Friday, April 24
It’s pouring rain, and a good time to catch up on blogging. I talked about art for an hour this morning with Luis, who introduced me to some of his favorite Portuguese artists. Here are three websites for the curious.
Contemporary realism, of an unapologetically sexual in your face kind. Don’t click if you are a prude. You have been warned. http://barahonapossollo.com/
This guy blows images into buildings with explosives. Bam! http://www.alexandrefarto.com/index.php?page=video&video=16
Sprezzatura skills with wire creates sculpture of unworldly grace. http://hifructose.com/2013/04/04/illusory-wire-sculptures-by-david-oliveira/
When the downpour turns to a drizzle, I walked half a block and into Fundação Arpad Szenes-vieira Da Silva, a modern art museum, if by modern you mean Warchol and Lichtenstein. For those of you who know me, I went because the ticket was free, and my B&B hosts strongly urged me to attend. Had a moment of interest with these typewriters. The title is a favorite; Infinite amount of monkeys + Infinite amount of typewriters + Infinite amount of time = Hamlet.
I goofed around with Pistoletto’s Bottiglia per terra Bottle
but otherwise, I begrudged it my time.
I hiked through wet streets to the basilica, which, compared to St Roch, was pretty tame. Walked around for a moment and then it closed and I was politely shown the door. Just like in Madrid. No more tardy visits. When it comes to basilicas, go first thing in the morning.
Spitting rain again, I called Uber and got the ‘high tariff ‘ message, but noticed it said ‘ending in 2 minutes’ . Okay. I waited a couple of minutes in the church doorway, tried again and got the normal rate. Just a tip. Sometimes pausing is your friend.
I was determined to visit the 19th Century ship-museum, the Frigate Don Fernando II e Glória. It’s in dry dock on the banks of Tagus River, in Cacilhas. Directly across from where I had lunch yesterday.
Uber arrived, and off we sped across the May 25th bridge, designed by the same firm that did the Golden Gate in San Francisco. The driver was a native and life-long Lisboan. Took the time to carefully to explain to me how I could safely and easily return on the train or ferry. There’s no Uber where I’m going.
The frigate lay high and dry, in a moat of cars. In dry dock, it looked abandoned and ungainly. I was the only person there. I walked up the gangplank, toward a tiny wood kiosk with a window. I heard a voice behind me and a young lad with red cheeks darted past me, opened the door to the hut, motioned me back and slid open the wooden hatch. “May I help you?”
He sold me a ticket. No more audioguides, he explained, because the water is not good for wires. Hmmm, I thought, looking around at the river and the sea. I walked around the deck recalling Elizabeth Essex sea-faring books http://www.elizabethessex.com, feeling uneasy but psyched at being the only living soul aboard. I am sure Portuguese school children are herded through here in droves, but not today.
Except for the artillery, everything was made of wood or rope coiled neatly and woven in patterns.
Below the top deck, the captain’s cabin looked like a Mayfair drawing room with a very low ceiling, so peculiar.
The ship itself looks sleek and elegantly made to my ignorant eye. It may have wallowed in the water like a hog, but it was clean and smelled of wood and hemp.
Below deck, I thought I saw other tourists and but they were manikins dressed as seamen. Not bland-faced models dressed up, but manikins fully realized and quite disturbing. Spooky. A trio dressed as passengers, a father, mother, and child, were so creepy George Romero would cast them in a heartbeat.
I descended further below decks, completely alone. There was a small working office with a TV running and the paper detritus pinned up and spread on the desk but no one was there. Twilight Zone. I had a subliminal sense that a ship ought to be moving, that being still and motionless was wrong. The way a corpse is stiff once the life goes out of it. The parade of eerie mannequins continued, frozen figures slumped in hammocks, a seaman with a howling face clamped with iron manacles at his throat and ankles “for strict discipline”, a cook who fed up to six hundred out of three big stew pots, a sick bay with a grimacing patient, an officer reading in his bunk with a crucifix on the wall.
There were cannon balls stowed neatly in racks and they reminded me of the true purpose of this vessel. Not a pleasure yacht.
I had a new respect for ship builders, all the way back to Noah. I knew that though this vessel dwarfed me, at sea it would bob in the water like a cork, a speck in the immensity of the ocean.
I climbed up and out, and the red-cheeked boy popped up to show me down the gangplank and helpfully pointed to the ferry, 150 meters away. He agreed that the mannequins were scary and claimed their faces were modeled on the actual laborers who rebuilt the ship. Maybe that’s why they look like corpses. I found them distracting, but the ship was a thing of latent beauty. I bought my ferry ticket, climbed aboard, and in only a short time – ten minutes maybe – we docked in Lisbon.
I was a few blocks from the Mercado da Ribeira, and Santini’s calls to me. Plus, time for lunch. I wander the market periphery and settle on a spot that offers black pork cheeks on sweet potato puree. In a bowl. Very happy with my choice.
Heading back I checked on a souvenir shop with unique Portuguese items that the B&B recommended. Loved it! An artist mother and her daughter ran it. I bought some tee shirts she designed featuring the Cranach version of Eve tempting Adam, but with a Pastéis de Nata. Good call, Casa Amora.
Tomorrow is Lisbon’s independence day, May 25th That shop will be closed and there will be parades and parties. I’ll let you know if it’s another day like King’s Day in Amsterdam when I should hunker down and avoid the crowds, or something more pleasant.