Like custard tarts and salt cod, tiles are a Portuguese speciality. They are everywhere: on walls and buildings and houses (inside and out), in railway and metro stations, on fountains, palaces, seats, churches, signs, staircases, and in the very best place to eat pastéis de nata.
Tiles are part of the fabric and history of Lisbon. Once you get your eye in and can see the huge variation on display in the city, it's quite easy to start getting picky and having favourites. I love the way whole houses, walls and cloisters are covered in traditional blue and white designs, but equally I like looking for more recent tiles which date from the mid twentieth-century onwards. Lisbon's metro stations are a particularly good hunting ground for very modern tiles, but sometimes you unexpectedly come across a small section of really stunning, graphic, colourful tiles that makes you think someone was having a good time putting groovy, graphic patterns onto them.
The tiles above caught my eye because of the wonderfully simple but effective repeat patterns, and because of the colours. And I couldn't help noticing that the squashes at the market looked remarkably similar. Who knows, maybe if I look harder, I'll be able to find tiles inspired by lemons and tomatoes and onions as well?
[By coincidence, I saw that the artists Joana Vasconcelos who uses tiles in her amazing creations (along with other traditional domestic objects and skills) has incorporated one of the two tiles above in a recent piece. Apparently, she has bought up lots of leftover mid-century tiles from small producers, tiles which otherwise would be lost, and is thus acknowledging and saving important little pieces of Portugal's heritage.]
[The tiles are on a small shop on the Rua das Portas de Santo Antão all year round, and the squashes are available in season from the market.]