Portugal 2011: Blog # 1

Impressions of Lisbon after 24 hours. Wind coming off the Tejo River easily at 50 mph with downpour alternating with drizzle. We spent the post-travel-crash morning organizing the apartment, then went down the block to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant for lunch: swordfish and salad. Linda decided to afternoon in and I, foolishly, betting on drizzle, decided to take a walk protected by the apartment umbrella.

            Our apartment is in Graça, one of the highest neighborhoods of Lisbon, which clusters around a church with a panoramic view of the River Tejo, the castle atop the Alfama hill and the riverside downtown flats of Baixa. The streets here are all cobbled, the houses fronted in tile, the stores along the Rua da Graça one large room at best, all mom and pop. I decided to walk down to Baixa, do a little shopping in the big stores, and stroll back home. Mistake.

            A few hundred meters from our apartment the narrow street angled south toward the river and dropped precipitously. As in 4-wheel drive only. The wind went canyon-effect, and inverted my umbrella just as the clouds opened their sluice. I ducked into a doorway, put the umbrella convex again, and swam on. What I saw, peering under the ribs, couldn’t have been more beautiful. Mouldering palaces, tiny plazas, apartment blocks in blue, green, red and orange, bread and pastry shops, fruit and vegetable stalls, tiny restaurants with their daily menus, handwritten on paper, posted in the windows. Most of the blank walls in the alleys were graffiti-ed, To make any headway at all, I tilted into the wind about 30 degrees, fighting the spinnaker of my umbrella and pausing wherever there was a sheltered nook to wipe off my glasses.

All in all I walked about 6 kilometers. Wouldn’t have missed it for the world. 

Our apartment is on the Rua de Sapadores, a street of new 1960s apartments that runs parallel to the river along the ridge at the top of the hill. We are 300 meters from a small supermarket, city-sized, that has most of the basics though not the variety of an American supermarket. No matter: in between the apartment and first corner are two bakeries, two pastry shops, three fruit markets, two restaurants, and a lottery and magazine shop. On the Rua da Graça before reaching the supermarket is a similar array, plus a bank, a household and gimcrack cheap store, a couple of dress shops, and a fish market. We’ll do OK. The only thing missing is a book store.

The apartment itself is about triple the size of our Madrid flat of a few years ago. A nice kitchen, a huge bedroom, a nice living room with couch, hi-fi, TV, and wifi, a bath with Jacuzzi tub. It has all the mod-coms: washing machine, toaster, microwave, fridge, and even a dishwasher that for some reason is full of salt. What’s more, the #735 bus that stops 20 meters from our front door goes directly to both train stations and, in the other direction, to the front door of the Archive.

As Linda keeps saying, “I really LIKE it here.”


David & Linda