A minor train adventure en route to England’s Hever Castle, childhood home of Anne Boleyn

 

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Hever Castle, deep in the Kent countryside, was Anne Boleyn’s childhood home. It’s about 30 miles from London.

By Betty Gordon

© 2017 text and photos. All rights reserved.

My original plan was to visit Hever Castle, childhood home of Anne Boleyn and where Henry VIII occasionally later courted her, on May 19 — a Friday — on what would have been the 481st anniversary of her execution at the Tower of London.

But being thoroughly familiar with England’s notoriously fickle weather, I also built in enough days on my recent trip — which started in Portugal and ended in London — so that in case it was raining, I could postpone the outing until conditions improved.

I knew there were two Southern Railway routes to Hever Castle, thanks to information on its website. I could go by train from London Bridge Station via Oxted or East Croydon to Edenbridge Town and then take a taxi about three miles to the castle.

Or I could leave from Victoria Station, change trains in East Croydon for Hever and walk about a mile. The castle website provided a map to follow from Hever Station to the castle.

I studied the train schedules for both options and it seemed that leaving from Victoria was a bit faster and more importantly, closer via the tube to my hotel. I was also attracted to idea of a countryside ramble, though I didn’t relish the idea of doing this clutching an open umbrella, sloshing through puddles and trying not to slip in the mud.

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The entrance to Hever Castle. The portcullis, in the center arch, is still in working order.

Dame Judi Dench, in a “Visit Britain” promotional short that has aired on PBS, may visit Hever Castle with her family “in all weathers,” but touring the expansive gardens, which cover 125 acres, seemed best left for fine weather.

On my last day in London, the skies finally cleared and I set off for Victoria Station, thinking that in under an hour, I’d be close to my destination.

I bought a return ticket to Hever (£12.20, about $15), and the woman at the window indicated that I could take any train to Clapham Junction and transfer for the train to Hever. I thought the change in routing might be due to the fact that this was a Sunday and perhaps trains were running on a limited schedule.

When I got to Clapham Junction, no train was going to Hever. A station worker showed me an information board, where you type in your destination, and it reveals the routing. What I found out is that the woman in Victoria Station should have told me I still had to go through Oxted — and change trains again there.

So off I went to the platform to wait about 30 minutes for the train to Oxted.

Once there, I had another lengthy wait, though I met two men, maybe in their 60s, who had just returned from Macedonia, where they said they had helped set up firefighting equipment and training procedures. We had a pleasant chat and they assured me that once the train pulled out of Oxted, I was only 10-15 minutes from Hever. They also noted that they had planned to leave from London Bridge Station, but that service wasn’t running and they ended up at Victoria Station also.

The extra change and downtime added about an hour to my journey, but was more of an inconvenience rather than something to get annoyed about.

I was heartened to find that once at Hever — a very small unmanned station — the signs pointed the way to the castle and the map became just a backup. Several other passengers were also headed to the footpath.

Gates along the way had red circular plastic markers with a white arrow and the words Hever Castle posted on them, and a yellow marker and black arrow indicating this was a public footpath, so there wasn’t any question I was headed in the right direction.

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Black-faced sheep paid no attention to the visitors tramping across their pasture.

As I expected, it was a charming walk, and I stopped to take pictures of some of the blooming flowers. What clinched it, however, was the group of black-faced sheep, sitting huddled together under a grove of trees in one of the lush pastures I crossed (keeping an eye out for piles of droppings I certainly didn’t want to step in).

I was barely 30 miles from London, and deep in the rural Kent countryside, but the verdant landscape made it seem like England’s capital was much farther away. I also passed a house with a thick thatched roof, doing business as a bed-and-breakfast, that would have been equally at home in Shakespeare’s time, and a helmeted woman leisurely riding her horse down the quiet road.

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Parts of St. Peter’s Church date to the 13th century. 

