Lisbon – 10 Things!

This post is long overdue and as my friend Heather said, “It’s cruel to say you’re back and then not actually be back!” So without much further ado, let me tell you that this post is going to be largely pictorial coz my brain is still too scrambled for coherent thought 😛 and because if I don’t get this down now, I fear I never will! So here they are – 10 things that made me fall in love with Lisbon 🙂

The Architecture – so familiar from seeing it back home in Goa and yet uniquely special in the way an original is from its copy. Robert Langdon would love it here 😉

The Tiles – vintage, hand-painted, exquisite! I stopped several times just to touch them and feel their history speak. Also the iron-work and masonry wastonishing to say the least!

The Tagus Riverfront – a wonderful promenade by the banks of the river Tagus where local fisherman try their luck, while locals and tourists alike stroll around breathing in the crisp air, taking in the many sights in the area – an old brick lighthouse, the Pont de Vasco de Gama, the Tower of Belem, the grand, imposing beauty that is the Monastery of San Jeronimo, a war memorial that serves as an observation tower offering spectacular views – there’s a veritable feast of stimuli for the senses here!

The quaint charm of Lisbon’s hip and happening neighbourhoods – The Chiado, Rossio, Bairro Alto – yes I know they’re everywhere in Europe and no that doesn’t make them any less miraculous here! Their impossibly tiny cobblestoned streets, quaint boutiques, and profusion of cafes and restaurants made them well nigh irresistible to the romantic in me 😉 Although I confess with a 5-yr-old in tow, we didn’t really do them justice! Still there’s always next year 😉

The Gardens &the Roses – Lisbon has gardens galore! Little ones and grand ones, places where families can picnic and children can play and us visitors can prowl with our cameras on the look out for whatever might catch our fancy 😛 I remember my delight on spying the gigantic roses! I can’t remember ever seeing such large ones! Blood red, dainty pink, pretty salmon…luscious blooms!

The Tram – Yes I know they are pretty much ubiquitous in Europe, but that for me just adds to their allure! I don’t quite know how to explain it – but the sight of the little box on wheels climbing its way up a steep incline is just exhilarating! Or perhaps I’m just grateful for the ride and the photo-op 😉

The Burnt Custard Tart – A Lisbon staple and rightly so! A perfect balance of bitter-sweet deliciousness! Had too many to count and I don’t even like dessert 😉

Vinho Verde – I was skeptical about trying this ‘Green Wine‘, until I finally did with predictable results – LOVED it and drank nothing else for the rest of the trip except for the Caiprinhas at Cabana Fresca in Albufeira that were just out of this World!! If you get your hands on a bottle of Muralhas, you’ll know what I mean! The light, fresh & fruity flavour is right up my street 🙂

My favorite tipple on the trip 🙂

The Zoo & Oceanarium – Both excellent places to visit even if you don’t have kids along! I love animals and I go dangerously crazy with my lens in Zoos much to the horror and embarrassment of the Hubby! Not that that bothers me 😉 Loved the Zoo – especially the aerial views from a rope way that travels its length, the abundance of peacocks, the Tigers and the Chimps! Refreshingly non-commercial too 🙂

The Gulls – I fell in love with these gutsy birds! Their squawking calls, yellow beaks and piercing gaze made for some fun bird-watching 🙂 Another bird to add to my collection!

Johnathan Livingstone Seagull!
Johnathan Livingstone Seagull!

Lisbon charmed me with its relaxed vibe, quaint neighbourhoods and warm people 🙂 There is an enchanting blend of ancient history and modernity here and a refreshing lack of the overt commercialism that runs rampant elsewhere in the world. Many of the sights are free for children and Junior had a blast playing cricket in every park we visited! That’s a LOT of cricket 😉 There’s a sense of underlying whimsy and a languidness that permeates; a ‘je ne sais quois’ that is endearing. Visiting Lisbon allowed me to understand the idiosyncrasies of my own tiny state of Goa better! About time too 😉 I will certainly be visiting again – that’s a given!

