Writes Cheri Lucas: Masterpiece. No matter where you are (and where you’ve been), I’m certain you’ve stumbled upon something extraordinary: a place that blows your mind; a work of art or object that speaks to you; or even a location or scene that’s special, unusual, or even magical in some way.
One thing you can never really “stumble upon” is a ceiling. Often, you can miss the wonders of ceilings simply by forgetting to look up. During my travels this summer, I saw some beautiful ceilings in cathedrals and palaces, but in order to see them I had to remember to look up. 🙂
Ceilings are often artistic masterpieces that can be vastly under-appreciated or ignored completely. A viewer can’t even study ceilings for very long without getting a crick in the neck. And think of what the artist had to endure to create them. I can only imagine how uncomfortable it would be to design and create a beautiful ceiling by holding one’s arms overhead and one’s face looking up for extended periods of time. Unless an artist can lie on a platform on his back, I can’t imagine it could be very easy work.
Here are some masterpiece ceilings I found throughout Spain and Portugal this summer.
And this, my friends, is only a tiny glimpse of heaven. 🙂
Friday, July 26: This week, Ailsa of Where’s my backpack? challenges us to come up with something sweet. She asks us to: Whisper a sweet nothing and send it my way.
On my trip through Spain and Portugal, I sampled delectable sweets all along the way. I have a few extra bulges around my waist as a result. Here’s to you, Ailsa, some sweet nothings coming your way.
The Mercat de la Boqueria in Barcelona is a colorful feast of sweets: fruit juices, fruits, and candies galore.
One sweet treat that beckons from nearly every street in Spain and Portugal is gelato. I tried to sample as much as I could. 🙂 This gelato cart was on the street in Tavira, Portugal. Jo of restlessjo and I were in search of fig and almond gelato, which she raves about. Sadly for me, though this cart usually sells Jo’s favorite flavor, they are out of it on this night.
Toledo, Spain is famous for its marzipan. Of course, I had to sample some.
A churro, sometimes referred to as a Spanish doughnut, is a fried-dough pastry-based snack. It is normally eaten for breakfast dipped in hot chocolate or cafe con leche. It’s delicious!
And finally, one of Portugal’s great culinary wonders is the cinnamon-dusted pastel de nata (custard tart), with its flaky crust and creamy center. I tasted lots of these throughout Portugal, but this one was at Cafe Pielas In Sintra.
I have to say that some of the best sweets to be found are in Europe! 🙂
Wednesday, July 24: I return to Lisbon from Cascais in the late afternoon and take a long walk from the train station up an endless hill to Bairro Alto. Here I stumble upon my last sighting of pastel de nata. Oh how I will miss this treat when I leave Portugal tomorrow morning.
I’ll miss the mosaic cobbled walkways of the city.
And the dramatic statues in serene parks.
I drop into the Basilica dos Martires, dedicated to the martyrs who participated in the 1147 reconquest of Lisbon from the Moors. This beautiful Baroque church was built after the 1755 earthquake on the site of another where the first baptism after the reconquest took place. It was completed in 1784. Inside is a marble altar and a beautifully painted ceiling, as well as an organ that’s considered one of the best in the country (LisbonLux: Basilica dos Martires).
I think the ceiling in this church is one of the most beautiful I have seen during my trip.
I’ll miss Portugal’s amazing architecture and Lisbon’s colorful buildings and street lamps.
I also drop into the skeletal Convento do Carmo; all that remains after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake and a later violent fire are its cracked pillars and soaring arches, reaching longingly into the heavens.
The Carmo Archeological Museum keeps and exhibits important pieces of sculpture from the Carmo monastery and church, as well as from many other ancient buildings, such as monastic houses. It also holds works from prehistoric times until the present day.
I continue heading up the hill past inviting cafes and the Teatro da Trinidad.
And I head back to my favorite spot in Lisbon, LOSTin, for a beer and some parting views of the city.
After going back to my hotel to rest a bit, I venture out one last time to have some dinner. I pass more Lisbon balconies, which I wistfully wish were mine.
And I surprise myself by stopping into a sushi place that has been bustling every time I’ve passed it by. The food is delicious, even though as a parting Lisbon experience, it’s not exactly Portuguese food. 🙂
Finally, I return to my hotel, where I request an early morning wake-up call for my flight back home to the USA. 😦
Wednesday, July 24: Today, I take the train from Lisbon to the charming town of Cascais (pronounced (kush-kaish), which sits on the Atlantic Ocean. This is my first time to see the Atlantic from the European side, and I’m tickled to find such a pleasant town from which to see it.
I have no plan here except to wander aimlessly and go wherever my heart leads me.
