Friday, 30 November 2018

I'm Not Running, The National Theatre, the Southbank, Central London

Images from the National Theatre web site

For a contemporary play about the tense and multi-layered world of British politics, I'm Not Running is too slow, laid back, disjointed and detached from real world events, which right now are more absorbing and profound than the fictional events covered in David Hare's new play. His focus on the NHS and healthcare seems narrow and dated, given this play was written in the era of Brexit, nationalism, Trump and Corbyn. Even the staff shortages in the NHS, which are being exacerbated by Brexit, don't warrant a mention, while the collapse of the political centre, the civil war in the Tory Party and the battle for the soul of the Labour Party are also ignored. In an apt metaphor for the script, the set, which is basically two revolving walls and some furniture, fails to fill the expansive stage of the Lyttelton Theatre.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

City Hall, Praça do Municipio, Lisbon

Lisbon's neoclassical City Hall was built in the middle of the nineteenth century, after a fire destroyed its predecessor, according to It is the most striking building in a beautifully-tiled square, which is also adorned by a spiral column built from a single block of stone in the eighteenth century, symbolising the enforcement of justice.  

Basílica da Estrela, Praça da Estrela, Lisbon

On the route of Lisbon's infamous tourist Tram 28, the Basílica da Estrela is an elegant marble eighteenth century church built by Queen Mary I of Portugal after she gave birth to an heir.

Travelling in Lisbon's Old Trams

Getting a ride on one of Lisbon's ancient wooden trams, which date from the 1930s, is far from easy. There isn't much space inside the atmospheric Remodelado' trams, which rattle around the city's streets and there are lots of tourists wanting to squeeze in.  Route 28 is particularly popular with both travellers and pickpockets. If you are desperate, take one of the trams heading out west into some of the less scenic parts of the city. You can use your day pass, which costs about 6.5 euros, on the trams, buses and metros.

Guards outside the Presidência da República, Palácio de Belém, Lisbon

Guards stand outside the official residence of the President of Portugal.  Renovated in the late 1800s it was turned into the official home of the President in 1911, according to Lisbonlux. On site are gardens and a museum, as well as the palace itself.

Belém, Lisbon

With several fine parks, gardens and major historical sites, the suburb of Belém should be on any Lisbon itinerary. Although a dual carriageway and a train line has cut the town centre off from the riverfront,  Belém is a pleasant place to wander and enjoy a beer of a coffee in the sunshine.

Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, Belem, Lisbon

An UNESCO World Heritage Site,  the sixteenth century Mosteiro dos Jerónimos is both vast and impressively ornate, with intricate carvings around its enormous main gateway and its domed bell tower. Built during the Age of Discovery, the monastery commemorated Vasco da Gama's discovery of the maritime route to India. Today, it is a magnet for tourists. In the morning, the queue to see the apparently spectacular interior can be several hundred-strong, but it seems to subside around lunchtime.  

Pão Pão Queijo Queijo, R. de Belém, Lisbon

Serving very tasty food at very tasty prices,  Pão Pão Queijo Queijo can get mobbed.  You begin by ordering from a cashier in the cramped reception space before queuing to get your food from the friendly fellas working behind the counter. You can get a massive sandwich or salad, French fries and a drink (including a beer) for six or seven euros. There is an enormous selection and the ingredients are pretty decent. If you are lucky, you might even get a seat at one of the pavement tables in the sunshine, from where you'll have a view of the magnificent Jerónimos Monastery. Otherwise, you'll need to sit upstairs. 8/10