Overview: This is the last post about our five days in Lisbon. Unlike the other posts, this will not focus on an area to walk and where to dine. Most of our walking was backtracking over familiar areas. Instead, this post will focus on Lisbon’s wall tiles and graffiti — not many words, mostly photos.
Day Five’s dining highlight was our return to 100 Maneiras, a wonderful restaurant we visited on Day One. There is not much new to say about 100 Maneiras except that of the restaurants we visited, it is the one that I would most strongly recommend to you.
Lisbon’s Wall Tiles and Graffiti
Traveling with camera in hand helps me to look at things more closely. Traveling includes so much visual data that it’s easy to lose the trees through the forest. It’s nice to come back with photo memories, and I have been making a printed book for recent travels using Apple’s iPhoto. But it is the act of seeing in the moment that is most important.
I had imaged a Lisbon of Old World charm based loosely on recollection of a visit some forty-three years ago. My impression was that Lisbon’s building facades were covered with ceramic wall tiles. I found Old World charm and tiles. But what quickly caught my wandering eye was the graffiti that covered far more of Lisbon’s building’s surfaces than tiles. In the end, the graffiti was more compelling than the tiles.
First, the tiles.
Lisbon is justly famous for its long history and use of ceramic tiles. Ceramic tiles date from the mid-15th Century. Lisbon even boasts a National Tile Museum (Museu Nacional do Azulejo), located in a former convent. Tile is generally used to cover the lower portion of a building’s wall and add wonderful visual detail to facades.
On occasion you will see large tile murals such as the one pictured above that we came across on our walk up the hill from Baixa to Alfama.
Designs range from old and traditional…
…to more contemporary designs.
Almost without exception tiles are all the same size — squares of about four inches per side.
There are a variety of color palettes.
Most tiles have geometric patterns.
It was only rarely that I found tiles that were more illustrative.
These tiles capture Lisbon’s connection to fish…
…echoed in the fish image of the festival seen on shop windows throughout Lisbon.
Occasionally tiles are infiltrated with ironic humor.
Leo & Pipo have found their way to Lisbon. According to the website The Rathaus, “Since 2008 Parisian duo Leo & Pipo have been wheat pasting nameless characters from bygone eras all over their home town. District by district, rue by rue, Leo & Pipo inject a sense of charm, humor and some historical remembrance to dreary concrete facades; hopefully transporting the viewer to another Paris through a visual time machine.”
Artfully superimposed stickers on traditional tile promote an avant garde art festival.
It was shocking how prevalent graffiti is in Lisbon. (My friend Pascal tells me it is common in cities throughout Europe.) While not every surface is covered with graffiti, you can find graffiti nearly everywhere you look. There do seem to be some unwritten rules about what surfaces are fair game for graffiti, but large, flat, blank walls are prime candidates.
When we visited Lisbon in early June, national elections had just taken place. Portugal is going through very difficult financial times. As a result, there was occasional overtly political graffiti.
More often however, as with graffiti everywhere, graffiti is form of frustrated self-expression…a need to be known..and an expression of institutional alienation.
“i am an artist even though i’m a woman.”
MUSEUMS ARE DEAD. LONG LIVE THE STREETS. In fact we visited only one museum in Lisbon. Most of our time was spent on the streets.
Images of graffiti:
I recommend Lisbon as a place to visit — without reservation — graffiti and all.
Each of our five days in Lisbon was a “bon jour.”
There is no single formula for what makes a great dining experience. Great restaurants come in many different forms. But for me, here are some of the key ingredients:
A great restaurant should be specific to a moment in time and place reflected both in its food…appropriate to the season, locale, culture…and design, that is there should be some ineffable sense that this restaurant could only exist right here.
A great restaurant should be warm and welcoming and genuinely express their appreciation that of all the places you could have chosen to dine, you chose them.
The food should be visually appealing without being precious and the flavors clear — whether simple and straightforward or layered and complex. Complexity should not exist for its own sake.
Service should be well-paced and non-intrusive…neither too fast or too slow…not too friendly or too aloof.
For me, a little sense of humor also helps as dining is just not that serious. At 100 Maneiras the meal begins with the dehydrated cod “Clothesline.” Tonight, the Roasted Red Snapper on Curried Shrimp Risotto with Kaffir Lime Foam arrived in a sardine can.
We returned to 100 Maneiras on Saturday night. As 100 Maneiras offers a single 10-course menu each evening, we had asked on our first night whether the menu would change by our last night. When we arrived we discovered that while they had not managed to change to a new menu, they still would create for us our very own menu with only modest repetition from our previous visit.
Part of the energy of 100 Maneiras is a result of each course being turned out to the entire dining room at once from the bar. Clearly the bar was not placed there with this purpose in mind. More likely the bar was there for a previous restaurant occupying the space and 100 Maneiras re-purposed. In designing restaurants, I usually find that constraints of spaces often forced me to find solutions that in the end made the space more interesting that if anything had been possible. I think that works in life as well.
Our second dinner at 100 Maneiras inevitably lacked that joy of discovery of our first Lisbon dinner. We had the misfortune of arriving as a party of twenty revelers were at the tail end of a birthday celebration. The group’s presence overwhelmed the space and interrupted that natural rhythm of service and cordiality. (Many years ago, Philadelphia food critic Jim Quinn wrote a book about restaurants titled Never Eat Out on Saturday Night.) So while our experience did not equal that of our first dinner, we still had a marvelous eating experience…our second best of our trip. In addition to “The Clothesline” and the sardine can pictured above, highlights included Potato Foam with Fois Gras Cake drizzled with Chocolate, Marinated Sardines on Basil Toast, Duck Confit Rolls with Salted Mushrooms & Sweet Chili, a Basil & Mint Sorbet in Champagne, Pork Cheeks with Celery Root & Spinach, a Strawberry Salad with Basil and a faux Strawberry “Cheesecake.” Our wine highlight was a Late Harvest Viognier from Vale D’Algares.
And so ended our final meal and last stop on a wonderful trip to a great city. We walked well. We ate well.
Thank you for visiting.
Your At Home Coach