Chapter Three: Fall Comes Three Days Early In Lisbon
Day Three: That’s The Ticket (Finally), Underground Transportation, What Goes Down Must Come Up, Good Samaritans, Siren Song, Farewell To The Queen, Just A Flesh Wound, Kim Chickens Out, Singer Sargent Strikes Again, Hotel Guests Only, Italian Dinner “Suggestions,” and “Lisbon Is Killing Me”
Our third day in Lisbon started out just like the day before with another filling breakfast on the Altis Avenida Rooftop with a table overlooking Praça dos Restauradores. My Portuguese needed some help, so at my request our server helpfully wrote down a few key phrases with the correct pronunciations.
Today’s plan: Go to the metro stop next to the hotel and purchase a ticket to the station nearest the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian (one of the few museums open on Mondays), then take a stroll along the lovely Parque Eduardo VII and Avenida da Libertade and, if time, go up to Convento do Carmo.
Of course, first we had to figure out how to get a one-way ticket at the machine. Two young ladies next to us were also trying to buy tickets, so we thought, “They’re young, so we’ll just watch and learn.” They were having trouble. We figured it couldn’t be that hard, but this is the same group that put the wrong petrol in a car and couldn’t figure out reverse on a rental mobile. Luckily, someone nearby took pity on us and helped with the tickets.
We rode the metro to the São Sebastião stop (why Tracy didn’t tell me I had exaggerated Pee-wee Herman hair on this morning, I don’t know). As is always the case, or so it seems, we didn’t know exactly what exit to choose at the metro station.
Finally, I said, “Let’s take this one.” We walked through a department store, where just outside the exit was a set of stairs. There weren’t many stairs, but it turned out there was one too many. As I neared the bottom, Tracy yelled out, “Tom!” Thinking I was already on the cobblestone pavement, I turned around. Unfortunately, there was still a half-step left, well actually just an inch as this was one of those steps that is tall at one end and lower at the other.
Suddenly, I looked like a drunk ballet dancer as I tumbled and pirouetted in an attempt to regain my balance. The fall felt like it was in slow motion. For a second, I thought I’d stay upright. I was incorrect. Unable to stay on my feet, I hit the ground butt first. I made a herculean effort not to hit my arms or head on the pavement (yes, I have attempted this before with mixed results). I only felt a slight contact with my arm, so for a split second I thought I was good. Then, I heard that terrible thud (crack) of my head hitting the pavement. Instantly, I knew the art museum would have to wait. Although fall wasn’t due for a few days, I had beaten the rush.
Realizing I was still among the living, Mary and Tracy helped me get up. I might have been able to keep it quiet, but TMZ’s newest photographer Kim was right there when it happened. While the security guard at the department store looked on doing nothing (I hope no one ever tries to rob the place), a young lady (who turned out to be a student from Indiana) and another man rushed over to help.
Our resident doctor (aka Mary), quickly ascertained that I was bleeding from my head, and since I am on a strong blood thinner, that’s not a good sign. Meanwhile, a pretty good headache was beginning to start. For the squeamish, please turn away (: No, that’s not Mary’s fingernail.
In an abundance of caution, we decided to grab a taxi to a nearby hospital ER. Both people who had stopped to help recommended that we call an ambulance otherwise it would take too long to be seen (just like in the States). Ms. Indiana (a very nice lady) pulled out her phone to call, but because she was not fluent in Portuguese, the other gentleman took over the call. We waited for the ambulance and as it approached, the man stood in the middle of the street waving the ambulance to the spot where a stupid tourist had fallen and cracked his head. The woman from Indiana said she thought he might be a person living on the streets as she had seen him before wandering around the area. I wanted to give the guy some euro for his advice and help, but as quickly as he had appeared, he disappeared.
The paramedics examined my head, and when I explained I was on blood-thinners, they immediately said I needed to go to the hospital.
The Serviço de Urgência do Hospital de São José not been on my list of Lisbon attractions, but soon I was there, and not feeling so great. Mostly I was mad at myself, because I figured I would be there all day, and in the worst case scenario (well, I guess there’s one thing worse) overnight.
