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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Trapped in Lisbon, Visiting the Palace of Queluz

For two and a half days of our one-week vacation to Madeira, we were instead stuck in Lisbon.  For more on how this happened, see my last post about the hellish flight that stranded us in Lisbon.  As long as we were stranded, we had to make the most of it.  The airline had put the whole planeload of people in a decent no-name hotel next to a train station, so we took the train to the Palace of Queluz.

The Palace of Queluz (pronounced kuh-loose) is on the outskirts of Lisbon.   We'd already been to Sintra, which is where everyone has to go on their first visit to Lisbon and environs, but we'd never even heard of Queluz.  Getting there only took twenty minutes by train, from our hotel that was on the same side of Lisbon.  We walked through an urban neighborhood of multi-story buildings with shops in the first floor to reach the palace.  When we arrived, there were no people in the parking lot, and only one person buying tickets at the reception.

March is definitely the off-season, though the weather was beautiful.  As we started our walk through the palace, it was just us and the guards.  Like our own private palace!  This was the most impressive room inside the palace, with two huge chandeliers in perfect condition.

The other room that really made an impression on me was a room with walls covered in custom-made tiles depicting idyllic scenes.  I like the way the fountain water is depicted.  The hands of the guy holding the rifle look like they were drawn by a child though.

After the indoors tour, it was time to explore the palace grounds.  There were nice flower beds in bloom already.  It was a beautiful early spring day, and we enjoyed having these huge gardens to ourselves, We only saw a total of three other groups of visitors during the hour and a half we were there.

The grounds covered many acres, with paths between manicured bushes, leading to circles with fountains and sculptures.  A perfect place for the idle nobility to kill time plotting their next affairs, coups, and assassinations.  At least if you believe what you see on The Tutors and other such historo-dramas.

Here's an interesting statue of cherubim and a fish with a giant forehead and wings for ears.  I like it for it's oddness, but also how well sculpted it is.  This was made by a master sculptor.  I always wonder about pieces of such high quality left exposed to the elements.  Maybe it's a cast, and the original is safe and sound elsewhere.

I have no idea who this one is supposed to be, but I love how the lichen testify to the age and weather it's seen.  Gives it amazing color and texture, like the person is transforming into a plant.

The canal walls were covered in a long series of huge blue tile murals.  They call this tile azulejos, and it's one of the characteristic looks all over Lisbon and much of Portugal.  These scenes made for royalty are some of the best existing examples of the art form.  I say that based in part on comparing them to many other examples we've seen all around Lisbon.  This piece is about 8 feet by 12 feet.  You need to see this on a decent-sized monitor to appreciate it (talking to you - you mobile browsers!).  I love  variety of tree and leaf types, and how the leaves of the plants behind the wall are a paler blue to imply they're further away.

This is one of about twenty similar panels, each with a different scene, lining the canal walls.  This shows groups of people watching the sailing ships crossing the harbor and arriving in a town in the background.  After having read so much history involving shipping, whether in Venice or Amsterdam or London, this scene really evokes a daily reality that seems irrelevant and quaint to us, but was like watching the biggest blockbuster to them, because ships returning meant everyone on board had not died in storm or war or pirate attack, and the investors in this particular ship's voyage had not lost all their money, but instead were about to make a lot of money.  I feel the excitement of the spectators.

That's all for the Lisbon part of our trip.  My next posts are about our adventures after we finally made it to Madeira.  The next is about our hike along the sea cliffs at Sao Vicente.

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