I am in Lisbon and I am utterly in love with this city. I had never been to Portugal before, and had no idea what to expect. James and I took the overnight bus from Madrid (which given my problems sleeping was never going to be fun for me) and even at 6am, grumpy and exhausted, I couldn’t help but fall for this city at first sight — in fact, the light at 6am is probably highly conducive to such reactions. Our little flat is on the top floor of a tall, narrow building in the charmingly run-down part of town, with beautiful views… especially from this terrifying balcony where you can see our laundry drying, I had to get James to hang it out cos I was too dizzy and scared!
I’m being terrible and not taking pictures at the moment (everything you see in this post will come from James). I am barely even updating internets — as usual when we are travelling together, I’m mostly too busy making the most of our time together to document the places we see.
But everywhere I look is just endlessly beautiful, so I will TRY and get so pictures of gorgeous Lisboa for the blog… this afternoon I spent ages sitting in the Ingreja de Sao Domingos, just drinking it in. It is so incredibly atomospheric and powerful and poignant that taking pictures seemed both pointless and sacriligious. The 13th century church was leveled in an earthquake in the 18th century, rebuilt and then badly damaged in a fire in the 1950s. Whilst the roof has been perfectly renovated and is painted a delicate soft red, it really highlights the otherwise unchanged ruins left by the fire and the earthquake. Everywhere the statues and carvings are scorched and smashed, and the dark plaster on the walls is peeling, with the bricks showing beneath. It should almost feel creepy but instead it just feels very sad and moving. There were many people lighting candles around us, and the light from the unadorned windows (the ones over the door covered with a sheet) was subdued and added to the rawness in a way that even the plainest of stained glass would have detracted from. I don’t quite know how to explain, but it was really powerful, and James and I both agreed that there was something very strong and moving about the place that can never be captured in pictures. That said, James did take this one of me wandering around in a trance.
Not the best picture but illustrations are nice
If you do go to Lisbon, make sure you look up Sao Domingos. I’m not systematically taken by churches and cathedrals but some of them (like Notre Dame de Strasboug!) really take my breath away. This however was probably my top church experience ever — more even than the tiny chapel Rue des Bouchers in Limoges where I would sit when I was a proto-emo teenager.
I did want to add one little snippet of information to this blog. I have found what I want to do next. When we were in the newly re-constructed Cloister of the Prado in in Madrid, I looked up and saw the brand new restoration labs all around me. Art restoration. This is exactly what I want to do. I had thought about it briefly many years ago when I was doing History of the Arts in lycee, but been put off by the 200 years of studying that the French require in order to qualify for an unpaid internship. However I have been looking at the Masters courses (2 years as opposed 5 in France) on offer in Melbourne (as I need to go back to Australia and spend at least a couple of years there to maintain my permanent residency anyway). Plus, the school year starts in February in Australia, which leaves me the perfect amount of time to get myself sorted first.