Lisbon therapy, day 6 (the finalllllllle)

The last day! The plan was no plan. I wanted to take the tram that I never took, and waited in the warm and strong wind for 30 minutes for it to come. It was an experience, but I highly DO NOT recommend anybody who was in a hurry or have claustrophobia or was sensitive to body odours… to take.

The tram took me down to CHIADO, where a famous cafe was located. I bought coffee – but disappointingly found it was not freshly ground. Anyway, I took a bag and haven’t tried yet.

Café A Brasileira, R. Garrett 120, 1200 Lisboa, Portugal

I walked around Bairro Alto, the famous bar area to make for I never going out here. The rest of Chiado was touristic but also there are big shopping malls where all kinds of people visit. I found some small shops and cafes inside buildings which were quirky…

Then I headed up to the hill, and visited the flea market (it’s a Tuesday!) again. The fair was almost over, but I enjoyed quite a lot by flipping through the first day covers, though the owner was a little grumpy after he found out I didn’t buy…

On my way back to the accommodation, I discovered a food shop where I took some sausages without even knowing the content. The other souvenirs were coffee from the cafe shop on Rua de Graca and sweets. After stuffing myself with some seafood and rice, I took off the the airport. It was metro strike and there was NO METRO AT ALL till the next morning. I took a taxi and it only took less than 20 minutes to the airport, and cost a little more than 8 euros.

It felt short, but definitely enough time to experience Lisbon and around – it was just so enjoyable, and I would definitely miss the coffee, wine, the nice people that I got to know and the narrow streets.

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Lisbon therapy, day 5

The night before, I found a funny map of bairro do Castelo (the Castle area) in Chapito, where the streets around the area are in a circle, designed and distribute by an organisation called Fundo Arquitectura Social (FAS, English: Architecture Social Fund). When I googled them just now, I came across a campaign they were doing though it’s already closed and they barely made their goal. It seems they are doing some interesting projects in the local area.

Back to my trip… as I stayed so close to the Castle area but never walked in it, I decided to give it a try. I didn’t enter the castle as I had seen more than enough the day before, I only walked in the small lanes and headed to the other side of the river. I went to the food market opposite to Cais do Sodre. In one side, it was stalls for raw food which were mostly closed around noon. Then the other was mainly a food court, which looked quite trendy. I got some fruit from the raw food side for 80 pence… and headed to Cais do Sodre to a ferry trip. Mercado da Ribeira, Av. 24 de Julho 50, Portugal The stop on the other side of River Tejo is called Cacihas. There was nothing to see, unless one wants to change bus there to Costa da Caprica, where one can find the longest beach along the Atlantic in Europe. The bus fare on bus is 3.25 euro while it shall not be over 1.70 if one has a TST card (which can be bought at Cacihas station, but nobody told me that then!). The beach was OK – there were people fishing and people immediately surrounded the mobile and bough the fish. Casta da Caprica was considered wild beach as there was not shower facilities though there were cafes at the seafront. It was more convenient to take bus directly from Lisbon and would cost less but I felt like taking the ferry. On my way back, I took the bus instead, which would take the route via PONTE 25 DE ABRIL bridge. The bus stop is by Praca de Espanha metro station. I walked on the main streets – Nespresso really has a big market in Lisbon – and strolled into the park nearby. There wasn’t much around, so I took the metro from Parque. It seemed that there was a Chinese community living around Martim Moniz metro station (Mouraria) and I was told people have “restaurants” at their home and a plate of food is as cheap as 2 euros.

Lisbon therapy, day 4

The train from Lisbon to Sintra sets off at Rossio train station. The journey is about 45 minutes. Once in Sintra, it would be about 15 minutes’ walk from Sintra station to the town centre.

I spent almost the whole day in Sintra, which I didn’t regret. I didn’t take the tourist bus; instead, I went to the tourist office, consulted for the trekking path entrance, and walked my way up. It was DEFINITELY worth it. There were few bathrooms (one in a park en route, and perhaps in every site there is one) around, and few shops, so the warning is to bring some snacks and water if one is about to climb up the hills.

It would only take about 35 minutes to reach the Moorish Castle. The history of the castle is quite simple… The archaeological site is worth to check out, especially a newly designed wood structure which also serves as a tourist centre has been built.

Then it would be another 30 minutes’ walk up to the Park and Palace of Pena. It is famous for its colourful surface. Somehow it looks like a palace in Disneyland… I could see the point of taking too many pictures as they can be found in various of publications and postcards. It was nice try to find new angels to look at this colourful place though.

When I finally get down to the Sintra town, I walked quickly around the relatively touristic part. Popped into a cafe which looked very local and had a coffee and a typical local sweet and not so typical sweets. Continued to National Palace of Sintra, and took me about 30 minutes to finish.

All the sites close at 7pm when the last entry is 6:30pm. I jumped on the 19:10 train and headed back to Lisbon. No souvenirs needed for a beautiful place apart from the memories and a great time.

