Tuesday, July 31, 2018


7/14/18 Praca Rossio, Lisbon
Although I’ve been interested in Lisbon as a city to visit in its own right, it has also represented a source of longing: It was the site of the second annual Urban Sketchers Symposium – one that I obviously missed because I wasn’t even sketching yet in the summer of 2011. Since becoming an urban sketcher, I’d seen many sketches of Lisbon made by lucky symposium participants, and I envied them – what a vibrant, inspiring city Lisbon must be! When I learned last year that the 2018 symposium would be in Porto, Portugal, I was excited both for the next symposium itself as well as for the opportunity to finally scratch my Lisbon itch.

Indeed, Lisbon is a vibrant, inspiring city. Although the architecture might be similar to styles I’ve seen in Italy and other parts of Europe, details like the decorative tiles on walls and pavement patterns are unique and distinctive. Brightly colored streetcars jam-packed with commuters and tourists constantly criss-cross the busy, noisy streets.

Lots and lots of stairs and hills
Some of the best meals I ate in Portugal were in Lisbon – lots of fresh fish and shellfish – and I scarfed down many, many pastéis de nata (custard tarts), even for breakfast! But I burned off every one of those pastries by walking nearly 20,000 steps and stairs a day (according to Greg’s Fitbit) – all steeply uphill! OK, I suppose some were downhill. (I always tell people who are prepping for their first symposium that the single most important item they must pack is good walking shoes. Now I have to add to that list: strong legs, especially knees!)

One of my favorite Lisbon experiences was going to the enormous Campo de Santa Clara flea market in the shadow of the Panteao Nacional building. Hundreds of merchants spread their colorful (and sometimes strange) wares on tables or directly on the ground. Clothing, both new and used, were sold neatly on racks or simply piled in heaps. Some products looked the same as in stores; others looked like they may have been sourced from trash or recycle bins. It was eBay in the flesh!
7/14/18 Campo de Santa Clara flea market
This market presented an especially fun sketching experience: First I sketched the majestically domed Panteao building from a narrow street at the edge of the market. Then we climbed to the observation deck of the Panteao, and as I circled its perimeter, I spotted the same street where I had just sketched the dome, so of course I had to sketch that, too.

7/14/18 Panteao Nacional

7/14/18 Sketched from the Panteao
building; see the spot where I stood to sketch
the one at left!

Flea market vendors

Another Lisbon highlight was riding one of the many motorized tuk-tuks, which are really nothing more than golf carts, to a popular pastel de nata bakery. (I have video capturing Mr. Toad’s wild ride from the backseat of the tuk-tuk as it negotiated with buses and streetcars on steep, narrow streets and alleys. I won’t post it here, though, because viewing it makes me carsick!) Once we arrived at Manteigaria, I had more fun sketching the bakers who were busily making each pastry by hand. A few days later, we ran into our tuk-tuk driver in a different part of town, so I had the opportunity to sketch him and his colorful vehicle.

7/14/18 Pastry chefs making pasteis de nata by hand.


7/16/18 Tuk-tuks all lined up. . . 
 . . . and here's our driver!

Our few days in Lisbon were a wonderful warm-up to Portugal. Although I didn’t sketch any particularly iconic views, I think I absorbed some of the intensity and flavor of what it must have been like to experience being there for the Lisbon symposium. Although I scratched that itch, the brief visit created a new one: I want to visit Lisbon again!

7/15/18 A few days later, a different busker was
in the same spot.
7/11/18 My very first sketch in Lisbon was this busker
outside Castelo de S. Jorge.

7/15/18 Castelo de S. Jorge
7/15/18 Peacock wandering the castle grounds

7/15/18 The view from Castelo de S. Jorge, including the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge that looks remarkably similar to San Francisco's Golden Gate.

St. Jorge castle

7/12/18 Arco de Jesus 
7/12/18 Largo de Sao Miguel

7/12/18 An iconic Lisbon streetcar
7/12/18 Praca do Comercio
7/14/18 ice cream vendor
7/15/18 Two towers I saw every day from our hotel room terrace.

The spectacular pavements of Lisbon.

Colorfully patterned tiles cover exterior walls of
many Lisbon buildings.

The view from Hotel Olissippo Castelo

7/13/18 Lisbon from our hotel terrace


  1. Wow, you really sketched a lot in Lisbon! I thought of going somewhere else for part of my time in Portugal but I'm glad I stayed in Porto because I felt like I knew it by the time I left. I could have easily stayed there for another week...or two!

    1. Although it was more intense and larger than Porto, I really enjoyed my time there -- a different vibe and energy. But I kind of regret that I didn't sketch more in Porto, too!


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