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6 in the City - Lisbon

19/09/2022


Coming into land, the weather looked just perfect. A gloriously bright September sun, in a rich blue sky dotted with small clumps of intermittent clouds. We had just completed the 3-hour hop from London’s Gatwick to the Portuguese capital, excited to see what was on offer over the next two and a bit days.

Having had such a smooth transition between nations up until this point, it was inevitable that a snag was to occur. This manifested itself in the Bolt app when we tried to book a taxi from the airport. Having spent around 30 mins, laden with our luggage, trying to find the pickup point in the warmth of the midday sun we were then subject to multiple cancellations before finally heading on our way for the final leg of the journey. Seems the typical issues with taxi apps are as global as the apps themselves!

The cab journey as it turned out was fairly straightforward, essentially being one long road from the airport to Bairro Alto, the fairly central neighbourhood area where we were staying which promised to be fairly central to the key areas of the city. As we got closer to the shore of the river Tagus, the roads got narrower, more cobble lined and the architecture aged and grew in character as if venturing slowly back in time. These characteristics perfectly described our street, with the bends so narrow, that they have to be negotiated at a snail’s space by medium and large cars, as the deep gauges of neighbouring walls can attest to.

Having negotiated The Krypton Factor puzzle that rewarded our entry into the Air B&B, we headed out the door for a little reconnaissance and sustenance. With such little time available for this trip, and a general need for some R&R, I had promised myself (and Claire) that I would only be getting up to shoot one sunrise, so I was determined to make that one count. Having checked the weather and my sun tracking app, the best time appeared to be the following morning, and not being fully aware of our surroundings, suggested we take a walk to the spot I had earmarked for sunrise to confirm where it is and exactly how long it would take to walk there in the early hours of the morning. The sun was due to rise at 0700, and Google maps suggested a walking time of 30mins. Neither of us would have been particularly pleased if we had got up early, and walked for 30mins only to get lost, or held up and missed it completely!

So that's exactly what we did, following the guidance of the all-knowing Google, we made our way towards the Lisbon Cathedral and beyond to Miradouro de Santa Luzia, where I had suspected from Google street view in my brief research for the trip would provide the kind of scene I would wish to capture of the city at dawn. The walk was brisk, with heads focused more on where we were going, than where we were, but 30mins later, despite navigating the throng of tourists and city folk, we arrived at the spot.  

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As I had hoped, the view out to the east was unobstructed and provided sufficient foreground interest and a clear flat horizon. I had worried that in a city like Lisbon, which is very hilly and built up with tall buildings, finding a spot that is open to the public and provides a clear unobstructed view might be a challenge. Thankfully not!


Without any real pause to our travelling since leaving Bromley some 9 hours previously, we only briefly took in the view before falling into a local eatery for something to eat and drink.

The only thing that really seemed to be on the menu was pizza, so we went with the flow. A cock up in the kitchen meant that we were sat waiting for some time, which was observed by the waiting staff who promptly offered a complimentary drink to make up for the blunder. I was more than happy to accept this drink as I had just stumbled upon something new and tasty, Bohemia Bock. Those who follow keenly will recall the American stout I tried in Malta earlier this year, well, Bohemia Bock, by Super Bock, is very similar. Dark, malty, lively, and deliciously refreshing when served cold. 

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After the longer than anticipated lunch, we headed back down the hill in the direction of our Lisbon lodgings, taking in a little of the scenery along the way, but with no real sense of urgency and purpose. We took a slight detour to break the route up and avoid some of the bigger sites that were earmarked for the coming days in favour of exploring more of the back streets. 

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And so, not before long, we arrived at our apartment having picked up some supplies and settled down for the night. The prelude is o'er. Act 1 would commence shortly.

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At 5:45 am, the alarm sounded. It was time to get to work.


Throwing the covers back, we spring into action, with half the team being a little less enthusiastic about the early start! A quick tidy-up and equipment check, and we off out for the day. And what a day this was to be!


We started by retracing our steps from the night before, this time in a race to beat the rising sun. With the planet spinning at approximately 1000 miles an hour on its axis, our nearest star rising in the sky was inevitable, but our making it to the spot in time was anything but. Despite having plotted and completed the journey the previous day, I couldn't help but feel ill-prepared and that something was not right. Marching through the streets to the steady sound of a silent drummer, perspiration already forming on the brow due to the heat, humidity, and exertion, I looked upward to see heavy clumps of clouds; the sense of unease I was feeling was less about my preparation and more about whether all our efforts would amount to anything.

