As long as I’m back at work, between holidays and travel, not much is happening on any front. I haven’t quite finished reporting on my trip to Portugal, so let me do that now.
After my last post, just before the train to Lisbon, there was not much excitement. I did go to the wrong platform at the station, the one that was to receive the train from Lisbon, but when a fast train pulled into another platform, there was plenty of time to waddle over and spot my mistake. After so long without any news I didn’t mind buying a Sunday Times at twice the normal price, with so much of interest that I hadn’t quite finished by the time the train pulled in to Lisboa Oriente, over three hours later.
The Lisbon Metro is undergoing engineering works, and I would have saved even more time had it been completed, but it was no real problem. I wasn’t quite sure which stop to use for my hotel, but Campo Pequeno turned out to be just right. I had deliberately selected a big, convenient “business” hotel (Holiday Inn Continental) for my last night, suspecting (correctly) that I would appreciate a little luxury after several days out in the sticks, and I was settled in on the 9th floor earlier than I had dared hope for. After a half hour rest, with a cup of coffee and Jon Stewart’s Daily Show on CNN, I was ready to hit the streets again.
I didn’t have a map then, happy to rely on memory and the maps on bus shelters, but I’m going to need one now. From Campo Pequeno it was south along Avenida de Republica to Saldanha, then south-east along Avenida Castal Ribeiro into the Estefania district, south along Rua de Dona Estefania. This genteel district reminded me of Kensington in London – large townhouses, luxury cars and greenery.
I soon arrived at Campo dos Mártires da Pátria, a small park where the locals were chilling out; ice cream, coffee, kids in strollers and old folks playing chess. Why was I rushing? It was a Sunday, the sun was shining, and plenty of daylight was left. Seeing students with books had me wondering if this was a university area, and I later found that this was the historic City Campus of the University of Lisbon, home to several faculties including Law and Medicine.
There I found a most unusual statue;Stacked under the statue are hundreds of little plaques, mostly marble, inscribed with prayers and thanks to the Doctor, a minor medical saint.
Rua da São Lázaro took me down the hill, through a maze of narrow streets of grimy houses, with kids playing soccer and washing hanging from the balconies – an almost stereotypical scene, but I was soon at the bottom, on Praça Martim Moniz which, despite ornamental fountains, was a arid plain of concrete and marble compared to what I had seen up the hill. I could have taken the old tram up the hill to Castelo de São Jorges, but it was full of tourists and not too appealing.
After that, I wandered through Alfama, an old district with unusually dense architecture to the centre, starting next to the sea at Praça de Comércio, up the Rua Augusta shopping district to Restuaradores. All the way, and up Avenida da Liberdade, are more familiar tourist areas, many statues of kings and revolutionaries alike. It was uphill all the way, back up to Saldanha and the hotel, tired but happier than I’d been all week (apart from the wedding).
Dinner, bed, breakfast, bus, airport, plane, bus, and home. After carrying my phone all week, I managed to lose my mobile phone on the bus back from the airport. Oh well.