I went to Chapito (http://chapito.org/) in the evening, as it was supposed to be one of the good place for live music. It was fun, though the drinks were over-priced, and people here were mostly students but high-browed somehow. Cocktails were a bit amateur.

Chapitô à mesa, Costa do Castelo 1, 1149-079 Lisboa, Portugal

Lisbon therapy, day 3

As I walked too much the day before, I struggled whether to continue the crazy walking for another day or to take it easy…

Daily routine, after the breakfast, as it’s a Saturday, I went to check out Feira da Ladra, the famous flea market just down the hill. I mean, it’s really huge! And they sell really weird stuff. I went on the Tuesday after, and found a stall selling first day covers, and tried to find my birthdays or birthdays of anyone that I know…failed.

A postcard with text in French, dated 40 years ago. 

Then I decided to go to Cascais for the beach. There were like 200 people queuing… and after 20 minutes’ in the queue, I found out that I didn’t need to buy a separate ticket but to use the money on my top-up card. There is The viea Pingo Doce supermarket inside the Cais do Sodre train station, and I was so wise to buy an extra bottle of 1.5L water, wine and shrimps!

So many people on the train… some got off at a few stops before obviously it’s another seaside town. As I was still planning to go to Sintra (which I didn’t later), I stuck to the plan. It took about 45 minutes to get to the last stop Cascais.

Cascais is a typical seaside town, with souvenir shops, restaurants, and of course, beaches. The facilities are pretty good – showers and drinking water tap just by the beaches.

In the evening, when I finished my 1000 strokes and all the wine and shrimps, I headed back to Lisbon. I decided to go to Oriente, by the 98 expo site.

Oriente metro station

The whole redesign is quite impressive. I strode along the river walk, on one side bars and parks, the other side river, and the whole atmosphere was relaxing. People use the parks for sports, family activities, or walking their dogs.

Certainly I also saw some vast buildings as exhibition halls. The whole landscape is quite flat, modern, in contrast to the narrow tall buildings in the old quarters.

The whole area is well surrounded by green, and the view of the PONTE VASCO DA GAMA bridge was scenery, though the bridge reminded me of something like… Nanpu Bridge.

I walked back through the posh neighbourhood by the park, where I found a public square where children were playing, cafes and shops.

I had a bit of accident inside the Oriente station, where verbal insult was involved. Alas, so it was not a city where I felt that safe – sometimes even during the day, I did get verbal greetings from random men.

Lisbon therapy, day 2

The day started with cakes and coffee. I’ve been eyeing this coffee shop on Graca main street even it’s my second day in Lisbon, where they not only serve at the counter, but also sell coffee beans, in whole or grained. I saw some old ladies with loyalty card, and bought a kind of ‘Mistura’ (not pure coffee beans, a bit like decaf).

Eat Lisbon way, eat standing at the counter! I now figure out the standard price for a espresso in Lisbon is 0.6 euro, a good one may be 0.65 – 0.7. If someone charges 0.8, it will be considered overpriced… not to mention over 1 euro.

The cake was fresh from the oven – the boss has a spot in the counter where he had different kind of cakes each morning.

Portela Cafes (facebook.com/portulecafes)

Then I started my craziest day of walking. The route was as usual uphill and downhill. I passed the Castelo de Sao Jorge, passing some ancient city walls, which are now all covered with bad taste graffiti. Some African boys played music there.

I passed Arco da Rua-Augusta, the city centre, and decided to continue my way by the river to Belem. There were not much to see, but it was definitely interesting for me to see how the landscape changed…

There were a man-made beach close to PONDE 25 DE ABRIL (the bridge’s name), a restaurant with trees in a warehouse called ‘Kais’ and Centro de Congressos de Lisboa (where looks like a conference centre?).

Well, the famous Pastis de Belem was crowded with tourists, and it’s hard to find a seat, and it would be too in the way to eat at the counter. The food was good – but not exceptionally good, just standard good. If it was bad, then it would be totally pointless, wouldn’t it?! The staff were quite rude, and the customers – some were rude, too.

No need to introduce this cafe… which you can see from 10 meters away for its queue

I started to chat with this French couple from Provence who were nicely agreed to share a table with me. The gentleman could barely speak English and tried to tell me his son studied for one year in London, and his niece graduated from a law school there, and it was so expensive. But she earned good money, he said. He also said Lisbon is like San Francisco  which also has a bridge.

The main attractions in Belem are Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (a monastery converted museum), Tower of Belem (just like Tower of London, a former prison), and Centro cultural de Belem, where there is a contemporary art museum. I stayed in the museum for quite a bit of time, and also visited the architectural association next door.

The nice bit of the evening was a hipster feel in the park just opposite the monastery. No, no, I didn’t exceptionally like it, not in the carefree Lisbon, as the so-called food market was pricey, but a little luxury after one day’s walk was worth it – not to mention I would keep walking till dawn.

