Friday, May 13, 2011


Having caught a pretty severe travel bug and with a long weekend at hand I took the chance to nail another capital city, Lisbon in Portugal and whilst there also visit Seville in Spain. Not a capital the home of the largest travelling fair in Spain. So capital tick and coaster ticks were the order of the day.

Lisbon is a prety small capital city by all accounts but to help me get around I chose to purchase a Lisboa card, which can be ordered online in advance from the internet or for a slightly higher amount at the airport information booth (about 20 euros vs the 17.50 that I paid). It's one of these cards that offers discounted entry to the majority of the tourist attractions but this also offers a day's free travel on the buses and metros. It also offers a discount on the bus that takes you from the airport to the centre of town, with various stops along the way. A bargain 2 euros instead of the usual 3.50. So the first tip is to get the card and the second is to stay away from the taxis; they need you more than you need them.

The bus journey itself takes around 25 minutes and passes most of the signifcant landmarks on the way. Not as a detour but you'll soon realise everything of note is on the one route. I chose to jump off in the main city square called Rossi but I think it goes a little further on.

and this is the main square. Portugal is famous for many things including the intricate paving, an example of which was done here. Whether this is intentional or caused by the excesses of too much port drinking (another famous thing) I don't know.

Looking north in the square behind the statue of Pedro IV (not short for intravenous) is the National Theatre. I guess this square is the equivalent of Trafalgar Square back home. The guy was a king of Portugal and at the same time the first Emperor of Brazil. He played a mean game of Risk!

Tucked away in the back streets to the south is this well themed drop tower called the Santa Justa Lift. It's actually an elevator that takes you up to the top of the hill that overlooks the main square. A ride that costs 3 euros each way or is free to those with the Lisboa card. The card also entitled me to access to the top level for free where you can get a view over some of the city.

The main square with the theatre more visible from up here. It lies to the North.

The ruined cathedral atop the hill that now houses a museum.

The view East towards the other hill atop which sits the city castle. You can walk up here or you can take a tram, which gets you close. Perhaps not a surprise the metro doesn't get close.

The Castle of Sao Jorge, like cocaine, is of a Moorish design and was built in the 16th Century.

To the south is what was the main entrance to the city on the banks of the Tagar River. It's here where the main port would be and that acted as the hub of the country's seafaring endeavours and industry. Portugal does not translate to Port of the Ladies.

Straight down is an untimely death.

The elevator is well made, a vast steel structure that sticks out a little place amongst all the brickworked buldings surrounding it. The detail in the lift is pretty good. Just a shame the drop tower bit was too slow and safe. In a city that lacks a proper theme park, this is the best they have if vertical drops are your thing.

Being a major city, you have the same pains that you have elsewhere. Stupid statues such as this guy being one of them. "Why take a picture of people pretending to be a statue? Everyone's a statue in a photograph" Karl Pilkington.

This was different though. A cow that has somehow managed to get its head through the window of the shop.

On the main street tourist trap street Praca da Figuera between Trafalgar Square and the River Thames. The people here are very friendly. One kind chap offered me some of his Moorish cocaine!

The first stencil of note. Not sure what it was on about though. The tram seemed to be a bit noisy to offer a chilled environment and it was a hot day, so it failed on 2 counts.

This one was a little bit better, and the artist is definitely right. You don't need a Lisboa card discount to enjoy these!

At the bottom of the main street is a second main square. The gate is called the Rua Augusta Arch and the statue is in honour of King Jose I who is famous for being a King and the first to have Jose as a first name. The buildings around three of the sides are now mostly administrative centres for the city (the river is on the fourth)

In this square is a static tram that is now the home of the Yellow Bus Company, one of a number of tourist sightseeing companies that offer tours around the city. I chose to get the 3-for-1 ticket with these guys as it offered the most of a whistle-stop tour of the city and in the day-and-a-half I had here I wanted to see as much as I could. A blue route offers a tour around the city centre and nearby town of Belem. A purple route offers a trip out to the Park of Nations to the east of the city. The third trip is the tram tour which runs around the old town taking in the previously photographed cathedral church structure and the castle. All of this was 25 euros and offers the obligatory hop-on, hop-off service with the unmentioned lengthy wait for the next bus.

