Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Tales from Lisbon # 2 -About Town



Lisbon has hundreds of museums from military to puppets, tiles to electricity but we didn't set foot in a single one. Apart from the fact that the weather was too nice to be stuck indoors in a stuffy old building, Lisbon is the kind of city you can just walk around with no particular destination in mind. We explored the whole city on foot, only occasionally jumping on a tram when too exhausted to tackle the steep hills. And Lisbon is very hilly. On our first night, the funicular to the Barrio Alto was out of order so we foolishly walked all the way to the top - it was so steep that with each step I took I thought I was going to slide back down again.

Our hotel was in a perfect position between the two main squares Restauradores and Rossio. The road which we had to walk down to get everywhere was full of touristy restaurants - you know, the ones with pictures of food and the menu in 10 different languages? Brushing aside the menus which were constantly shoved in our faces by over zealous waiters was like swatting flies. We spent many a happy hour looking for a good restaurant, preferably full of locals. We'd trawl the streets diving into the odd bar for a capirinhia and continue our mission. Unfortunately for being so fastidious, there is a price to pay. The food would probably always be good but the menu indecipherable. I thought I'd easily get by knowing Italian and a bit of Spanish but I was wrong. Some of the words sound nothing like the foreign languages I was more accustomed to using. For example, ementa is menu, frango is chicken, jantar, dinner, mexilhao, mussel, lula, squid, fiambre, ham, bife, steak but not necessarily beef. Huh? We would spend the first 10 minutes passing the trusty Time Out guide (open on the menu page) under the table to each other.

The chances of a romantic tete - a - tete in these places were slim as the tables were always pushed so far together you could be forgiven for mistaking your neighbour's plate for your own. It was in the restaurants that I noticed how similar the Portuguese are to the Italians. Hunched over their food they would chatter noisily and gesticulate animatedly whilst tackling their food. We had to almost shout across the table to be heard.

One thing I always try to do in a foreign country is speak as little English as possible. We found the first couple of days slighly intimidating, but by day three I was speaking confidently in a hybrid of Italian, Spanish and Portuguese - people seemed to understand me and that's the main thing.

The number 28 creeps up the hill...

...to Sé Catedral


Torre de Belem


Rossio Square

Largo do Carmo

Castelo São Jorge from Restauradores


Elevador de Bica

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

gorgeous pictures.

ginkers said...

It looks like a great place. I must admit, I am not the most adventurous traveller and tend to be happy with Toscana, Toscana and more Toscana. But your pictures made me a bit jealous. Maybe when the kids are older, I might venture outside of Italy...

Anonymous said...

As a matter of fact I saw the film Antz in Portuguese the other day - our three year old decided it would be fun... Anyway, I did not understand more than a few words, although my other half picked up quite a lot. Knowing Italian, I find I can understand quite a bit of Spanish, but as you have found out Portuguese is not that close to Italian!
Lisbon looks great.
Have fun!
Alex - blog from italy

Martha Elaine Belden said...

wow... how beautiful!

i want to travel!!

oh... and so glad to see you blogging again!! i missed you :)

Red said...

That's what we did when we went to Rome a few years ago. Sure, we could have gone into the Musei Vaticani, but why would we want to lock ourselves into a museum when the weather was so nice and the city so perfectly beautiful and rich in things to see? You did the right thing!

Lisbon looks awesome! I don't speak any Portuguese either, but I love the sing-sing rhythm of the language. Did you manage to catch any fado concerts/performances?

Red said...

Sing-song, even!

Susan in Italy said...

YOur photos of Lisbon are beautiful and congratulations on your linguistic success. You always get a deeper experience if you can speak the language (more or less). When I first got to MIlan, I spoke Italospagnolo and everybody pretty much understood!

* (asterisk) said...

It does look really excellent, that's for sure. Good pix, ACT.

a.c.t said...

Hi Minerva, welcome to my blog & thanks!

Ginkers, Toscana is beautiful, you could do a lot worse. I know what you mean though, it must be difficult travelling to different places when you have bambini.

Alex, it must have been fun watching Antz in Portuese, but why? It's such a lovely language to listen to. I can listen to it for hours!

Martha, thanks :-)

Red, I like sing-sing too :-P
We did catch a fado performance purely by chance in a little bar. Strangely enough this is the best way to do it as opposed to going to so called 'Fado bar' tourist traps where they charge an entrance fee. There were 2 or 3 fado singers we kept seeing around town who would go into random bars and perform with their viola player and chitarista (who looked about 90 years old). It really was an amazing experience.

Susan, I speak Italospagnolo too when I go to Spain. Although I'm understood I still find it frustrating. Just to add to my confusion, I'm starting Japanese lessons tonight. God help the poor people in the next country I visit!

Lotus Reads said...

I'm so enjoying the reading about your culinary and linguistic adventures in Lisbon; love the pictures, too!

Congrats on starting Japanese lessons - you'll have to let us know how that goes. I know a smattering of Arabic after having lived in Dubai all those years, but I'd like to go to language class and add to my grammar and vocabulary.

Travel Italy said...

Lisbon is one of my favorite cities. Beautiful people and lifestyle which you captured well!

Alex said...

a.c.t - funny that you should say it's a such a lovely language to listen to - as that's what my Italian other half said. On the other hand, I think I prefer Italian, but I might just watch Antz once more in Portuguese - to see if I missed something!

ems said...

Lovely photos. I can order a kilo of potatoes in Portuguese but that's about it.

a.c.t said...

Cheers *(asterisk). I'd love to say I took them all but actually Mike took most of these ones. Everytime I saw a great photo opportunity, he nicked the camera. The swine!
Lotus, the first lesson tonight went well, although I'd missed the first three so it was a bit confusing. I'm going to buy a textbook and be a good student. Hai!
Cheers Travel, it is indeed a fine city.
Alex, I prefer Italian over every language, there's no contest. Perhaps City of God instead of Antz?
Ems, you can never have too many spuds - It's a very useful phrase!

weas said...

Wonderful words and pics. Worth the wait to see you back on the blog.

Aidan said...

Ah, lovely stuff... Lisbon is gorgeous, good to see you seem to have had a great time.
Have visited twice, once as part of a work trip where he got tours and intoxicating fado laid on for us, then for a few days during Euro 2004, friend and I left to our own devices to explore more - the people were so so friendly (albeit many of them bright-orange Dutch fans).
But also had similar with the language - tried to avoid being the English-speaking English, but Portuguese is pronounced nothing like it reads on the page... Always got the disorienting look of "Yes, yes, we'll speak English to you" in return...
Am sure you have loads more lovely photos (and indeed recipes) brought back with you, hope the dullness of London autumn isn't too overwhelming...
Best of... ;)
Oh, and where is that onetime-blogger Mike too...?

a.c.t said...

Hi Aidan, I answered you on your last comment on 'Lisbon part 1'. If you look on the 'Arsenal-Land' link on the right you'll see what Mike's been up to. I don't know if you could bring yourself to look at it, but take a few deep breaths - you'll find that red is actually a very calming colour.

Aidan said...

Ah, yes... Oops. Sorry to repeat myself... :|