After some rest at the Art Fest of Lisbon, I walked towards the direction of RATO metro station for the dinner place. I accidentally found LXfactory on the way so wandered in. It’s somehow an equivalent of Hackney Wick Studios but all in one gated street.

It was a bit scary to walk in a quite and strange neighbourhood… but somehow there were always people popped up from somewhere soothed my worries. Oh, I also tried a doughnut on a street van, which was delicious.

The dinner was very good wine with a huge chuck of veal barbecued on stone. My first time eating raw beef… It was tasty.  Warning: the staff almost speak only Portuguese, and the menu is in Portuguese. They have a very confusing English version that the staff can barely understand themselves… But the food is just so good to miss.

Casa dos Passarinhos, R. Silva Carvalho 195, 1250 Lisboa

Lisbon therapy, day 1

I stayed in Lisbon for five nights, six days. The flight from London is quick and continent – if you get the time right, you get up at  six and will be in Lisbon by one o’clock in the afternoon.

The first impression when I got out of the airport is – holy sxxt, why so many people are queuing in front of the ticket machines? Oh, yes, this scene would repeat again and again and again in the following days. There are just so many people need to top up their tickets, or not, but they queue any way, who are usually confused tourists who have no idea of the confusing ticketing system in Lisbon. (There is a manual ticket office just by the back at AEROPORTO metro station, and there are less queues…but only one person.) The best way is to buy a Viva Viagem card and put zipping tickets on it (top up minimal 2 euro). TST bus has its only card which looks almost exactly the same except it says “TST” at the back. I had to buy tickets on their buses which could be double the zipping price as nobody ever told me (even the ticket office) there are different cards.

The trip from Airport to where I stayed, Graça, was fairly quick. However there are no direct way to get there, as Graça is on the hill, and the closest metro is SANTA APOLONIA. People can take a bus from there up to Rua da Graca. The bus was on strike on the day when I arrived; even it wasn’t, for me, it’s still easier to walk up.

I took a detour via Alfama, allegedly where Fado music was originated from. I sat inside a small cafe where three early people were chatting and eating and drinking coffee. Here I had my first espresso. Later I would have more.

The walk was quite interesting though labour intensive. Every thing was up hill. I passed the famous Mouraria and later came back to a few times to view the whole city. There are quite a few platforms to view the city – though I’m really not a big fan of panorama.

After taking off some of my luggage, I walked more in the area. Alfama is generally a black area and the population is mixed with black as a majority. I enjoyed quite a bit the colourful buildings and the narrow lanes, the slippery stone pavement and sometimes strange stares at me – there were few tourists that day, and rarely in those back lanes!

On my way back to the main road, I took another detour to Santo Antonio Church / Feira da Ladra (Thieves’ market) (only that I realised it later).

Campo de Santa Clara with Santa Engracia Church as the background

Then back to the main road, and popped into a random cafe for a random snack. The great thing about being in Lisbon is… one can always find a place to eat.

Forno Sapadores II, Largo da Graca, No. 130/131/133, 1170 Lisboa

In the evening, I had my meal in a fish house 2-minute walk from my flat (A Penalva da Graca, Rua da Graca, 26, 1170-170 Lisboa). I did my research earlier – the place had been visited throughout the day, and by seven, it’s packed! I got to know two very crazy but funny guys and had a beer later by the Praça do Comércio by the river.

I walked back uphill, surrounded by late-nighters – hey, people in Lisbon really like going out!

I am fine

Last night, or many nights recently, I felt my winter depression may be approaching, as at one point during the day I stood by the door in my room, staring at the wall, and couldn’t remember why I was doing everything that I was doing.

Now today is almost over. But I think I am fine.

Think over the day.

In the morning I got message from my big guy and I surprisingly found I’m not anxious any more. I started to trust him (and other people) and to accept that I cannot be anywhere, witnessing everything and controlling everything.

Then I got this documentary review/interview news story that I will need to do. It’s a bit of anxiety here as it may cause a bit of conflict. But I asked myself: do you want to do the story? Oh, yes. It may be difficult but yes. Challenge taken.

I managed to finish my Syrian refugee photo credits composition – not sure where will the photos go, and how far they can go, but at least I have photos and their credits. That’s the starting point.

Then I went for an early lunch – delicious walnut bread and cottage cheese (which usually I don’t eat) with pineapple. Afterwards I needed to run for my physiotherapy session with the other therapist in the clinic as my usual one was not in. The session was totally useless, but, well, I tried.

Then I started to take notes about the documentary. It took really a long time.

I finally had a meal on time – 5:30. The auditorium held a session with disable comedians (http://www.abnormallyfunnypeople.com/). They are absolutely lovely people. I even went talk to them afterwards. And sipping some wine, I went back to my floor, my desk, my computer, to work again.

Tim handed me a place on top of which was a piece of chocolate cake. Sure, it was very late, I shall have something to eat.

The short film challenge looks promising as well.

It shall be (defined) a fine day.