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Still, we soldiered on for a full half hour, energized by the excitement of the first full day of exploring this new unfamiliar city. Right on cue, we arrive as the blue hour fades and golden hour introduces the new day. I set up my tripod, and patiently wait for the opening act, eyes fixed on the band of clouds over the horizon.


As the hue of the golden hour deepened, it started to become apparent that there was a slip between the band of clouds in the distance, furthermore, there was a large low fluffy cloud in front of this slip which, if the light is right, would promote some drama to the shot. A slight adjustment to account for direction, and it was show time!

The sun breached and found its way neatly within the slip casting a beautiful deep orange across the visible sky and burning the extremities of the low-level cloud with the morning hue. What a relief. The morning's sacrifice of sleep and energy had been worthwhile after all!

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With the day's birth committed to memory card, it was time for a quick bite. It was still too early for a proper breakfast, but coffee and the city's no. 1 pastry would hit the spot nicely. I had deliberately refrained from trying a Pastéis de Nata until we visited Lisbon (assuming it was inevitable), and I'm grateful to have observed this rare exercise in personal restraint. Sitting high above the river Tagus, the morning sun washing over the occasional bustling tram is the perfect setting to enjoy this sweet and tasty treat. Not quite as good as our own custard tarts at home in my opinion (I'm more of a short-crust kind of guy), but very satisfying nonetheless.

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Suitably fueled, it was time to hit the streets and see what Lisbon had to offer. Buckle up, we're about to cover a lot of ground!


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The first stop was Miradouro da Graça, a church perched higher up the hill we currently found ourselves with views across the Western side of the city including the castle and Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge over the Tagus. (In my post-trip fact-checking, I note that what appeared to be an alleyway dissecting a building site contained some amazing street art that was completely overlooked!)

Having captured the western side of the city bathed in the early morning sun, we turned on our heel in the direction of the Pantheon, an enormous and majestic cathedral-like mausoleum nestled in the winding back streets of Alfama. We paused for a time at the Pantheon, admiring the imposing structure which was satisfyingly illustrated by the site of a solitary man walking two tiny dogs on its terrace.

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From here, it was a jaunt along the road parallel with the riverside which appeared to offer a little more character than the wide expansive River in the direction of Praca do Comercio and the Arco de Rua Augusta. These streets offered a condensed snap shot of the city with examples of the tiled walls (Lisbon is known as the city of tiles), views out to the riser through tight streets, a variety of architectural styles and examples of the native form of street art 

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Well, not entirely native street art. Obviously, when I saw this truck literally looking like it was driven here from the RAW district of Berlin, even branded as such, I had to capture it!

Arriving at the main square, we were blessed to have beaten the crowds that would normally be expected at such a central meeting spot. That is not to say that the bussel of a Teusday morning in a capital city was not underway. Trying to capture a clean shot of the arch proved immensely challenging, even with the aid of a 10 stop ND filter to achieve as lower a shutter as possible. The images I did capture however do provide an interesting montage which gives s sense of the movement in the scene. (Press play below!)

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After some shots under the arches, it seemed a good opportunity to top up our pre-breakfast which was fairly uneventful (save for the coffee, which was sublime!). Bill settled, and off we went headed for the Santa Justa lift, which was swarming with tourists. After a couple of shots, then up the hill to see the Carmo Convent, which is pretty much a non-event from the outside, and with crowds gathering, and so much more to see, we decided to move on. 

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Turning quickly on our heel, we're doubling back in the direction of the Lisbon cathedral, first stopping at the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene where the trams skirt right by. This seemed to be a good opportunity to capture the old trams bustling by, but not quite as easy as I'd hoped! Every time a tram came by, people would stop in the frame or other traffic would spoil the shot.

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Heading upwards we arrive at the cathedral which is perched halfway up the hill, the road with its tramlines snaking around the building. The 12th-century cathedral is the oldest church in Lisbon and is an imposibg structure which is magnified by its close proximity to the road and neighbouring buildings. 

