LISBON - BRUSSELS - LIÈGE June 2018
Updated: Dec 4, 2022
Many of these trips have been a ride with the devil when counting the unplanned events. This trip was anything other than a wild adventure. With the exception of two incidents, this trip followed the script to the letter. Seating for the plane ride included an upgrade to Delta's Economy Comfort that wasn't accepted because it was a middle seat. And we all know that my rear end comfortably occupies an economy seat. The three souls on the economy cabin bench included me and a married couple. That meant the woman in the middle would be climbing over her husband when the plumbing needed to be drained.
Arrival in Lisbon came with a surprise that the aircraft would be parked on the tarmac with 220 passengers riding busses to the terminal for immigration and customs. Getting to the terminal was a bit of a lengthy process while waiting on transportation. This old airport long ago exceeded demands on the terminal's capacity. Clearing immigration and customs was either child's play or I no longer appear to be a suspicious looking character. The event lasted less than 15 minutes. I was on my way with no luggage to claim.
Humberto Delgado-Portela Airport small terminal with remote aircraft parking
The rather recently initiated metro link to the airport will become useless when the next airport opens, unless the property is well managed for successive use. Getting into the city was fast and easy once the Viva Viagem card was loaded for the day. The ride into the city lasted all of 20 minutes. The metro system is a simple network of four color coded lines with each offering only one transfer point with the other three corresponding lines.
Aeroporto metro station (Red Line, Linha Vermelha)
The first two days were spent riding the rails and climbing stairs in the stations while admiring the art and station architecture. There were 56 stations waiting to be seen. The Portuguese are masters when it comes to working with tin glazed porcelain tile. The art is named Azulejo and began in the early 16th Century. Every place around the globe visited by Portuguese explorers and colonizers has remnants of the skillful craftsmanship employed in adorning structures. Much of the art in the metro stations that appears to be paintings at first glance is actually the glazed tile. Most of it is breathtaking.
Restauradores metro station (Blue Line, Linha Azul)
Portugal isn't a wealthy country. She received a massive bailout from the European Union several years ago and implemented massive economic reforms to end a downward economic slide. Photos will show the need for better upkeep with Lisbon's infrastructure.
One interesting observation about the population is that the demographic of the country seemed to have an unexpectedly low percentage of Caucasian citizens. The majority seem to have mediterranean complexions and kinky hair derived from centuries of racial mixing. The number of people in Lisbon of African descent from former Brazilian and African colonies came as a surprise.
An intense Portuguese class was taken 3 years ago before visiting Brazil. The class was abandoned in mid-stream when it was understood that learning the language was no walk in the park. A minimal brush up garnered some snickering because the Brazilians tend to pronounce most words differently from the Portuguese. Banana Boy was fresh off the boat talking like a hick.
My nationality is never shared when travelling for reasons of personal safety. Once the cat does get out the bag, the locals feel more than free to share numerous negative comments about our fearless leader, Donald Trump. In a dozen countries visited since September 2016, people in each of these countries have unloaded their disdain for the US president. So far none of the dislike has spilled over in the form of personal dislike because of where I live.
In addition to exploring the art and architecture in a city's subway system, I want to see it from the air and whatever waterways are available for display. Lisbon Helicopters was just the ticket for half an hour of exploration from above, although all the views wanted weren't guaranteed. The tour began with aerial views of all the tourist attractions along the Tagus River (Rio Tejo). The flight then headed north over prized real estate where the privileged live, and eventually found the airport in the northeast quadrant. Air traffic control approved a route change in mid-flight allowing a bird's eye view of the airport and Europe's longest bridge, Ponte Vasco da Gama. I got what I wanted as a fantastic birthday present.
Praça do Comércio
From here the flight path vacillated between the north and south coasts of the Tagus River estuary. A fairly intense exploration of the City of Almada was experienced on the south bank. The flight ended with an approach back to base over Ponte 25 de Abril. This bridge is often mistaken as replica of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge because of the shared red color. The bridge is more a replica of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge sharing similar design in the two towers.
Ponte 25 de Abril crossing the Tagus River Estuary
The weather was picture perfect the first two days which were spent below ground exploring the metro. Day four started with a commuter rail transit strike that appeared to be harboring difficulties getting to the marina for a sailing excursion that retraced the river portions of the helicopter flight. The alternate streetcar trek actually involved less walking to the marina. While the weather was questionable with occasional drizzle, some dramatic cloud formations made the photographs much more interesting. Two lemons made some tasty lemonade. The sailing excursion on the Tagus River included me and an interesting crew of two from Palma Yachts that were a treasure trove of historical information.
