If I were poetically inclined (which I emphatically am not), I could write an ode to Portuguese sidewalks. Hand laid using squared stones, they are a delight to the eye even when they’re a uniform color. In fancier areas such as main avenues and plazas, they’re even better, dressed up with patterns formed by darker stones.
In addition to the aesthetics, these sidewalks are far more porous to water than cement, leading to less runoff and much happier city trees. (The down side: heavy rainfall can often dig the sand right out from under the stones, creating dips and tripping hazards that no lawsuit-fearing American municipality could possibly afford.)
Laying sidewalks is hot, monotonous work. This is the first time I’ve seen a worker using a shade umbrella.
An experienced stonelayer can make rapid progress. He picks up the stone in one hand, lays it in place, sets it with a tap of the hammer, and is already reaching for the next stone. A group of them working together sounds like a percussion exhibition.
When I go back to the States for a visit, one of the culture shocks that invariably hits hard is the ugliness of the sidewalks. Flat, featureless slabs of industrial gray cement — ugh. I had never given thought to sidewalk aesthetics before moving to Portugal, but once you’ve lived with beautiful sidewalks, you’re ruined for anything else.
(Click the images to embiggen.)