Soon we were travelling along leafy avenues and I, to my own surprise, began recognizing the area as we approached the Marques de Pombal statue facing the Ave de Libertade. I got off at Rossio, even though the square is called Dom Pedro IV (who was Emperor of Portugal for a few short months and the EMperor of Brasil for years). His statuehigh up on a pedestal, looks down on the plaza. This day being a Sunday in addition to being Christmas day, only a few restaurants were open and most of the shops were closed with a notable exception.
Souvenir stores are all staffed by Bangladeshis, I was told there were more than 10 000 Bangladeshis in Lisboa and more each day call this city home. Why are you here? I asked one of them, wanting to an anthropological clue, but his reply was curt: MONEY. But you have no relationship with Portugal? MONEY he replied once again. I wondered why there were a large number of sub continentals on the Doha to Casablanca flight, perhaps this was a route to Lisboa or Madrid?
It was nice to look into the elegant restaurants, in fact Lisboa has an elegant feeling of another time. I tried to skirt around the tourist streets, but hordes of Chinese tourists were everywhere. I walked towards the Mirador, built in 1902.
Then on to CHIADO, with its colonial buildings and churches, the square named after a 16 century poet, where I could say Buenas Tardes to Otavalo Indians plying their stuff on the streets to the tourists and their hangers on
These are the very same streets that PESSOA and SARAMAGO cruised during their interminable stays at the various cafes, Pessoa with his statue and books on display everywhere, is present so is the Nobel Laureate Jose Saramago.
The cafe society, the intellectuals, the poetry and the lietarature, all evident in Chiado, despite Portugal being under a dictatorship for a very long time..the atmosphere is maintained. Yet another statue on a pedestal, this time of CAMOES, the greatest of the Portuguese poets who died 400 plus years ago, Luisades and Goa are associated with this swashbuckling gentleman of passion
I looked into a barbershop, thought of a poem by Pablo Neruda, down past closed stores and surly Bangladeshis, manning stores selling the same rubbish, towards the Praca do Comercio. I looked at the majestic columns and remembered they were built around the time of the jewish expulsion from Lisboa and Portugal. Jews had walked along the same streets and many centuries later I was to meet one of its descendants in Kingston, Jamaica
Lisboa is hilly, you can look up to the Castelo Sao Jorge. My legs were begining to ache from the walkabout, despite a short one in this delightful city, which makes a poet out of you.
I walked towards the Aerobus No 1 stop, an empty bus arrives, just me and the driver who was extremely friendly and helpful, she had red painted hair
Are you from Lisboa, I asked her politely. No, I am from Cabo Verde, she chimed.
I thought of my long association (in my mind only , because of the music) with Cabo Verde and began reciting Cesaria Evora, Bau, Bana, Ildo Lobo, Tavares, Morna and Coladera.. after all who in the world has not heard of Cesaria Evora?
Eu moro na Cuba, i said to her in my imperfect portuguese,it elicited further appreciations from this driver as she had benefited from the Cuban medical generosity to Cabo Verde
The sun was loosing its shine, painting the tops of the trees a bright yellow, Christmas lights were coming on. the bus lurched on, avenidas Libertade, Republica, to the right and then lefft into the leafy streets leading to the airport
Here you are, said the painted red hair lady driver from Cabo Verde, and I got out.
The waiting hours at the airport was spent at the Lounge of the TAP airlines and I had some Portuguese vinho verde
then the flight took off to Casablanca.