January 16th, 2023
What is enchanting about Lisbon? The answer is simple: the river, the streets and above all, the sea. And even more important to me are those who have celebrated them in their art. My trip was a homage to my favorite poet, thinker and philospher, Fernando Pessoa. I also wished to see it through the eyes of one who celebrated Pessoa and his city in so many wonderful novels, Jose Saramago. In previous Blogs I have spoken of Pessoa and his incredible life and poetry and have mentioned Saramago in connection with him. I will surely cover him in more depth in future blogs. But here I want to speak of my sensory impressions of both Lisbon and the sea.
You cannot visit Lisbon without being constantly reminded of the presence and importance of the sea. From Luis de Camões’ The Luciads, to Fernando Pessoa’s Messagem, both dramatising Portugal’s explorations, the sea is alway there, magical and essential.
I spent the entire month of September 2022 in Lisbon. I had promised myself years ago, that I would return to that beautiful city, but it took me many many years to finally make it happen. As I said, I had several reasons for the trip, but one that was really pulling me was the memory of evenings in small rustic bars filled with music lovers, eating fragrant cheeses and fresh country bread accompanied by the country’s celebrated wines while thrilling to the rich and plaintive sounds of the traditional fado music. But little did I know how quickly the entire city would earn my affection.
My son visited me for part of my trip and on our second night after a marvelous afternoon Tagus River sail, quite by luck we and friends landed at a wonderful little restaurant in the old Alfama district for a typical Portuguese meal and some Fado music at the appropriately named Canto do Poeta (diogo_castro_ferreira on instagram). The owner of the place is a talented guitarist who invites friends to join him every night beginning at 9:00 for a dinner show. The place is small and bohemian. Reservations are required and once the music starts, no one is allowed to enter. It is an intimate and personal atmosphere of friends and fans. The food and service are delightful and drinks are included in the one price fits all program. They play rounds of three pieces with lights low and no talking as Fado singers improvise and the musicians must be alert to their variations. Lights go on and conversation and food service resumes until the next round. Many singers come and go throughout the evening and musicians frequently arrive for a sort of after party for which we were happy to be present. It couldn’t have been more perfect! Diogo, the owner, won us over with his charming personality as did the entire staff and other musicians. I returned several times with my son and with my niece and will do so again when I return to Lisbon this fall.
Oh, but the music is just the beginning. The first day I walked out the door of my delightful airbnb apartment and began walking I was astounded by the beauty of the buildings and the streets and sidewalks decorated with beautiful tile and stonework. The trees along the avenues and the many parks and outlooks were enchanting. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming and I immediately felt I belonged there.
Since my son is a surfer, we traveled the short train rides to several lovely beaches crowded with families and surfers both local and international. Days on the beach were marvelous. Since we were there at the time the waves begin to be very attractive, my son was happy to enjoy some great swells. Evenings were spent walking through the city, stopping here and there for a cocktail or a bite to eat and to enjoy the views of the city with its many hills, the remains of the moorish castle and the gaiety of the people.
I enjoyed visits to some wonderful museums, Casa Fernando Pessoa, Foundation Jose Saramago, the Museum of Fado Music, the Belen Cultural Center near the San Jeronimo Monestary where Fernando Pessoa’s tomb lies as well as that of the beloved 16th century poet Luis Cameõs.
I promised Fernando and will keep my promise to return soon.
“Here where the sea ends and the earth awaits”
(Quote from the Lusiads. Also a final line from Jose Saramago's marvelous novel about Fernando Pessoa and one of his hetronymns The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis) .
I am a writer who covers film, art, music and culture expanding on my own experience, travels and interests. My goal is to explore and to share, hopefully inspiring my readers to follow my lead and further enrich their lives as well.