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Day Seven: Lisbon, Portugal

Posted on Friday, February 2nd, 2007

Dave!Lisbon is a remarkable city and I absolutely love it here. Which is why it's strange that today I got the idea to create "The International Directory of Assholes" book. But more on that later.

My day began when I took a walk through the Alfama. This is the oldest district of Lisbon, home to winding little streets and clustered houses that spill down the slope of a large hill. And at the top of the hill is the Castle of São Jorge, which is where my day of tourist wanderings began. It's not a very impressive castle, but the panoramic view of Lisbon from the top is pretty sweet...

Lisbon Castle

Since I arrived early in the morning, I had the castle pretty much to myself, which was kind of nice...

Lisbon Castle

As I walked down the hillside towards the river, I noted a number of churches along the way. The most famous being the "Sé"... which is fairly simple by European cathedral standards, but still worth a visit...

Lisbon Se

After I had worked my way out of the Alfama, I decided to take the bus along the shoreline to Belém. This is a district west of the city proper which is famous for being the place where many of the famous Portuguese explorers departed on their journeys (like Vasco da Gama). It is also home to one of Lisbon's most famous landmarks, "Monument to the Discoveries"...

Lisbon Monument

All in all, there's 30 famous Portuguese historical figures running down both sides of the monument, each one remarkably detailed...

Lisbon Monument

As you continue west, you'll eventually run across the Tower of Belém, which you can climb up and wander around. It was built to be fully-functional with canon armaments and such (despite its highly decorative nature)...

Lisbon Tower

Backtracking along the other side of the roadway, I worked my way back to the Rua de Belém so I could drop by a pastry shop that's been selling little custard tarts for over 150 years called "Pastel de Belém." This is also the place you can visit the Archaeological Museum, the Maritime Museum, and the Jerónimos Monastery, which is pretty cool...

Lisbon Monastary

Inside, the roof of the Church of Santa Maria has a cool-looking spider-web design which is pretty slick...

Lisbon Monastary

Before leaving the Belém district, I was sure to stop at one of Lisbon's most popular tourist spots... The Coaches Museum. It's kind of an odd idea for a museum, but it is interesting to be able to see all the ornate craftsmanship that goes into these rolling works of art...

Lisbon Coaches Museum

The remainder of my day (along with the reason for my new "assholes" book idea) can be found in an extended entry...

Half-way between Belém and downtown Lisbon is the National Museum of Ancient Art. I had heard lots of good things about it, and was anxious to take a look. The problem being that I didn't know which bus stop to use, and didn't have a map on me. After waiting for the passengers to all load up, I thought I'd ask the driver to please announce the stop. I had studied Portuguese years ago in preparation for a trip to Brazil (which never happened), and remember enough for simple conversation.

"Pode anunciar ponto de bus para Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga por favor?"

No response.

My Portuguese is far from perfect, but I'm certain my meaning was clear. Perhaps he didn't hear me?

"Anunciar ponto de bus para Museu Arte Antiga por favor?"

Nothing. Doesn't even acknowledge that I exist, despite my standing right next to him.

I come to the conclusion he must either be deaf or is forbidden from speaking to the passengers... until he strikes up a conversation with another guy seated at the front of the bus.

F#@%ing asshole.

Naturally, despite frantic looking on my part, he breezes past the proper stop because I noticed it too late to push the stop button. This meant I had to get off at the next stop and backtrack, which sucked ass.

I have no idea what his f#@%ing problem was (particularly since I took the trouble to make my request in his native language), but it's at this point I decide I should write a new book called "The International Directory of Assholes" — and fill it with those rare individuals who attempt to piss all over my otherwise terrific travels.

I mean, WTF?!? Was it really such a f#@%ing horrendous chore to announce a stop for me? Most everyone I've met in Portugal has been exceedingly kind and helpful... especially when I've made the gesture of trying to speak Portuguese with them. Why be such a complete and total asshole to somebody who is a guest in your country? Even if he had told me "no" he could at least have acknowledged that I exist. What a dick.

Anyway, the National Museum of Ancient Art was spiffy, so I guess it was worth the effort...

Lisbon MNAA

There are two other museums I want to visit before the day ends, but I am too hungry to skip lunch, and decide to stop at the Hard Rock along the way for some potato skins. While I am there, I note that a couple of guys at the table next to mine are asking about the SuperBowl. They are not Americans, so this immediately piques my interest since I know that nobody outside of the USA gives a crap about our version of "football."

If I understood correctly, the cafe was having a SuperBowl viewing party, and The Hard Rock manager(?) explained that he thought the pre-show would start around midnight (Lisbon time), and the teams playing were the Chicago Bears vs. the Indianapolis Colts. It was then that they two guys at the table said that they didn't care about the game, they just wanted to watch the "famous commercials."


Anyway, I eventually make it to the Gulbenkian Museum (totally brilliant) and then rushed to the nearby Center for Modern Art so I can see that one as well.

This was a mistake. I realize modern art isn't for everybody, because its very nature is to challenge people's perceptions of what actually constitutes art, and can be a bit bizarre. But I have no problem with that. I appreciate that artistic expression can take many forms, and try to appreciate all aspects of the experience.

This being said, the Center for Modern Art is mostly filled with shit.

There were a few pieces I thought were okay, but most everything was just crap. Not even remotely interesting or challenging. I had to laugh at the fact that guards were posted everywhere, because nobody would want to steal this shit, and any attempt at defacing this "art" could only improve it. Oh well.

And thus ends my final full day in Lisbon. Sadly, I am not ready to leave this wonderful country, and wish I had more time to explore the surrounding area. I hear Sinta is remarkable.

Maybe next time.

