Lisbon is a city to which the description gritty charm might be applied. Mostly the charm outshines, although sometimes the grit shines through the grit. This post is Part 1, of two parts, where charm is to the fore:
1. The little trams:
They chug up the steep streets and down the steep streets. They carry happy tourists packed tightly as sardines are packed tightly inside a tin can.
2. The steep streets:
I had known that Lisbon was built on seven hills. I hadn’t realised the hills would be so steep. When they are not steep going up the way, they are steep going down the way without a few welcoming metres of level transition. In the instance above the numbers of the houses are picked out in black pebbles on the street. In the other photo we have a tired little soldier fighting for breath as she ascends a slope. Bless her.
3. The tiled Buildings:
4. Belem, contemporary art:
Mr Berardo left Portugal as a young man. He returned as an older man with his pockets full of money from successful business ventures in South Africa. He decided he would collect contemporary art. He then decided to build a rather lovely looking building in Belem equipped with excellent air conditioning and he housed his art there. He then decided that members of the public could come inside for free. After that he decided they could pay Euros 5 each. So that is what we did. A very large collection and a very varied set of known artists. We enjoyed and thank you Mr Berardo.
5. The Archaeological site, Rua dos Correeiros:
Millennium BCP are a bank and they have their headquarters in Lisbon. They wanted to build a car park under their bank. As they dug down they discovered examples of wells and sewage tunnels from when Lisbon was rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake. Then they found a corpse, a roman house with bath, then a Roman fish factory and then remnants of Stone Age buildings. The bank has preserved the many centuries of historical building 5 metres below their headquarters. They provide free guided tours in a variety of languages every day. That was fabulous. Everything is in quite a small area as new generations simply built on top of the previous occupants constructions. The guide was very knowledgeable but lacked a sense of humour. I tried to brighten the mood with one of my comedic questions. That effort fell on ground stonier than the perfectly preserved Roman mosaic flooring.
6. LX Factory:
The LX factory sits on what was wasteland in an altogether undesirable spot about 15 minutes from the city. It is located under the enormous rail/road bridge that spans the river. It was reinvented and repurposed to be filled with arty little shops selling clothes and second hand records and tattoos and haircuts and food and bars. Hey presto the people came and injected life back into the decaying factories. We found it a lovely spot to wander for jewellery gifts and argentinian empanadas.
Alex said that Lisbon is stylish, meaning more stylish than the south of Spain that we visited immediately before here. I said is it? And took some photos of “stylish” shop windows:
Actually I didn’t. I wanted to be able to say this is a butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker. Because it’s true. Nothing very stylish about the butcher, but I think the other two count.
I then added in another couple of windows. I recognise it doesn’t work terrifically well because of the reflections in glass. I have a camera setting for “through glass”, but it isn’t very effective. It’s particularly not effective here, as I didn’t use that setting.
You’ll have to take Alex’s word that Lisbon is stylish without any supporting photographic evidence from me. Lisbon is not only stylish, but it has many attributes that are charming. But wait, there will be more. Part 2 of Lisbon more charm than grit will be available in good bookstores near you, very soon.