Cascais has about 35,000 residents and is one of the richest municipalities in Portugal, according to Wikipedia: Cascais. The former fishing village gained fame as a resort for Portugal’s royal family in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Nowadays, it is a popular vacation spot for both Portuguese and foreign tourists.
Cascais has thrived over the centuries from fishing, maritime commerce (it was a stop for ships sailing to Lisbon), and agriculture, producing wine, olive oil, cereals and fruits. Due to its location close to the Tagus estuary, it was also seen as a strategic post in the defense of Lisbon. Around 1488, King John II built a small fortress in the village, located by the sea. This medieval fortress was not enough to repel the invasion and in 1580, Spanish troops led by the Duque of Alba took the village during the conflict that led the Spanish and Portuguese crowns to unite.
In 1755, the great Lisbon earthquake destroyed a large portion of the village. Not much of Portugal was left unscathed by this earthquake.
I thoroughly enjoy wandering through this adorable town on my last day in Portugal.
I stroll through the town with its wavy cobbled streets and candy-colored buildings to the beach, where people are sunbathing and swimming.
I walk along the length of the citadel, and at its far end, I find the Marina de Cascais, with its sleek yachts and sailboats.
And of course, pretty Portuguese balconies adorn almost every building.
I stop at Bangkok Restaurante to eat a lunch of Pad Thai.
After stopping in to various little boutiques, I wander slowly back to the train station, where I head back to Lisbon for my last afternoon. I fly out tomorrow morning early.
Oh, how I wish I didn’t have to leave Portugal tomorrow. I’ve loved every minute of my travels. 🙂
Tuesday, July 23: Tonight I stroll not far from my hotel in Bairro Alto to Café LUSO, a Fado House established in 1927.
In the 1930s, the old cellars and stables of the Palace Brito Freire, a 17th century manor house that endured the devastating earthquake of 1755, were refurbished into a show room with restaurant; its arched vaults offer unique acoustics. From the first decades of the 20th century, Café LUSO reached such notoriety that it was known as the “Cathedral of Fado”.
The show, running between 8.30 and 10 PM, is a display of regional folk dances and singing alternating with fado singers and players. At the end of the show, all together, they all sing the Café LUSO hymn.
The Folklore group wears real costumes that typify the various regions of Portugal.
Fado arrived in Lisbon by way of Portuguese navigators and other travelers. Despite the many influences on Fado, as a result of the Portuguese diaspora, it was clearly identified since the 19th century as a genuine national song.
The voice is accompanied by the Portuguese guitar and viola, but also other instruments such as contrabass, piano, bass and cello.
Black is prevalent on the apparel, feminine and masculine; the use of black clothes visually emphasizes the sadness and nostalgia, overwhelming feelings in traditional fado. The female singer often uses a shawl that composes the figure with meaning; this ornament can be dashing and rich.
Fado is a musical genre that can only be explained as an old lament over the threats that all of us go through life, with episodes that can be painful and explain our mortality.
It covers life, love or disdain, graces or disgraces, loss and “saudade”, the very Portuguese word synonymous with longing and missing.
Obviously, Fado does not have one single style of interpretation.
I love the evening here at Café LUSO, even though it is a tourist place, bursting with tables of Chinese people. I am a little disappointed in the ratio of folklore dances to fado; it seems the folklore dances make up the majority of the show, with only a few soulful fado songs.
The menu is very limited and nothing special at all. And of course it’s expensive. Oh well, maybe next time I go to Lisbon, I can find a small, off-the-beaten track fado house, where the locals go.
Tuesday, July 23: While exploring Bairro Alto, I come across the Igreja de São Roque (Church of Saint Roch), the earliest Jesuit church in the Portuguese world, and one of the first Jesuit churches anywhere. When built in the 16th century it was the first Jesuit church designed in the “auditorium-church” style specifically for preaching.
It served as the Society’s home church in Portugal for over 200 years, before the Jesuits were expelled. After the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake, the church, which survived the earthquake relatively unscathed, was given to the Charity House of Lisbon to replace their church and headquarters which had been destroyed. It remains a part of the Santa Casa today, one of its many heritage buildings (Igreja de SãoRoque).
After a wave of the plague swept over Lisbon in 1505, the King Manuel I (1495-1521) asked the Republic of Venice for a relic of Saint Roch, whose miracles, which helped the victims of the plague, were popular in southern Europe. In 1506, the construction of a shrine to host the relic was started in a heath outside the Fernadine wall. The churchyard of this shrine was used as a cemetery for the victims of the plague. A brotherhood was created and made responsible for maintaining devotion to the Saint and for preserving the shrine. The shrine was later demolished to build the Church of São Roque. The original relic is still preserved.
