November 26, 2011 (Belem)
Today was an okay day, I ended up with a pretty bad headahce and I felt very touristy... and I took the wrong bus and got lost, not in the fun kind of way, lol. But! Aside from that, here is what I did: I started off with a UNESCO World Heritage Site called Jerónimos Monastery:
It was built first as a monastery, but later became a school for orphans. These walls have seen some pretty famous explorers (Belem is known as being the port from which many famous voyageurs set sail). At the time I was here a wedding was taking place so we couldn´t walk to the front. But, on the second floor I did get to watch them reading their vows and exchanging rings. They had the choir and the organ going so it was a great experience. On the inside of the monastery is a grand courtyard with the cloister running along the perimeter (as I understand it a cloister is a covered walk that opens to the inner courtyard of a monastery or convent).
The monastery now houses a number of small museums (rooms, really) dedicated to important Portuguese figures. After this I went next door to the Archaeological museum, but everything was in Portuguese and I didn´t have the greatest time. I wish I had known so that I could have spent that hour just sitting in the courtyard here. I think that´s what´s starting to bother me most, all the rushing from activity to activity, not really seeing anything because all you´re doing is looking through your camera. I mean, you´ve barely seen something, have for a split second decided that it is awesome, and up comes the camera. The places I remember best are the places I have sat and enjoyed myself in, but of course that means you can only do so many things. I have yet to decide how to navigate this problem (aside from simply moving somewhere so that you can truly take your time, lol).
Okay! So after the museum I have a massive headache and decide I am going to skip the Torre de Belem so that I can sit in the park across from the monastery and eat roasted chestnuts (castanhas). The street vendors here roast them in the fall and they are cheap and I´ve been meaning to try them (I had them the next day too, they are my new Portuguese comfort food... though someone today told me they have them in Switzerland and France too, probably everywhere in Europe).
Alright! So full of chestnuts and thoroughly "park"ed I decide to walk back to central Lisbon. But then I get distracted by what I think is the cemetery I was trying to find the other day, perched on a cliff at least 3km away, so I head towards that. I somehow end up climbing the road that swings all the way around the cemetery (great view of Lisbon though) and eventually make it. Oh, it is totally not the cemetery I thought it was, but it is so neat! Cemetery and chestnuts were the highlight of this day. This is the Cemitério Prazeres (Cemetery of Pleasures), where, I just found out today, all the rich people are buried. It´s HUGE and filled with row upon row of these ornate houses that contain the coffins of the entire family (most have doors infront so you can see in to the coffins and the altar with everyone´s pictures and personal belongings, like coats and shoes!). Towards the back, where things get older, some of the glass doors are broken and the coffins have fallen over and open, but you try your best to avoid those ones (but then you kind of look too, because maybe you´ll see something you´ll regret seeing later... but then you also hold your breath because you´ve seen those National Geographic programs where long dead mummies have crazy bacteria that kill people). Anyway... the cemetery was awesome, and it only took me an hour to climb there (I found out today there´s a tram that drops you off right infront of it, and I´ve been meaning to take that exact tram... oh well!). The walk back was buh-rutal, let´s leave it at that, but the pistachio gelato I had in Rossio square more than made up for it. I went to bed early and woke up headache free!
November 27, 2011 (Marques de Pombal)
I woke up today thoroughly determined to spend most of my day wandering in the parks, which I did, so this will be a short post. In the morning I hit the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, the museum containing the massive art collection of Calouste Gulbenkian (who I am to understand made a fortune in oil and bought 2.8 billion euros worth of expensive art). Onwards! Museums are free on Sunday, hence why I found myself here today (that and they have free classical music concerts on Sunday as well). The museum was absolutely astounding, there were mummy masks, Persian carpets, Chinese pots, Japanese silk hangings, Roman busts, paintings, ornate jewelery, this Calouste guy had good taste! I really enjoyed myself here, it was quiet and I took as much time as I wanted just wandering.
I spent some time listening to the music in the foyer and then headed next door for the Modern Art Museum. I should probably know by now that Modern Art is not my favourite, but hey, it was free, so I gave it a go. As expected I waffled between "I don´t get it" and "I could have done that." Maybe that makes me uncouth, but there you have it. However! There was one particular piece that made me "hmmm." It was an untitled painting by João Queiroz, and I´ll post the photo and its description below. Essentially, I got the impression that the artist paints his impression or feeling from a landscape, not the landscape itself. I thought that was fascinating because I´ve been thinking a lot lately about how we remember places that we have been. For example, I have a very vivid memory from a pagoda we visited with Sareth up in the forest in Samdech Oy (Cambodia). I remember the smell of the forest, the sound of the birds, the way the marble felt walking around the giant statue of Buddha, and how there were small puddles from the rain earlier. How would I paint that? How would I purposely capture an impression of that place, what colours would I use, how do you paint the feeling of cool marble on your feet? Anyway, that totally captivated my attention and I stood and stared at the piece for a long time (and read and re-read the description). Lots of love from Lisbon everyone, I hope you all had a great day :) P.S. dessert today was Iogurte Mel e Nozes (yogurt with honey and walnuts).