Thursday, June 30, 2011

Goodbye, Portugal; Hello, England. An Update.

I'm going to London: home of kangaroo burgers at Borough Market and beautiful Italian women. It will probably drain me (rephrase: it will drain me), but I have a legitimate reason for going there. The book I found in Zurich that is out of reach because of funding is also in the British Library. And I've done research there already, so I know how things roll and can get to it (I hope) without too much hassle. I realize that the British pound is worse for my budget than the euro, but it's London. London is kind of on the way to Madrid...


Thank you, tilde. So I left Lisbon on Monday. I found a train to Coimbra, where I spent two nights. I  hunkered down for the night at the top of a very tall, very starving-artist-ic apartment on a hill with three students who speak lots of Spanish and some Portuguese. Pepa was officially my host, and her housemates Antonio and Leire were very nice.Pepa is a painter and paints mustaches on herself, Antonio is very well read and he and I talked about everything from Alfred Hitchcock to Ricky Martin, and Leire has an amazing lady mullet and can make perfect smoke rings. I had my own room, and they let me paint on the wall. So I painted one of my recent poems, which was actually Pepa's idea.

Is my beard not glorious?

That wall is going to be worth at LEAST $17 one day.

Coimbra is a beautiful city. It is built around the University of Coimbra, which was established in 1290. It was established by King Dinis, originally in Lisbon until it was moved to Coimbra around 1308 for a number of political reasons (that and the students didn't get along with the people of Lisbon). Nowadays it is a beautiful mix of the old and the new, with students from all over the world. I think I heard more Spanish than Portuguese. Either way, the pizza joint across the street is good, which is necessary for any higher education to be complete. Pics:

King Dinis. Somebody climbed him and gave him a noose. Disruptive and hilarious.

A garden I found with poetry written by medical students carved into the landscape.

The tower and main facade of the old University of Coimbra.

The New See.

The much more interesting and harder to get to Old See.

Completely random dragon statue near the stained-glass bridge. Finally modern art I appreciate.

Manuel Alegre: poet, UofC alumnus, socialist, and Salazar-dictatorship opponent. 
Artist got bored and left out the middle. Anyone else reminded of the movie "Little Giants"?


I left Coimbra on Wednesday and headed to Penafiel, Portugal, which is near Porto, the second-largest city in Portugal. I am staying with a married couple Miguel and Ana. Miguel is a policeman and Ana is a nurse. When I got in, Miguel came and got me. He drove me through Penafiel, which took about five minutes, and then to their apartment, which is wonderful. I have an amazing view and a very large bed, not to mention my own bathroom and all the Coca-cola and cereal I can handle. I spent all day yesterday and most of today in Porto, which I instantly loved (there are six bridges). Pics:

The coast at 7am.

Driving around Porto in Miguel's cop car.

The spot in Porto where the most drug traffic takes place (first place Miguel showed me).

The first bridge (coming from the ocean up the river).

Tower of the Clerics. Bells chimed "Ode to Joy" at 10am.

City hall. Love this building.

I bought Greenmantle, the sequel to John Buchan's The 39 Steps 
at the very old and extremely beautiful Lello Bookstore.

São Bento train station.

 My favorite tile painting in São Bento train station.

The See.

 View of Porto's waterfront (river here, ocean to the west) from the Luis I Bridge.

Thumbs up for auto timers on crappy cameras.

 View of the Luis I Bridge from the monastery.

The São Francisco Church.

Dead people in the floor at the São Francisco catacombs.

Luis I Bridge, underside.

Kids jumping from the Luis I Bridge. It doesn't look as high as it was.
I wanted to jump, but, alas, there was no one to hold my wallet, phone, books, and camera.
I don't talk to strangers. Unless I want to sleep over at their house.

Happy to be back in Penafiel for one last sleep.
Miguel laughed at me when I posed.
This is the Penafiel church, patterned after the Sacre-Coeur.
It's not as big, because the builders kept a lot of the money. For taxes, I'm sure.


