a return to lisbon

Lisbon view from Santa Justa sm
I left Porto on a fast train bound for Lisbon. I was last in Lisbon in 2011, when I remember a city with steep hills and amazing vistas. After Porto, Lisbon’s ‘hills’ felt like gentle mild inclines. Seriously, no more huffing and puffing, the flat streets of Baixa were a joy to walk along. I checked into my hotel (which was beautiful; I stopped into the incredible bar for a mojito before heading out to sketch and could have stayed all day), before heading towards Chiado, the area upon a hill which is where much of the 2011 Symposium took place. It took barely ten minutes to get up there, skipping up the hill effortlessly. I even found a couple of shortcuts (there’s a shop with an elevator from the Baixa level that opens up again at a higher-up street in Chiado). One way I could have gone up is the Elevador Santa Justa, a tall neo-gothic tower that provides easy access up the hill. Well, you have to wait in line, so I didn’t do that (I’m so impatient). It took me no time at all to reach the top level on foot by just walking up the hill, and when I did I walked out on to the top of the structure, paid a couple of euros to climb the narrow iron spiral staircase to the viewing platform (acrophobes may not like this bit), and then sketched the view from above. I did not do this in 2011, but remembered a panorama sketching workshop (Simo Capecchi held it) that was here. I didn’t draw a two-page spread, as there was no time with the slowly burning evening light, but I did sketch as many of the rooftops and the Castelo as I could. Lisbon is so lovely.

Lisbon P Camoes sm

I wandered about Chiado, not really heading into Bairro Alto this time, but stopped to sketch as daylight turned to night-time at the Largo de Camões. I took a workshop sketching here with Nina Johansson in 2011. While sketching, I bumped into Genine Carvalheira and Andy Reddout, who had been in Porto as well and were at the late dinner with us the evening before. I stopped sketching when it got a bit dark (and I was a bit hungry, and also getting a bit cold). Yep, the breeze was coming in so I dashed back down the hill to the hotel to get my jumper, stopping in H&M on the way to buy a shirt (shops stay open very late in Lisbon on a Sunday), then grabbing a bite to eat and coming right back up here. I’d never have done that in Porto, it was too steep. Pat on back to me for choosing a good hotel location in Lisbon (I was near Rossio).

Lisbon A Brasileira sm

I came back up the hill because I really wanted to sketch the Cafe A Brasileira. My enduring memory of this place was late on the Saturday night of the Lisbon Symposium, sketching in here after dinner with Paul Wang and Liz Steel and some other sketchers, while more USk folk came in and out, having a few portrait duels, before heading back to the hostel at around 1:30am to try and sleep before an early morning bus to the airport. I did sketch the interior back then as well – see below for the 2011 version!

cafe a brasileira

While I sketched I tried a Madeira wine, which was nice, bit sweet and dessert-y, and I switched to a cold beer after that before heading back to bed. I am going to do about two or three more posts about Lisbon, then post some Davis sketches, and then go back in time to the England sketches, and then back to more Davis sketches. Oh and there will be a lot of Lisbon fire hydrants in the next post.


mishkas, davis
This is the interior of Mishka’s Cafe on 2nd street, Davis, as much a staple of Davis life as anything. I don’t actually come here very often myself (I don’t drink coffee, though of course they serve more than coffee) (I never drink tea other than at home, except in England where it’s just how I like it) but a lot of people do. It opened in 1995 in a different location, and I sketched there on the very first sketchcrawl I ever went on in Davis (December 2005, wow). That spot closed when Mishka’s moved a block down the street to a new building next to the Varsity, where the old tank house used to be, opposite the Avid Reader. I’ve never sketched in this newer location (though I drew the outside in 2012). As I say I don’t drink coffee but I do drink lovely fruit smoothies, and I had a delicious mango smoothie, followed by a very sweet wild berry smoothie (bit too sweet after the mango one). It was a Sunday evening, I had been stuck in the house for the whole weekend and needed to get out for a bit, and draw something in my sketchbook. It was not crowded there. There are still a few places I want to draw the interior of here in Davis. Tres Hermanas has a really interesting vibe, while Our House has one of those big mirrors I like to draw the reflections in. I have gone to Woodstocks Pizza to draw before but ended up leaving because I couldn’t settle into a good spot, and I wanted to draw inside that Italian restaurant over near Olive and Richards but I think it has closed now. In this hot weather, I’m on a quest for some interior sketching.

