Tile Museum

On our second-to-last day in Lisbon, we chose the Museu Nacional do Azulejo (National Tile Museum) as mellow focus for our exporations. This is a gem of a museum, nestled into the former Madre de Deus Convent, in the Xabregas neighborhood. The museum has clearly made a big effort to make the museum inclusive, including sign language interpretation on the videos, and dimensional displays of certain exhibits for blind visitors. The very friendly man at the reception desk strongly encouraged us to do the audio tour. I’m normally skeptical of these, but it turned out to be very worthwhile. 

The collection of tiles, one of the largest in the world, spans five centuries of tile production in Portugal and around the world. The convent building itself is arranged around a central courtyard, and features its own period tile work in addition to the exhibits. I particularly enjoyed the displays showing the steps involved in making different types of tiles and the selection of 20th century art tiles. We ended our visit with a simple lunch from the museum snack bar, and enjoyed watching one of the caretakers feeding the turtles and carp in the fountain on the patio.

It was easy to catch a cab outside the museum, and we took that back down to the Sé – we wanted to look at those tiles again. Both of us were less blown away by them in the cold light of (a sober) day. We also noticed that the ones we liked best were not uniform in size and would likely be hard to use in, say, a border around the kitchen. We decided to hike up to the shop’s other locations by the Castelo to make sure we weren’t going to regret leaving them behind. We had the same feeling at the other two shops, and ended up not buying any. This was a bit of a bummer, because a few days before we thought we had finally gotten past our design block for remodeling our kitchen.

The walk up the hill was not in vain, however; we enjoyed having another opportunity to meander back through that neighborhood and take photos in the afternoon light. When we got to the bottom, we realized we were hungry and stopped again at Cruzes Credo Cafe. They were still out of the pineapple with honey and spices, but we got slices of goat cheesecake and apple pie, and a jar of white sangria, and had a nice rest after a lot of walking.

Deliberated for a bit about whether to see a fado show, but decided against it in favor of a quiet night. We made our way back down to the area flanking the Arch of Victoria, where I had wanted to photograph again, but I had a hard time recalling what had intrigued me so much the other day. We crossed the Praça do Comercio and found the small plaza on the other side with the red pod people sculptures. We saw these on our first visit to Lisbon, and they still seemed just as freaky. We kept on past that to the Cais Sodre area and enjoyed the vintage neon signs on the clubs in that zone. 

We looped back toward the Praça do Comercio and decided to eat dinner at a tapas restaurant called Alfondega. We shared a number of tasty dishes:  roasted cheese with raspberry jam, an arugula, parmesan and (very good) raw mushroom salad, grilled asparagus, and garlic shrimp. We were seated not too far from the entrance, and Dan had his back to the door. A little while after we got our first dishes, a young-teenaged boy and girl walked in and came up behind him and started putting leaflets in his face. As soon as I saw this, I reached across the table and grabbed his phone, getting me a very dirty look from the girl. This was exactly the tactic a group of kids had used to pickpocket my phone outside the Louvre just a few months previously, and I was not about to lose another phone this way. The pair moved on to another table briefly until the server bustled them out the door.

We finished out meal on a more pleasant note again, with a crispy crepe with lemon, sugar and cinnamon that really reminded me of cinnamon toast from my childhood, and some lovely mint tea. And then back to our hotel for one more sleep before our last day in Lisbon.