A weekend on the tiles

16 October 2016
Ben Pentreath


Last weekend Charlie and I went to Lisbon. It had been high on our lists for a while.  We got in late on Friday afternoon and rolled into bed early at the end of a long, long week. But we woke at sunrise the following morning. This was the view from our room, just for starters….

Golden sunshine slowly crept across the extraordinary tiles on the wall of our bedroom….p1050819 p1050822

A corner of our cool nicely dated bedroom. Well, in fact, this was the sitting room.p1050831

And that was the view from the bath.p1050832

An altar in a tiny side chapel:p1050836 p1050837 p1050838

We left after breakfast eaten outside in warm sunshine – maybe the biggest treat of the weekend? – and wandered.p1050840 p1050843 p1050855 p1050856

First stop, flea market. Lots of things to carry home, except we didn’t.  p1050859 p1050860 p1050862

but we could have done.p1050869 p1050874 p1050876 p1050878 p1050880 p1050883 p1050886 p1050887 p1050889 p1050896 p1050899

Next stop, perfect A Vida Portuguesa  which is one of the most beautiful shops I’d been in in years. It was so beautiful that Charlie immediately announced he was opening a shop, although I’m not sure the plan survived to the end of the weekend (flowers and gardens are better).p1050903 p1050908 p1050909 p1050912

Heaven. And then we wandered more.p1050924 p1050926 p1050927 p1050929 p1050931 p1050933 p1050935 p1050939 p1050942

Lisbon is an incredible city of hills, as every guide book and every taxi driver is keen to remind you, but the walking isn’t hard.  What does emerge is incredible views, with foreground and great distance all in the same breath. p1050958

We climbed a hill and encountered a wedding.  Brilliant.p1050960 p1050963 p1050967 These were my favourite kind of places.
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Tram cables lace overhead.
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For some reason we couldn’t quite work out, the entire city was filled with Boy and Girl Scouts, who must have been quite hot in their uniform of thick socks and boots.  It was baking.p1060004 p1060010 p1060014 p1060015 p1060019

A Carioca was closed, unfortunately.p1060022 p1060026

I became slightly obsessed by this man vacuuming the ponds in the park,p1060035

And this one coming out of a deep hole:p1060037 p1060042

We made our way to the Natural History Museum.  It was extraordinary, and completely deserted. A little like entering a mental asylum. p1060043 p1060046

The incredible lecture theatre.p1060051 p1060057 p1060060 p1060063

And the two storey laboratory, one of the most fascinating rooms I have seen in a while.

Gruesome exhibits.  I took this photo for you, Bridie. p1060071 p1060073 p1060082 p1060084

An office. I loved this space.
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At moments (several moments) I felt more as if I was in a very hot Stockholm or Copenhagen; something to do with the windows and the colours and the bright red clay tile roofs, that felt so unlike what you expect in a hot climate.  Do you see what I mean?p1060129 p1060142 p1060145 p1060147

Pockets, just here and there, of incredible signage.  Not quite as much as I was expecting.
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Back to the peace and quiet of our beautiful bedroom:p1060164

Sunset.p1060168 p1060173 p1060179 p1060182And heading out to cocktails and dinner, and walking home late in warm air.

On Sunday, after another lazy breakfast in sparkling sunshine…. we headed to Belem. We were not quite alone. I’m afraid from time to time we found the sense of tourism overwhelming parts of this city, well, overwhelming….
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From there to the Botanical Garden, just clinging on amidst decay. Perfection, and tragic.p1060211 p1060220 p1060222 p1060223 p1060225 p1060228 p1060239 p1060247

the cactus houses.p1060251 p1060255

We headed down the waterfront to MAAT, with its extraordinary new entrance by Amanda Levete, which had opened two days before. p1060271

Stunning, but the details need a bit of work… clean lines are wobbling here and there.  Maybe built in a bit of a rush?p1060275 p1060276


We made our way back to the hotel for the last time.p1060291

Lisbon we loved you, and we had a brilliant time… but you are a city of contradictions. I think fewer huge cruise ships would be a good thing, just for a start.  p1060292


Maybe, just maybe, after all, the purpose of travel is not only to refresh and invigorate and show us new places with new eyes… but to remind us how much we love our own patch of soil called home.  We got down to Dorset on Friday.  Our friends Connie and Tom were staying for the weekend. p1060294 p1060296 p1060300

p1060303 p1060314 p1060320 p1060324 p1060333 p1060337Autumn is here in Dorset, and it was approximately close to heaven.

25 comments on this post

Mrs Hsays:

Wonderful blog as always. How short-sighted to stop investing in gardens and museums and libraries during times of economic hardship, when we need them the most. (We’re heading the same way here in Blighty, of course).

I’m loving the idea of a Pentreath hotel on the Isle of Wight. Perhaps we could crowdfund it.


