Parking Portuguese style

Portuguese parking has to be seen to be believed. From the first week I arrived, I’ve been marvelling at the cheek and the bravado of the drivers here. Parking can be difficult here, especially in central Lisbon. There are many car parks around but they are expensive and people seem to prefer to improvise.

It seems that the general rule in Portugal is “park your car wherever it fits and where you think you can get away with it”. During big events like concerts or football matches you will see cars up on the footpaths.

Here are a few photos I’ve taken over the past few months.

In a rush perhaps?
Middle of Nowhere
Double parking all the rage here

The SmartCar is very popular around Europe and in Portugal. Many SmartCar drivers are very inventive with their parking style.

Parking with guts and flair. Such anarchy! I love it!

Smart parking

Tram 28

My good friends from London, Jenni and Karen, came to visit us this weekend for two nights. It was their first visit to Lisbon. We did a lot of walking and sightseeing but also much eating and drinking and minimal sleeping.

We took them on a tour of Lisbon by tram or eléctrico. The yellow tram is synonymous with Lisbon. It’s a Lisbon icon. The first electric tram commenced operations in 1901. Today, they still use the beautiful old yellow vintage carriages that rattle and trundle their way around the narrow streets but there are only three traditional lines today.

The most famous route is tram number 28. This winds through Lisbon’s old quarter beginning in Graça, then down through the gorgeous and narrow streets of Alfama, past Lisbon’s Cathedral and then down to Baixa and then up through Chiado to Bairro Alto.

Lisbon Cathedral Sé

It is always jam-packed full of tourists and is an excellent way to get a feel for the city if you haven’t got a lot of time.  It’s a ‘hop-on hop-off’ service with over 30 stops at many famous and interesting sites of monuments, churches and gardens. The trip is very hilly in places, it’s noisy and hectic and you get some great glimpses of the city and a feel for the flavour of each neighbourhood.

The view from one of the stops – Largo das Portas do Sol
View from Largo das Portas do Sol   (Filipa B. Santos)

Here is a video of part of tram route 28. Forgive the unsteady camera work. It was difficult standing up, holding on and filming at the same time. The music is by one of Portugal’s most popular fado singers today. Her name is Mariza and she is singing a beautiful song called ‘Maria Lisboa’.

I hope you enjoy the ride.

An Urban Canvas

I am loving the street art in Lisbon. Some may disagree with me. Some may think of it still as graffiti rather than art. But graffiti is art. Graffiti refers to a type of public marking and let’s think about it…this has existed since the Roman era, the Greeks, the Egyptians and our indigenous Australians. It’s always been a form of expression and a way of communicating. There are distinct differences between amateur scribblings and scrawls and truly impressive and clever pieces of artwork.

As you walk the streets of Lisbon, you find these little surprises along the way in the most unique places. Some of the pieces have a political message signifying economically challenging times in Portugal and the majority are extremely eye catching and colourful.

I love the juxtaposition between the old and the new. An old door in the middle of the Alfama district becomes unique in its own right. Somehow a fish in a shirt and tie whistling a tune enhances the appeal of this beautifully old and traditional neighbourhood.

Without this bow-tied sardine, this would just be another ancient wall in the Alfama district of Lisbon. I love the artists use of the wall as the frame.

By far, the most impressive street art I have seen so far is by an artist known as ‘Blu’. He’s originally from Argentina, but now lives in Bologna, Italy and his work is prolific throughout Europe. You can see some of his other works here and here. I stood and stared at it for a long time. Incredible. Unbelievable. Large scale. Spanning across three abandoned and derelict buildings.

And last week, during language school, I spotted this little guy through our 1st floor window. Sadly, this week he has disappeared! Maybe a annoyed local?

His t-shirt: Tinta Crua = Raw Paint. His banner: Nothing Gonna Stop the Flow.

Unfortunately, this time, someone stopped the flow.

A Walk in My Shoes

For the past 3 weeks I have been going to language school every morning. I get up at 7.00am and catch the bus to Campo Grande, then the Metro to Rossio station, central Lisbon. It takes me about an hour to get there. The school specialises in teaching foreigners how to speak Portuguese, from beginners through to advanced levels. There are four of us in the class – me, Po Yi from Canada, Alexandra from Germany and Ruslan from Chechnya.

These are just a few images I took one morning on my way to the school.

This is the view from the bus stop over the road from our apartment. We live on the top floor with Filipa’s brother, Toze.

The bus trip takes about 30 minutes, through the outer suburbs of Lisbon. It’s the end of summer here, just heading in to autumn and the morning sun and the colours are just lovely. The bus stops at Campo Grande. This is where you will see the funky stadium of Sporting Football Club (a major soccer team in Portugal) which is green, white and yellow and covered in tiny Portuguese tiles. Rivalry is strong and fans of opposing Portuguese teams refer to the ‘Jose Alvalade XXI stadium’ as just a ‘large bathroom’.

All the Lisbon Metro stations are beautifully designed with tiles, drawings or poetry.

Inside the Campo Grande Metro station….


I can stay on the same line, Linha Verde, and don’t have to change lines. I exit at Rossio station in the centre of Lisbon and climb the stairs to feel the sunshine on my face in Praça da Figueria and the beautiful equestrian statue of King João I.

Like any major city, Lisbon has its fair share of homeless. The vents from the underground Metro blow warm air and is the perfect place for the homeless to stay sleep under pieces of cardboard. I also pass the same two guys every morning, bright and perky, sitting on the steps of a nearby church.

From the square I walk down Rua dos Douradores to the school, about a five minute walk. On the way, I stop for a quick coffee, made by a cute little senhor in his coffee shop and soak up the Lisbon architecture and vibe.

Loves of Portugal

It’s taken me a while, but here it is. My Portugal blog – “Pounding the Calçada Portuguesa“. We’ve been doing a lot of walking and the streets of Lisbon are absolutely stunning, if not a little dangerous at times. But I’m finding that the beauty of this art form definitely outweighs their slippery and perilous nature.

Calçada Portuguesa, otherwise known as Portuguese pavement, is a very traditional style cobblestone found everywhere throughout Portugal. Designs are usually in black and white using basalt and limestone, are still created by hand and are an important part of the nations identity and heritage.

Many beautiful afternoons have so far been spent walking and getting lost in the gorgeous and charming streets of Lisbon, exploring the narrow travessas (alleyways) and becos (cul-de-sacs) in Alfama, Graça, Bairro Alto, Chaido and Castelo districts. Calçada can be found everywhere throughout Lisbon from ordinary black and white square designs through to the more elaborate and artistic patterns.

I’m totally obsessed with the calçada in this country!

But I also have a growing obsession with the Portuguese tiles, the azulejos. Wandering the streets of Lisbon is a feast of colours and designs, not only at feet level, but also at eye level and above on the many traditional apartment buildings. The tiles are painted and made from ceramic. The artform date backs to the 15th century and can be found on just about every kind of building from churches, palaces, apartment buildings, train stations to the Metro.

In contrast, the city is also covered with amazing street art and graffiti, which I also love. The colour and the designs are unique and it is fast becoming a major attraction of Lisbon, so much so that the city council has started handing over abandoned buildings to artists, as they have realised that good quality street art might actually be an asset rather than a scourge on the city.

I’ve already been here six weeks and am completely in love.  I will have plenty to write about…..the food, the culture, the art, the people, the music, the language, the beautiful countryside….as we pound the pavements of Portugal.

And last, but not least, my other love in Portugal, and the reason I am here.

So stay tuned and please feel free to comment if the mood strikes you. It makes me happy to know you are out there reading.