Friday, November 4, 2016

November 3: Staying Put in Portugal. Hello Lisboa!

Subtitle: Lissomly Lisbon!
Beautiful bakery bread just around the corner

All is worthwhile if the soul is not small.

 Fernando Pessoa

We decided to give ourselves a morning's rest today after lots of camino walking and rose from Fernando Pessoa's old room later than usual determined to find something soul expanding.  Anyone who knows Paul knows he is a major fan of rock and jazz music and of modern art. So the decision was easy--A trip to the Belem region of Lisboa to visit Museu Berardo.  I think I should warn you that this will be mostly pictures...but then they are worth a thousand words!

Entrance to Museu Berardo

On our way out we saw beautiful clouds, lovely Calder sculpture and a guy cleaning windows

This museum opened in 2011. The collection covers major movements from surrealism to pop arthyper-realismminimalist art to conceptual art, presented in various media. It covers Portuguese modern and contemporary art in particular. We very much enjoyed the artworks and in particular the films. There was a wonderful multimedia production about the life of Stuart Hall, social theorist who was from Jamaica but lived most of his life in London expounding about civil rights.  Another very unusual but meaningful film was essentially a rolling log of the FBI's formerly secret papers on Paul Robeson, a McCarthy era target, who was an African American singer and actor. He had to go to the Supreme Court to get his passport back after refusing to recant pro-Communist beliefs. The film just rolled paper after paper while someone read the FBI reports about his comings, goings and public discourses. Another interesting film concerned a French photographer who archived several decades of political life in Algeria and his wife's quest to get the archives ordered and stored properly for future generations. She is quite elderly and appears tired but driven. We highly recommend this museum. I will now show some photos of just a few of its contents.
Marilyn-esque model on a burger

Puntilist bikini

Judy Garland per Andy Warhol

Suitcase of melting metal

Sculpture by Lynn Chadwick

Mantis and man

Salvatore Dali's lobster phone

Stairwell, sculpture, shadows

Paul listens to a multimedia presentation with aeronautical films, MLK speeches and background jazz

Paul in the blue room

Painted plane

There are two more modern art museums, but this is largest and IT'S FREE! Unbelievable. We spent almost an entire afternoon here.

Large format Dubuffet sculpture

From there, we went to the art museum cafe for what else? Pizza! Paul was having a dream day!

From here we saw the Jeronimo Museum from the outside only. It is now an archeology museum. This structure was built in 1501 and once had an overnight visit from Vasco da Gama. It was built by the King to provide refuge for sailors and to pray for him. He needed BIG prayers...but then, who doesn't?

Monasterio Jeronimo
Just a note of the lesson we learned yesterday when trying to visit the Botanical Garden and the Belem Tower, if visiting after the summertime, these museums/structures close EARLY. Even though the official posted times are 5:30 or 6:30pm, if you really want to go inside, go earlier. We found the tower closing a full hour and a half before the posted schedule. It was still pretty on the exterior.

The sun getting low about 5pm at Belem Tower.

From here, it was naptime and then dinnertime. Food porn alert. We ate at the Altis boutique hotel which houses a Michelin starred restaurant. The food was another piece of modern art and mostly yummy.

Portuguese gin....if you know Paul, G&T are favored

The pre-tasting menu appetizer. Melon soaked in hibiscus, foie gras  fake cherry and mini ham and cheese

This appetizer was a small purple potato roasted with garlic and made to look like fruit on a tree. Creative!

Salad course-- a roasted radish on radish stem puree with chicken skin crumbles. Who dreams this up?

Tuna tartare and tomatoes

The waitstaff presses the shrimp heads and bodies to make a sauce for the course below

Shrimp in shrimp sauce. These courses were TINY but thank heavens because I was full at the end.

Fish course with courgette and saffron foam

Where's the beef? On our plate with multicolored potatoes and au jus

No he is NOT smoking. He is eating a frozen vanilla treat.

Dessert course: Raspberries and beets. Light and delicious and not so sweet

Chocolates on chocolate "earth"

A satisfied customer

The food was interesting and good and the wine pairings were fascinating local wines. Loved it.

From here we returned to Pessoa Guesthouse and look who showed up:

Paul personified Pessoa
It was a lovely day for our soles and our souls.

Paul's Ponderings:  After the strenuous hiking, it was nice to have a slow day, most of which was occupied by the fabulous modern art museum in the Belem area.   It's a huge museum but felt very uncrowded.    We saw an entire area dedicated to films, all of which were quite interesting.   There was an endless loop of redacted reports from the FBI regarding Paul Robeson and his comings and goings.   I have no idea of how many tax dollars and resources were spent tracking him around, but it was pretty significant.   The thing that comes through in what they noted about Mr. Robeson is that his primary focus was civil rights for African Americans, in an early form of that process post WWII, because he had the platform and wherewithal to pursue it.  Since other organizations pursuing "social justice" were associated with left wing parties at the time, it branded him in a manner that was apparently seen as a mortal threat by J. Edgar Hoover.    Ergo, there are tens of thousands of pages documenting him making speeches saying things like "we won't rest until we have equality".   Seeing all this paper scroll by and be read aloud is pretty overwhelming.  And that's all time spent on one person.

The film collage about Stuart Hall was also quite interesting and moving since it touched on many of the same themes, albeit in the UK, by use of newsreels from the 1950s and 1960s and of Mr. Hall himself.   Unlike the Robeson material, it was couched in terms of how Stuart Hall fit into his era and how he also influenced events at the time.  I'm vaguely familiar with him from previous exhibits but this one was very broad and presented in a unique fashion that was pretty riveting.

We had a great meal at Feitoria, another Michelin restaurant with one star.   So we've had the pleasure of dining at both the one star Michelin restaurants in Lisbon.   There are only three Michelin restaurants here, so not too bad for a single trip.   The Michelin system dates back to the early days of driving in the 20th century when food was hard to find and one star means "worth a stop", two is "worth a minor detour", and three is "worth a trip to dine there".   Obviously that's a bit archaic now, but it's a fairly reliable guide to quality and pretty coveted by chefs to have this distinction.  We've had the opportunity to visit quite a few of these restaurants in the US and outside of the US over the years, with another such visit coming up this weekend in London.   More about that in a future posting!

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