On the last stretch, now walking on a narrow street, I got sidetracked into St. Peter’s Church, which had a wooden sign that indicated this was the resting place of Thomas Bullen (aka Boleyn), Anne’s father and grandfather of Queen Elizabeth I. So I had a brief look inside.

His massive above-ground tomb is between the chapel and chancel. The brass plate on top of it indicates that he was a knight of the Order of the Garter (founded in 1348 by Edward III. It is Britain’s highest order of chivalry). Boleyn’s investiture was in 1523, during the reign of Henry VIII, whom he served as a diplomat and later as Treasurer of the King’s Household.

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Under this brass lies Anne Boleyn’s father, Thomas. The illustration indicates he was a member of the Order of the Garter, Britain’s highest order of chivalry. He’s wearing the garter on his left knee.

Boleyn died on March 12, 1538, not two years after Anne’s death. The brass illustration is of Boleyn in his full robes, his garter around his left knee and the badge on his left breast. The brass plaque notes he was also Earl of Wiltshire and Ormonde.

From the stone-and-plaster church, parts of which date to the 13th century, it’s a short walk to the ticket booth and entrance to the castle and grounds. As you approach the castle, you can’t miss the dozens of topiaries, some precisely clipped into whimsical animal shapes.

The structure itself predates the Boleyn family, with original construction taking place around 1270; the crenellated features were added over a period of years. Two centuries later, around 1459, Thomas Boleyn’s grandfather, a former lord mayor of London, bought the property and added two wings.

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This is the Long Gallery, added in the 1500s. Guests would have been entertained here. The ceiling is a 20th-century reconstruction in the Tudor style. The child in the golden gown is meant to depict Anne as a child.

Among Thomas Boleyn’s 16th-century improvements was the addition of the Long Gallery, which spans the width of the castle. Today it’s a sparsely furnished room that showcases several costumed figures meant to illustrate three periods of Anne Boleyn’s life.

Anne Boleyn lived here only about nine years, from about age 3 to 12, and a brief period as an adult around 1523 when she was exiled from court, where she was a lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon, Henry’s first wife.

A room that was believed to have been Anne’s bedroom is rather compact, features a window, half-domed ceiling and a carved headboard, but it is not set up as if she occupied it.

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This “Book of Hours” belonged to Anne Boleyn. It is in a glass case with low lighting to protect the pages. It was printed sometime around 1410-1450.

Among the prized possessions on display are two of Anne’s prayerbooks, known as a “Book of Hours.” These books would have been read from eight times a day at specific hours, thus the name. The castle website said that on May 19, 2016, both were opened to the pages where her signature and writing appear.

The illuminated version dates to 1410-1450; the printed one to 1528.

After Thomas Boleyn’s death, the Crown took over the castle property. By then, Henry was on to wife No. 4, Anne of Cleves, a German noblewoman, whom he took an instant dislike to at their first meeting. Among other things, he railed about her not looking at all like the attractive person in the portrait by court painter Hans Holbein, and she spoke no English, French or Latin.

The marriage was never consummated. Henry was already smitten with Catherine Howard, and eager to have the six-month union with the German annulled. Hever Castle was among the properties granted to Anne of Cleves at the time of the divorce. When she died in 1557, the property returned to the Crown.

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American William Waldorf Astor bought Hever Castle in the early 20th century. Among his main contributions was the addition of 125 acres of gardens.

Over the centuries, ownership passed through several families and the castle fell into disrepair. When American financier William Waldorf Astor purchased it in 1903, he employed more than 700 skilled artisans and craftsmen to restore the castle using 16th-century techniques, and 800 more to dig the 38-acre lake. Astor is responsible for the addition of the gardens, which took several years to plant and cultivate.

The resulting renovation is a combination of Tudor-era decoration crossed with 20th century Astor sensibilities.

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Anne Boleyn was Henry VIII’s second wife. She was beheaded on May 19, 1536, in London. Portraits of his other five wives are also in the Hever Castle collection.

