Lisbon was founded in 1290, and you can see evidence of its long history most everywhere you care to go. One of the oldest parts of the city and the most attractive to touists is Baixa-Chiado (Baisha-Sheado).
It's hard to see in the photos, but all the sidewalks and streets are made of small, gray mosaic tile. In Baixa Chiado there are also black designs: leaves, dolphins, lions and the like. The mosaics are found everywhere, in every city and town, and were reproduced in the much more recent Oriente. Here's a closeup from Oriente:
Here's another closeup from Oriente:
You'll notice that the only difference between the street, the driveway and the sidewalk is the color of the mosaics and the metal poles to keep the cars from hitting pedestrians. I know I almost wandered into the street more than once.
A somewhat safer way to get around are the ubiquitous streetcars.
Lisbon has modern buses, but the streetcars are older and much more attractive. They also reminded me of the famous California cable cars, though these ones run on electricity. There's a special red street car that's meant for tourists, but this one here, which is for locals, went to all the same places for about a quarter of the price.
A lot of the downtown has been revamped for the tourists, so you can find either side of the wide, pedestrian-friendly streets full of swanky, expensive clothing and luggage stores (there was one called 'Canada', which not only wasn't actually Canadian but didn't actually sell anything Canadian, alas), competing for euros with the tacky souvenir shops selling tee-shirts with pictures of trams, the famous Rooster of Barcelos,
(I didn't take this picture; I found it online.)
or sayings like 'I ♥ Portugal'. You can also buy the typical panoply of magnets, cups, decorative spoons and dishtowels, with the added attraction of hand-painted tiles, which is one of the things Portugal is famous for.
There are cops and/or security guards all over the place, which is probably a carryover from the decades when Portugal was under a dictatorship (from 1926 to 1974). It also seemed that every cop I saw had a different uniform. I haven't looked up anything about the police system so I can't explain it, but I will say that all the uniforms were much more military-esque than the contemporary ones I'm used to in North America, and even the friendly cops had a particular ferocity about them that made them feel rather unapproachable. Which didn't actually stop me from going up to some of them and asking for a picture, but they wouldn't let me. Perhaps they were worried I was going to use the photos for nefarious purposes. Instead, I took these:
A rather lovely, if dingy, police station.
A normal-sized police car back at Oriente.
Besides the easy walking distance from my beloved Vasco da Gama mall, our condo was also located very near the Estaçã do Oriente (Oriente Station), which was a combined subway and commuter train station, and I particularly liked it because it looks like a landing platform for aliens.
Here're some guys washing the roof:
The subway part is naturally underneath the structure, while the middle (under the crazy glass roof) has three levels: The lowest which leads further down to the subway, which has stores, a restaurant and an under-the-street passage to the Vasco da Gama mall; the middle which has a bank, a 'Zon' cell phone store and places to buy tickets, and an upper level exclusively for buying commuter train tickets with the actual platforms above that. The subway is quite modern, and all the stations we stopped at looked very similar. My dad took some video, though unfortunately the quality isn't wonderful.
Yes, that's me. I don't remember what I thought the problem was, though my guess is it seemed like we were going in the wrong direction. And I think Javier was asking me why we had to go on the train or go down the stairs. And yes the woman in the yellow shirt is my mom. :)
And on the subway platform:
Inside the subway train:
This is the train platform, with my dad, who is very photogenic.
And this is Javier (we were going to the Zoo that day, which I will always remember because he decided to wear his pajamas).
This is what a typical commuter train looked like from the inside:
You had to buy tickets from automated machines, the use of which was so incredibly obscure and arcane that there were actual special station employees who had been hired just to stand next to the machines and basically press the buttons for you. The same green tickets could be used for some of the commuter trains, but not all of them. I think it was a question of distance. Here's what the tickets looked like:
I had to adjust the hue a bit to get the actual green color.
Since for the first week we were there it was a zillion degrees outside, we naturally took the commuter train to Cascais (Cash-cays), which is one of the most popular beach towns on the coast. It is extremely picturesque, though the water was freezing cold. I took some stealth pictures.
I was intrigued by the square umbrellas. I don't know if the beautiful mansion in the background is a private house or a hotel, but I suspect the latter.
As typical in Europe, no one had any problem with the women sunbathing with no tops.
This was the cute guy from whom we rented the umbrella and beach chairs. He was from Brazil. I don't know if he was in Portugal legally or not (I assume so), but apparently illegal immigration from Brazil is a very big problem in Portugal.
Cascais was wonderful, but if you go to Portugal and can only visit one place outside of Lisbon (like, say, us), go to Sintra. Sintra is an old, beautiful town that used to be the seat of Spanish and Portuguese kings. I don't recommend speaking to the Sintra bus drivers (actually, don't speak to pretty much any of the bus or streetcar drivers, anywhere in Portugal. I don't think you can be hired if you actually like your fellow human beings), but it's worth the trip just to see the beautiful, curved and narrow streets in the old town,
Or the pigeons in the main square of the more modern part of the town,
But my favorite memory--aside from the Castle of the Moors--is the 'statue man':
(Unfortunately the picture quality is awful, but my son was absolutely enchanted. I think he thought the statue was real, not that it was a person pretending to be a statue.)
I'll post about the Castle of the Moors in Part Three, because I need to go to bed. :)