Seas of the world are to me about the same as honey is to Winnie the Pooh. I seem to go to ridiculous extremes in order to reach them. So was also my pilgrimage to the westernmost corner of continental Europe. Planes, trains and automobiles took us there, and spellbound by the beauty of the ocean and the warm spirit of the people I swore I’d revisit.
Before my trip to Lisbon my friend Annie told me about a great article written by Anja Mutic. Later I discovered that Anja is one of the authors of the Lonely Planet guidebook for Portugal, which I also purchased to find the best places to visit. Moreover, I want to have a phrasebook on hand in order to communicate in the local language whenever I possibly can, and LP guidebooks are the best help in my effort to pose as a local. In her article Anja writes about the different areas of Lisbon and their special features. She also unravels Saudade, the longing spirit of the Portuguese, manifested in fado music. For travel tips I warmly recommend both the article and the book.
My best experiences in Lisbon include a Portuguese dance night at a park quiosque serving some fantastic blackcurrant Sangria, breaking the ruthless Atlantic waves at a surfer beach in Guincho – just a daytrip away from Lisbon, getting lost in the narrow and winding alleys of the vibrant Alfama at moonlight, and dining in a lost side street somewhere south of Rato in a tiny, newly opened restaurant called Couto. Now that I Google it I see that it has got fantastic reviews and you can find it on Rua do Monte Olivete. Lisbon is known for its seafood and this is definitely the place to get your traditional cod or sea bass prepared with a modern twist, keeping it simple but ever so tasty. I must also send my regards to Catarina, who made us feel like we were guests in her home in that little restaurant.
In Lisbon I felt like I was surrounded by art. I couldn’t stop admiring the fantastic tile art that you can see covering both the outer and the inner walls of houses and streets, but also the graffiti art painted everywhere. I met a Portuguese tile artist called Álvaro Almeida who works to preserve the cultural heritage of the traditional tile art, considered as one of the most original productions of the Portuguese culture. Despite all the drawbacks that Colonialism and brought with it, I must say that it is pretty fantastic to think that I have seen this traditional Portuguese tiling all the way in India.
Anja writes about listening to local music in order to get into the culture, I do that too, and I also try to find something local to read. This time it was definitely Pessoa. I must say I enjoy immensely his style and his stories. He was quite a peculiar man, writing under various writer identities, who used to launch into debates with each other. But he somehow opens the window into the open-mindedness of the Portuguese. When you sit at a quiosque at dusk it seems that most people know each other and accept each others’ oddities. Teenagers, seniors, business men and women as well as little kids, all interacting and feeling comfortable in their sweet Saudade.
Watching the infinite sea, it is so easy understand the need to explore it, feeling the curiosity grow inside, wondering what there is, beyond the horizon, just out of sight. And all those brave men and women who were lost looking for it, or the ones who survived but were left longing for home. Wait! Is that a lighthouse? That weak beam of light, coming and going. No, it must be just the glimmering sea. But that, I am sure, that is an island, a big one! No, it can’t be. It must be just some ocean mist rising. I wonder where that sailboat is going… And if I sent something in the water, where would it land… Caressed by the sea, salt, sand and the sun, minds filled with adventures on the seas, promises are made to come back one day.