Ben (and Charlie)

We were in Lisbon the same weekend as you and though I’m pretty good at stalking you on social media was less successful in real life! I enjoyed seeing your photos and hearing what you had to say about the city. I agree with you on all fronts. We went to another garden in Belem you would have enjoyed, I’m sure, and am (courageously, I feel) sharing a link with you here. One for your next visit, should you go again.

Scroll down, and down, and down…. if you have time.

Happy Sunday you two!



how lovely- your posts are always required reading. Can you say where you stayed?


Well that was very interesting; especially to compare with the short trip to Lisbon on TV with Travel Man Richard Ayaode and guest Adam Buxton. Felt a distinct urge to start weeding that socalled botanic garden. Super tiles. Totally agree on cruise ships and “no place like home”. Best, Nicola

Fiona Youngsays:

I nearly fell off my chair when I saw the dismal state of the botanical gardens. A big contrast with 25 years ago or so when I first visited them and the city. That’s a tragedy, and probably was one of the first costs to be axed when the economic crisis took hold. Great photos – and you drew a fair conclusion, I think. Outside of the blingtastic developments in the Algarve, it is a country of contradictions and tensions between the old and the new.


I feel i was there. the subjects you choose to photograph are exactly what i would point my camera at, so the post made me feel i was there, and i only had to imagine the smells! Divine!

Jane Jsays:

Lovely, thanks !


I was in Lisbon almost 50 years ago (yikes!!!!) so it was nice to see the photos of the city. Given the choice, I would take Dorset over Lisbon. Thank you so much for sharing.


Thanks for Lisbon-
took me back 40 years.
Unlike you we did drag back- all our blue and white from the Vista Alegre shop, octagonal white espresso cups with green line at the rim.Custard tarts.Carpets made by female convicts. Or by nuns. It was such a shabby city after the revolution but we loved it.
Oh, and The Avenida- four lanes of traffic with strips of green between, and ponds with black swans.
And it’s where I first saw a white peacock
Thanks, chaps, for the trigger to things I’d forgotten


Lisbon looks stunning – wonderful photos. By the way, I see from your previous posts that your folks live on the Isle of Wight. Perhaps you could convince the owners of The Pig to buy the Priory Bay hotel in Seaview? On for three million and sadly run down, but could be fabulous if you worked your magic on it!


Oh that bedroom! I suppose the up-side of economic stagnation is that so much beauty and craftmanship endures. vs. the ploughing over and redevelopment we’re seeing so much of in London. And I think the giant cruise ships are obscene too, but perhaps…if the “superstructures” are kept on the water it can prolong the lives of the onshore beauties. Thanks for such a nice visit.

lissy parkersays:

Your garden is the best place of all. Enjoy the Autumn beauty!
xo, lissy


After seeing the exhibits I can guess why the museum was empty. Do you suppose that man only owned 1 pair of knickers?


Wonderful tiles for miles and miles! But if you have to come home after all those ceramics, your Dorset garden is hard to beat. Those dahlias are still looking good.


Ben…Thank you so much for a beautiful blog, and a tie to England, which I love and miss. I currently spend my year between Lexington,ky and Montevideo, Uy, so your photos ease my nostalgia for home. I’ve now put Lisbon on my list, but more importantly….where was Mavis during your sortie? She’s quite the star now!
I love Mondays, and your brief visits…….thank you, j


Lisbon looks lovely, but nothing compared to Dorset, autumn in England is perfection.

Peter Hobbssays:

Oh my Ben…stunning photos and engrossing narrative as always….I can only dream but oh how you fuel my dreams. Thanks to you and Charlie xo


Lovely Monday treat, thank you. The son and his husband were in Lisbon at the same time but all their photos were of food! so it was great to see your wonderful wanders around the city capturing the beautiful and the quirky.

Theo Woodsays:

The hotel looked fab, what was it called?

Bridie Hallsays:

Thanks Ben.


I’m caught by an irrepressible urge to run to Lisbon


Thanks for an offbeat look at Lisbon,I much prefer to see ordinary day to day scenes rather than yet another cathedral! (Though I do appreciate a lovely cathedral.) The photo of the underpants was cheeky- bad pun intended. 🙂
By the by, I’m much enjoying English Houses. Rather greedily I read through it in two days instead of savouring it as one ought. Now I will revisit it in more leisurely fashion over the coming weeks.

David Sanderssays:

Loved the hotel in Lisbon, where you stayed – very chic. I will have to scour the internet now, to locate it.

connie kennedysays:



Super photos as always Lisbon looks such an interesting place to visit.Are you sure there isn’t another book waiting ? Maybe some travel guides,would love to see one on New York as we are going for Christmas and hoping to travel by train for a day up the Hudson Valley.Lovely to see pics of Dorset always captivating a little bit of heaven on earth have you visited Tyneham village it is such a special place you can understand why the villagers were heartbroken that they were never able to return after the war.
I have been visiting Dorset for years and it always feels welcoming and nurturing like home and such genuine friendly people and a landscape that delights the soul.

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