Tuesday 29 November 2011

Monday - Walking around Lisbon, Poetry Night and Fado - World Heritage

After a very early morning in the Notary´s office to sign the paperwork for the transfer of  our apartment to the new owner, my daughter and I went into a "Loja do Cidadão" which means "Citizen´s shop", a place where all Governmental departments are represented, and  people can apply for a passport, an ID card; connect or disconnet phones, water, electricity, gas; deal with problems at the Tax office, there are internet providers, Post office... 

Quite a handy place with everything under one roof. Here we changed our addresses, my daughter collected a passport she had applied for a couple of months ago and I applied for a Police clearance certificate I needed for Australia.
Then it was time for Karina to go to the airport for her flight back to Paris and I took the underground into "Baixa-Chiado", Lisbon´s city centre.

I wandered around for a couple of hours taking pictures, the day was warm and I wish I wasn´t laden with the winter jacket, scarf and a bag of documents to be more mobile as a tourist. Just before rush hour, I took the train to Cascais at Cais do Sodré station.

Rossio Plazza
The old trams around the city
Statue of the Portuguese Poet - Fernando Pessoa, outside the coffee shop where he used to sit and write.
Chiado Shopping - this whole was destroyed in a fire many years ago and reconstructed
After dinner, at my Mom´s invitation, my sister and I went to watch a Poetry night at ALA (Academy of Letters (words) and Arts) a cultural institution my Mom is part of.
I have never been a great fan of poetry, but I must confess it was interesting and the poets recited some of their own work or poems of well known Portuguese poets, and they were very well interpreted, and  an enjoyable night was had by all present.
The night was organized by my Mom who is always very active in the world of the written and spoken words.

My mom and dad reciting poetry
Another poet singing his poem
I would also like to bring to your attention the fact that Fado, the traditional Portuguese musical genre, was on Sunday voted by Unesco as an Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Fado - "the emblem of Portuguese culture and talent".
Here are two of the youngest generation of talented Fado singers - Katia Guerreiro and Mariza.
Listen to these songs and you will feel moved by their sadness, melancholy, longing, even though you might not understand a single word.
Let me know what you think.

                                                                        Katia Guerreiro


Monday 28 November 2011

Weekend wanderings - Cascais

Friday morning was my first relaxing day in Lisbon, and my mom and I went into the Cascais city centre and were later joined by my Dad for lunch.
We had a lovely lunch for 7euros ($10 Aud) each which included a soup, main dish, dessert and a soft drink or water. Quite yummy and very well priced too.

My tasty Bacalhau á Lagareiro (Cod fish with baked potatoes doused in olive oil)
Dad left and drove home, and mom and I walked along the coast until the Marina, while I took quite a few photos. The day was lovely and warm...just lovely to be outside. Then we called Dad to fetch us when we were tired towards the end of the day...
Taken from Cascais Villa shopping centre

Cascais Municipality building

One of the lovely tile panel on the Municipality walls
Mermaid statue

Friday evening after picking up my daughter at the Airport, from her Paris flight, my brother in law arrived home to collect the rest of the family, and we went out to an Indian restaurant in Cascais.
This was due to Piglet's influence from one of her latest posts!
We had a bit of a laugh at the menu translations before choosing our dinner (the funny translations are in Portuguese as the English version is fine).

Funny translation at the Indian restaurant in Cascais

Back in Lisbon on Saturday, which was a bit hectic, moving the last of the furniture out of the apartment, going to the Church a couple of times with car loads of stuff to donate, etc, etc. At night we all joined my parents at their house in Cascais for a family dinner and to watch my Paris photos.

Sunday was a more relaxing day with a sleep in, then before lunch, my daughter, my sister and I went to Cascais Shopping, a big shopping centre nearby.
I managed to get a couple of presents to leave behind as Christmas presents and bought myself two white shirts for work. I find clothing quite reasonably priced compared to Australian prices of course!

After a home lunch and an afternoon movie, my brother in law took us for a drive along the coast from Cascais to Azóia, near Cabo da Roca, Europe´s most western point, to the lovely "Moinho Dom Quixote"(Dom Quixote Windmill) near Cabo da Roca.

The Windmill Bar/Restaurant
View of the Atlantic Ocean from one of the outside "rooms"

Little pond with waterfall in the garden

View of the sunset sky

The Windmill bar/restaurant is lovely and homely, with various lounges with walls full of bright colours, covered in Mexican artifacts and interesting pendant lights.
We got there after sunset, but it would have been the perfect place to watch it come down in the distance over the Atlantic ocean. You can sit outside in various enclosed areas surrounded by beautiful gardens, ponds, waterfalls, or sit inside where the main room is warmed up by an open fireplace.
A very enjoyable end of the day.
Hope you all had a lovely weekend too and I wish you all a wonderful week ahead.