17th Century Church of Santa Engrácia is now Panteão Nacional where Portuguese celebrities are buried
A visit to Lisbon is highly recommended. The food is incredibly tasty and varied, with lots coming from the sea. The weather was generally pretty cooperative with temperatures staying below 75°F. Lisbon is so much like San Francisco with the hilly terrain, narrow streets, cable cars, mild weather and two similar bridges.
Lisbon City Attractions
The metro is an inexpensive, fast way to move around the city. Trains run with 3 to 8 minute headways, depending on demand. It's surprising that the 56 station network covers most of the city. The metro is well used throughout the day. Areas away from the metro are served by frequent bus and tram services. The metropolitan area also is covered by a dense web of commuter rail and ferry services.
Lisbon station architecture is first rate and stands up well when compared to some of the more challenging systems visited. The architectural styles employed are diverse enough that repeats are quite rare. It's an interesting fact that roadway traffic follows the convention used in the United States of driving on the right side, while the metro follows the British convention of running on the left side.
The flight from Lisbon to Brussels was routine enough to be considered a two hour subway ride, except that arrival was two hours late and public transportation to the city was no longer an option. The 20 minute taxi ride into the city cost 55 € ($ 65), instead of 9 € ($ 10.50) for the train. This was somewhat of a mixed blessing since searching for the hotel after midnight could have been a wild adventure. Can you say "Fly early in the day!"
The language experience in Belgium was a much more sophisticated, cool experience than trying to use untethered Brazilian Portuguese. Brussels is a bilingual city with the Flemish speaking a dialect derived from Dutch and the Wallones speaking French. The Wallonies' French is pure, plain and simply spoken slowly enough that it's understood with little difficulty. They are really gracious and accommodating as you merge into the language. Going back to the bilingual character of the city, you may notice that most metro stations have two names - one in Flemish (Dutch) and the other in Wallones (French). Both languages are widely used in the Belgian capital while Wallones is the predominant language in Liège.
There wasn't much time to explore the City since one day of the visit in Belgium was devoted to exploring the City of Liége and the design of its award-winning railway station. However, some really interesting photos were taken of neighborhoods surrounding the Brussels metro stations. The gardens of Mont des Arts and Grand Place were photographed along with the architecturally stunning Palais de Justice, built between 1866 and 1883.
Brussels City Sights
The Brussels metro consists of four subway lines, three tram lines undergoing upgrades to metros and numerous conventional surface trams. The network is serviced by 80 stations. Only several stations are elevated, with the rest below ground. The network, like Lisbon, has short headways between trains. Fares are a bit more expensive than in Lisbon and in line with other major European cities. The many architectural styles seen in Lisbon station construction won't be seen Brussels, but the artwork throughout the system is extremely diverse with murals, sculptures, and paintings employing a wide variety of media.
One of the most important goals set for this trip was to photograph the Gare do Oriente in Lisbon and the Liège-Guillemins Railway Station, both designed by Santiago Calatrava. His other works which have appeared in my photos include the Oculus & World Trade Center transportation hub (New York City), La Puente de la Mujer (Buenos Aires), Stadelhofen Railway Station (Zürich), and the City of Arts & Sciences (Valencia, Spain). One interesting fact about Calatrava is that all his grand masterpieces which are unquestionably spectacular all went way over budget.
The Liège-Guillemins railway station was completed in 2009 with five platforms and serves the high speed French TGV and German ICE trains and other European high speed rail services. The station is jaw-droppingly stunning in the daylight but becomes a carnival wonderland of color after the sun retreats.
Liège-Guillemins Railway Station
The City of Liège is dissected by the Meuse River, which is crossed by several bridges, including Le Pont Fragnée. St Paul's Cathedral (Le Cathédrale Saint Paul de Liège) founded in the 10th Century sports some awesome gold leaf ornamentation and stained glass windows.
Liège City Sights
Being a senior in Belgium has its perks with low cost rail travel. The trip to Liège set me back a whopping 6.50 € ($ 7.50). This fare is valid for same day rail travel, after 9 am, to any location in the country, except to the Brussels airport. The normal fare would have been about $ 30 each way.
The trip ended at Hartsfield-Jackson with an attack of the Hoochies casting plenty of attitude when asked where to locate a kiosk to complete the customs and immigration formalities. The Hood Rat was muffled so that my friends wouldn't have to free Bobby. An email to the airport commission regarding the welcome home performance went unanswered.
For more information on the Brussels Metro and other photographs, Visit Urbanrail.net
For more information on the Lisbon Metro and other photographs, Visit Urbanrail.net