On my final night in Portugal, after a day of easy sketching and peaceful wandering, I met up with Lisbon-based sketchers Pedro Loureiro and Silvio Menendez, along with Genine Carvalehiro and her girlfriend Sara, at Rossio in the heart of town. The locals took us over to a place called Eduardino, (“Ginjinha Sem Rival”) which was a tiny little hole in the wall that serves little plastic glasses of a drink called ‘ginjinha’. Now I think I had seen Rick Steves drink a ginjinha maybe, but I had no idea what it was. It’s a Lisbon specialty, a cherry-based liqueur that people will often have on their way out somewhere, good for the health, and comes in two ways – “with” or “without”. That is, with a cherry or without a cherry. I had it with; it was delicious. I drew the little ginjinha bar below, but not on site, I did this from a photo I took, as we were on our way out to explore another part of central Lisbon. We found a little café in a courtyard overlooking part of the city, and had some beers and cheeses. I sketched my very nice company, we talked about the various symposia we had been to (I had forgotten Genine also went to Lisbon 2011, she was in one of the workshops I took; such a long time ago now!). This was up at Largo dos Trigueras (above).
After drinks we went looking for a place for dinner, and bumped into Matt Brehm, who was waiting for Liz Steel and Suhita Shirodkar, so we combined our urban sketching parties and went to a little traditional Lisbon restaurant for food and wine and more fun conversations. I sketched Matt (whose workshop called “the Light of Lisbon” I had taken in 2011 in that very neighbourhood), and also the restaurant owner who served us. We ate until late, talked past and future symposia, about how much Urban Sketchers has grown, about all the new people we’ve all met in that time. I must say, I have been a little bit of a reculse of late, as far as the sketching community goes – I didn’t even tell people I was going to Porto, just in case I couldn’t make it – so it was nice to catch up with old friends from around the world. Now next year, Amsterdam, I do need to promise myself that I will let other people know and actually try to make connections ahead of time; I might go first to Belgium and finally sketch with some of the Belge sketchers I know. Being social can actually be quite a good thing.
Anyway we all said adeus and then I went back to the hotel, for I had an early start the next day. A cab to the airport, then a plane to Atlanta, and another plane to Sacramento. I sketched a plane at Atlanta airport while I had my layover. It was a long, long, long day, and I was exhausted. Three weeks away, and it takes more than getting over jetlag to recover. My mind itself was still over in Europe for at least a week or two afterwards. I think I just have permanent wanderlust. Until the next time!
I intended on waking up early, as I like to do when I travel, and wander Lisbon’s streets in the dawn light, try to find a little bakery with amazing delicious pastries. However my bed was just too comfortable, so I stayed there. It was the last full day of my three-week trip before I would be flying back to America. I’d been to London, Warwick/Stratford-upon-Avon, Madrid, Toledo, Porto, and Lisbon. I was overdue a long lie-in. But I had a Lisbon to sketch, so eventually I dragged myself out from the comfy covers and headed towards Alfama. I walked through the long grid system of Baixa, which owes its layout to the massive rebuilding of Lisbon after its devastating earthquake in 1755. That earthquake really was devastating – it is estimated to have been between 8.5 and 9 on the Richter scale, and resulted in the deaths of anywhere between 30,000 to 40,000 people in Lisbon alone, most of whom died in the resulting firestorm and tsunami caused by the quake. Lisbon was rebuilt, but the Baixa area is sometimes called Baixa Pombalina, after the Marquis of Pombal who led the reconstruction and was responsible for a more earthquake resistant architecture. Now I didn’t end up do any sketching around here, except for the man above, a workman repairing some of the mosaic pavement tiles. So I also drew some of the various mosaic pavements I came across in Lisbon. This style is ubiquitously Portuguese, black and white square tiles, often laid out in intricate patterns, a feature especially common in Lisbon but also found in far-flung former Portuguese colonies, like Brazil and Macau.