As with the church we had just come from, this seemed like a great opportunity to combine such an important building with the signature transportation of the city. As with the church below us, this proved to be a lot more difficult than I would have preferred! 

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My interest was piqued by the buildings opposite which were clad in the signature style of Lisbon,  ornate tiling which was looking a little tired, spotted with sunlight peaking around the cathedral. The trams would come down the hill and turn around this corner, which made for a great shot.

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This took a little time (trams in Lisbon it turns out are much like London busses, you wait for ages and two come along at once!), so a certain someone was getting bored and thirsty. On our toes again we walked the now familiar path back through the main square and beyond arriving at Pink Street. The street is a popular destination for the simple reason that the road is painted bright pink, but its popularity is its own demise as the pink has pretty much been worn away by a constant stream of Instagram wannabes posing on the street beneath the colourful umbrella ceiling!

And on that disappointment, it was time to stop for a beer. 

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Careful orchestration of events meant that once lubricated and getting peckish, we were a stone's throw from the Time Out Market. A carefully curated food hall with a multitude of different types of cuisine and beverages surrounding a common dining room with long communal tables. 

Now, don't get me wrong, this place is pretty cool, and the food is good. But going in without a plan, in my opinion, is going to burn time, as we discovered. A  perfect example of this is having to queue separately at two different bars to buy wine and beer which I found out to my frustration having taken around 30mins! Popular food vendors also may have exceptionally long queues, as I also discovered having cued for 45 minutes at the croquette stand!

Anyway, the food was good, the drink was good, time to move on. Fumbling around trying to work out how to get to our next destination, Claire was drawn in by a shop serving the national liqueur, Ginjinha, a sweet viscous and delicious cherry bomb. Swiftly seeing them away, I observed the bus we needed to take us away from the main city in search of sunset.

We had a bit of time before the sun called time on the day, so we jumped off the bus early to take in the Jeronimos Monastery. The clock was ticking, so to take in the full monastery and make it to our final destination was a stretch, so we instead settled on a whistle-stop tour of the adjacent church, Igreja Santa Maria de Belém. At the time, it felt a little unnecessary, but I'm actually very glad that we did. 

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The Church itself was very impressive, with incredible carvings and masonry work, a somewhat surprisingly satisfying interlude. The church is in two halves, with the entrance having a very medieval feel moving through the crossing to the main altar, the decorations become vastly more ornate, juxtaposed against the ancient feel of the proceeding nave. 


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Having banked bonus cultural points, we jumped back on the bus and headed for our final destination, the Belen Tower.

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Standing out on the estuary, this medieval tower dominates the local vista. Grabbings tickets at the last possible moment, we took a quick tour of the tower before bedding in at a bar on the water overlooking the tower and waiting for sunset.

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A couple of (large) beers, and a couple of hours later, it was time to bookend the day. The sun was to set right off the structure which promised to make for a fine end to a great day.

I must admit, my preparations were somewhat lackadaisical, in part due to the beers consumed whilst waiting for the 8 pm sunset, but ultimately the result was a satisfying conclusion.

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With no real plan of how to get home from this part of town, the journey was somewhat eventful and took an age as we fumbled our way through the dark to find bus stops and hope the busses we thought we should be getting actually arrived. Thankfully, we did make it back to near where we were staying but were now feeling a bit peckish. We were too inebriated and warn out from the day's exertions to find a supermarket, so opted to find a local eatery for a (very late for us) bite to eat.

We stumbled on a very local restaurant, which were more than welcoming. Thumbing through the concise and small menu, it was easy for me to settle on Portuguese steak. Steak cooked with some kind of sauce with bacon and garlic served with chips. Wasn't spectacular, but was very homely and exactly what I was after.

Both our phones had died, we were now on our own, and well past our bedtimes! Locating our apartment was entirely down to my generally good, but now the somewhat impaired sense of direction. After a couple of wrong turns, we found our temporary abode and promptly collapsed.


The previous day had turned out to be so productive, that we did not have all that much left on the itinerary to accomplish in the main city. This as it turns out was a blessing, because we were both in bits! Thighs, feet, calves, backs, shoulders; between the two of us, we could barely rustle up a complete, pain-free human being. Today would have to be a lot gentler on the body.




