Lisbon, Portugal: Travelogue Pt 1
My wife and I travelled separately on the short journey from Cascais to the Portuguese capital of Lisbon. Due to our lack of car seat for the baby, my wife took the train with Isabella while I hitched a car ride with our luggage. Despite our pre-travel host issues with airbnb in Cascais, we had also rented an airbnb apartment in Lisbon. This turned out to a completely different and ultimately extremely positive experience. As it turned out, our Lisbon host lived in Cascais so offered us a lift from Cascais to the apartment in Lisbon. I took up this offer preferring not to have drag our luggage on the train and through Lisbon, while my wife was happy enough to take the train. Unfortunately, the Cais de Sodré train station was located on the River Targus at sea level and my wife faced a straight climb up one of Lisbon's seven hills while pushing a pram to meet me at the apartment in the Bairro Alto.
The apartment was right on the edge of the Bairro Alto adjacent to the Church of São Roque and the Elevador da Glória; a funicular tram which climbs the short distance from the valley floor in Baxia up to the Jardim de São Pedro de Alcântara in Bairro Alto. Lisbon is famous for its bumblebee yellow trams, so it was a little disappointing that my first experience of this was the Elevador da Glória which heavily coated in graffiti masking much of the yellow exterior.
As well as yellow trams, Lisbon is also renowned for their pastéis de nata and none more so than the birthplace of these delightful flaky custard tarts, Belém. The monks of the Jerónimos Monastery are credited with their invention and were ahead of their time in setting up a commercial enterprise selling the tarts at the shop next door which became to be known as the Pasteis de Belém. The shop survives today still producing the tarts to the original recipe and is a mecca for the pastéis de nata tourist. We skipped the take away queue by sitting in for lunch and then getting tarts to take-away after our lunch. They may be the original recipe, but we had better pastéis de nata at other bakeries throughout the trip.
The history of Belém is not solely culinary and the ancient harbour has had a prominent role in Portuguese maritime and the voyage of discoveries. Vasco da Gama set sail from Belém on his exploratory voyage to India and in doing so linked Europe to India by the sea for the first time opening up trade routes. This and other voyages of discovery are commemorated through the Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument towering over the River Tagus and adorned with carvings of da Gama, other explorers, King Afonso V, a cartographer, mathematicians, navigators and the like.
Belém is either a short train ride or tram ride from Cais do Sodré which is the same train station for the train to Cascais. Located a short walk from the train station is the Time Out Mercado da Ribeira. Lisbon's biggest fresh food market has been partially converted into a gourmet food hall. The market remains but is now accompanied by 35 permanent kiosks serving a range of delicious dishes selling regional specialities including five kisoks from Lisbon's top chefs. We ended up eating here a few times as it was reasonably priced, tasty and being a big food hall, child friendly.
The other main highlight of my trip was discovering that the Sebastião Salgado exhibition, Genesis, was on show in Belém at the time our of trip. I bought the book a couple of years back but had always wanted to see the prints in person. The closet place the exhibition was to Ireland was London but I found out it about it too late to arrange a trip. It was only on the train to Belém that I noticed a small advertisement poster for the exhibition and couldn't believe my luck. The exhibition is over 200 large format prints which is split into five geographical regions, namely Sanctuaries, Planet South, Africa, Amazonia and Pantanal, and Northern Spaces. Together, Salgado captures the pristine plant untouched by modern society as it was in the time of Genesis through photographs of landscapes, nature, indigenous people and the sea. The book blew me away when I first read it, but seeing these prints was another experience all together. It was interesting how my perspective on the photos change viewing them at a different size and medium. My favourite photographs differed between the book and exhibition.
I'm saving the Feast of St Anthony for Part 2 of this travelogue which will be a short post, but I'll leave you with a large gallery of travel and street photography from Lisbon to finish this post.