You say Lisboa…I say Lisbon

Praca do Comercia

Praca do Comercia

Whatever we call it Lisbon or Lisboa it is and interesting city with lots of history and the capital of Portugal. I have been wanting to travel to Portugal for a long time as every article I read talks about how it is the most affordable country in Europe. Guess what, they are correct.

I say Lisbon...You say Lisbao

Arch Rua Augusta

Here I was coming to this country and what did I know about it really except low cost of living. I knew that the southern part of the country “The Algarve” is overrun with British expats and has lots of golf courses and beaches. I knew that the history of Portugal is a rich one, especially from the 15th & 16th century when the country rivaled England and Spain in world trade and exploration, I also remember my high school history lessons talking about Henry the Navigator, Vasco de Gama and the Age of Exploration…funny I can’t remember my telephone number but I can remember my 8th grade world history classes with Brother John of the Cross…who taught his history class with the same methods employed by the Inquisition.

I say Lisbon...You say Lisbao

Rossio Square

Lisbon is an odd town for me because it feels as if it spends a lot of its energy clinging to the past instead of looking forward. It remember’s the glory days of the Age of Exploration and builds monuments to them but nothing feels contemporary. As I walked the city I felt a disconnect from other grand old cities…something was missing. Well, It seems that what was missing was about 3 or 4 centuries of art, architecture and history. In 1755 and earthquake estimated to have been 9.0 on the rickter scale hit Lisbon and that was followed by a tidal wave. The city of 200,000 people was devastated…50,000 people were killed and 85% of the buildings were destroyed. Palaces, churches, libraries, archives and whole neighborhoods were obliterated. You can see the gap…as everything starts with the Baroque and moves forward.

I say Lisbon...You say Lisbao

Jacked up street car going up a hill.

I am going to let you in on a secret…I have become addicted to Hop on Hop off bus tours of cities. You know, those double decker buses painted red or yellow you see in every city you visit. Must be an age thing because I never did them before the last few years and now it is the thing I try to do on the first day in a city to get the lay of the land and pick my attractions that I will go back to. Lisbon had a lot of hills and was spread out so it saved me a lot of huffing and puffing. Some of these damn hills were so steep that they jacked the rear wheels up on the trolly cars so the passengers wouldn’t slide from one end of the car to the other.

I did my usual thing in Lisbon…visiting the museums, churches, parks, plaza’s but for the most part it did not grab me. Perhaps because the periods of history along with its art and architecture I favor were missing or because it did not have a happening vibe. I think it is a very conservative country. The country was run for 36 years by a dictator Antonio Salazar…he was conservative like Franco in Spain and one could say a Fascist, who along with the Catholic church held back Portugal from moving forward into the post war expansion. I think I can still feel the repression part of which these days stems from the hold the Catholic Church maintains on the people. One can also feel the continuing financial crisis…people begging, buildings not a well maintained as most of Europe is, streets not as clean or infrastructure not in the best of condition.

I say Lisbon...You say Lisbao

Park on a hill overlooking the city

One of my favorite places in Lisbon was the Foundation Calouste Gulbenkian. One mans art collection and gardens right in the middle of the city. Wonderful contemporary gardens with sculpture, fountains, ponds and two museums…one very modern collection and one holding the the founders collection…everything from Ancient Egypt to 20th century European paintings. One gallery had the most amazing collection of Art Nouveau jewelry much of which was designed by the French designer Rene Lalique. The day I was there it was a nice sunny day with all the flowering trees in bloom and the garden was full of families soaking up the first rays of spring sunshine. If you go to Lisbon be sure to put it on your list…they have a lovely cafe with very good food so you can set on a patio in the gardens to have lunch for a real treat.

You say Lisboa...I say Lisbon

One of many hills to climb

As I say Lisbon did not grab me the way other cities in Europe do but there are some really great spots to enjoy…like standing in Praca do Comercio with its Rua Augusta Triumphal Arch to your back and the water of the Tagus river in front of you and the civic buildings dating from right after the earthquake. Or going over to Rossio Square with its monuments and National Theater…all beautifully lit at night. I liked to stroll the Avenida da Liberdade a charming tree lined boulevard with all the smart shops lining it.

I would give it another chance in the future…it was a great value and a relaxing city.

About Larry Bosco

In 2010 I had one of those “Is this all there is” moments and so in January 2011 I retired from Real Estate Appraising, sold off all my worldly goods and headed out as a solo traveler in search of a new place to live. Since then I’ve traveled around the world, made new friends and had many great adventures and some not so great. After staying almost a year in Cuenca, Ecuador I have headed back to South East Asia where I began the journey in 2011. Currently I am living in Chiang Mai, Thailand
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4 Responses to You say Lisboa…I say Lisbon

  1. Paula Wong says:

    Great post, Larry….had it not been for your Catholic/ Inquisition upbringing, would you have the same appreciation of history? Love how you remember all the dates and facts and details. Lisbon has always intrigued me; great to hear your take on it.

  2. Frank Perrone says:

    NIce history lesson for me. Knew nothing about Lisbon. Any Flamenco dancing going on?


  3. It does sound and looks a little bleak. Maybe because spring was not fully in bloom. As you talked about that little courtyard and museum I was hoping there was a picture attached of your favorite place. I did not know any history of the place and especially not about the earthquake and tidal wave. See you soon!

  4. Julie Wright says:

    Another post from El Bosco! And from my neck of the woods too.

    Portugal is a funny place…they call Spain, ‘The Desert to the East’ and they mean culturally.
    Yes they are quite arrogant as regards their culture.

    But it is very poor and I think Lisbon reflects that…too much graffiti for me..and on some beautiful surfaces.

    I worked for a while in one of their ex-colonies, Guinea Bissau in West Africa. It is the 4th poorest country in the world and there were somme interesting characters who would not go bad to Portugal..preferring the poverty of Africa.

    But it is good value for money and, in the Algave, has the best Fish ‘n Chips outside of the UK

    But you don’t mention it…..the language….what sort of language is that? Sounds like Russian to me

    You certainly get around Bosco…and I wish you well. Keep posting.

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