The ER was quite busy, so Kim and Mary departed for the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, while we said we’d see them “whenever.” Very quickly after checking in I was directed to a room where I would be seen, but not before we saw some interesting ER action. A woman in handcuffs was beyond crazy, and patients scattered like Moses parting the Red Sea, which was coincidental since the Staff was trying to control the situation. Another man took it to the next level watching Queen Elizabeth’s funeral. He would stand up from his chair to salute the Queen, then a minute later he’d stand up and flip her off. He repeated this the entire time we were in the waiting area. He was very entertaining. When I departed to my room, Tracy watched Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, albeit with a few distractions.
Fairly quickly, I was seen by three young (and incredibly nice) doctors who, fortunately for me, spoke English. They noticed a cut on my arm I hadn’t even realized was there. They cleaned out the wound, applied a bandage and wrap on my arm and wrapped my head so I looked a little like a swami. Tracy had showed them my list of medications, and they immediately realized I needed a CT scan to be certain I did not have a brain bleed.
I was wheeled away for the CT Scan, waited about half an hour, and after conferring with my new medical personnel friends, I was given a clean bill of health and told we were good to go. As it turned out, it was “just a flesh wound,” albeit a painful one.
“Where do I pay?” I inquired. The reply was, “All we need from you is a copy of your passport and you can leave.” From the time we arrived at the ER until the time we left, it was just about three hours. At my local hospital it would have two or three times that long. As far as payment, we have not yet received a bill, so it is unknown what’s going to happen. As we were exiting, the lines into the ER were very, very long, so my Mai Tai Tom hospital tip is if you get injured in Lisbon, it’s better to do it early in the day.
While all this was transpiring, Kim and Mary wandered off to the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, which they enjoyed very much, and, although they said the Parque Eduardo VII had an event that precluded them from visiting, they liked the stroll down Avenida da Libertarde. For lunch, they hit Bonjardim so Kim could finally sample the world famous Piri Piri Chicken. Sadly, since his taste buds are still somewhat on the fritz after radiation and chemo earlier in the year, he didn’t get the full Piri Piri hot experience.
Following their lead, we hailed a taxi and scooted over to Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, named after Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian, who is shown in a statue in the museum gardens with an eagle, which is an ancient Armenian symbol for nobility. An oil magnate and art aficionado, Gulbenkian’s collection comprises more than 6,000 pieces and covers more than 4,000 years.
Here is just a sampling of what we liked. These three Greco-Roman pieces date back as far as 250 BC.
Since visiting Granada, Spain, I have been intrigued by Middle Eastern lights and accoutrements. I loved these Mosque lamps from the 14th century (although Tracy thinks they are vases … hey, I hit my head), and also the colorful piece in between.
A couple of pieces that commanded our attention were Riding St. Martin Sharing His Cloak With A Beggar and a 19th century bronze of Louis XIV that should have been humming the Beatles’ song, Here Comes The Sun King, or something like that.
On our first afternoon in Lisbon we stopped in the Lisbon Sé. There we saw the tombs of Lopo Fernandes Pacheco, comrade-in-arms of D. Afonso IV, and his second wife Maria Vilalobos. On Maria’s tomb, she was reading the Book of Hours … this page at the museum being the Holford Hours.
We’ve seen many versions of Cupid and the Three Graces in our travels, and this 18th-century oil on canvas is one of the best.
Be on the lookout for Houdan’s 1780 statue of Diana, who seems to be a shadow of her old self.
But it was the next painting that Tracy liked best, because it is from her favorite artist, John Singer Sargent. Sargent’s Lady and Child Asleep in a Punt under The Willow, is from his Impressionist period during the latter half of the 1880s.
There is quite a collection of jewelry and glassware from René Lalique.
None of the jewelry pieces were ever worn, except this one. The Dragonfly Woman Corsage Ornament was worn once onstage by actress Sarah Bernhardt. The museum calls it, “Without doubt one of the most spectacular pieces of jewelry ever created by René Lalique.” It’s said that when Lalique presented it at the 1900 Paris Universal Exhibition, “it was seen by about 50 million visitors.”
