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One Night In Lisbon

by Anita Brace


Hello, Fado?”  The fortyish blonde in the sparkly top leaned out the alleyway door of the local restaurant: Adega do Ribateja, in the Barrio Alto section of Lisbon.  A mecca for local musicians enamored with Portugal’s nationally traditional, passionate,  and melancholic songs, this venue is a well-known haven for Fado (fate) singers and guitarists who take turns sharing their favorites with the guests.  How could I resist the invitation?  I joined them for dinner.

 A plump lady from the open kitchen set aside her apron and, with hands clasped in front of her, broke into a heart-rending sorrowful melody.  Even though I understood only a few of the words, the emotion was clear and compelling.


Next, a distinguished-looking gray-haired gentleman’s rich baritone resonated throughout the crowded room.

The simple and delicious dinner of roast pork topped with slightly-pickled chopped carrots accompanied by French fries took hours to eat as the dramatic and varied performances drew my attention.


Reluctantly leaving my table to return to my small hotel, I decided I must again share this lively and engaging nightlife segment of the Portuguese capital.  Extending my stay one more night allowed me to capture the essence of a unique experience.


Hotel manager Anabela recruited Nadir, a part-time employee, who agreed to meet me at the desk at 9:30 P.M. and act as my guide/protector.

Down the small side street just a block, we walked along Rua do Coura to the incongruous curly-cue iron art noveau tower containIng the 150-feet tall Elavador de Santa Justa.  Built in 1901 by a student of Gustav Eiffel and dramatically illumined, the landmark transport to the Barrio Alto provides a fine city view from the top deck.  I got out the tripod for capturing the dramatically lit neo-classic Architecture of Teatro Nacional facing the Praca Rossio.  From the Elevador exit, a short walkway leads to the charming small square, Largo do Carmo, facing the arched gothic style entrance of Convento do Carmo.  This part of a church was totally damaged in the major earthquake in 1755.  Although the wall and door on the Carmo square have been reconstructed, the ruins inside show the delicate Gothic open arches supporting nothing but open sky-as a permanent reminder of that disastrous event.



Sated with capturing images of historic illuminated architecture, we wandered uphill in the narrow streets west of the square, entering the Barrio Alto.  About 10:30 P.M. the local Friday night celebration was just beginning.  Jazz and fado began pouring out onto the streets, underlined by the hum of conversations and the clink of glasses and platters of seafood, steaks, or traditional pork or chicken  dishes.  Neon lights, lounging locals and laughing strollers enlivened the small streets.  A line of taxis on the edge of a small square was discharging passengers, the performance show blazoned across Teatro Trinidad lured a multitude of fashionistas.  


No tripod possible here, the camera set on ISO 800.  It was adrenaline-pumping exploration and observation of party-time in a quaint, historic, and picturesque neighborhood.  Not at all a reflection of the formality of being in the traditional Portuguese capital city.

Two hours later, the adrenalin was still pumping.  Reluctant to give up the next day’s plan, I walked back toward my hotel, just a few blocks away.  Saying “Boa-noite” and “Abrigada” to Nadir, I stopped at the small side-walk restaurant, Café Nicola on the Rossio Square.  A one-glass bottle of fabulous light and semi-sparkling Casal Garcia Vinho Verde wine and a page of notes provided the necessary relaxation to end my day earlier than the locals—only 12:30 AM on Saturday morning.



Copyright © 2015 Anita Brace. All Rights Reserved.