Below is a sketch of Mishka’s previous location, from over 10 years ago! There is fellow Davis sketcher Alison Kent. This was an earlier Davis sketchcrawl. I had a wild berry smoothie that day too.
sc17: mishka's cafe

the drinking spots of north beach

Mr Bings SF
Last year at around this time I Amtrakked it down to San Francisco to sketch North Beach, and as I mentioned in my last post that’s what I did again a couple of weeks ago. Now last year I spent some time sketching the bars and cafes of the area, so that’s exactly what I did again this time. Above is Mr. Bing’s, a little cocktail dive that I’ve always wanted to go and have a drink in but have never plucked up the courage. Well, I’m not here very often. I have always wanted to sketch it though, so it was the first thing I sketched that day, while eating an early-lunch panini at the cafe across the street. North Beach has those little green white and red bands on the lamp-posts to signify that this is the Italian neighbourhood, but just on that corner there you can catch a glimpse of a Chinese-themed lamp-post, as that is the border with Chinatown.
Caffe Trieste SF
This is Caffe Trieste, a little further uphill and around the corner from here. Caffe Trieste is an old San Francisco favourite, in business since the 1950s and popular with the artists, musicians SF tourguideand poets of the area. As a passing Big-Bus tour-guide (not on the bus with walking with a group) mentioned, this was a regular haunt for the famous Beat poets, such as Kerouac, Ginsberg, all the Beat poets. The tour guide (who I sketchd quickly, right) felt obliged to read some Beat poetry outside, I couldn’t understand what it was about though. It’s not just the Beat poets who sipped espresso here, apparently Francis Ford Coppola wrote much of the screenplay of The Godfather here. I never went into the Caffe (I don’t drink coffee, nor write poetry) but I would love to sketch the interior some day, soak in the beat-lit atmos. Did you know, Caffe Trieste was probably the first Espresso house on the West Coast? Its founder, Giovanni Giotta (Papa Gianni) came from Istria (near the city of Trieste; I’ve been there, nice place) in the 50s bringing a little piece of home with him.

Specs, San Francisco

I was feeling pretty Beat myself after all this sketching (do you see what I did there? Did you see that? Read it again) so as the Sun was quickly dashing westwards I chose to do my next sketch from the comfort of a pub table. One of my favourite haunts in the City is just around the corner from here, Specs, an interesting North Beach bar with walls and ceilings full of memorabilia and stuff to look at. I do love this place. Last time I was here I sketched a panorama of the busy bar area and was one of several artists dotted around the pub, unconnected but just doing what we do. I sketched over a couple of pints, listening to conversation, people watching, dreaming of anything. That might have been a Beat poet in front of me, perhaps a young Beat poet, I wasn’t sure. A young lady shared a laugh with a silver-haired man at the bar (I sketched them too, below), while a group of British fellows unseen to the left enjoyed a weekend pint while reminiscing about San Francisco in decades gone by. Or they might have been talking about something else, rugby or something, but I hear what my ears choose to hear. I like Specs. Years ago I came here with my friend from England and played chess and got drunk and laughed and did impressions of Brick Top. I like Specs.

Specs drinkers

I have another post of sketches from that day – stay tuned. So, do you remember when I posted my North Beach sketches last year, over two posts? One of the posts (“Leave the Pen, Take the Cannoli“) got a ridiculous number of comments, 223, possibly my record. The second post (“A Bright Centre to the Universe“) got a very respectable 11 comments, which is pretty good, but clearly not quite as good as the first. I actually prefer the drawings in the second, but according to everyone else the first post is more than 20 times better, but that’s fine. Anyway on that note I will leave you with the chronologically-out-of-place first sketch of the day, which I did on the Amtrak at around 9 in the morning. The train from Davis was crossing the Delta, with the golden brown landscape dashing by in the chilly morning sunlight. It was even colder when I got back to Davis, cycling my bike home in the near-freezing dark. It’s a long day out, sketching in the City.