The previous day had turned out to be so productive, that we did not have all that much left on the itinerary to accomplish in the main city. This as it turns out was a blessing, because we were both in bits! Thighs, feet, calves, backs, shoulders; between the two of us, we could barely rustle up a complete, pain-free human being. Today would have to be a lot gentler on the body!

Staying true to our revised exploring methodology, we carefully staggered down the cobbles to pick up the tram to the Castelo de S. Jorge, our last major location to visit on our list. On arriving at the base of the hill the castle sits high upon, we made our way slowly up through the winding streets lined with graffiti to a small group of shops with a cafe just stones through from the castle entrance.

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It was getting on for way past breakfast time, so took this opportunity to jump into the cafe for a bite to eat. As it turns out, considering the proximity to such a prominent tourist spot, the food was very good and very reasonable! OK, we only had some eggs and toast, but my point remains firm!

Having refuelled, we now made our way into the castle to soak up a bit of history and more sweeping views of the city.

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Walking through the entrance to the castle grounds, you are initially presented with uninterrupted views across the river Tagus to the south. Moving further towards the castle proper, the views extend round to overlook the western side of the main city and all the sites we had visited the previous day.

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An unusual, but not unfamiliar sound was calling as we moved in on the castle. Turning the corner to cross the final stretch of gardens, we were greeted by a male and female Peacock with a small group of babies tottering between them. Walking in further, it became apparent that these birds were not alone, and there were actually quite a few spotted about the gardens, and up in the trees, seemingly unconcerned by the few random people wandering around their fortified home.

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We then entered the castle, which, considering its age, is fairly well intact, with most of the walls and towers accessible. We spent a good couple of hours exploring the castle walls,  nooks and crannies. Taking in the views from the towers, and the quirks of the castle itself.

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The sun had warmed up a bit by this point in the day, so we opted to stop for a refreshment break and a little rest. Our earlier timings as it transpired were impeccable, as the ques to get into the castle had grown considerably! Our gentle wanderings around the castle would have been far more onerous had we left it any later as the throng of zombies were now out in force!

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Turning a corner of the quaint quiet back streets neighbouring the castle, we found a nice-looking bar and promptly sat down with no intentions of anything more than a quick beer before moving on. This plan, however, very gradually descended into more beers and a spot of lunch as we welcomed just sitting and enjoying the atmosphere and the pleasures of some good music gently playing on the radio, the site of rustic Lisbon architecture and the pleasures of a crisp cold beer.

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Our impromptu libation having nicely relaxed us, we were back on our way and continuing our wanderings around the streets leading from the castle in the general direction of our apartment. We were firm of the view that a rest and a shower would spruce us up for going out for our final evening, getting some night shots and having a nice meal.


We slowly made our way through more winding streets, seeing the familiar sites of the city as we traversed the hilly streets. The sound of rumbling trams and street music carried us along to our lodgings. 

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Alas, we arrived at the apartment in a state of complete exhaustion, and I'm embarrassed to say, that this premature full stop brings our trip to Lisbon to a rapid conclusion. Once we had arrived at the apartment, neither of us was able to muster the energy to venture out again. It would appear that on this occasion, we had really overdone it with our wanderings, so much so that by the end of our third day in Portugal, we had no more to give. 

This left me feeling, well, a little incomplete. Despite having seen most of the principal sites of the city, we had not really experienced  Lisbon, not fully. This of course does offer a silver lining, we just have to go back with a more relaxed attitude and immerse ourselves further with perhaps a little more time on our hands. 

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The trip was not over, however, as we were due to get the train south to the Algarve to meet friends staying at the villa on the south coast for the remainder of the week. I would not usually include such a trip on a 6 in the City post, as it is more about relaxation than photography. Arriving on Thursday 8th September, and having just settled in with a beer and catching up with old friends, we learn of the deeply saddening news that the Queen of Great Britton and the Commonwealth had passed.

This news hit hard and took quite a deal of processing. While still in a daze from, I  looked up and observed the sun setting to my right, and the moon rising to my left. I couldn't help but see the sun setting on the era of the queen, with the rising moon rising on the new king. Through wet eyes, I set up my tripod and captured the scenes to mark the occasion. May her majesty rest in peace.

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