The city's design museum is close by. I chose not to go in this one as the pictures of the random things shown here didn't entice me in.

The undercover police vehicles are quite obvious. I wonder which branch of the force this belongs to though?

One of the city trams, and they're the classic old wooden styles that are often being replaced so this was nice to see.Klang! Klang! Klang!

This city was full of main squares, this one is located one block east from the first one. I'm not sure why they had two so close to each other. Perhaps one is an off-site backup of the other.

In the centre of this one is a statue of some other former leader. They're certainly well represented here!

Heading north from the squares was this impressive looking structure. It's actually Rossio Station. We certainly don't have anything grand like this in London. The two prominent horseshoe entrances are built in the Neo-Manueline style. Rumour says that those beyond the left door only speak the truth and those through the right always lie, so bear that in mind if you're asking for directions once inside.

Just north from there is this impressive looking theatre, so opulent that they could afford to put a garden inside it for all to see. The Eden Theatre as it's named is just another city theatre, just don't buy an apple from them.

This statue in the city of Restauradores Square celebrates the restoration of the Portuguese independance from their Spanish neighbours.

and this one obviously commemorates the war dead. It became apparent that this city likes having big wide avenues joining its main squares and huge roundabouts.

This roundabout is at the south end of George VII park, which they named after a visit from him. Prior to his visit it was named after an other visitor who frequented the park a lot, "Joey the Drunken Bum" Park.

Here's the view from the top of the park looking back down towards the river.

Smelly sausages?

This rather opulent and grand building is actually the headquarters for one of the countrys' banks. Given the state of the economy in Portugal it must be a bit of a kick in the teeth to see this. (at the time of writing Portugal were seeking a financial bailout from the European Monetary Fund)

In the centre of another roundabout is this arch commemorating a large viaduct that use to run here and which provided water to the city, which seemed a little odd given the city is located beside a river.

This castle looking building is actually the city prison, slap bang in the centre of the city. It appears fairly easy to build a ropeway from the buildings across the street into this complex.

Apparently this the second most well known cathedral in the city. I don't think I ever encountered the first.

Leaving the city of Lisbon for a bit we took a slight detour along the coast westwards to the city of Belem. Along the way you go under the Golden Gate Bridge, which was brought here last year from San Fransisco following a number of attempts from mother nature and Hollywood movies to destroy it. Not everything you see in the films is CGI you know!

At the other end of the bridge, and barely visible here above the tree is the large statue of Jesus that used to overlook Rio de Janeiro. Reports that the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China are also being brought here are unconfirmed at this time.

The wonderful looking Jeronimos Monastery, which had time allowed I would have spent more time at. Built in the 16th Century its now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In a nearby music hall this artist was putting on a show. Guess what his surname translates to?

The Belem war musuem is housed in an old fort that in it's original guise would have protected the city from riverside intruders, although it's not clear how they would have identified submarines or scuba divers.

Belem Tower looked quite amazing in the photos when planning the trip. However up close it didn't seem quite as grand or impressive. Perhaps that's more down to the ability of the photographer than the building. Alternatively it could be that a midget took the photos causing it to appear larger, or perhaps it was taken in a rear view mirror. The detail in the architecture however was amazing.

Belem Marina, where the rich hang out.

A peculiar looking lighthouse, which was part of the inspiration for the one in Islands of Adventure. I just made that up.

This is Padrao dos Descobrimentos, a huge monument commemorating the expeditions of the Portuguese sea-faring folk. They couldn't get everyone they wanted onto it so had to plump for using generic roles instead.

The Portuguese Sex industry has some catching up to do! Offering it from the back of a van can't be too good for business.

A slightly better photo of the Jesus statue taken on the way back. I wonder if the locals of Alamada were pissed off that when built it faced the city of Lisbon and showing his arse to them?

An oriental museum, which is great because when you think "I want to go and see some Orient exhibitions" the idea of travelling to Portugal to see it would be better than say, China or Japan. I realise that its ideal for the locals, but it's also marketed to the tourists.

A nice design for a plant pot/seat combo found next to one of the metro stations along the coast.

Here's the tour tram. Clang! Clang! Clang!

More crazy paving. The designs are not painted on, they're actually different coloured stones that fit better together than some of Escher's woodcut creations.