In truth, aside from the prayerbooks, a collection of Tudor-era portraits, including all six of Henry’s wives, and period tapestries, there isn’t much in the way of personal items to connect Anne to the castle, even if you count the richly paneled bedchamber and massive four-poster bed, purported to be where Henry VIII slept when the love-sick king was pursing Anne.

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Several small waterfalls add to the beauty of the 38-acre lake.

That said, a tour of the castle and a leisurely stroll around the lake and through the meticulously maintained gardens can take up the better part of a day. You can bring a picnic (or eat at one of the restaurants or snack stands) and your dog (as long as it is leashed), and set out your blanket on the luxuriant green lawn and soak up the sun.

The Tudor gardens feature yew trees fashioned into the shapes of period chess pieces, more than 4,000 plants comprise the rose garden (they hadn’t bloomed yet this spring), and a towering yew maze lets you to test your problem-solving and direction-finding skills.

Several kid-friendly attractions include a water maze, an adventure playground, miniature model houses and lots of ducks and swans to feed.

On school holidays and weekends, rowboats, canoes and pedal boats can be rented for a spin around the lake, kids and adults can try their hand at archery, and your young knight or aspiring lady can paint a shield or crown.

If you really want to feel like royalty, consider staging your wedding here or staying at the B&B or holiday cottage. There are also 27 holes of golf.

I also had a brief look at the KSY Military Museum, a tribute to the Kent and Sharpshooters Yeomanry. It tells the story of soldiers from 1794 to the present in a museum that opened in 2015. (The collection was previously in the keep of the castle.) I would have liked to have had more time here, but it was already close to closing time.

I’m happy to report that the return trip to London went more smoothly. I retraced my steps on the footpath but was disappointed not to get another look at the sheep as they had moved from their shady spot.

The wait time at Oxted was shorter than in the morning, and I didn’t have to make a second change, so I was back at Victoria Station in under an hour.

Quick reference: Hever Castle and Gardens, open daily. Grounds open at 10:30 a.m., castle opens at noon. Tickets available for the gardens only, or castle and gardens. Discount for seniors, age 60 and up. You can save a little by purchasing in advance online, but beware that tickets can’t be exchanged, transferred to another date or refunded. Some of the extras like boating and archery have an additional fee. http://www.hevercastle.co.uk

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On Easter Island, among the moai at Anakena: From every side, something to see

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The seven moai at the beach at Anakena are known as Ahu Nau Nau. They face inland, with Anakena Beach behind them. The site was restored in 1978.

By Betty Gordon

© 2017 text and photos. All rights reserved.

In November 2016, spring in the Southern Hemisphere, I took an unforgettable, two-week trip to Easter Island and Chile. This is the fourth post about my adventures. See April 10, March 6 and February 12, 2017, for earlier posts.

Of the 50 or so moai that have been restored atop the ceremonial platforms known as ahu, most show the weathering caused by centuries of exposure to wind, rain and sun. If these stone giants displayed decorative carving, much of it is has become “illegible” and extremely difficult to see.

But at Anakena, the carving on several of the seven restored moai on Ahu Nau Nau is much more visible for an odd reason: They spent a long period of time, possibly hundreds of years, covered in sand.

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Ahu Nau Nau, with its seven moai in profile. The palm trees were imported from Tahiti in the 1960s.

In profile, four of the moai are close in height. One lacking a hat is shorter. One is a headless torso and the last not much more than a stump. On three statues, the shape and length of the facial features are similar and look like they could have been carved by the same master craftsman while they were still in the “nursery,” the volcano at Rano Raraku, and if not, then possibly someone trained by him.

The well-marked ears are rendered in relief, and the lips and deep eye sockets are also well defined.

The outline of the arms flows downward, with the flat hands and fingers clearly outlined as they cross the moais’ belly. In a few, the navel pokes out on the torso.

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Look carefully, and you can make out some of the lines and spiral patterns on the back. The patterns may mimic tattoos that some islanders wore.

As viewed from the rear, visitors should be able to make out spiral and circular patterns on the lower back, and horizontal lines. These markings may have mimicked the tattoos favored by some of the clans.

