Postcard from Lisboa: Final Random Souvenirs

Promise. This is it. The final photographic scraps from our month in Lisbon.

Which reminded me that jacaranda trees should be added to the prior list of things I’d like to see more of in San Antonio. Lady Bird advises no, but their lavender blooms are so beautiful in Lisbon, as in San Miguel de Allende. Plant them right next to those luscious orange tulipan trees from Oaxaca. Or maybe with a wild olive tree or two in between.

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Postcard from Portugal: Lessons for San Antonio?

Whenever you travel, you always come across things you’d love to see at home. These are listed randomly, not ranked. Click on the photos to see larger images or the highlighted links if you would like to see additional related photos.

  1. tables under giant rubber trees at Esplanada Cafe

    sandwiches served under giant rubber trees at Esplanada Cafe

    Huge multi-grain sandwiches oozing with melted cheese served under towering rubber trees in a park. This was the easiest of things to adapt from Portugal. Panini(tost)-maker purchased. How did I live without one? It grills veggie burgers, Greek cheese, eggplant, zucchini, naan bread, pineapple, French toast. Anything and everything.

  2. DSCN0748Robert H. H. Hugman designed the River Walk  in San Antonio with varying designs of sidewalks underfoot, but Portugal takes such artistry a giant step farther, and the results are striking. Every step you take should be memorable. Maybe we need a non-slick surface, though. But, it all goes back to something we haven’t quite embraced in Texas. Park the car. A city should be walked to be appreciated.
  3. DSCN0692Statues should be statuesque, or not at all. Poor Henry B. by the Convention Center, wherever he ends up relocated, is rendered too petite. He seems less than life-size. Statues should be awe-inspiring (The exception: Keep oyster-shelly Gompers small and hidden under overgrown trees.).
  4. DSCN1349DSCN1350Festival beer booths do not have to be hideous. Lisbon utilizes these little self-contained booths with several different designs for their special events. Some have homey images, such as a cat in a window or a friendly dog at the door.
  5. DSCN1163Tiles. We have the tradition here. Wonderful tiles from Ethel Harris’ San Jose Pottery. Or those colorful tiles Marion Koogler McNay installed on the risers of her patio stairs. Susan Toomey Frost donated a San Jose tile mural for the Museum Reach of the river to add to the original ones along the downtown river bend, and there are the incredible ones at Alamo Stadium. But we need more. They are such an enduring form of art.
  6. DSCN1200Promotional banners and advertising for festivals do not all have to be identical. Maintaining integrity of logos is one thing, but succumbing to boring repetition renders the message meaningless. Love the way Lisbon engages several artists each year to interpret their marketing materials for its month-long festival in honor of Saint Anthony.
  7. Sardines are a good thing. When they are fresh. Grilled street-side. Just before we left for Portugal, Central Market had a few laid out for the media preview of their Ciao Italia. Then we left, and dove into the land where they were in abundance. We’d like them here, please.
  8. DSCN1214DSCN1216Love our San Antonio Book Festival. But how in the world does Lisbon keep Feira Livro up and running for two weeks? Self-contained booths that can be locked up securely each night help. The sheer number of booths and books made me feel downright illiterate, particularly since the books were in Portuguese.
  9. DSCN0582Inner-city parks are filled with activities on a rotating basis. Farmers’ markets. Regional gourmet food festivals with vendors and tastings. Mini-book fairs. A once-a-month antique fair that would be great some place like Travis Park.
  10. DSCN1316The San Antonio Missions are crying out for intimate, customized tuk-tuk tours crisscrossing the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River. The tuk tuks of Lisbon had different designs on the outside. My favorite one, not pictured, was covered with a skin of images of some of Portugal’s distinctive blue tiles.
  11. DSCN1229We now have food trucks, but what about little portable craft beer carts, perfect for sampling new beers on tap in park-like settings. This cart was parked outside the botanical garden. We also encountered wine trucks for sampling Portuguese wine, complete with bar stools for sipping at the wine truck counter. Oh how I would love it if Texas wines were as inexpensive as Portuguese.
  12. DSCN1160Portugal seems to have more than its fair share of parts of saints enshrined in reliquaries. I always thought American Catholics were too squeamish to even want to know how far one saint could be spread, but I was wrong. We just don’t have many saints and parts to fight over. Archbishop Fulton Sheen has not even been beatified yet, and New York and Peoria are fighting over his body and whether he should be exhumed for obtaining some first-class relics to disseminate. I wonder if Portugal would share some modest little second-class relic of Saint Anthony with this city bearing his name….
  13. DSCN1248And about Saint Anthony. He is ever-present everywhere in Portugal. This city named after him needs to pay more attention to him, particularly on his feast day in June. He is a really useful saint.
  14. And, finally, although this blogger might prove the exception….DSCN1257