The NW corner of the Praca do Comercio square where parasols gave some solace from the blazing sun. I on the other hand had chosen to ride the open-topped bus, a less clever choice by quite some margin. Don't forget the sun-block people!

This stunning ornately sculptured entrance is on a back street near the start of the 2 bus tours.

A nice, if over-the-top loft conversion.

Some Portuguese is easy to translate. This, for example, is the office of the Super Justice League, a local crime-fighting organisation.

This house, currently being renovated is known as the diamond house. Rather disappointingly to those who try to break in thinking it's a home to gemstones, the name only refers to the extreme exterior.

The Museum of Fado, situated along the coast gives a history of the emotional music synonymous with the city, and country as a whole. The music typically sounds depressing as it would be played by people who's families were out at sea discovering America etc. Fado guitars contain 12 strings, which makes it less likely to be converted to Guitar Hero.

This used to be a military base ensuring the protection of the city from those attacking along the river. But nowadays with the threat all but gone, it's home to a military musuem. The lazy option as it means they didn't have to try too hard to populate it with stuff.

Santa Apolonia is one of the train stations, although it looks like a grand hotel.

Everytime I go away I always seem to just miss out on a music act that I like. In the past it's been the likes of Jean Michel Jarre, Paul van Dyk and Jeff Mills (although I don't really like his stuff, I'd still see him though). On this occasion I'd just missed out on Sub Focus, who almost took the drum and bass crown from Pendulum, before they through it away and began pandering to the rock audience.

Show me the moniz... So I did. (This'll only make sense to those who are familar with Phone Jacker).

This was a nunnery. Guess how many nuns I saw on this occasion? Nun...Moving on.

I almost failed to get a shot of this due to the trees in the way, but hopefully you can make it out. A nice scary piece in the no-mans-land close to the Park of Nations.

Nice tile work that won't induce headaches in those driving past at all.

Heading into the Park of Nations now, which in its previous guise was an Expo site for the 1998 event. It had a sea-faring theme so a lot of the buildings here looked like sails and were decorated with whirlpools etc.

That's the Expo mascot, who's name is Gil giving it a weak sea pun. He looked like a modern day smurf.

An odd looking pavilion that has a huge single piece concrete roof suspended between two structures at each end. The roof dips in it's centre hiding the cables that hold it up. Imagine being under that when the cable snaps...splat

The ufo building was the Utopian Pavilion during the Expo. It's now a multi-purpose arena for concerts and sporting events.

As with many Expos there's always a challenge to keep the area popular once the Expo is over. If not done properly the only legacy is a ghost town, as I'd seen with the one in Korea. Lisbon had gotten around it by turning the area into a huge business and commerical district and making one of the pavilions home to a huge Oceanrium.

Some of the offices were now built on prime real estate, transforming the area significantly. This also gave me the opportunity for stupid punnage.

At the north end of the Expo complex is the Vasco da Gama tower, which offers nice views over the entire Expo site, and out to sea. There's also a revolving restaurant at the top for those that are into that.

On the route back the sightseeing bus passed by this mural, which I barely caught and managed to get a photo off. It looked pretty cool so I figured I'd head back later in the day to see it properly. I was quite happy to drop Belem Tower, my initial plan for this.

This is Oriente Station at the end of the red metro line. The roof is pretty cool.

Orc seems to have left his name on this building :)

Between the Park of Nations and the centre of the town lies a huge desolate area that is earmarked for construction but currently looks a bit desolate. A few years ago there used to be a large city park here with a fairground and a couple of coasters but it disappeared to make way for a construction project that never happened. There is talk of bringing the park back, I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

This is the city's bullring at Campo Pequeno. From March, there's an event on every Thursday evening for those that are inclined to see it. It was Thursday today but I chose not to see it. I don't see the beauty in the act of killing a scared animal despite how well it's marketed here.

After a short drive we ended up at the city zoo. Painted supports on the underpass heralded our arrival.

Having seen this aqueduct in the distance I chose to jump off the bus and try to get a photo of it. A fence and hefty walk prevented me from getting close but it still looked impressive.

With the zoo not too far away I decided to check that out. The zoo sits wihin a park that is free to enter.