The entrance with the colourful walls and eclectic mix of art

More colour inside the main room

The lovely fire place in the corner of the main room

Thursday 24 November 2011

A week in Lisbon

So much to do, so little time! 
I have had a very stressful week trying to sell furniture from the apartment we need to vacate by this weekend...with not much success. With a recession and not much money around, I thought it would be easier to sell used furniture, but it seems the Portuguese aren't too keen on second-hand.
One of my daughter's friends wanted to keep the dining room and the double bedroom furniture, which I gave to her.
I then contacted Remar - a charity organization that sells used things to fund rehabilitation centres for drug addicts, and they came to see what I had to give. They were very selective in what they wanted, and then carted away a single bedroom and 3 Billy bookcases from Ikea, and some other bits and pieces of furniture, but didn't want a big metal desk (not fashionable) or the sofas as these were scratched by the cat.
I have promises of people to come get another single bedroom, washing machine, fridge, etc by Saturday, so I really hope that happens, as by Sunday I need an empty apartment.
Other things like bed linen, some unused clothing, ornaments, books will be taken to the local church, as they hold monthly sales for charity.
I have a corner of the lounge with boxes to ship to Australia...but am still waiting for a quote from the only company that showed up after contacting 3 companies.
My corner of boxes to ship
View from my street in Lisbon
Probably because of all the stress I managed to get a terrible cold, and yesterday I stayed in bed most of the day with no energy to do anything, my body was sore, scratchy throat, awful cough...
After taking a mix of various medications my sister had in her medicine box, I am feeling better today.

Today there is a general strike affecting public transport, hospitals, schools, other public in the morning as usual I got a lift with my brother in law into Lisbon (I stay with them in Cascais, about 30km from Lisbon), traffic wasn't as chaotic as we expected, but I will have to stay here until 7 or 7,30pm when my brother in law usually finishes work, even though I don't have that much to do, but with no other means of transport I am stuck!!

At least the sun is shining, maximum temperature will be 19C, unlike the previous days when it was grey an wet.
Strike poster
I haven't had much time for sightseeing unfortunately, but hopefully after this weekend I will be able to relax and enjoy the rest of my short stay.
I have already planned a get-together lunch with friends at a small restaurant, where I will have the opportunity to see people I haven't seen in almost 5 years.
Next time I hope to be more cheerful!!
Expo Train and bus station, taken at night while I waited for my lift
Vasco da Gama shopping centre (in front of Expo station)

Saturday 19 November 2011

Au Revoir Paris and Good evening Lisbon - Day 4

My last day in Paris :
As soon as I set foot outside it started to rain. I went back to the apartment to get an umbrella! I cannot waste the last few hours of sightseeing even if it's raining!!
I took the Metro to Varenne station to visit the Rodin Museum, which my daughter had recommended. I really enjoyed seeing the beautiful gardens which are full of his famous sculptures including "The Thinker".
Inside his former house, which was a noble Chateau, now a museum, hundreds more of his sculptures, including "The kiss" and a few paintings by his friend Monet, were scattered around the various rooms in 2 floors.
In the garden I sat on a wooden bench with "The Thinker" in front of me. Very peaceful, an oasis in the middle of busy Paris.

The Thinker by Rodin

The Kiss

Across the road is the Hotel des Invalides, an army museum now and where Napoleon's tomb is under the golden dome. I didn't visit the museum, just had a look around the gardens.

Les Invalides Museum and Eiffel tower in the distance - taken from the Rodin gardens

Then as the rain had stopped, I decided I still had time to do a river cruise.
I took the train to the Eiffel Tower, as the quay is just across the road. The cruise was 1 hour long and it was enjoyable and I got to see the monuments from the river side and a good view of most of the bridges crossing the Seine.

Notre Dame cathedral, taken from the cruise boat

On the way home and because it was on same underground line 2 , I jumped out at Blanche station and crossed the road just to take a photo of the Moulin Rouge. Many, many years ago when my husband and I first visited Paris we had gone to see a show there.

Back on the train I alighted at Jaures station. It was time to go to my daughter's apartment, collect my bags and get on the train again to meet with my daughter at Denfert-Rochereau station at 5,15pm, where we would then get the bus to Orly airport.