Igreja de São Roque contains a number of chapels, most in the Baroque style of the early 17th century. The most notable chapel is the 18th-century Chapel of St. John the Baptist (Capela de São João Baptista), constructed in Rome of many precious stones and disassembled, shipped and reconstructed in São Roque; at the time it was reportedly the most expensive chapel in Europe.
The chapel came about through the efforts of King Joao V (1707-1750), who promoted a vast program of grand architectural projects and works of art to show the image of a renewed and refined Portuguese state, which was not behind the main European powers of the time in any way.
The Museu de São Roque is in the space of the old Professed House of the Society of Jesus, adjoined to the Church. It holds the important collection of Italian art which was the origin of the Chapel of Saint John’s creation. In the 1930s, the exhibit expanded to include a wider variety of pieces.
Tuesday, July 23: I’m not a big party girl while I’m on holiday, but if I were, Lisbon’s Bairro Alto would be the place to play. The neighborhood is a short walk from my hotel, and this afternoon I explore its graffiti-splashed streets during the sleepy daylight hours.
This evening at 8:00, I’ll walk back to this part of the neighborhood to attend a fado performance at Luso.
I stop for a late lunch at what has quickly become my favorite lunch spot, LOSTin, right across the street from my hotel, with grand views of Lisbon. I order a sandwich and enjoy the pink, green and royal blue wicker chairs shaded by Indian patchwork umbrellas. This Esplanada Bar is an Indian snack-like restaurant that serves meals like toasts, wraps and sandwiches, but with an Indian flavor.
I order a ham and cheese sandwich, but it sounds a lot more fancy than that on the menu.
After lunch, I continue to explore the neighborhood, passing by the Elevador da Gloria once again.
Tuesday, July 23: Today, I still have access to the Lisbon Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off bus until 2:00, so I take advantage of that to go back to Alfama to see the Museu do Fado. I’ve determined that today, my next to last day in Lisbon, will start and end with fado, as tonight I will go to a show at Luso in Bairro Alto, near my hotel. Though I made reservations to see a show in Alfama at Clube de Fado, I’ve discovered that Luso is within walking distance. Not having to take a taxi when the late night show finishes will be a great relief.
I’m more than a little annoyed that I’m required to leave my small backpack, which I use as a purse while I travel, at the front desk, receiving only a claim ticket which will enable me to pick up all my valuable belongings, including my passport, money and all credit cards, when I leave. Once I hand over my bag, I have no pockets in which to carry the claim ticket, so I’m worried about losing it the whole time I’m in the museum. I really don’t see the need for this policy, which makes it hard for me to relax and enjoy the museum!
The museum traces fado’s history from its working class roots to its international fame. It displays discs, recordings, paintings, posters, a hall of fame, and a re-created guitar workshop. The Alfama is the birthplace of fado, so it’s a pleasure to wander through the museum getting a feel for its history.
Since its creation in 1998, the Museum has incorporated a unique body of collections: several collections of periodicals, pictures, posters, music scores, music instruments, phonograms, clothes and performing props, trophies, medals, professional documents, contracts, licenses, professional cards, among many other testimonies that co-existed and/or created Fado. (Museu do Fado: History)
According to Wikipedia, fado is popularly believed to be a form of music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and infused with a characteristic sentiment of resignation and melancholia. However, today fado is regarded, by many, as simply a form of song which can be about anything, but must follow a certain structure. The music is usually linked to the Portuguese word saudade which symbolizes the feeling of loss (a permanent, irreparable loss and its consequent lifelong damage).
In one room of the museum, large soft leather chairs hooked up with headphones invite visitors to sit for a while and listen to fado. I could sit here all day listening to the beautiful mournful music if I had more time in Lisbon.
Fado was present in leisure moments in Lisbon since the 1820s, happening spontaneously indoors or outdoors, in gardens, bullfights, retreats, streets and alley, taverns, cafés de camareiras and casas de meia-porta. Evoking urban emergence themes, Fado was originally related to people who were marginalized in society, taking place in locations visited by prostitutes, faias, sailors, coachmen and marialvas. Fado’s association to society’s most marginal spheres made the Portuguese intellectuals reject it profoundly (Museu do Fado: Fado History).
In the years immediately after the April 1974 revolution, a hostility towards fado was evidenced by a two-year interruption of the contest Grande Noite do Fado and the radical decrease of fado’s presence in radio or television broadcasts.
In fact, only when the democratic regime became stable, in 1976, would fado regain its own space. The following year the album Um Homem na Cidade was released by one of the biggest names of Lisbon’s urban song, Carlos do Carmo, a central figure of fado’s internationalization (Museu do Fado: Fado History).