It was late in the afternoon, but after grabbing a couple of pastries in the museum cafeteria we wandered into the adjoining gardens for a little while.
As we went through our photos when we got home, I remarked to Tracy that I didn’t remember this sculpture. Then when I found out The Maternity was located in Amália Rodrigues Garden, I had no recollection of having been there. “I must have hit my head harder than I thought,” I said. “Either that,” Tracy replied, “or this is a picture Mary texted me that day when they visited on their way down to lunch.” It’s good to have a wife with a memory.
We motored back to the hotel where we had made early evening rooftop reservations (hotel guests only on Monday and Tuesday) for a little vino before dinner, as we would not be dining until 8:30.
For dinner on this night we would go Italian. Ristorante Casanostra (Travessa do Poço da Cidade, 60) has been in Bairro Alto for 36 years. As we walked to dinner we discovered that this neighborhood is a happening part of Lisbon. The only thing “happening” for me was a yearning for food. It had been a long time since Tracy and I ate anything substantial. It’s a charming, intimate restaurant (photo from internet, so we did not disturb the packed dining area). Our waiter Mariano told us he has been here for 21 years.
Our dinner was excellent, but we couldn’t take credit for our selections. Mariano suggested that we stick with the pasta dishes, because they were the best. After Mary ordered pasta with truffles and grilled eggplant, Mariano took over. He declared we should all try different dishes, so by the time the dust had cleared we also had orders of tagliatelle with gorgonzola (me), pasta with clams (Kim) and pasta with lemon and saffron (Tracy). All were fantastico!
Since Tracy and I had not eaten much since breakfast, I also had a fabulous prosciutto e melone (oh my, that Portuguese melon was sweet!), which could have served the entire table had I been willing to share (sometimes that sympathy card comes in handy). Tracy had a “yummy” burrata salad. This, and a couple of bottles of wine, came to a little less than €75 a couple. I was digging dining in Portugal.
We bid farewell to the amiable and personable Mariano, and started back down the hill to the hotel. Bars were packed, music was blaring, the sounds of raucous young people having a blast and that slight wafting of vomit filled the air (I told you the bars were packed). Had I been 25, this is where I’d hang out. Being a few years older, we kept walking, and, lo and behold, walked past Oficina do Duque, the restaurant we were supposed to have dined the previous evening. Now, I really felt old and stupid. A few steps later we passed Solar do Duque, where we had dined in error, and it was doing a booming business. We’ve been known to be trendsetters.
We headed (no pun intended) off for a good night’s sleep, but not before one more misstep. There was also a half step out of the bathroom into our room, and once again I didn’t see it (in my defense, the carpet was black as was the wall and with the lights out, the room). Falling forward I was able to stay standing thanks to the wall. Unfortunately, my knuckles took a good scraping, and once again blood was the order of the day. I think it is ironic that one of my favorite Moody Blues’ albums is A Question of Balance, and I seem to have none.
Tracy just looked at me and said, “We didn’t bring enough bandaids.” I replied, “Lisbon is killing me.”
The following day, we’d get into the full swing of things. We’d ascend one of Lisbon’s hacks to get to a famed convent and archeological museum located off a busy square, an ornate igreja, then take a crazy mode of transportation to a 1789 basilica (well, sort of), have lunch in the garden, visit an art museum where I got to see a tryptic from my favorite artist and end the evening at a restaurant that not only served good food, but also a place where Mary nearly left Kim for another man.
Next: Chapter Four: Crisscrossing Lisbon
Day Four: Justa Wrong Way To Go, Escalator To Heaven, Three Out Of Four Ain’t Bad, Ding Ding Ding Goes The Trolley, Carmelite Treasure, Don’t Judge A Church By Its Cover, Tuk-ered Out, Timing Is Everything, Banana Appeal, A Date With El Bosco, The Temptations, The Old Ones Visit “The Old Ones” and Mary’s New Boyfriend