Note Added: The featured photo strangely popped up on my facebook page immediately after I posted this. Thanks to Mark Twain for providing it.


Postcard from Lisboa, Portugal: Multitude of Museums

In violation of the spirit of this artwork from the National Museum of Contemporary Art – Museu do Chiado, or maybe demonstrating the truth of the message, I invite you to go fado while you observe these slides. Headsets introduce you hear some of the great musicians and vocalists associated with fado in Museu do Fado, so turn on this soundtrack and pretend you are in Lisbon.

In Lisbon for a month, we came close to visiting a museum a day. Having already posted about several, including the Berardo Museum of Modern Art and the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, the National Tile Museum, these photographs represent a few of the others. There were more, but some museums do not allow cameras.

Contemporary structures completed in 1969 built around lush gardens comprise the setting for the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, a broad collection or works assembled by Gulbenkian, an Armenian forever grateful he escaped starvation. Gulbenkian was born in Istanbul in 1869, studied in Marseille and earned a First Class degree in engineering and applied sciences from King’s College in London by the age of 19.

In 1895, his wife’s family was able to charter a ship for their extended families to flee to Egypt to avoid the wave of persecutions of Armenians. His knowledge of the oil industry and connections to the Prime Minister of Egypt opened doors for him, and he was instrumental in the founding of the Royal Dutch Shell Group and played roles in numerous ventures involving Russian, Ottoman, British, Persian, French and American oil companies.

Gulbenkian’s passion for collecting led him to assemble more than 6,000 works of art from ancient civilizations to paintings by Gainsborough, Renoir, Degas and Monet. His statue of “Diana” belonged to Catherine the Great of Russia and was purchased from the Hermitage.

Major portions of his collection were housed at various times in Paris, London and Washington, D.C. He considered housing his collection at the National Gallery in London on a permanent basis, but world politics intervened. The British government labeled him an “enemy under the act” during World War II, so, offended, he changed his mind and began negotiating with the National Gallery of Art in Washington. By the time of Gulbenkian’s death in 1955, he was still undecided what country should receive the collection, but the place where he felt most warmly welcomed during the war years – Portugal – eventually won out. I’m not sure what the fate of the director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington was when he lost the quest to gain this, but Lisboa takes great pride in the resulting Museu, the adjacent Centro de Arte Moderna and the Gulbenkian Musica.

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An installation of marble chanclas (flip-flops) was among the contemporary works layered into one house museum attempting to attract return visitors. Instead of keeping the antiques housed in Museu Anastacio Goncalves frozen in the time, the foundation regularly weaves in contemporary art exhibitions to keep the space relevant.

Our favorite house museum was that of Antonio de Medieros e Almeida (1865-1936). His ability to collect art was fueled by his successful domination of the automobile and, later, aviation market in Portugal. Included in this was an amazing group of ornate timepieces, from pocket-size to majestic.

Wish I had written down the words of explanation of why he focused on these because they were particularly appropriate for the end of our trip. But, poorly paraphrasing, the automobile magnate collected timepieces because the passage of time was the one thing beyond his control.

And, taking it farther, demonstrating I should be heeding the advice of the top work of art instead of listening to fado, money can’t buy any additional time on the parking meter of life.