Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lisbon, Portugal [Part III of III]

The last of my current 3 part blog series ends at Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal.

Lisbon is located at the western point right where the Tagus River (which runs from Spain cutting across Portugal from east to west) flows out into the Atlantic Ocean. It is a fairly big city well connected by a network of buses, trams and Metro, linking you to the several important and interesting attractions spread across it.

Above: Looking out over the Tagus River.

Above: The Alfama district.

The heart of Lisbon beats downtown in Baixa, the central historical district. The lively atmosphere from here emanates through to the other surrounding quarters as well, such as Rossio, Chiado, Bairro Alto and Alfama. This entire area is inter-connected by small streets and beautiful promenades, and it’s where most of the historical site-seeing, shopping, eating and entertainment take place. This is the best place to soak in the vibrant Lisbon nightlife, taste some custard tarts, and experience the soulful Fado (some sort of traditional folksong laden with emotions that’s unique to Portugal).

Above: A stall selling hot chestnuts in front of the Arco da Rua Augusta. It's such a heavenly find during a cold winter night.

Above: The Clock at the back of Arco da Rua Augusta.

Above: The shopping streets in Baixa district.

Above: Trams, a traditional mode of tranport in Lisbon.

Above: The Rossio Railway Station with horseshoe arched entrances.

Above: A building in Barrio Alto with its external facade adorned with typical Portugese 'azulejo' (ceramic tiles).

Above: The 45m high Santa Justa Elevator located near The Carmo Convent. Built by French architect, Raoul de Mesnier du Ponsard - an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel.
[See update at bottom of post.]

Above: The Convento do Carmo (Carmo Convent) in Chiado.

Today, the roofless nave opening up to the sky is all that remains of the arches and rubble that caved during an earthquake in 1755. While it is easy to navigate the whole Central area on foot, the rest of Lisbon’s attractions are pretty much spread out on opposite ends of the Tagus River and even across!

The east side of Lisbon is where you can see most of its modern architecture, thanks to the Expo 98. This area along the river bank was where the Expo 98 site was built and it is maintained today as the ‘Nation’s Park’, offering leisure activities and close proximity to The Oceanarium, a Casino, as well as a huge modern shopping mall. Across from the mall is another famous architecture – the Oriente Station – built by Valencian architect, Santiago Calatrava. Other attractions here include the Vasco da Gama Bridge and the Tower of Vasco da Gama.

Above: The Oriente Station - a transportation hub housing a railway station, Metro and bus terminal - yet another masterpiece of Santiago Calatrava.

Above: The Vasco da Gama Bridge on a rainy night. This bridge is 17km long (one of the longest in the world) and factoring in the curvature of the earth is of great importance during its construction. It was constructed in 18 months and was built as part of the new infrastructure in preparation for the Expo 98.

Above: The Vasco da Gama Tower is a 145m high structure with a curved metal support resembling the sail of a boat. At the top, there used to be an observation deck and a restaurant offering panaromic views but it has been left vacant after the Expo.

**Note: In case you're wondering what or who 'Vasco Da Gama' is, it is the name of the Portugese explorer who was known to be the first to sail successfully from Europe to India in 1498.**

The west end of Lisbon where the River Tagus meets the ocean is where the city’s maritime activities take place. Some of the attractions you can find here are the Tower of Belém, the Jeronimos Monastery as well as The 25th of April Bridge, which links Lisbon’s north bank to Almada in the south, where the monumental Cristo Rei statue stands.

Above: The silhouette of the Tower of Belém, a symbolic Portugese masterpiece standing at the Lisbon harbour. It is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Monument.

Above: The 25th of April Bridge - linking Lisbon City across the Tagus River to Almada - is longer than San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge which it resembles.

Above: The Cristo Rei Statue of Christ located on the South bank on Almada, looking over Lisbon with arms open wide. This monument (which is similar to but smaller than the one in Rio) was built in 1959 by the citizens of Lisbon who were thankful that Portugal was spared from involvements in WWII.

More information about Lisbon can be found
here and here.

**UPDATE (Jan, 16, 2010): The above picture of the Santa Justa elevator is being shared on artist Susana Mendes Silva’s blogSanta Justa”, via her invitation. Her blog is dedicated to the sharing of experiences of individuals who have visited the Portuguese National monument, and it is part of a cultural program for the promotion of public art.**

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