I passed into the Alfama district, which I did not visit back in 2011, and headed up to the cathedral, the Sé. You’ll remember that the cathedral in Porto was also called the Sé. IT is related to the English word ‘See’, as in the ‘Holy See’. Do you see? Anyway it shares some similarities (or “Sé-milarities”, eh) with the Sé in Porto, well I think they look alike, I don’t care what you sé. Anyway I sketched outside next to a statue of a famous actor (I’ve never heard of him) and walked around inside. It turns out the proper name is Santa Maria Maior de Lisboa and it dates back to 1147, when the city was retaken from the Moors. Actually the cathedral was built on the site of the city’s largest mosque. The doors were interesting, and as you can see from the inscription on the metal part, they date I think from 1933, made by a bloke called Vicent Esteves, aka Vince Stevens, old Vinnie Steves. I am assuming the doors are from 1933, that is, for all I know the cathedral was built then and the whole of Lisbon was built then too. In the post-truth era people might believe this. There was another symbol in the masonry on the wall, a circle with a greek cross, although it might be the view you see when being thrown down a well by four radishes.
Ok enough cathedral based silliness. So I started walking around Alfama, an old windy-street hilly part of town with red rooftops and twisty alleys. Then I stopped and ate some sardines for lunch, the classic Lisbon food, I had forgotten how many bones are in those. I found this post-box, next to a similar looking blue one. I only drew the red one. Speaking of the post, can I just point out that I sent a postcard home from Spain and thus far it has not arrived, but we received the postcard I sent from Porto already so that’s 1-0 to Portugal in the postcard wars. Well, last year we sent a card from the Vatican City State which got here super fast, but thirteen months later we are still waiting for the Italian postcard from Rome.
I liked walking around Alfama. There’s so much history around here, it’s hard to believe Lisbon was only built in 1933. Only joking. Actually much of this neighbourhood was apparently spared widespread destruction in the 1755 quake. This was the stronghold of the Moors, but they don’t live there any moor. (Travels with me is an endless series of admittedly excellent puns) Alfama the name is itself Moorish deriving from the Arabic “al-hamma”, which means thermal baths or fountains. Before them, the Visigoths. Before the Visigoths, the Suebi, the Alans (“Ah-Ha!”) and the Vandals (such as our old pal Vinnie Stevens), and before them of course were the Romans, when Lisbon was known as ‘Olisipo’. And before the Romans, it was the Celts who lived here. The area around the Castelo de São Jorge was (it is thought) home to a Celtic fortification, and archaeological excavations even suggest a Phoenician trading post here dating back to around 1200 BC. And before the Phoenicians, there were the Oestrimni, and the Beaker people, the old Bell Beaker culture. And before them, the Neanderthals, living around the Tagus estuary 30,000 years ago or so. I could go on but I’m just not sure which dinosaurs exactly had nesting sites in the Alfama area so perhaps we’ll just carry on our story from here.
This scene was drawn near the Castelo, in the winding maze of streets around the castle hill. As I was drawing, I (again) bumped into fellow urban sketcher Genine Carvalheira, with her girlfriend. She may have thought I was just one of many Pete clones dotted around Lisbon with sketchbooks (I wish I had access to that sort of technology, can you imagine how many sketches I would get done?). It was a hot afternoon and I stood in the shade.
And here is the view from the shady leafy gardens of the Miradouro de Santa Luzia. Those red rooftops of Alfama, that blue Tagus river, it was a gorgeous day in a gorgeous – and very historic – city.
As promised, the fire hydrants of Lisbon. Some of them anyway. I came across quite a few different ones. The one I enjoyed sketching the most was the one above. This is found in the very colourful Escadinhas de Sao Cristovao, linking Alfama to Baixa, a colourful staired alley filled with exciting graffiti and murals about Fado. Someone wrote “saudade!” just above it. I thought it said “sausage!” at first. Honestly I really did, I’m not making that up. I need my eyes checked again. Sometimes I misread words in a way that I think my brain is just trying to make jokes without telling me first. Like on Expedia, I was looking up a hotel and I thought it said “read all 52 terrified reviews”, but what it actually said was “read all 52 verified reviews”. Still, I was too scared to stay there and booked somewhere else. “Saudade” is not Portuguese for sausage, it means “sadness”, or rather, it means something more than sadness. Someone like me cannot explain it. I draw fire hydrants and think words say “sausage” when they don’t, so there’s no way I can really understand the concept of “saudade”. It was a phrase I had heard is associated with the kind of theme you hear in Fado music (which as we established in a previous post, I did not take the time to go and listen to while I was in Portugal, contenting myself with street tromboners playing “besame mucho” over and over again). So I looked it up. It means (according to ‘Google’) “a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia that is supposedly characteristic of the Portuguese or Brazilian temperament.” Well ok I can relate to that, for sure. Longing, melancholy and nostalgia are three of middle names (along with ‘William’). Longing is like when you make something longer (like a blog post, for example); I used to think that melancholy was a dish made with melon and cauliflower (no honestly, I did), and nostalgia is a type of aftershave from the 80s.
