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.
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.
Monday, July 22: This morning, I wake up with a full day in Lisbon ahead of me. The hotel offers a lovely brunch, which I eat while working on my blog and checking emails. Then I head down the streets of Bairro Alto until I come to the lovely fountain at Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara. This little park sits at the top of a hill offering beautiful views of Lisbon all the way to the Rio Tejo. I pass the park any time I go out into Lisbon or return to my hotel. So it becomes quite a familiar sight during my stay.
Every time I get to the steep street of Calcada da Gloria, on which the Elevador da Gloria runs, the Elevador seems to be taking a long leisurely snooze. It’s just sitting there waiting, I guess, until enough passengers decide to board, at which time it makes its way down the hill to Praca dos Restauradores. I’m never patient enough to wait for it and decide to simply walk down the hill myself. I guess if it was the other way around, and I had to walk UP every time, I’d wait for the Elevador no matter how long it took. On the wall bordering the street, I’m always startled by this crazy street painting.
Today I plan to take the green (Castle) line on the Lisbon Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off bus, heading for Alfama.
The National Theatre D. Maria II, or Teatro Nacional D. Maria II, is a historical theater; it is one of the most prestigious Portuguese venues and is in Rossio square, in the center of the city.
In Rossio Square sits one of the most noticeable tourist landmarks, The Hard Rock Cafe.
On the bus ride up to Alfama, I admire Lisbon’s laundry, hung out on balconies to dry.
I also pass this Porto Wine sign, which reminds me of Jo in Tavira, known by the alias of restless jo.
Finally the bus drops us at Miradouro of Santa Luzia, where there is a beautiful panoramic view of Lisbon at the top of Alfama.
Alfama is the oldest district of Lisbon, spreading on the slope between the Castle of Lisbon and the Rio Tejo. Its name comes from the Arabic Al-hamma, meaning fountains or baths. It includes the freguesias (parishes) of São Miguel, Santo Estêvão, São Vicente de Fora and part of two streets of Freguesia da Sé: Rua do Barão and Rua São João da Praça. It contains many important historical attractions, with many Fado bars and restaurants.
Overlooking the Alfama is the mediaeval Castle of São Jorge, royal residence until the early 16th century and now offering the best views of the city. In the slopes of Alfama there are other terraces (miradouros) from which to see the city, like the Miradouro de Santa Luzia, near the church of the same name and over remnants of the Moorish city walls, and the Miradouro das Portas do Sol (Gates of the Sun) (Wikipedia: Alfama).
When I finally tear myself away from the viewpoint, I start walking downhill without having any idea what I’m searching for.
At some point midway down the hill, I see a sign for Castle of São Jorge, and as I approach it, I find this warning about pickpockets.
I then head into the Castle of São Jorge, where I see more amazing views of the red rooftops of Lisboa and the Tejo River.