I have to say that I love the streets in Lisbon, the sidewalks paved as they are in little cubes of blank and white stone in beautiful patterns – but unless you were born here – not a place that looks friendly for high heels as there is no mortar between the stones. Today was reserved for the exploration of the Botanical Gardens, and the Barrio Alto, on the other side of the city.
Our hotel was a mere three blocks from the Elevador da Gloria, which is a tram that just goes from the Baixa at the Avenida da Liberdad to the Barrio Alto. Right above, where the tram let off, is a lookout over the lower part of the city, from which you can see the Castelo Sao Jorge and the expanse of red tile rooftops. Unlike the Elevador da Santa Justa, you can also walk up beside it. The Santa Justa is an actual elevator, perhaps the first ever in Lisbon, having been build by a student of Eiffel. Last time we were here, we went up in the Santa Justa, but the stairs to the lookout there were very narrow and very twisty – an today the line is also extremely long. So we walked up near the Gloria. We didn’t ride it, because it seemed silly for how short the ride was – especially with so many people waiting to get on.
Our goal in finding the Botanical Gardens was to see the Castelo from the high point we could see from the Castelo the day before. And to see the gardens, of course. Apparently it was a thing for wealthy people to have these gardens that contained specimens of plants from all of the places they had been to. (There are laws against this sort of thing now, of course because of how some plants can overtake native ones and create all sorts of havoc.) I could post a zillion pictures of the botanical gardens, but I won’t bore you – we had such beautiful weather that it was easy to get carried away with the photo-taking, so here it one – it shows the exotic nature of the collection – just a little:
We found some strange fruit and funny little nuts and seed pods that we took too many photos of – and there were ducks and fish in a pond as well. n one section there was even a little greenhouse filled with ‘prehistoric’ throwbacks – an assortment of ferns – and a little area devoted to carnivorous plants. I had never seen a pitcher plant before, so that was very cool. I didn’t realize they were that big. One of the things that I liked most about this garden – which we were visiting in an off season – was that the plants were largely left to their own devices and not manicured and arranged artfully. Each plant was labelled with its Latin name and place of origin. The other thing I liked about this garden was that it was smack right in the middle of one of the most urban and knotty places inside Lisbon. I say knotty because the roads – unlike those in the Baixa, were not straight in any sense of the word. No grid planned city here, oh no. We headed down one street thinking we would loop down the hill, only to have the street loop back on itself!
Even though mom and I stopped for an ice cold cola just outside the Gardens in the Praca do Principe Real, we decided not to eat in the Alto – it seemed just a little too upper class for us. We sensed – and were probably correct, that a meal in a restaurant in that area would be twice as much as one in the Baixa.
We followed signs that proclaimed the Baixa to be this way! This way! until we found our lookout and took pictures of the city again.
We walked down through the Baixa and back over to the Alfama district to visit the Fado Museum. It was unfinished, but just as fascinating as I had hoped. Fado is a musical art form that seems to have enjoyed a surge in popularity during some trouble times in Portuguese history having it’s modern roots in 1820’s Portugal. It was banned in the 80’s, if you can believe it, because it was thought to incite anti-government sentiment. Now, of course, it’s enjoying some popularity fueled by tourism – but I cannot complain. (Mom is in love with the guitars!) Here is a sample of one of the modern Fado Singers: Mariza
So pretty. Since we were still feeling a tad jet lagged – and knew we were about to be fed pretty well on the tour, we took it easy again and had ourselves another Pingo Doce fuelled meal.