Alright I’m not taking the mick out of saudade. You might say that this sort of silliness is how I deal with my own saudade. But if you want to see evidence of true saudade, look no further than this set of fire hydrants, drawn on the Ruas and Praças of the Portuguese capital.
I hope you liked them! Ok well I hope you looked at them and went, “oh yeah, fire hydrants”. I hope they didn’t make you too ‘saudade’ (or ‘sausage’).
Anyway if you too long for a bit of melancholic nostalgia, take a butch at my last batch of Lisbon hydrants, of which there were seven, all sketched in the summer of 2011, I also posted them in one handy post: https://petescully.com/2011/08/10/lisbon-hydrants/
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.
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).
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!
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.
Sketching on a plane helps me relax. That is my excuse for sketching on a plane. I have this book, this little Miquelrius book that I use for in-flight sketches (the one with the Lapin-designed cover), and I brought it with me to record all six flights (and one train journey) on my trip to Europe. Twenty years ago I took a five-week train trip around Europe and I really wish that I had done the same back then. Sketching all the night trains. Pete of 2018 would definitely have enjoyed that, Pete of 1998 would perhaps not so much, but Pete of 1998 was so much easier with speaking to strangers and making friends with fellow travellers than Pete of 2018. Pete of 2018 is a little shyer, but makes up for it with readiness to sketch. Pete of 1998 did sketch a little but not much and very loosely, though he drew a lot of cartoons and wrote loads, writing like there was no tomorrow; I kept two diaries on that trip, one for me personally, written small and densely, and one with just briefer notes about the train journeys and cities, at the back of the special book I had prepared ahead of the trip. Wow, this was going on 20 years ago now. I will need to write my thoughts about that trip very soon, it was a pretty formative voyage for me. Anyway, back to this summer’s Euro trip – not as many countries, but still a fair bit of travel, and probably more miles covered (what with flying across the world and all). Above, the first leg of the journey, flying from Sacramento to Las Vegas on a very bumpy flight over the desert. I liked stopping in Vegas, we got to go to an amazing lounge (my wife organized that, she knows the best stuff), though my son was less impressed with Vegas, thanks to the turbulent descent on the plane. Soon we were off again, flying Virgin from Vegas to Gatwick.
I drew this one in pencil. I am trying to use pencil more, for the looser scenes. My son and I played a few rounds of MarioKart on the 3DS, and we couldn’t wait to land in London, where it was hot and sweaty and the trains weren’t all running, so we squeezed onto a train to Mill Hill. This time we were travelling light, no large bulky suitcases, I didn’t even bring the backpack carry-on. I could have probably travelled even lighter. I didn’t need the second pair of shoes (my main ones were so comfy), though honestly I should have brought more underwear. That whole washing in the sink thing in Portugal really didn’t fly for me, so I ended up buying some, wait for it, Cristiano Ronaldo brand underwear. Yep old CR7 has his own line of pants and socks.
Well England was fun, it flew by, but then it was time to go to Spain for a few days in Madrid. After getting the coach from Golders Green on Friday the 13th, we flew Ryanair from Stansted (fourth airport on the trip) to Madrid (airport number five on this trip, oh I love airports, don’t you know). There’s my son playing FIFA. We were sad about England losing the semi finals a couple of days before, but excited for the World Cup final. We were still humming tunes from Hamilton, which we had watched in London the night before (amazing show). I’m always sad leaving the UK, excited about going to other countries but there’s always that sense of loss when I go, it changes a little bit more every time I return.
Wow Madrid flew by, eh! Eating dinner late, getting up early, going to the Bernabeau, visiting Toledo. The family flew back to America from Madrid while I went on to Porto for the Symposium, flying with Iberian. Airport number 6. Porto airport was really nice actually, though I took ages leaving it as I decided to hang about and get a shuttle that would drop me off miles from where I needed to be, and I got lost in a neighbourhood of tiled houses and steep hills, smart move. Note to self, get a larger map next time. Or a taxi. Ah, you know, I love to wander, I am an explorer. Not much of a navigator though.