Categories: Travel 2007Click To It: Permalink


  1. Laurence says:

    Your photos are just beautiful !!!
    I love your travel… 🙂

  2. james says:

    Love your book idea… I’m sure you can fill it up real fast, especially if you count people in your previous entries!

  3. jodypup says:

    I remember that church ceiling from when I was there in 1970. I had forgotten the name of the church, I just remember it was big. I liked it a lot then, so thanks for the picture. My grandmother was upset that such large and ornate buildings were based on the poverty of the populace. You sure do a lot in a day! I finally got to Japan in November, but only managed to do a few things per day. So what guidebooks are you using? (I’m not blaming my lack of accomplishment on my guidebook. It was either culture shock or laziness.)

  4. Kapha says:

    Wow. Thanks yet again for the tour! 😀

    I’ve been toying around with interesting responses to folks like the a-hole you mention. Things you can do that could be perceived as an accident, etc.

    I think a good one in this situation would have been during the silence after your second request:

    Sneeze on him – not too big so it is obviously fake – but sneeze right on him. Then just quietly go and sit down.

  5. Avitable says:

    No pictures of the shitty museum?

  6. Kevin says:

    Katie and I were scanning the photos when Katie said, “it astounds me.” I finished the thought with “that they created such beautiful buildings with so little yet we have trouble making buildings look good these days with all the technology we have available?”

    Yep, that’s where she was going.

    Take us with you next time. We make good (and willing) assistants.

  7. ms. sizzle says:

    awesome photos, again.

    do you travel with a planned itinerary or do you wing it? you’re masterful at packing a lot into a trip!

  8. Dave2 says:

    Laurence… I love my travel too! 🙂

    James… Actually, things like this don’t happen that often. Most times, people go out of their way to help when you ask for it. Usually when somebody refuses to do such a simple ask, it’s because they just don’t understand you. But a public bus driver being asked to please announce a stop IN HIS OWN LANGUAGE and ignoring you? Asshole. 🙁

    Jodypup… My favorite guidebook, bar none, is Frommers. I also like the DK Eyewitness guides because of all the pictures, but I buy those mostly for planning and leave them home. Frommers is the only guide I regularly end up taking with me. Most any guidebook will get the job done (except “Rick Steves,” which I loathe, and I won’t buy any of the shit he puts out). For this trip, I didn’t use a guide book because it was only a couple of days and not worth it. I just grabbed a map at the hotel and circled the stuff that looked interesting.

    Kapha… I find it easier to just let it go. I just rant about the assholes on my blog and be done with it. 🙂

    Avitable… You wouldn’t want to see them The place looks like it is falling apart and is in desperate need of a paint job! I should have known before I even went inside that it wasn’t going to be worth it. Sadly, the Modern Art Center is run by the same people who run the Gulbenkian Museum (which is amazing, amazing, amazing) so I don’t understand it. Oh well, it was a two-for-one deal, so I try not to let it bother me.

    Kevin… I dunno. Certainly there are modern structures that I consider to be quite beautiful, but I agree that there is a craftsmanship and attention to detail that you just don’t see anymore. Gone seem to be the days that statues, paintings, and decoration are considered to be part of a building plan. It is rather sad, isn’t it?

    Ms. Sizzle… Last night I grabbed a map from my hotel lobby and circled all the stuff I wanted to see. I then just drew lines from one thing to the next until I had a rough idea of what I wanted to do (I did the same thing for Madrid). From there, I just wing it. If I run across something interesting, I add it, if I run out of time, I skip a few things. Usually the only time I plan for my travels is when my itinerary is highly detailed, or I have a lot of time to spend, and want to work in some lesser-known stuff you can’t find on a hotel map.

    My Lisbon map looked like this…

    Dave Lisbon Map

    A pity I forgot it in my hotel room for half the trip and had to do the Belém part from memory! 🙂

  9. hannita says:

    That monument to the “discoveries” deal is gorgeous. It’s all very beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Dave2 says:

    For a few Euros, you can take an elevator up to the top and have a pretty good view of the surrounding area. There’s also a tiny, tiny exhibition inside. When I went up, I was the only one there, which seemed kind of strange considering the masses of people down below! I guess everybody else must have been more afraid of heights than I was! 😀

  11. The Chad says:

    and I thought my vacation this year was gonna be cool. all I’m planning on doing is driving back to michigan.

    Yeah, yours is way cooler.

  12. karla says:

    They are having a Super Bowl party at the Hard Rock here in Oslo as well. It starts at 10:30 pm on Sunday. A bit late for old folks who have to work Monday.

    Sorry about the rude bus driver. Believe me I understand that feeling. But you did get to see some gorgeous things.

    We go to Paris later in Feb., and i am already steeling myself for the rudeness….

  13. Dave2 says:

    The Chad… It’s not where you go that makes the vacation… it’s what you do once you get there! 😀

    Karla… It’s strange… I’ve heard about rudeness in Paris many, many times, but have never experienced it myself in the half-dozen times I’ve been there.

    Most of the time, it’s been the other way around… the rude people I see are American tourists!

  14. kilax says:

    Lisbon looks gorgeous! Were the monument and the tower right next to the ocean? It looks perfect and balmy there!

  15. claire says:

    I doubt I’d have the stamina for the amount of travel and sight-seeing you pull off, but I’m glad you share it with us here.

    Great shots. Sorry about the jerk bus driver.

    Are you on a mission to see every Hard Rock that exists?

  16. Charlotte says:

    You have actually made me excited for my trip to Portugal in February. Lisbon, I now realize, is going to be awesome. Thanks!

  17. Jason says:

    When you spoke Portuguese, did you sound French or Spanish? I heard it irks portuguese people if you speak to them in anything sounding like Spanish.

  18. kapgar says:

    Well, I didn’t mean to imply that all modern arch is crap. But, the ratio of crap to cool these days is much more in favor of the former than the latter.

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