Luckily, I don’t lose my claim ticket, so after I finish at the Museum, I’m able to pick up all my valuables. I catch the Hop On bus on its round trip through Alfama; I hop off at the top of the hill for another view of Lisbon and another pastel de nata. 🙂
Monday, July 22: After leaving Castelo de São Jorge, I head out into the charming Alfama neighborhood surrounding the castle. It’s a lovely little warren of cobbled streets where you just want to wander around forever. Entrancing. Bewitching. Beguiling. Utterly captivating. 🙂
I then meander my way to the spot close to where the Lisbon Sightseeing Bus dropped me off; here I have some mediocre lunch at an outdoor cafe. I then decide to take the iconic Vintage Tram 28 down the hill all the way to the end of the line.
At the end of the line, all passengers are told to disembark; we have to get on another tram to go back up the hill of Alfama. We wait a while in the new tram until it climbs back up the steep hill. We pass other colorful trams along the way.
I dip into a church along the way, but I’m not sure what this one is called.
And then I walk down the narrow street, where trams are going up and down, until I reach a pedestrian shopping street.
At this pedestrian street, I stop for a little lunch and then I make my way, walking, back up the hill. Walking in Lisbon is not easy as it has so many steep hills! I pass some pretty shops and beautiful buildings.
I make my way further up the hill to The Patriarchal Cathedral of St. Mary Major, also known as Sé de Lisboa or simply Lisbon Cathedral. The oldest church in the city is the see of the Archdiocese of Lisbon. Since the beginning of the construction of the cathedral, in the year 1147, the building has been modified several times and survived many earthquakes. It is nowadays a mix of different architectural styles (Wikipedia: Lisbon Cathedral).
And then I find a cute little cafe where I decide it’s about time for a glass of wine.
I ask the owners if they’ll take a picture of me in front of the colorful and paint-chipped doors. It looks a little strange because the door is either really small, or I’m really big!
I ask the owner where I can find Clube de Fado, because I’ve heard it’s around this area and I’d like to make a reservation to see some Fado and have dinner for tomorrow night. He tells me it’s behind the Sé de Lisboa, whence I just came, so, guess what, I get to walk back down the hill I just came up.
I finally find the Clube de Fado, and I pop inside to reserve a spot for tomorrow night. After this, I make my way back UP the hill, passing by the Igreja de Santiago and other interesting buildings.
Finally, I end up right back where I started from this morning, at the Miradouro of Santa Luzia, where I get more astounding views of Lisbon and the Rio Tejo.
Here, I hop back on the Hop On Hop Off bus to head back to my hotel, where I need to get off of my feet for a while. On the bus, we pass hundreds of colorful buildings.
I get dropped off at the bottom of the hill again, and have to make my way back up Calcada de Gloria. This time I decide to take the Elevador da Gloria up. I just don’t think I can walk up any more hills today!
Of course at the top of the hill, I must stop at Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara for another view of the city and a cold beer at the little cafe.
Finally, I’m at the top of Bairro Alto where my hotel, Pensão Londres, sits pretty in green.
I am so happy to relax in my room for a while before I go out to have some dinner. My feet and legs are killing me from walking up and down Lisbon’s hills. This time, I go to LOSTin, an Esplanada Bar. It is an Indian snack-like restaurant that serves meals like toasts, wraps and sandwiches, but with an Indian flavor. The best thing about LOSTin is its gorgeous view over downtown and Lisbon castle; the cafe sits under the shade of beautiful trees with Indian umbrellas and cushions and pink and green wicker chairs. It’s a perfect place from the bustle of the city. Plus, it’s right across the street from Pensão Londres, which means I don’t have to walk far. 🙂
My dinner is Gratinado de Gorgonzola, which of course is accompanied by a glass of red wine; though it doesn’t look that enticing from the picture, I can guarantee it’s delicious.
I go back to my room, feeling like I definitely got the most out of my day. I loved all the views of the beautiful old city of Lisbon, and its charming and labyrinthine neighborhood of Alfama.
Monday, July 22: The Castelo de São Jorge in Lisbon’s Alfama district has been occupied by Visigoths in the 5th century, Moors in the 9th century, Christians in the 12th century, royals from the 14th to 16th centuries, and convicts in every century, according to Lonely Planet Portugal.
The castle is like many others I’ve seen through Europe, but the best thing about Castelo de São Jorge is the view of Lisbon’s red rooftops from the fortified ramparts around the courtyards.
I spend quite some time here wandering around and taking pictures, but at this point in my trip, I’m a little castled out. It’s hot and I’m still missing Sintra’s cool and crisp air and its fairy tale-like atmosphere. However, I go through the castle and its mostly bare courtyards and walk around the perimeter of the ramparts taking multitudes of pictures of Lisbon from on high.
Then I head out into the Alfama district to see what there is to see. Of course since I’ve barely read my guidebook, I don’t really know what there is to see. Nonetheless, I wander. Yes.