LISBON PANORAMA- ALFAMA TO THE WATERFRONT

ImageWelcome to Lisbon. In many ways, the most under rated capital city in Europe, and definitely still one of the best travel bargains out there. Sprawled in a kind of petrified, stately jumble along the broad sweep of the River Tagus, it is a truly spellbinding place.ImageThis is the area leading up into the Alfama, the oldest surviving district of the city. Much of Lisbon was laid waste in the 18th century by a devastating earthquake, and rebuilt from scratch. But in the Alfama, time itself seems to be on hold.ImageThis spectacular view was taken from on board the Princess Danae in early morning, after we had made the almost ceremonial procession up the Tagus, past the diminutive Belem Tower and the monument to Henry the Navigator.ImageLisbon was built on seven hills and, while the town centre is as traffic infested as any other city, the easiest and most rewarding way to get up close and personal in those old, winding streets up top is, quite simply. to walk there.ImageEvery winding intersection was a glorious reveal, from the quirky, to the amusing, to the downright monumental. Alfama is a trove of hidden treasures that unravel like successive layers of onion skin. You’ll never see it all.ImageYou get a sense here of a proud, slightly shabby city. Lisbon is dignified, stately and imposing. She might lack the flamboyant grandeur of Rome or Florence, but a wonderful combination of scale and different shades of colour makes visiting Lisbon an exhilarating, unforgettable experience.ImageStreets veer sharply upwards in the Alfama, allowing for amazing vistas out over the entire scenic glut of the city. If you are not the greatest walker, this might prove to be a bit much for you. In any event, be sure to pace yourself.ImageAnother option is to take one of the bright yellow coloured trams. They are as distinctive to Lisbon as those legendary cable cars are to San Francisco. and every bit as iconic.ImageBut however you make the journey, the views are the same. Ragged ranks of terracotta roof tops tumbling down in an amazing jumble to the steel grey river below. Listen closely, and you might hear the strains of an authentic fado. a centuries old, traditional lament. While certifiably old, the plaintive sound is an acquired taste. Or perhaps not…ImageThe Lisbon trams snake through the streets of the Alfama like brightly coloured snails. They also run along the main thoroughfares, such as bustling Rossio Square, and along most of the main arteries of this tremendous, teeming sea city.ImageBack towards the waterfront, buildings assume a more uniform, yet still dignified structure. This was the area of the city largely rebuilt after the earthquake to designs of the Marquis Du Pombal.ImageThe elegant clock tower, seen here, is the main gate that gives access to the city centre. It might lack the artistic largesse of, say, the Gros Horlorge in Rouen but, like everything else in Portugal’s quixotic, welcoming capital, it is somehow enhanced by it’s scale in relation to the surrounding area. In any event, it is an undeniably magnificent focal point.ImagePombal worked styles into Lisbon that had hints of colonial and classical Greece. These buildings today make Lisbon a stunning confection; a city of whimsical wonders, strung along the banks of the Tagus like random showers of confetti.ImageDon’t try and see everything at once. It’s near impossible in a short visit. My advice? For what it’s worth, just walk and enjoy. Let the city come to you. I guarantee you’ll want to come back…..

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