Tag Archives: stencil art

Travelogue: Lisbon

January 2009: Lisbon, Portugal

lisbon-chill-out-tour1

Lisbon is a city I visit quite often for business and  each time I discover more and more of its treasures. A lot of these I found armed with one of a traveller’s greatest tools: serendipity. A spare weekend spent walking its streets reveals a satisfying blend of both its rich history and vibrant present.

I’m lucky to have some friends who live there who are always keen to show me the new pockets of the city they’ve uncovered. So I wanted to highlight some of the cooler places in this funky western european city just in case you decide to visit.

1. nood bar:

This is a definite visit for lovers of Asian food. It was one of the first places I stumbled across in Lisbon and pay homage every time I’m in Lisbon. It’s a darkened nonoododle bar minutes away from the Baixa Chiado metro stop. Some call it a rip off of the Waga Mama chain, but it has a cool design ethic, super friendly staff not to mention fantastic food. Heartily recommend the gyozas (duck, chicken or vegetable) for starters and a Chili Chicken Ramen to follow. All ingredients are fresh and they actually make their own stock which gaves the ramen in particular a strong taste.

2. El Terraco:

Lisbon has stellar weather pretty much most of the year and after time spent ambling around the city you need somewhere to relax and unwind.  For one of the best views of the city and the river Targus, head up the hill towards the Castle and saunter onto El Terraco.

lose a couple of hours

lose a couple of hours

It’s basically the top of an abandoned building which has been shoddily converted into a hang out for people wearing loose-fitting hemp pants, dreadlocks, and the ocassional tourist (like me) who plunks themselves down on one of the worn old couches and big cushions.

The fare is minimal; you can order a couple of different beers, a mix of herbal teas and pretty much just toasted ham and cheese sandwiches. But you’re not there for the food, you’re there for the chance to unwind and glance over the city at your leisure. You can while away hours there thumbing through your book above the traffic in the city below.

El Terraco above the city

El Terraco above the city

3. Onda Jazz:

cool little Lisbon jazz club

cool little Lisbon jazz club

OK this is a recent addition but a real find. Just one metro stop east of the city on the blue line, Onda (Portugese for wave) Jazz spotlights both local and international acts. Their resident act, Terrakota (myspace.com/terrakota) play on Tuesdays and often have guest artists playing with them. They are billed to start at 10:30  but you can wait anything from half an hour to two. But they’re definitely worth the wait so take a beer and wait while Lisbon’s young and old Jazz fans shuffle in and get settled. Beers are dead cheap and you’re given a little tag with a number which as acts as the beer tab you pay when you leave out the back.

Terrakotta playing at Onda Jazz Club

Terrakotta playing at Onda Jazz Club

4. Conserveira de Lisboa:

handwrapped canned fish!

Sure another food based place but what the hey, when you walk around a lot you get hungry. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s basically a quaint little canned fish store. No more than 10 square metres or so in size, it’s walls are lined with little tins of canned cod, tuna, squid, sardines – pretty much any thing you can fish out of the water.

Deck the walls with cans of tuna....

Deck the walls with cans of tuna....

The cool thing about this little shop are the two little ladies in the back corners who sit all day wrapping every single tin with their colourful wrappers.  Yeah…doesn’t sound so appealing I guess but this place is extremely popular for both locals and tourists alike.

You can find it just beyond the tourist bus drop off point at Rua dos Bacalhoeiros, 34, 1100-071 Lisboa.

5.  Street/stencil Art.

This is one of my most favourite things about Lisbon: it’s stencil art. In the earlier 20th century, Lisbon flourished as a city with its lot of grand buildings. Since the world wars a lot of this grandeur has been left to ruin and modern urbanlife has taken over and with it a vibrant street art scene. Most international cities have stencil art, but Lisbon has a real flair for this medium and you can see a colourful range of the banal, poetic, political, rude and bluntly funny art on the walls everywhere.

yabba yabba

yabba yabba

Hello there

Hello there

A couple of years back I once spent a whole weekend scouring the city snapping all the stencil art I saw and came away with over two hundred decent pieces.

There is also evidence of internationally known stencil artists making their mark here with pieces by DOLK and others. This is a lovely one, obliquely blending the old (the tilework) with the new (mimicking the past)

old & new

old & new

6. The trams.

Lisbon is a city of hills with the centre of the city surrounded by the suburbs above. For this reason, a number yellow trams  spread outward and upward from various locations around the city centre. It’s worth riding at least one, particularly the one which takes you up to the castle.

The pickpocket tram

The pickpocket tram

It’s well known in the guidebooks as a haven for pickpockets so amuse yourself picking out the miscreant/s that want to take your wallet.

On one trip, a friend and I offered seats to some elderly ladies who then in return signalled us when known pickpockets made a beeline for us. My friend, an American colonel, blatantly turned to a wouldbe thief and remarked that he hadn’t broken an arm for some time…Lots of fun

long winding streets

long winding streets

6. Green Pepper. Having lived in Norway for a number of years now there is a definite lack of vegetarian food on offer. Basically a vego meal in Norway is a normal dish then you take off the meat. So imagine my delight when two doors down from my hotel was the Green Pepper. I am going out on a limb here and say that this is definitely one of the best vegetarian restaurants I’ve ever been too in the world. Big deal.