As I’ve written previously, by about 1838, none of the moai were still standing upright on their ahu. One theory holds that warring clans, perhaps clashing over dwindling food and resources on the island, pushed down their adversaries’ moai in order to bury their faces and thus deprive them of their mana, or power, that the clans believed the statues were imbued with.

In other words, it wasn’t enough to defeat another clan and take its supplies. By toppling their protective moai, further insult was inflicted.

Thus, this conflict yielded at least one unintended result for modern-day visitors to Anakena.

On the northeastern side of the triangular island also known as Rapa Nui, Anakena is what many mentally picture when they think of the South Pacific: crystal-blue waters lapping at a white-sand beach surrounded by nearby palm fronds swaying in the breeze. Because of the island’s deforestation over the centuries, the palms at Anakena were actually imported from Tahiti in the 1960s.

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The Rapa Nui people revere Hotu Matu’a, who came from another Polynesian island to Easter Island, possibly as early as A.D. 600 to 900. He and his group landed at Anakena, today popular with swimmers and sunbathers.

It was in this small cove that ancestors of the islanders who made the moai first landed. This likely happened somewhere around A.D. 600 to 900. The well-provisioned group, led by Hotu Matu’a, brought with it from another Polynesian island perhaps 2,000 miles away some of the supplies needed to stock a new settlement, such as plants and animals.

When they arrived in their canoes, it is believed the island was about 70 percent covered in several species of palm trees and plants, and that abundant fish and birds supplemented their diet.

Eventually, Anakena became the home of the royal clan Miru, direct descendants of Hotu Matu’a.

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Ahu Nau Nau from the front. During an excavation, the white coral and red scoria that comprise an eye were found here.

In addition to the carvings, the Anakena site also has several other distinctions:

  • Four of the seven moai are sporting cylindrical pukao, the red topknot “hat” meant to evoke a hairstyle the male members of some clans wore. No other restored site features as many moai with pukao.
  • In 1978, an excavation by archaeologist Sergio Rapu turned up evidence that some of the moai had proper “eyes,”which was the final ornamental touch in their construction and installation atop the ahu. White coral (for the sclera) and red scoria (for the pupil) were inserted in a priestly ceremony, and thus “awakened,” the moais’ power was in full force. The original coral and scoria discovery can be seen at the Museo Antropológico Sebastián Englert, a small museum named for the German missionary priest who lived on the island for 34 years, learned the local language and documented many oral legends. Very few other samples of the “eye” material have been found.
  • Atop a second ahu, to the right of Ahu Nau Nau as you face it, sits a lone moai that served as a guinea pig for Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl and his team when they were testing theories as to how the islanders maneuvered the moai into an upright position.
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This is Ahu Ature Huki, the first moai to be stood upright by modern-day restorers. This was accomplished by Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl and his team in 1955-56. In front, below the moai’s base, you can just make out a plaque commemorating the effort.

This site, known as Ahu Ature Huki, features the first moai to have been uprighted. Heyerdahl writes about the process of raising the 10-foot, nearly 30-ton moai in his book “Aku Aku,” based on his 1955-56 expedition.

According to Heyerdahl, the mayor, Pedro Atan, enlisted 12 men — some working barefoot —and had them gather large boulders and three long wooden poles.

“The figure had its face buried deep in the earth, but the men got the tips of their poles underneath it, and while three or four men hung and pulled at the farthest end of each pole, the mayor lay flat on his stomach and pushed small stones under the huge face. … As the hours passed, the stones he moved out and shoved in became larger and larger. When the evening came, the giant’s head had been lifted a good three feet from the ground, while the space beneath was pack tight with stones.”

The poles acted as levers as the ever-taller sloped wall of stones — picture a wedge — grew under the moai. In this manner, it took about 17 or 18 days to complete the task.

Surely one way to prove a point, but not nearly as easy as using a crane to replace the 15 moai atop their platform as was done at Ahu Tongariki.