Today, Portugal. Tomorrow England. Tuesday, Spain.
Sing with me! "Rule, Britannia, Britannia, rule the sea..."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Winding Down in Lisbon

Business first, pictures later.

As far as I can tell, I've succeeded in generating a full poetic bibliography for Lacerda:

• 1955 - 77 Poemas

1961 - Palácio
• 1963 - Exílio
• 1969 - Selected Poems
1981 - Tauromagia
1984 - Oferenda I
• 1987 - Elegias de Londres
• 1987 – Lisboa
1988 - Meio-dia (Prémio Pen Club)
• 1991 - Sonetos
1994 - Oferenda II
• 1997 - Átrio
• 2001 - Horizonte
20?? - Mecânica Celeste
• 2010 - O Pagem Informidável dos Indícios
Bold = Books I've translated.
Italics = Collections I've found and purchased.
Underlined = Collections that are limited editions and/or are out of reach currently.
Normal = Books that I can access in the states (here's hoping Yale's interlibrary loan is free).

It's an amazing body of work, and translating it has affected my writing to a degree. I'm interested to see what I find for the few days I'm in northern Portugal (Coimbra and Porto). I've got my hands on some of his prose and a book that supposedly includes a lot of his letters, so we'll see how that flies.

I think I will be leaving Lisbon tomorrow or Monday. Time has flown, but I've gotten some good work done and I have loved it here. I'm happy to be headed to Coimbra and Porto, and I'm sure my journeys through Spain will be interesting. If nothing else, I'm going to learn some more Spanish or starve to death.


A few days ago I was sick of poetry, so I called up Filipe and we headed to the Parque das Nações. It was originally the site of the Expo '98 (whatever that means). Here's what we found:

The Oriente train station. Much more impressive lit up at night, or so I hear.

Buildings with faux hawks.

Twin buildings with faux hawks.

The Lisbon Aquarium.

Also known as "Oceanário de Lisboa"
A waterfall.

The Ponte Vasco da Gama, fifth-longest bridge in the world (statistic as of 1998, not no mo).

Awesome empty cannons.

A ton of flags and the Atlantic Arena, which looks like a spaceship.

The Torre Vasco da Gama, complete with construction for the Royal Hotel.

Stupid modern art. Very large, stupid modern art, I might add.

Lisbon is a great city. I'm really going to miss this place. Even the stupid modern art.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Castle, a Pastel, and a Really Big Statue

I lied at the end of the last post. This entry has nothing to do with Fernando Pessoa.

On Tuesday (the 14th) I took myself on a field trip to the Castelo de São Jorge. It looks like this:

Tower on the left is the Tower of Ulysses. Camera obscura inside was legit.

The castle sits on top of the highest hill in Lisbon, and overlooks the Tagus and pretty much everything for a number of miles. Traces of people using the site have been found dating back around the 5th or 6th century BC, but it was a castle—and a strong one at that—by the 11th century.

The castle was taken from the Moors by Crusaders in 1147. There’s a legend that one of the crusaders saw that the door was open and threw himself under it to keep it from closing. And you thought getting your fingers shut in the car door was bad.

In the late 1300s the castle was dedicated to Saint George (the dragon fighting one) and from then on it was used as a house, an archive, a reception hall, and any number of other things. In the late 1500s the Spanish had a bit of time on the throne and they used it as a barracks and a prison. Won’t lie, this kind of view from a prison might take some of the sting away. Ok, maybe not.

Here’s a little taste of what you can see from just inside the gates:

The great earthquake of 1755 took out a good chunk of the castle (and most everything else in Lisbon) and it stayed in disrepair until the mid 1900s. Now it's been restored where it needs to be restored and it's all very well put together. The only guide books they had were in Spanish, but you can see that I learned a few things still.
Flags of Portugal and Lisbon.

A view of the Tagus, not far from the spot where I fell in love with Lisbon.


I love tildes. So useful for switching gears and so much fun to draw.

