Monday, 16 May 2016

Loving Lisbon Day 4: Awesome Alfama

The Alfama is one of the few areas in Lisbon that was not destroyed by the earthquake of 1755. How we loved exploring the narrow alleyways and walkways of this medieval village. We started at the train station where we bought our tickets to Porto for the 23rd. Luckily we are not at the height of the tourist season, as these tickets can sell out up to a month in advance! It was fun standing in line and noticing the backpackers buying tickets for points all over Europe, many of them pensioners like us but  in hiking boots and backpacks!

Bryce is like a kid in a candy shop in a train station, taking in all the sights and sounds, reliving his youth travelling across Canada working as a 2nd cook on the trains. Oh the stories he has to tell!

Hanging the wash out is common just adds to the charm!

We let ourselves be led along the street, not really sure where we were heading, when we came across a sign pointing uphill that said "Mercado" (market). "Didn't you say that there was a market here on Saturdays?" I said to Bryce as we began the long trek uphill. After about a mile walk all uphill, passing churches and enchanting houses, we finally came to the market that filled the square and many side streets.

Bryce was thrilled because he found a leather jacket for only 8 euros. Since it has been miserably cold, he eagerly grabbed it, and I had to listen to him carry on all day about how grateful he was for it!

From the market, we carried on downhill, taking our time to enjoy meandering along the charming back alleys and stairways that lead through the town. Since I didn't have a coat and was feeling the chill, we ate inside, skipping the many tempting sidewalk cafes. We decided this was our favourite meal so far, but we say that at every restaurant here, as the food is wonderfully delicious. Bryce enjoyed the seafood gumbo, while I had cod.

Tiled buildings are one of the many interesting aspects of Lisbon

We ended our afternoon in the Fado museum, where we learned all about this traditional Portugese musical art dating back to the 1820s with ancient roots thought to originate with the songs of the Moors. It reminded me of the beatniks, as the music was often anti-establishment, sung in bars and coffee houses, and looked on with suspicion by the government.. In fact, many of the singers were  jailed by the dictatorship ruling the country in the early 1900s, who censored the music and eventually placed strict regulations on its form.

After all that hill walking, we went home for a quick nap so that we could return fresh in the evening in order to enjoy the Fado in this delightful area. As we meandered along the narrow walkways, we were delighted to hear this expressive yet mournful music expressing loss and a hard life on the sea drifting  from almost every restaurant. It was easy to see why UNESCO has designated Fado as one of the Intangible Heritage forms.
View of the city from the top of the hill

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