Wandering Lisbon

Whenever I visit a new place, particularly a city, I spend some time studying the map to get bearings – identifying a river, major avenues or monuments by which to steer my way home again (home for travel purposes being wherever I need to be at the end of the day, whether friend’s house, hotel or train station).   Then I put the map away, hopefully for good, and just set out to wander.

Castelo de São Jorge as viewed from the Bairro Alto last December

Whilst I do make some effort to see The Sights, I am more interested in the streets, the details, the neighbourhoods, the odd shops.  I am seldom on a mission, I am content to wander.  For instance, in Lisboa I did always mean to visit the Castelo do São Jorge, but never set out with that in mind as my To Do for the day.  What did happen one day was that I wandered away from Rossio – the main grand plaza (read: tourist) area – up an appealing kinky side street that turned into a stairway up the hill, and from there all over Alfama – the neighourhood many consider to be the heart of Fado culture and a part of the city that retains Moorish influences (and reminded me strongly of Moroccan medinas), and then found a street that seemed to lead to a park, the shadiness of which appealed on a hot day, and lo, I found myself entering the grounds of the Castelo.  (And I think my sentence structure is wandering just as much I did that day … sorry!)

So, yesterday morning, I set out to wander again for a few hours in the morning before I went to attend a wine show in the afternoon.  Among the finds in my wanderings, starting from the starting point:

My hotel is a gem, the Casa de São Mamede, in Príncipe Real (obrigada uma vez mais, José Eduardo!).  Very lovely, very comfortable, spotlessly clean, and although it is on the Rua Escola Politécnica, which can be a bit busy, I have found it very quiet.  The sound of the grass growing can keep me awake at times, but I’ve slept well here.  The house – well, hotel – is like staying in a particularly nice if slightly grander-than-mine home, which dates from the 18th century.  There is a comfortable sitting room with a number of books of photography and poetry, which are interesting to browse.  Oddly, I have been having the same breakfast as I had up in the Douro with the winemaking team during harvest – bread and cheese and hot milk – though there is plenty else to choose from.  Please look at the website for Casa de São Mamede, and consider staying here when you visit Lisboa yourself.

IMG_3477I knew I would like the hotel when their website opened to a poem of Fernando Pessoa’s, thoughtfully provided in both Portuguese and English, which starts with the lines

Lisboa com suas casas
De várias cores,

Lisbon with its houses
Of various colors,

Those lines brought to mind a street scene I remembered, and found again when I walked out of the hotel and headed down towards the Bairro Alto.

This is part of the stretch of streets I mentioned yesterday, home to a wide variety of shops.  I will mention just a few which intrigued me – and leave you to discover them yourself.  All of these are on the Rua D Pedro V.

Lostn - four or five rooms deeper on

Lostn – four or five rooms deeper on

Lostn is a wonderful boutique of clothing and textiles imported from India.  Don’t stop at the first room – keep going – it is a rabbit warren of rooms and passages.  Someone has a wonderful eye for colour, display and still life.  Next door is a café and esplanade of the same name, which was not open so early in the morning, but the view is lovely – across the dip down to Rossio and across to Alfama and the Castelo.

56Artes is a tiny ceramic shop in a small passage off the Rua D Pedro V which has both contemporary traditional Portugese pottery, and some lovely antique pieces.  There are many distinct regional styles of pottery in Portugal, including a tradition of humourous caricature statues, many of which are displayed here.

Loja da Praia (Beach Shop) has a few odd clothes and accessories which suggest a beachy lifestyle.  There is some wonderful jewellery, stones on plaited leather thongs, and beautiful alpaca fedoras from the Andes.  A couple old glass-front bookcases are used for display, the backs are covered in a collage of images from the beaches of St Tropez, Ipanema and the like in the 60s – very sexy decadent.  Carefully glued on the edge of a shelf was a small scrap of text, “She teased and flirted”  which sums up the attitude of the shop perfectly.

D’ici et là has clothing and accessories, “de l’allure de quotidien”, very pretty and tactile, nice fabrics, but wearable.  The designers who created this line and shop are well-travelled and draw inspiration from all over, hence the name.  (update 2014:  sadly, the shop has closed)

Unnamed shop for azulejos and ceramics

Unnamed shop for azulejos and ceramics

Espaço-b is a bit more intellectually challenging on the clothing design front, though there were some great cuddly knit pieces, and actually the men’s collection was really appealing. This shop also has a selection of books and other design objects which are of a consistent aesthetic with the clothing – for example Zaha Hadid for Alessi vases, which will give you an idea of the direction.

Pó di Terra has Moroccan and African jewellery and art, and next to it is an immense if unnamed shop which has thousands of tiles and other ceramic pieces.  I wandered in there with a friend once before, this is where you can buy an entire room’s worth of antique azulejos (the tiles typical of Portuguese houses, both inside and out).

I also passed what looked to be an interiors shop, not yet open for the day, but their window caught my eye – not just for what appeared to be chair made from an ice flow, but for the text on the window:

For the interior of both house and mind

For the interior of both house and mind

Na Natura nada se repete.  Não há duas árvores iguais.  Dois passaros iguais.  Duas gotas de chuva iguais.  Dois beijos iguais.  Neste Fabrica infinito também tudo é único irrepetivel.  Não volta mais.  Aproveitem.  E sejam felizes.

In Nature nothing repeats.  There are not two trees the same.  Two birds the same.  Two drops of rain the same.  Two kisses the same.  In this infinite workshop also everything is unique, unrepeatable.  It doesn’t return again.  They progress.  And they would be happy.

Struggling to translate from Neste… onwards – I can intuit what this means, what the author is getting at, but damned if I can translate it adequately.  Corrections or more elegant renderings welcome – leave me a comment!

Finally, loved how the dog goes with the paving stones…

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