Much as I love going to the beaches with the Wingless Wonders, I have also developed a great fondness for our riverside jaunts. Ah, the mighty river Tagus! It is always fascinating to spend time along the estuary watching the constant flow of traffic, from one-person dinghies tacking around buoys, to commuter ferries traversing the river at speed, to tankers, cargo ships and luxury cruisers heading out to the open sea.
Belém is one of the Oldies’ favourite spots along the river. Unfortunately, because of its many tourist attractions, it is also a favourite of what seems like millions of other tourists. The place is invariably heaving with coachloads of these pesky humans! So far though, I’ve got away without enduring too much of a cultural overdose. The Oldies like to take in an occasional museum now and again, especially when they’re free – many Lisbon museums offer free admission one day a month – but otherwise, like myself, they are happy to just potter along the river. For once, we all on the same wavelength!
One of our ‘freebie’ visits was to the MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology) which also incorporates the old Tejo Power Station. Her Ladyship was in her element in the power station, of course, playing with all the interactive exhibits (designed for children, I might add), and both of the Oldies partly loved, partly hated, some of the modern art exhibits in the MAAT.
For me, the best bit of all was the MAAT building itself. It’s an incredible piece of modern architecture, with a curvaceous façade made of white ceramic panels. The entrance looks to me like a giant shark’s mouth. A great white, perhaps! I also love the fact that you can walk up the sloped sides of the building and enjoy the panoramic views from the roof. And there’s a bonus: the MAAT appears to be directly on the flight path of aircraft on their approach to Lisbon international airport. They fly in so low over the river and the MAAT, they’d make the feathers on the top of your head stand up. Or hair, of course. If you have any.
The iconic 25 de Abril Bridge is even more impressive close up. It is enormous and boy, is it loud! The noise of the traffic is quite peculiar too, as two of the six lanes are metal rather than asphalt. There is also a train track on the bridge, running under the road, so with all that metallic hum and clatter, I don’t suppose it can be easy for a gull to get any sleep around here. His Lordship, the metal head, doesn’t seem to mind it at all!
While we were exploring near the bridge, we found some really amazing murals in the passageways in Alcântara train station. These were just my size! I’ve often complained about the proliferation of graffiti in this town, but the street art around here is quite something.
I particularly liked this one. On close inspection, you can see that it is made of old car parts and other scrap. It just shows how a ruined building can be turned into a piece of art while it awaits renovation. Judging by the modern infill developments along this stretch of derelict buildings in the Santos district, these gaps will hopefully all be filled soon.
A favourite spot of mine along the river is in the Cais do Sodre district, just across from the train station. Time Out, Mercado da Ribeira (the river market) is one of the best markets and food halls I have ever come across. Apart from the fresh fish, fruit and vegetable market that we have all come to know and love so well, this particular market hall is also chock-a-block with award-winning restaurants, as well as kiosks and bars arranged in a food hall style, all of which have to meet the rigorous Time Out standards to be even allowed to operate within its walls. Just browsing around is a feast for the eyes and judging from the couple of snacks I’ve been allowed to share with the Oldies, it all tastes as good as it looks. A mouth-watering experience on the waterfront!