Sunday, January 09, 2011

from Lisbon: peacock love

Let me tell you this short tale. Though it’s actually about a long tail. See, there was this peacock. And he got along with his peahen of choice just fine.


But then he said something so irritating that she backed away.


He was sorry, but he didn’t know how to express this. He was set in his peacock ways.


So she showed him how.


And things were fine again. And the band (of hens) played on.


At least, that seemed to me to be the age-old story that took place on the walls of St. George’s Castle in Lisbon.

We hadn’t planned on going back to Lisbon today, but when the weather forecast tells you -- rain, thunder, wind, heavy rain – you plan your day around the possibility of multiple cafes and museums. Lisbon has both.

As the train pulled out of Cascais the rain came down torrentially. It’s an interesting combination – a smooth little train and pounding rain. It rocked us both to sleep.

But by the time we pulled into Lisbon, there was a pause in the rains. Long enough for us to cross the street and enter the great market hall. If it’s Saturday, it must be market day.

It’s an interesting market – not full today, or at least not at the noon hour. Fish are a big item. Curvey, flat, salted, pink, white, gray – lots of fish.



And vegetables, naturally. Garlic the size of onions. Onions. Greens. Apples, oranges. Products of the peninsula.


It’s not a place to eat and play (as compared to, say, the Barcelona wonder of wonders. Or even our own lively Madison markets). It’s place to get your list of essentials taken care of. And maybe exchange a quick word with someone you know.

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And buy your olives and your pickles and go home to make the meal.



We leave the market between cloud breaks. The skies are dark, but we’re in a moment of meteorological calm.



We walk toward Alfama, the old part of town. And again we are in luck. Just when I decide it’s fitting to pause for a cappuccino and pastry, the rains start again. Torrential rains. We take our break in this slick place, with a slick clientele and a wonderful pastry selection.


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...and we think that maybe we’ll be taking a lot of coffee breaks.

Except, as we leave the café, the rains stop. I mean, completely. The skies open up to a wonderful blue, with only occasional puffy reminders of a stormy day.

And so now we are in walking heaven – umbrella folded and put away, (Ed’s) jacket tossed into the backpack. (I tell him – you are the only one in this entire city with only a tshirt. He tries to disprove this, but he cannot.)

Up the hills of Lisbon, up to the Miradouro de Santa Luzia -- with terrific views of the city below...

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...then, higher still to the Castelo de Sao Jorge, where a walk along the ramparts offers the most fantastic views of all.




And where we encounter the proud peacock and his sweetie.

All within the castle walls.


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And now we head back down again.

In the light of a brighter Saturday afternoon, Lisbon’s shades and colors come through. Or is it that you take more time to notice the detaisl?


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It’s not exactly warm outside (Ed notwithstanding), but nor is it cold. In one of the lovely squares of the city, children are ice skating, but Ed has to point this out to me – they’re not really ice skating, they’re plastic-surface skating. It looks wet because of the earlier rain. They don’t quite get the glide, but they look happy nonetheless.


...on the merry go round as well.


And now we do as the Lisbon people do – we sit outside, over a glass of wine – light and effervescent – and a delicious local pastry, and we watch the afternoon light fade.


(We pick up a few extra pastries to take home. Irresistible.)


We retreat back to the square that looked so wet just hours earlier – dazzling now in the shadows and rays of a late afternoon sun...


...and we catch our train back to Cascais. It’s a sleepy ride again, though I’m awake enough to catch the sun setting now behind the western clouds and the rocky ocean.