Walking out of the metro station I’m immediately overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle that Portugal’s capital city captures. There’s a protest going on, lisboês munching on their pastéis de Nata, a pastry that would give even the French a run for their money, and the business men strolling around in suits in at least 30 degree heat. There’s the brilliance of the blue sky that makes even the moodiest person break a smile, and then there’s my friend and I, lost in a new city.
Finding our way through the winding, undulating, cobbled streets of Lisbon proves challenging, but eventually we make our way to our hostel that endeavours to make our stay all the more memorable. Settling into Travellers House, I open my guide-book to the section on Lisbon and try to decide where to start.
Castelo São Jorge initially takes my interest, with its history dating back to the Visigoths of the 9th Century, and its continuous change of hands from the Moors, to the Christians, to the Royals. I’m left with visions of a castle steeped in antiquity which I yearn to visit, so off I set.
Beginning the steep walk up to the castle in the midday sun is tiring, so I stop off for a refreshment in the form of ice-cream and sorbet. I opt for a mix of lemon and basil sorbet, and pear ice-cream, it was a risk, but one that I would take time and time again. The higher I climb, the more astonishing the views of the city become, with the terracotta roofs and the sparkle of the Tagus River making the ascend all the more worth while. Checking out the castle my thoughts drift to an older time, and I take a moment to absorb all that Lisbon has to offer: its history, its culture and all that I have yet to uncover.
As the sun sets, and I enter Barrio Alto, the city begins to become more alive than I think possible. Wandering through Lisbon’s narrow streets, with new and old friends, and a local from the hostel, I become completely bewitched and enchanted with everything to do with Lisbon. The sound of the pumping music from the overflowing bars, and the speed in which mojitos are made lovingly has me dreading my eventual departure. The night continues with us bar hopping our way through Barrio Alto with new experiences tumbling into each other again and again, it’s a night that I will not forget.
The following days continue to be a culinary adventure, trying more and more delicious food, and taking in more of Lisbon’s wonderful sites, but it is my last night in the capital which becomes deeply engrained in my heart: the night I learnt about Fado, a type of Portuguese song which portrays saudade: a feeling of deep longing for something or someone who is loved but absent. A powerful desire of regaining it although you know deep down inside yourself that this probably will never happen.
Stepping into the dark smoky bar my eyes halt on the guitarists warming up for their next Fado performance, then, the crowd is hushed, a little old lady stands up and begins to sing her heart out. My Portuguese somewhat lacking, leaves me questioning the lyrics, but it’s clearly not necessary to understand, it’s about the powerful emotion in her face, and how she sings so beautifully that has me quite nearly reaching for the tissues, it’s emotionally draining, but a night that will stay with me well into the future.
And there stands the story of how I fell in love, not with a guy this time, but with a city, a city which now I’m back in Essex, fills me with the feeling of saudade, but unlike some, I’m sure that’ll I’ll be lucky enough to return to Lisbon, and leave the feeling of saudade to the Fado singers.
Have you ever had the saudade feeling? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it Xx