Our small group visited Anakena at the end of a full day of island touring. It’s the only site with snacks available and a restaurant-bar, restroom facilities (fee charged), plus access to a nice, small beach.

Earlier, we’d spent several hours at Rano Raraku (the quarry) and its crater, once the only source of fresh water on the eastern side of the island, and Ahu Tongariki.

We’d also stopped at the site called Te Pito Kura, where the largest moai ever to stand atop an ahu is sprawled on the ground, its topknot nearby. It was estimated to be more than 33 feet tall, with its topknot another 6.6 feet in height. Its weight was estimated at 70 tons. This is also thought to be the last moai standing, when it was noted by a French explorer named Abel Du Petit-Thouars in 1838. No other outsiders remarked after that date that they’d seen a moai still upright.

Nearby is a large stone, surrounded by four smaller rocks. Stories diverge here, again. Some believe the large stone accompanied Hotu Matu’a to his new home, and that it is laden with mana. Others say that it’s just another ocean-tossed stone, smoothed by the elements, that found its way inland.

Quick reference: Mahinatur offers several routes for guided exploration of Easter Island. mahinatur.cl (Spanish only). Pickup and drop off at your lodging and lunch are included on the full-day tour.

Hello, world: Fawning over a darling new addition to the neighborhood

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A fawn I’ve named Friday takes its first tentative steps. It was born Friday afternoon in my backyard.

By Betty Gordon

© 2017 text and photos. All rights reserved.

Among wildlife lovers in my neighborhood, the first two or three weeks of June are highly anticipated. It’s when we compare deer sightings — “Have you seen any fawns yet?” — as we await the arrival of the newborns.

Early Friday afternoon (June 9), the blessed event happened. A tiny newcomer, all huge, dark  eyes, flicking ears, wobbly legs and spots galore, came into the world in my backyard. Looking out a kitchen window, I could see Mom avidly licking the youngster.

All week, I had an inkling something was up. I kept seeing the same pregnant doe grazing around the edge of my property. With her heavy belly, it seemed likely that someone might be having a birthday soon.

The deer that live in the woods next to my house are as used to seeing me as I am to seeing them and show little fear of humans in general. They don’t high-tail it to safety at my presence, even when I have my dog on his leash.

I called out softly to her several times: “Hey, pretty girl. It’s OK. Hey, pretty girl.”

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This is Friday’s mother, visiting my landing at midmorning Thursday. You can see the bulge in her tummy.

At about 10 a.m. Thursday, the doe was standing on the landing of the concrete stairs that lead to my front door. Her furry tan back was to me, but I could see she was calmly chewing her cud and looking out toward the cul-de-sac at the end of my street.

I don’t think she’d just had a nibble from the azalea bush directly to her right because it’s not at its healthiest at the moment. But she may have earlier been sampling the ground cover around the tall oak tree to her left, a favorite dining spot for the herd.

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These four (note the two young bucks with fuzzy little antlers closest to the camera) were eating my ground cover on Thursday.

My record for most deer seen at the same time: 19. I regularly observe what I take to be family groups of five or six. When they come running up the street — or out of the woods going in the other direction — it’s a sight to behold. Sometimes they are in leisurely fast-walking mode and at other times, it’s all hooves-pounding-the pavement, run-as-fast-as-you-can speed.

If they are exiting the woods, their usual route has them skirt the edge of a neighbor’s side lawn. They’ve done this so often that they’ve worn a path through the grass.

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One of the more mature bucks last year, with something dangling from his antlers.

I’ve taken hundreds and hundreds of photos over every season. In addition to the fawns being delivered now, the young bucks are sporting fuzzy antlers. I haven’t seen the bigger bucks for awhile, but I’m sure they’re somewhere roaming the immediate vicinity or the subdivisions that back up to mine.

Thursday morning, I grabbed my camera and took a few pictures through the front window, intentionally not opening the front door, the noise of which might have caused her to bolt.