Many many sketches later, many many hills later, I took the Alfa Pendular train from Porto to Lisbon. That is the fast train. It zipped along the Atlantic coast for a bit, the fog hanging out there like a large grey Nothing. I do wish I had spent some time on the Portuguese coast now. There is so much Portugal to discover. So much World in fact. I want to go Everywhere. Well maybe not everywhere, I could give probably places like Swindon a miss (sorry Swindon, I’m sure you’re lovely) (I would probably like Swindon actually, there’s a historic Ossie Ardiles/Glenn Hoddle connection). I have my tall thin Pepsi Max can there. I was so worried about being hungry or thirsty on the two-and-a-half-hour train ride that I got a load of snacks at cafe in the station. It’s funny cos when I travel I will sometimes go from breakfast until late dinner without eating a bite (I often don’t get hungry when I’m busy sketching), but put me on a train and I’m anxious I might go crazy if I don’t eat a Mars bar.
Lisbon was relaxing, the hills much less stressful than Porto, and my hotel was amazing. I could have spent most of the time just chilling out there. I met some sketching friends in Lisbon on the last evening for dinner, and it was a nice way to cap off a long trip. And then, back home. Lisbon (airport number 7) to Atlanta (airport number 8) on Delta, which was a really nice flight actually, I would fly them again. Once more I got as many snacks and ate a bunch of food getting on the plane, prompting my seat neighbour to cheerfully remind me that they will be feeding us. I had never flown Delta before so sisn’t know how much that would be true – airplane food can sometimes be a bit rubbish – but it certainly was true and their food was really good, and plentiful. I had a good chat with my neighbour too, interesting man who flies a lot and works in DC. On the flight I watched Rush (that movie about James Hunt and Niki Lauda, such a fun film), and Lady Bird, the one set in Sacramento, which I really enjoyed and it made me a little yearnful for my adopted home. Well, a bit. The flight was good and transferring in Atlanta was fairly painless.
And so from Atlanta back to Sacramento. I was sat next to a tall man who didn’t mind me jumping over him to use the bathroom the one time I needed to. I often don’t need to get up at all during a flight, which is why I like the window seat (or the very middle of the middle row) but on this occasion I did. It was a long journey back. I watched Notting Hill, which I’ve not seen in years and still makes me laugh. I landed in Sacramento exhausted, happy to see the family again, but missing Europe and vacation time. My head is still somewhere over the Atlantic I think, though my feet are finally returning to Californian soil. Travel is great; air travel is annoying and stressful, but sketching on a plane helps me relax. Or that’s my excuse anyway.
Wow, it has been three months since Lisbon! It’s quite incredible. The second Urban Sketching Symposium was an overwhelming experience, and it was so much fun to spend good sketching time with so many other urban sketchers from around the world, many of whose work I have followed and been influenced by for years.
During the Symposium, Portuguese journalist Patrícia Pedrosa filmed some of the workshops, and has produced a couple of great videos which bring me right back to Portugal. The first documents Day One, the second Days Two and Three. You’ll spot me I’m sure, the one holding his pen in a funny way and crouching distorted on the ground. Here they are: I hope you enjoy them!
See this post over on Urban Sketchers. Thanks Patrícia for producing these!
Views like this just exist to make people feel jealous, I think. Certainly more scenic than Davis! This was sketched on the second evening of the Symposium, from the square outside FBAUL, Lisbon, as the Sun started to set, pouring golden syrup over everything. There’s the 12th Century Sé Cathedral, and the red rooftops of contrasting the turquoise blue of the Tagus River. Below left, the road winds uphill, while the castle of Lisbon lords it over the city below.
Finally, a sketch made during lunch on the first day of the Symposium, an interesting monument in the middle of Largo do Carmo, Chiado.
And this, I think, may be it for Lisbon… I will post a more reflective entry about the symposium, a month on, but that has been a lot of scanning, cropping, posting… I forgot to submit my drawings for the Symposium book (oops!), and in the meantime I have actually been doing a lot of drawing, including some on a trip to Monterey. Keep on sketching…