Within it lies a small amusement park called "Animax" which contains an equally small number of rides.

Two in fact: a carousel and a kiddy rainbow variant.

A scary looking cable car system runs in a triangle formation around the zoo and park.

Being less inclined to wait for the next sightseeing bus I decided to test the Metro out. Having failed to find a rollercoaster in the zoo (not that I thought there was one but it was worth the check) I decided to head west to Colegia Militaria station on the blue line for the one coaster that I did know the city had.

The Metro is fairly new and pretty impressive but compared to our Underground system in London it'd be hard to be worse. The trains don't run as frequently but are not crowded. On every trip I was able to get a seat, even during rush hour. The Lisboa ticket also ensured I didn't have to worry about buying tickets, I could just touch in with that. Do be wary of people coming through the gates on your ticket by pushing in behind you. We have the same trouble in London and walking through slowly usually does the trick.

Next to the station is the Colombo Centre, named after the glass eyed detective who discovered America after the Natives did, this is a large shopping mall with a pretty decent selection of shops and eating places.

In the SW corner of the mall is the Funcenter. It's an indoor play centre with a decent sized rollercoaster running around it.

The coaster is called Montanha Russa (Spanish for Russian Mountain, the original name given to rollercoasters) and is heavily sponsored by a sugary drink brand with the logo covering the train and supports

The ride was OK. Tick, next! For those that are interested it costs 2.30 euros and you get to go around 3 times for that. Having gotten my coaster fix it was time to head back into the main city with an aim to nurture another OCD. Street Art.

This is close to Picoas station on the Yellow line. It's a nice building but it's not as nice as the one across the street.

Lisbon is home to some amazing art. I remember seeing this on a graffiti thread a year or so ago but completely forgot about it in researching this trip. Fortunately the bus that took me to the city centre from the airport drove me right past it. This is done by Os Gemos, a couple of Brazilian twins.

On the same building is an anti-corporate piece by BLU, he's the Italian equivalent of Banksy in that his identity is a mystery.

 His stuff is always pretty large scale and has an amazing level of detail. No idea how he can remain anonymous when he needs a crane to do pieces on this scale.

But there were more. On the building next door was this piece by Sam3. This Spanish artist is also well known for his big murals and he tends to have large silhouettes as the centre piece.

Next door to that was this funky crocodile. I'm think this was another Os Gemeos piece.

and around the corner from that was a weird piece, the artist of which I couldn't find. But these 3 buildings were stunning.

About 10 minutes from there was this one, which was just bizarre and I wasn't going to search Google for "Lisbon Goatse" to try to ascertain the artist. It's close to the Edward VII park.

 This was my hotel, the HIE, 5 minutes walk from the bullring. It was not a bad hotel but did take a little but of finding as it's tucked away behind some other more impressive buildings.

Close to the hotel was the Nossa Senhora de Fatima. A church dedicated to Britains most well known female Javelin thrower.

Back on the Metro I decided to head back out for that comic mural I passed on the bus earlier in the day. This nice piece was on the way out of Oriente station. It was nice that this form of art was respected enough to be allowed in the station.

and this was the mural, even more amazing was that it was a tiled piece. The detail was great and contained legends from Marvel, DC and other comic sources (even some early 2000AD). I must have spent a good half hour just taking this in. Why can't the cartoon genre be held up with the same respect back in the UK?  I turned down a return visit to Belem to visit this and I'm so glad I did. Now if I ever decide to re-tile the kitchen...

Back at Oriente station I'd spotted a large mall opposite so I decided to give that a quick visit.

In here they sell brightly coloured toilet paper.

and a rather inappropriate name for a gents' underwear shop.

Deciding that I'd covered pretty much everything I wanted to see and more I went off to grab some dinner where I watched a football match between local team Benfica and SC Barga. Once I realised the result wasn't going to go Benfica's way I decided to leave before the passionate fans run amok. To end the day I took another walk down to the river, this time at night.

 Rossi station with it's horseshoe entrances.

Rossi Square

The Castle

The lift

and the main square at the waterfront.

Lisbon is a very clean and pretty city and is really easy to get around, making it perfect for a quick sight-seeing trip. Lisbon also gave me my 35th capital city, not that I count that sort of thing.
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