Thursday night I was working on a future blog post until the small hours. When I took my black Lab-mix canine outside before we went to sleep, I noted the silhouette of a doe by the flower bed in front of my next-door neighbor’s house.

I couldn’t tell if she was sitting on the dirt in the flower bed or on the lawn just beside it and the short walkway to their front door, but it was an odd place for her to be. Most of the time, when the deer are resting or sleeping, they camp inside the tree line where plenty of plants and bushes provide camouflage … and food.

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The new mom, shortly after giving birth Friday.

When I got up Friday morning, I looked around the front of my property, and around my neighbor’s. No signs of a baby. Then I looked out back. Mom was all alone, but her plus-one arrived within hours.

When the new mom was finished tenderly administering to her baby, she headed toward the side woods, leaving the fawn alone but well-hidden.

From my deck, I took several photos, but then went outside at ground level to get a closer look at the fawn. It was standing behind some shrubs, weeds and branches near the perimeter fence.

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Ready for its first closeup: Friday among the weeds and shrubs.

I was probably about 15-20 feet away. I don’t know how good a newborn’s eyesight is, but I’m sure the fawn knew I was there. Even if it was only sensing a form larger than itself was nearby, it remained absolutely still. It didn’t scoot. It didn’t cry out.

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Friday, the fawn already steadier on its feet, heads off after Mom.

Meanwhile, Mom had spotted me. We kept our distance. I didn’t want to spook either her or her wee one. Mom walked back into the woods and the fawn, a little steadier on its spindly legs, headed in the same direction.

Last spring, one of the newborns made its debut on the next street over. Its mom had left it on the pavement, wedged between two tall heavy-duty plastic garbage bins.

I was walking my dog when I saw the fawn. Once we got home, I got my camera and headed back. By the time I got there, it was gone. Neighbors reported it retreated into the backyard across from them.

Three Junes ago, I was luckier.

My neighbor two doors down called me early on a Saturday morning. She was slightly panicked that the fawn in her front flower bed wasn’t breathing.

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This is Flower, born June 21, 2014. Flower was so well hidden among the greenery that you could walk right past and not know a fawn was there.

With smartphone in hand, I approached the little animal and was mighty relieved to note the easy rise and fall of its ribcage. I was literally within inches of this pint-size body, and snapped some excellent photos.

I named this cutie “Flower.” I didn’t know where Mom was, but I monitored how Flower was doing several times throughout the day.

On the last check, late in the afternoon, Flower was gone — but not too far. She was standing in my neighbor’s side yard, feeding hungrily from mom.

I know that in many communities, the deer overpopulation is not only a nuisance but a real problem, especially because they can carry disease-bearing ticks.

In my own yard, I’ve stopped planting flowers because for too many years, the deer have consumed them. This was the final straw: I left for work one morning, excited about all my tulip buds and looking forward to one of my favorite sights of spring in the coming days.

By the time I got home, every single bud had been bitten off and the stalks reduced in height.

Even so, I still delight every time I see these gentle, graceful creatures. I’ve named the new arrival Friday.

Only one question remains: Is Friday a singleton or is there a twin out there I have yet to discover?

In Lisbon, Portugal: (Sort of) Dining out with American TV travel host and guidebook author Rick Steves

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Rick Steves gives a friendly greeting to a fellow traveler at the TimeOut Market in Lisbon. He’s accompanied by his producer, Simon Griffith. Steves and his team are on their annual spring-summer tour of Europe, filming new TV shows and gathering information to update guidebooks.

By Betty Gordon

© 2017 text and photos. All rights reserved.

It’s a little after 7 in the evening on a pleasant spring Thursday in May in Portugal’s capital. I’m sitting on a low-backed high stool, made of a light-colored wood, at a lengthy table shared by several dozen people I don’t know in a place called TimeOut Market Lisboa, which modestly calls itself “the best of Lisbon under one roof.”

