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An extract from a rather lovely painting in the Gulbenkian museum, Lisbon

An extract from a rather lovely painting in the Gulbenkian museum, Lisbon

A further day out in Lisbon on our recent trip to Portugal saw us making the most of ‘free entry’ day (Sunday), to museums and other places of interest.

To the north of the capital there is a cluster of places that are well worth a visit. We emerged from the metro at ‘Parque’ station to tumble into the splendid ‘Edward VII Park’ (named in honour of the former British monarch), with its long sloping parterre giving fabulous views of downtown Lisbon and the River Tagus beyond. This is the place- specifically the balcony by the tumbledown fountain’s where tourists come for a memorable shot of the city. And on our latest trip there were plenty of ‘selfie’ snappers in evidence, along with the long-standing row of market stalls selling all manner of cheap souvenirs. This is also the place that newly-weds come for their wedding shots, and it reminded me of when our daughter and her new husband did just that 5 years ago.

I’d discovered that nearby there were supposed to be some ‘estufas’ (hot houses), so we moved on. Sure enough, we came upon the massive shaded roof (of the cooler house) and then the expanse of glass that presumably housed the heat-loving collection.

What a find! Some parts of the hottest house were closed, but we managed to see some amazing cacti and other succulents. But the cool house, with its range of mature planting, all set within the walls of an old quarry, was truly superb. There was some floral colour, as well as some fun sculptures placed among the plants, but the real joy were the range and combinations of lush foliage beautifully laid out around pools and other water features.

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From here were rose further up the slope from the main park to another news place for us- an interesting, more contemporary park laid out in honour of the great Portuguese fado singer, Amalia Rodriguez. Curving grass terraces give way to a round, fountained pool surrounded by bog planting over which a boardwalk allows you to get up close and personal.

From here we fell once more, this time towards an old favourite, the Gulbenkian Foundation with its lovely surrounding gardens.

Stopping off at the Modern Art Centre for a quick lunch (very good value) and look at the exhibits, we then strode through the gardens. These are notable for the unified design which hinges on the movement through a series of small-scale spaces, with contrasting light and shade afforded by the many mature trees and shrubs. The other notable feature is the use of simple rectangles of (mainly) concrete to create a route which both moves you through the gardens (including subtle changes in level) and invites you to pause and sit or just people-watch. A clever design whichI found very pleasing to be within once more. And this time we also discovered the building which contains a cafe and some interpretation of the garden, including a fun interactive ‘design’ game where you can colour in different views of the gardens and then email these to yourself or anyone else, for that matter!

Of course, no visit here would be complete without a tour through the main museum, which houses the Armenian oil-tycoon’s collection of historic and artistic objects from around the world. I was especially pleased to see examples of art works by J.M.W.Turner and the French craftsman Lalique as well as some amazing illuminated books and oriental ceramics. Here are some pictures of some of my favourite things…

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All in all, a fantastic no low cost day out!

Old School Gardener

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Great Garden @ Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon

‘Whenever I want to escape the hustle and bustle of Lisbon, and don’t want to travel far, I retreat to the gardens of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum.

Covering roughly 17 acres, this beautifully landscaped garden contains a wide variety of well-established tropical as well as indigenous plants and trees that shelter subtly-appointed benches and seats. In the last few months a network of new, flat, winding paths has been opened through the garden.

There are picnic tables situated next to a lake where you can sit on bright winter days and soak up the sun, or watch the ducks with their fleets of ducklings enjoying the water in spring. At the weekends the gardens come alive with the sound of kids playing in the sunshine.

In the summer months, it is nice to disappear into this garden down one of the maze-like paths that snake through the shrubbery and to feel as if you are the only person in the world, surrounded only by birds scurrying around in the undergrowth or flitting in the trees. Somehow, the vast tree canopies manage to dull the sound of Lisbon traffic to the point you forget it is there and will also shelter you from the heat of the day.

The garden contains an open-air amphitheater where, during the summer, a programme of films or music events takes place in the evenings.

Whether on a hot, sultry summer evening or a bright, sunny winter day this garden is the perfect place to be and feel completely relaxed.’

Katy Pugh

Old School Gardener

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