On Thursday (the 16th) I grabbed my new sidekick, Felipe, and we jumped a train to Belém. Belém is a suburb situated between Lisbon and Cascais (where I went to the beach). Among other things, it is famous for a dessert called a Pastel de Belém.

Before I tell you about it, it's important to note that a pastel in Brazil is a completely different ball park. What I recognized as a pastel is like an extremely high-quality deep-fried Hot Pocket (for a discourse on Hot Pockets, find Jim Gaffagin footage, you won't regret it). But a pastel in Portugal, or at least in Belém is more like a fun-sized, creme filled, chicken-pot-pie shaped  cake. It looks like this:


But Belém is not just a holiday destination because of their pastel. It's also home to a number of interesting sites, and we spent a good six hours just walking around taking pictures.

The first thing we came upon was the "Padrão dos Descobrimentos" or "Monument to the Discoveries".

I don't know why it's tilted. Maybe I don't have my sea legs yet.

In case you didn't know, Portugal has a pretty intense naval history, and they “discovered” a lot of places. For example, the country of Cameroon got its name from “camarão” the Portuguese word for shrimp (the little sea creatures we eat, not short people).

Don't let the picture fool you; these statues are massive.

Camões (my boy) on the left holding a copy of Os Lusíadas. Remember the Chinese lover story?

Depicted on the monument, among others are:
  • Infante Dom Pedro (Top pic, holding the boat in front)
  • Vasco da Gama (Top pic, standing behind Dom Pedro)
  • Ferdinand Magellan (Top pic, five or six heads back, holding something circular)
  • Luiz Vaz de Camões (Bottom pic, far left)
  • Nuno Gonçalves (Next to Camões, paintbrush ready)
It wasn't too pricy, so we climbed to the top. The view is pretty good:

From the top, you can see the immense Rosa-dos-Ventos (‘Rose of the Winds’: a much cooler name than compass rose), which was a gift to Portugal from South Africa. It’s 50 meters in diameter and has caravels and years carved next to each of the places Portugal discovered on its way around the misleadingly-named Cape of Good Hope and, eventually, the world.

Further down the Tagus is the Tower of Belém. The Torre de Belém was used as a lighthouse back in the day, and it also used to be in the middle of the Tagus. As you can see, it is no longer in the middle of the Tagus. It wasn’t worth the price to go in, so I snapped a few pics and off we went.

Not too far from the Monument to the Discoveries lies the Monastery of the Jeronimos. This building is unreal. It’s massive, it’s gorgeous, and it’s now home to an old monastery, a cathedral, and two museums, with room to spare.

I won’t lie, I’m not sure whether 'the Jeronimos' is the exact translation. Either way, it’s one of the religious orders that was done away with when all religious orders were done away with. But the monastery is beautiful, especially the cathedral, which is home to the bones of Vasco da Gama and that poet I cannot get enough of, Camões.

Above the front door.

A few towers.

More towers.

Inside the cathedral.

Couldn't moonwalk over Camões (a tradition I have with deceased writers),
so I moonwalked all the way around him.

Looking back toward the front door.


Good work, tilde.

By this time Filipe and I were sunburned and pretty beat, but Belém isn’t too far from the Cristo Rei statue, which I’ve been dying to get to since I looked across the Tagus. So we found our way to the Alcântara-Terra bus station and got a ride across the 25 de Abril bridge (twin to the mighty Golden Gate).

I love it.

The Cristo Rei is patterned after the Cristo Redentor statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I haven’t checked my sources, but I have been told that a bishop promised the statue to the people of Lisbon if they would refrain from taking sides in World War II. Given, Portugal was officially neutral, but sent supplies to both sides. But they did shoot down the Anti-Comintern act. I digress.

Shot from where the bus dropped us off.

Oh, hello.

Who wants a hug?

Regardless of its story, the statue is a prominent landmark from anywhere near Lisbon, and it is as impressive up close and personal as any statue I’ve been to.

I leave you with a video filmed from a not-quite-allowed area of the Cristo Rei statue. (It had a better view, and I didn't break the middle chain. It was like that when I found it.)