Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lisbon

The Ponte de Vasco da Gama, one of two bridges spanning the Rio Tejo, is an inspiring entry to Lisbon. A stunning thin white 17km-long line over blue water, it is a spectacular and beautiful piece of modern engineering. The other bridge, the Ponte de 25 de Abril, is a dead ringer for San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge (it was built in 1966 by the same company).

Lisbon is a fantastic place—a laid back, tranquil, completely unpretentious world-class city where local residents mix unselfconsciously with tourists. Trams race improbably up steep cobbled hills and down narrow twisting streets with inches of clearance between the buildings. If the buildings are are not pastel blue, pink or orange, they are covered in hand-painted azulejos (tiles), many very old, and the laundry hanging out the windows testifies to the city’s realism. It is not a tourist pantomime. People live on the streets, grocery shopping, smoking on the corner, meeting friends in the plaça, eating at the corner cervezeria, and at night the streets are full, much like Seville.  There is also a very big African influence in Lisbon, stemming from the influx of refugees from the abandoned Portuguese colonies after the 1974 Revolution of the Carnations.

After returning the car and catching the bus from the airport into the centre, the first thing I was offered in Lisbon was hash. Peddlers carry it on the street. I lost count of how many times I was approached by a hash peddler that first day alone—five? And when you say no, they ask, “marijuana? Cocaine?” And they all are persistent, as if I might change my mind and say, “Actually, you know what? I do feel like some cocaine.” One time a guy approached me and there were two police officers three metres away. Unbelievable! It’s annoying, but not dangerous. Lisbon is reasonably safe. These people want to sell you drugs, not mug you, and there are police on the beat.

I was tempted to see The Complete Works of William Shakespeare in 97 Minutes at the Teatro Municipal de São Luís. It’s supposed to be very funny. The title was in Portuguese, though, making me wonder if it is translated, which would be very strange. Many Portuguese do speak English, though, a legacy of the 600-year old friendship with England. Also being performed was Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, worth seeing just for the brilliant title.

As I write this, I’m supposed to be out shooting things, but instead I have been seized by Lisbon’s chilled out sunny Sunday vibe and am emptying mojitos to funky Motown on the terrace of the Noobai Café overlooking the Rio Tejo.

1 comment:

Mark said...

"Vampire Lesbians of Sodom"?? I think I have the DVD.