It’s in the southern part of the city, across the street from a ship terminal and metro stop on the River Tejo. The concept of the venue, opened in 2014, is the brainchild of the local office of the same TimeOut folks who publish city and country guidebooks and magazines. The Lisbon staff have “tasted and tested” all the vendors in the “curated” market.

The tables run up and down the center of the facility. Forming the perimeter of the covered venue are mini-restaurant kiosks — some with limited seating — offering a variety of cuisines from which to order: seafood to pizza to Asian to Mexican to tapas to traditional Portuguese dishes, to famous custard tarts, eclairs, gelato and more.

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Restaurant kiosks ring the center space, where diners gather at long communal tables. The informal setup contributes to conversation among total strangers.

If you can’t find something among the 24 food kiosks and eight bars to eat and drink, you’re not trying.

The diners are a local and international mix, running the age gamut: families with rambunctious young kids (some in strollers) sitting at the tables lower to the floor, well-dressed couples having cocktails and a light meal, 20-somethings out for a night of drinking and sharing appetizers — and not spending a fortune in the process.

Think food court on a more sophisticated scale, with custom-made dishes from each mini-restaurant. You study the overhead menu, place your order, pay your tab and are handed a squarish pager that buzzes loudly and lights up madly when your food is ready for pickup. (The pizza on offer is one of the few dishes we see that appears precooked.)

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Behind these diners you can see the day’s choices and prices at two kiosks: Confraria, specializing in sushi, and Honorato, which offers thick hamburgers.

My friend Sylvia has gone off to order her meal from the counter at chef Marlene Vieira’s place, praised in the TimeOut brochure as having “brought to the market the best of Portuguese recipes, in the shape of both snacks and main dishes.”

The people-watching is superb.

I’m minding our belongings and Sylvia’s IPA from Beer Experience Super Bock (so the busboys don’t prematurely clear the table). Suddenly, walking right past where I’m sitting in almost the center of the market, I see someone I know. Well, not quite know, but recognize.

A casually dressed bespectacled man with a short haircut is moving from my left to my right. He’s with a curly headed man I also recognize, and a younger raven-haired woman I don’t. (I later deduce that this is probably a local guide.)

No question I’ve spotted Rick Steves. I’ve seen dozens and dozens of his shows about his travels in Europe — including the program he’s done on Lisbon — and while I’m surprised to see him, I’m not completely surprised to see him. I know he spends up to four months each spring and summer filming his TV series that’s shown on PBS and researching his guidebooks. (He’s been blogging about this trip since late April.)

I call out: “Hi Rick,” and give a little wave.

His head whips to the right to locate where this voice has come from — maybe he’s wondering who has identified him in this busy, bustling place — and I add: “We have your book.”

“Thanks,” he says, and keeps walking.

I watch where he’s gone because when Sylvia returns, I want to get a photo and I suspect she’ll want to get her Portugal guidebook autographed.

He’s taller than I expected, so I have no trouble tracking him as he migrates to the far end of the market.

Sylvia comes back to the table, and I tell her I’ve seen Rick Steves. (He has one of those two-syllable names that people always utter in full, like John Glenn or Tom Hanks.)

She grabs her guidebook, I hand her a black ballpoint pen, and she heads in the direction I’ve indicated. She spots him by chef Miguel Castro E Silva’s stand. (“The Porto native offers some of his famous rice dishes, as well as snacks traditionally popular in the north, such as the inevitable francesinha — the multilayered sandwich [covered in melted cheese] invented in Porto,” the brochure says.

Mission accomplished — the name Rick Steves is scrawled fairly illegibly on the inside front cover — and Sylvia recounts their conversation to me.

“ ‘Do you mind signing my book?’ ” Sylvia says she asked him.

“He said, ‘Oh, no, of course not.’ ”

“ ‘I was going to email you,’ ” she says to him. “ ‘You need to update two things in your book.’ ” (I’m sure she has said this in a friendly, information-imparting tone, not in a finger-wagging one.)