Well, this is where things went pear-shapped. The train stopped two stations before the required one and the driver requested everybody leave the train. As I didn't understand what was going on, I asked a young  man if he spoke English and to explain what was happening.
He said there had been a power failure and there would be no trains for a while. I panicked!!!
How could I get to the station I wanted? I had no mobile to contact my daughter!!! He said I would be able to get a bus just across the road from the Metro station and I followed him. We managed to get on to a very crowded bus, with me carrying a large suitcase...
A few stops later he indicated I should get off as that was the stop near the Metro station I wanted.
Off I got but then I couldn't see any station entry on the corners where they are usually located.
I found a restaurant instead and asked the waitress for help. She indicated a station on the next block, and I could see the Orly buses in front, so I walked as fast I could dragging my suitcase.
When I got to the station I couldn't see my daughter anywhere and I paced the entrance up and down already in a sweat. I had got there 40 minutes later than the arranged time.
Eventually I asked a lady from the Orly buses where I could find a public phone and she started walking with me towards the phones and she must have sensed my panic and asked where I wanted to call.
I said I wanted to call my daughter's mobile, and she asked if it was a French one and I said yes.
She kindly said I could call from her phone. My daughter answered and said she was in front of the station, to which I replied - "I am also in front of the station"!
Conclusion: She was in the Underground station and I was in the Express Regional station (RER) just across the big roundabout.
In a couple of minutes she was by my side, very worried, as she had thought I had fallen down some stairs at the Metro stations while carrying my suitcase. (PS: there are no lifts in these stations, because they are ancient, and no one thought of these modern technologies).

We got on the Orly bus that departed within 10 minutes, the traffic was heavy so instead of the normal 20min it took 40min.
We got to the airport counter at 6,50pm past the boarding time, as the flight was at 7,10pm. Luckily they had tickets for the next flight at 8,40pm, so 300 euros later we were issued with 2 new tickets!!!

We phoned my brother in law in Lisbon as he was meant to be picking us up at Lisbon airport. We had been expected for dinner at 9pm but would now be arriving in Cascais closer to 10,30pm.  
My brother in law picked us up at the airport. Traffic from Lisbon to Cascais was still heavy at that time of night, but we managed to get there at 10,30h where the rest of the family was eagerly waiting our arrival.
So it was a very late dinner and another very late night.

I will not be posting for a while as I have lots to do sorting out the apartment for sale in Lisbon.
I will probably not be able to do any sightseeing, but I will certainly try and take some pictures of the beautiful monuments in Lisbon.

Hope you have enjoyed reading about my short trip to Paris.

And here is Cusca, my daughter's 3 legged cat who jumped in the carry-on when my daughter was trying to pack.

Thursday 17 November 2011

Paris - day 3

Grey skies again!! The temperature should be minimum 5C, but it feels a lot less, it's really freezing!

Back on the blue line to get the underground train to the "Opera" to start day 2 of my bus tour.
I'm starting early today to take advantage of the hop-in and hop-out facility and visit as much as I can of the places I haven't yet seen.
First stop - The Arc de Triomphe to photograph the Avenue des Champs Elysee. This is the longest avenue in Paris, and is one of the 12 leading to roundabout where the Arc de Triomph is.
Traffic is crazy, I don't know how they manage to cross all those lanes, and there are no lines on the roads either!!


Back on the bus, the next stop was the Eiffel Tower, so I could go see "The Statue of Liberty".
Yes, there is one in Paris too, a smaller copy of the New York statue, given to the French by the american community in France. It faces New York too and is in an island in the middle of the river.

Next stop - the Louvre Museum, so I could go to the Arc du Triomphe du Carrousel in the Tullerie Gardens next to the Louvre. The gardens are lovely, full of golden statues and well cared for.
Across the road over the Seine is a pedestrian bridge - Pont de Arts - full of lockers that young lovers leave to symbolize "eternal love".

Millions of love locks on the Pont d'Arts bridge
View from the bridge

Next stop - Notre Dame church for a visit to the Latin Quarter nearby and the Sorbonne, a famous university. This is a very hip area, full of young people, small restaurants and cafes.

I got on the bus again and stopped at the Musee d'Orsay on the left bank.
This used to be a former railway station. It's now an art museum, very interesting, with various galleries in 5 levels according to the different art styles.There is also sculptures and furniture.
Entry costs 8 euros and you can rent and audio guide for 5 euros.
The only drawback is "no photos allowed", what a pity as my favourite painting from Monet and Renoir were on display.

The clock from inside - I managed this one photo as I saw other people photographing it.

By the time I left the museum it was getting dark outside, so I hopped on the bus back to the Opera and just crossed the road into the "Galeries Lafayette" for a quick peep into the deparment store.
It is an amazing shop on 9 floors and a few more floors in another 2 buildings, not cheap though!
Their Gourmet foodstore is just delicious and they have a spice bar that smells a mile away!

After 1 hour in the shop it was time to get the underground back home as I was by now feeling exhausted and it was now past 6pm.

The windows of the Galeries

All decked out in Christmas lights
The inside of the shopping
The spice bar at Galeries Lafayette
The macaroon bar - look at that colourful macaroon tower!