The Green Pepper is a sharp, professionally run vegetarian restaurant located near the Praca de Espanha metro stop. Opening for both lunch and dinner, they take vegetarian food to the next level.  A family business, they use fresh ingredients every day and the variety is incredible. Faced with about 16 cold and typically three hot dishes there is more than enough to choose from for the vegetarian eater. The most memorable dish was the seitan (chicken substitute) fillets with a coffee bean sauce! Absolutely incredible. The staff are young, friendly and professional and most are ardent surfers.

7. Kaffehaus. Rua Anchieta 3, 1200 – 023 Lisboa. Step into this cafehouse and you step out of Portugal and into Austria. It’s tucked away down an alleyway up near the Baixa Chiado metro (not far from the Nood bar) and offers a quiet respite from the main drag. The guidebooks mention their selection of German and Austrian magazines but I come for the quiet and the great Austrian hot chocolate. Basically they bring you a tall glass of hot milk with a selection of different chocolates. For example, vanilla and cinnamon, hazelnut chocolate, nougat and others. You choose the one you fancy and drop it into the milk for a couple of minutes while you try and pretend to read the papers. Then stir it around to have a very satisfying cup of choc.

OK, this was a taster of what Lisbon has to offer. I’m back quite often so I’ll post more in future on the what other spoils can be found in the winding streets of this beautiful city.

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Nuart festival: Stavanger

Stavanger has become a real cornucopia of culture of late. Not only does it have it’s share of galleries, musicals, theatre and live music, but it is rapidly becoming an international city known for its street art. Like any other moderately sized city it has it’s fair share of tagging and graffiti, but it’s also got a veritable collection of engaging stencil art covering the walls of the city.

One of the main reasons for this is NuArt. NuArt is an annual alternative art festival which is bolted on to the increasingly popular NuMusic festival which hits the city every year.

NuArt spotlights stencil and street art, pulling in international renowned stencil artists, inviting them to paint the walls black, blue and multicolour with their stencils, designs and major work of graffiti art. The hub of all this activity is the very cool Tou Senter down by Storhaug, walking distance from the centre of the city.

Tou senter - Home of NuArt

Tou senter - Home of NuArt

Once an old run-down brewery/factory, it’s still a er… run-down brewery/factory but has been claimed by the artists, making it the place to go for new and exciting exhibitions, cosy concerts, dodgy performance art and their famous Sunday brunches (known as “the English Breakfast club”).

Needless to say, NuArt is fantastic and its roots have spread out to city walls. Below is a selection of some of the best offerings from this year.

What a lovely view: This highlights one of the reasons I love stencil art – it’s humour. Ok I’m gonna get polysyllabic here but it’s the paradoxical nature that appeals.

But then again there’s the other aspect which makes street art so attractive. The social commentary. This image above is a perfect example of the role of art to make you think. These are two great pieces which you can’t ignore.

The setting of the exhibition also played a big part. I mentioned earlier it was held in an old factory. Even though a lot of these pieces featured on the outside walls, the best pieces were buried inside. Basically they were featured in parallel corridors within a dank, unused part of the factory, most of which was in darkness. So to get from one exhibit to another you walked through shadows, heading towards the next dim set of lights, which considering the kind of world street art normally inhabits was an enigmatic touch.

Here we have a colourful exhibit from DotMasters from the UK. Imagine this, you’ve just walked along a dusty dark corridor away from the light of the last exhibition and rounding the corner only to be confronted to this assault of reds, and oranges and light! The pieces in this picture are all pixelated, something you can’t appreciate until you stand up close.

And so we come back to frivolity. Saucy pope here was one of the first pieces you see when you enter these little dark catacombs. No social comment here just taking the piss out of the pope, or was it Marilyn Munroe. Actually that’s another thing i like about stencil art – anyone can do it, it’s so accessible. These days all you need is a link to the internet and some kind of imaging program like photoshop. What makes the best stencil art so good though is it’s visual impact. Sure you can tell someone you saw a picture of the pope in Marilyn Monroe’s dress but nothing does it better than actually seeing it. Right?

This one’s a pearler and the photo captures some of the elements, I’ll try and describe it. You enter this corridor and you so at the end this picture of a man with a trident and dressed in some kind steampunk-inspired regalia. But what is only hinted in this picture are that there are at least a dozen cutout sheep flanking him (if you look closely you can see the shadow of one of them).

To end I’ll post this last picture of two time-honoured heroes down on their luck – batman and robin, pasted on a wall as rusty and delapidated as they are wornout and tired. Overall it was a great exhibition and certainly one of the reasons why Stavanger is a little gem when it comes to unorthodox but approachable art. The pictures featured here are only a selection and a future post will show even more.