“ ‘I need to update a lot,’ he says, laughingly,” Sylvia tells me. “ ‘ What are they?’ ”

“And then I told him about the taxi ride. It’s now double into the city.” Sylvia is citing that the 2014 version of the guidebook estimates a taxi from the airport to city-center hotels to cost only 10 euros. In reality, it is 19 euros, Sylvia says.

“And the Gulbenkian [Museum] is 10 euros now.” (Perhaps the top museum in Lisbon, it houses the wide-ranging private collection of Armenian-born Calouste Gulbenkian, a many-times-over millionaire who amassed his fortune via oil, negotiating the transfer between companies and taking a commission each time.)

In all fairness, even when guidebooks are regularly updated, some information is almost immediately obsolete. Adding in production schedule lag time of six months to a year means that even the most recently published edition will have out-of-date material.

It’s unavoidable: Museums raise their entry fees, tour operators’ prices increase, hotels and restaurants become more expensive, and so on.

I really don’t want to seem like an annoying tourist, but I know this blog post will be enhanced if I have a photo to go along with the text.

So off I go. Steves hasn’t moved very far from where Sylvia chatted with him.

I am polite. I ask if he minds if I take his picture. It probably doesn’t hurt that I say: “I watch your show all the time.” I hope it doesn’t sound fawning.

So while Steves is giving me a little wave and his producer Simon Griffith is gazing toward the ceiling (probably looking at a kiosk menu), I snap a couple of frames. And then I thank them for posing.

I could exaggerate a bit here and say we have dinner with Steves and his friends, because they are sitting at the other end of our communal table. Several times while Sylvia and I are tucking into our food, I look to my right and have no trouble picking out where Steves is sitting.

But in that we aren’t having a conversation with him, we’re not really eating with him either.

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From chef Miguel Laffan’s kiosk, grilled chicken with Thai sauce, consisting of coconut milk, coriander, green curry and ginger.

As for our food, I order grilled chicken with Thai sauce from chef Miguel Laffan’s kiosk. The chicken is perfectly cooked, juicy, and despite a sauce made of coconut milk, coriander, green curry and ginger, not overly spicy. I also have a side salad of lettuce, red onions, tomatoes and corn. I spend about $10. (Several other sauces are available, including spicy piri-piri and barbecue.)

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This is chef Marlene Vieira’s version of a traditional Portuguese dish called bacalhau: salted cod with potatoes, onions, black olives and a hard-cooked egg. I think the rectangular dessert on the left is like the famous circular custard tarts we see everywhere in Portugal.

Sylvia is less happy with her meal. She tries the traditional bacalhau, salted cod with potatoes, onions, black olives and a hard-cooked egg. The cod is dried and reconstituted, and she reports it isn’t too salty or too fishy. I try a small bite of the fish and find it … chewy.

Two days later, after the completion of our sightseeing in the Belem area, we’re not far by trolley from TimeOut Market, so we decide to eat there again. After all, there are so many choices.

I order Pad Thai with chicken from the Asian Lab. Sylvia selects a steak-and-shrimp sandwich from Café de São Bento (an offshoot of a much-lauded restaurant and bar).

Unfortunately, the amount of steak on her sandwich is meager, and the overall portion isn’t very large. After another prowl, she and comes back with tempura veggies, including green beans. Once again, I’m happier with my meal than she is with hers.

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This is the entry to Mercado da Ribeira, the market across from the river Tejo. 

During our five-day Lisbon stay, we also stop at city-center Santini for gelato, and Honorato, across from our hotel, for fist-filling double-decker hamburgers. Both have kiosks at TimeOut Market, so in reality we have sampled a total seven of the possible places to eat or drink.

Which qualifies me to say that although the food experience may be uneven, the overall destination is well worth investigating.

Quick reference: Guidebooks list the food hall as Mercado da Ribeira (mercado means market). Some of the non-restaurant vendors sell seafood, fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers. Avenida 24 de Julho; across from the Cais do Sodré metro stop. 10 a.m. to midnight Sundays-Wednesdays; 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursdays-Saturdays. http://www.timeoutmarket.com