Lisbon centre behind us, we’re off to Belem tomorrow and Odibos on Tuesday and then Spain beckons… but we’re back in October and again next spring… so I guess it’s more of an a bientot than goodbye.