PHOTO STORY, EUROPE, CITY / MAY 25, 2016
PHOTO STORY : A WALK IN LISBON, PORTUGAL
On a winter afternoon I took a walk in Lisbon, starting at the water’s edge on Avenida Ribeira das Naus, where many of Portugal’s famous ships were built back in the Age of Discovery. The sun was warm and everyone was outside soaking it up. I strolled along the waterfront until I stumbled upon a bunch of people seated on deck chairs. I ordered a bica (espresso) and joined them. A few buskers were playing Caribbean music.
I dawdled on and into Lisbon’s biggest food market, the Mercado da Ribeira. I love gourmet food halls where I can try local cuisine by a variety of talented chefs, all under one roof. I found a bit of space at a lively communal table and became part of the place.
Following Rua do Alecrim, I headed towards Bairro Alto, ducking into a few art galleries and antique shops. I grabbed some just popped popcorn to snack on while I walked. I got a bit lost and eventually cut through Chiado to my favorite neighborhood in Lisbon: Alfama.
The Alfama is Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood. Throughout history it has been home to many of the city’s most colorful residents. It was once a thriving Jewish quarter and later, full of fisherman, sailors and dockworkers. Although Alfama has recently become trendy, it hasn’t lost its authenticity. I climbed the steep narrow streets, veering into every miradouro I passed so I could take in the magnificent views. On backstreets I caught a glimpse of local life. Homes must be small and lacking in privacy (or sunlight?) as everyone seemed to be reaching for space- leaning out windows, sprawling on doorsteps, socializing on benches; small plazas felt like living room annexes.
I stood in front of the The Se cathedral and considered the fact that it was, like so many cathedrals across Spain, constructed on top of an important Moorish mosque. Alfama is derived from its Arabic name, Al Hamma. Al Hamma means hot springs or public baths, which the Moors discovered when they arrived here in the 700s. But Lisbon’s story goes much further back. Lisbon is thought to be older than Rome. Its prime position on the Tagus River has provided it with multiple advantages since early times. If those folks were anything like me, they probably liked the pastéis de nada (local custard tarts) too.
The late afternoon sun cast a warm glow. As it descended from the sky, the terra-cotta rooftops deepened in color and the white washed buildings turned apricot. Old ceramic tile faces began to shimmer like they were on fire before fading in the evening light. Somewhere near the top of the hill, in Graça, I hopped on the Historic #28 tram and rode its rickety, winding rails back down.
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