P. S. This one’s for you Heather! Hope you liked it and THANK YOU for the much needed nudge 😉 🙂

Divar: The Isle that Time forgot…

Well, that’s how it made me feel!

Saturday saw us take off on our meanderings through Goa after a week-long break during which hubby was in Delhi. With the family united, and the weather suitable (a steady but light drizzle and a cool breeze), it was time to go exploring again!

The Adilshah's Palace gates

This time, we headed for Divar, an island in the Mandovi River, no more than a 10-minute ferry ride from Old Goa, the old state capital when the Portuguese still ruled here. I had never set foot on the island and hubby was no better, having last visited in 1988, to examine polio cases for his doctoral thesis (there were 4)! The trip had that expectant quality – the excitement that comes from knowing there’s something special coming 🙂 I had heard great things about Divar from a cousin (who’s a native) and was prepared to be swept of my feet…but that’s later…

Shroom magic!

On the way to the ferry crossing at Old Goa, quite by accident, we stumbled upon another heritage monument, The Church of St. Cajetan, an impressive building, built in the 17th century. There was nobody around, just some workers in the garden and a couple of tourists inside. The whitewashed interiors were stunning – cool, calm and peaceful in the usual manner of churches. In the garden were more unique finds – an old gate from the Adilshah’s Palace and a fluorescent orange mushroom sprouting from a massive tree trunk on display!

After a pleasant half-hour, we finally started toward the jetty and were lucky enough to find a ferryboat waiting. In under 10 minutes we got our first glimpse of sleepy, green, dewy Divar 🙂 My first thoughts were of travelling back in time, as though instantaneously transported to some long forgotten era, when people were few and Nature reigned supreme!  A single road led us from the jetty into the village,  flanked on either side by Mangroves and paddy fields and myriad birds. I don’t know my birds, but we did see a whole host of them, including several kingfishers, gulls, ducks and a pair of kites fishing for their afternoon meal. I must brush up my bird-watching skills! The isle of Chorao, next door, is home to the Salim Ali bird sanctuary and so it’s no surprise that there are so many of them here. We stopped on the road to turn back and catch glimpses of Old Goa and the St. Cajetan Church we had just left.

Then we just drove, on a whim, wherever the roads led. We tried them all, up a slope to the inevitable Church and just below it, the inevitable temple, overlooking intensely green paddy fields as far as the eye could see. Along tiny winding roads flanked by old houses, some quaint, others flashy and gaudily painted. Down more winding roads to two more ferry crossings and discovered what looked like a resort, Devaaya, next to one, which after research on Google, turned out to be an Ayurvedic Spa! I found Divar sleepy even by Goan standards, but that’s an integral part of its charm. I’m surprisingly thrilled that no bridges have been built across the river here, just yet, because that would just bring unwelcome change and bustle to this quiet, quaint village.

The visit took me back to the times when as a schoolgirl, I holidayed in just such another village, the green, rustic, sleepy village of Amona, my ancestral home in North Goa. Times have changed, and it is unfortunately, no longer, as green or virgin as it used to be. Instead, we now have an enormous iron-ore mine and processing facility that mean pollution, increasing temperatures in summer and noise pollution all year round 😦 Such is the price we pay for progress. Well, people have jobs and that’s something, I guess.

Crab catch!

But yes, Divar, what we saw of it, is thankfully untouched by that kind of progress. The air here is still crisp and lightly scented, the fields bejeweled, the atmosphere quaint and cozy, and the pace of life I’m certain, calm, relaxed & unhurried. It’s almost as if the island had grit its teeth and dug in its heels, firmly resolved to resist allegedly progressive change and preserve instead, a simple lifestyle in commune with nature, and I for one say Amen! It really is the ‘Isle’ that time forgot…at least for now…and with luck for a long time to come  🙂

Here’s to many more wanderings in sleepy Divar!

p.s. On the way back in the ferry, a fisherman on board, caught a little crab all in the space of a few seconds, using a simple plastic line! Ishaan was very thrilled indeed! I asked to take a picture, which I include here!

This time, tried my hand at making a video of the pics. It’s my first attempt, so please forgive any mistakes!