Amtrak from Davis to SF

lunch with the portlands

PDX urban sketchers
Last Saturday in Portland the PDX Urban Sketchers met for their regular sketchcrawl, this time down in Goose Hollow. I was having a nice lie-in, so I joined them for lunch at the Goose Hollow Inn where they shared their beautiful sketchbooks. They are an inspirational bunch, the Portland sketchers, many of whom I have met before on numerous occasions. I sketched (see above: Vicky, Kalina and Andrea) and had some nice warm soup, and I got my new pirate hat. Yes, you heard that right, a new pirate hat – I was in Portland to be a pirate and go to the Swashbuckler’s Ball you see, and say “be” instead of “am” occasionally. Kalina was kind enough to order it from DressLikeAPirate.com (yarrr!), and it’s a most excellent hat – there’s even a picture of me wearing it on the USk Portland website! Yarr indeed me old landlubbers.
A Roadside Attraction

That evening, I dressed like a pirate (yarr) and walked through Portland before finding the eclectic sketcher’s dream of a place called A Roadside Attraction, where I met up with fellow pirate sketcher Kalina for some pre-Swashbuckler’s Ball sketching. To be honest though, there was almost too much to sketch! I did what I could, but this was a place that needs several days to sketch in any justice. And so, on to meet the pirates! To be continued…

well on the way, head in a cloud

cloud forest cafe

Cloud Forest Cafe in Davis, on D Street. No, I have never eaten here, nor had a coffee here (don’t drink the stuff), nor juice or clouds or any of that. I am sure it’s very nice. I don’t know if it’s anything like the Rain Forest Cafe but I’ve only been to that once, and that was an experience let me tell you. It was the one at Disneyland, and my son did not appreciate the very realistic gorilla that came to life with a roar right above our table. He didn’t like that much. We had to move tables. “Oh don’t worry,” said the waiter, “this happens a lot, kids get scared.” Well even from the other side of the restaurant he spent the entire meal eyeing everything with suspicion, making sure no big animatronic gorilla could get him. There was no way he’d eat a thing after that. Fair play, I’d have been the same at his age. I remember being about five and freaking out wildly at Madame Tussauds on the way into (the admittedly scary) Chamber of Horrors, before we had even gotten there. The exhibit right before, if I recall rightly, was about Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar, complete with sounds of thundering cannonballs and sinking ships. That was it for me, I was kicking and screaming and white with terror, and no force on Earth could get me into the Chamber of Horrors if I couldn’t even stand the creaking noise of HMS Victory. So naturally I understand my son’s suspicion of big robot apes with glowing eyes.

Not that any of this has anything to do with the Cloud Forest Cafe of course, but you can never be too careful so I stood across the street and sketched it on a calm late September afternoon.

sitting here resting my bones

Reds Java House
San Francisco, CA: I walked along the Embarcadero, beneath the Bay Bridge, through South Beach, on my way to AT&T Park. I wanted to draw the ballpark because my wife is a big Giants fan. On the way, I passed Red’s Java house, which I have wanted to sketch for some time. I’ve never been in here (and my lack of cash meant I didn’t go in this time either, plus I’d already eaten at Gott’s), but I know it’s historic and I always like a well-worn building in my sketchbook. I seem to recall Anthony Bourdain popped in for breakfast in one of his shows. This place has been here for the best part of a century, serving the dockers, later the dotcommers and then the Giants fans. Beyond, in the turquoise bay waters, huge container vessels from Korea, China, the Rest of the World came in to dock on the far side in Oakland, Alameda, or wherever, unloading their cargo to be hauled across the United States and its big economy. Behind me, lycra- and iPod-clad joggers jogged on. The Java drinkers at Red’s presumably watched, and I sketched none of it. For me, the building is story enough.

redrum she wrote

redrum burger

The diner formerly known as Murder Burger. It had to change its name many years ago due to some out-of-towner complaining. Perhaps it should read ‘so good they’re to diet for’? Drew this place this week. I don’t go there often, but they do killer milkshakes.

Speaking of names, I heard that Arsenal FC are suing a lady who runs a hat shop in Seville of all places because its name apparently infringes their property rights. It’s called ‘Arsenale’, which as I’m sure you have spotted, is not the same word, it is spellt differently. It’s also an Italian word, likely referring to the Arsenale district of cities like Venice where ships were built (this hat shop is in Seville’s old ship building district). Is that absolutely mental or what? I mean seriously are they kidding? Is someone going to confuse a Sevillan hat shop with a poor underperforming team from Islington? Are they having a laugh? Apparently the Spanish judge is siding with Arsenal! Perhaps the hat-shop should call on a famous half-way line Gunners conqueror to represent them in court: Nayim. That’s a courtroom battle I’d like to see.

I wonder if a certain famous dead race horse is thinking, hmmm, maybe I should sue this diner in Davis for using my name? (“I know just the guy to represent me in court: Neigh-im“). No, that would be silly. But it could happen…