My favorite five this week: On coffee and poets

Traditional Tiles Azulejos Amsterdam2

Coffee, café as it is referred to in Portugal, is an integral part of daily life here. 

You will find a spot to have a quick expresso at a mall, a sidewalk kiosk, a pastelaria, at a counter in a grocery store or in a café tucked in between shops on just about any street in Lisbon.

The option is either for a quick café and maybe a pastry or a chance to take some time to sit, maybe meet with friends and have a bite to eat.

Having your coffee is done either standing at a high top table or counter, sitting outside or indoors at a small table.

 I very much like this way of life and enjoy it any time I am out and about.

A café, and they are all consistently good, is anywhere between 1.25 euros to about 2.25 euros. A pastry runs about the same so you can have an excellent expresso coffee and a delicious pastry for 3 euros.

Ordering a cafe in Portugal is like going into a Starbucks where there are many choices but unlike Starbucks, there is no menu or picture board so I suggest being prepared before you order a cafe the first time or go with someone who can order for you. I did the latter the first time.

And please, you are not at a Starbucks where you can request almond milk or half-caf. That is not a thing here.

Here is a list of the coffees people generally order:

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I usually order a meia de leite which is half milk and half expresso but I was in a restaurant recently where a cappuccino was featured so I ordered it and was delighted when it was presented to me.

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The restaurant is Crepes D’Aldeia in Palmela which is across the Tagus River from Lisbon and close to Setubal.

Fernando Pessoa

Pessoa2

A couple of weeks ago, I met someone who was born and grew up in Lisbon. It was a great opportunity for me to learn more about the culture and history of Portugal including how it was living under a dictatorship and the transition to a democratically elected president. The more I know about Portugal, the more I admire and respect the people.

He introduced me to the poet Fernando Pessoa who is described as a Portuguese poet, writer, literary critic, translator, publisher, philosopher and one of the most significant literary figures of the 20th century. He also wrote in English and translated books such as The Scarlet Letter into Portuguese as well as poems by O.Henry, Tennyson and Edgar Allen Poe.

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The photo above shows a painting of him at the Bertand’s bookstore I visited in December.

I was given one of his books by my friend, it’s a poem titled Tabacaria, The Tobacco Shop, which is written in Portuguese and then translated into English. It is beautifully illustrated by Pedro Pereira and published by Clube do Autor.

After reading the poem, I got a sense of what it was like living during Pessoa’s time, living under the harsh and brutal dictatorship of Salazar.

The poem was originally titled March of Defeat which is what I felt about this man who lived across the street from a tobacco shop. He watches the people come and go as he reflects on his own life.

Is this what life was? Is this how the Portuguese felt living in a world ruled by a dictator? Did people feel as if life was on hold and perpetually disquieting, with little sense of control over one’s destiny along with a sense of defeatism?

The book The Trial by Franz Kafka continually came to my mind when reading this poem. The Trial is about a man who had little control over his life, standing trial with his fate in the hands of people he did not know having rules he had no knowledge or understanding of.

It became clear to me, the stark contrast between life growing up in the United States with the promise of the great American Dream, rugged individualism and the sense of American Exceptionalism as opposed to life in Portugal during a time of fear, censorship and ever-changing rules developed on a whim by one ruthless individual, living with a fear of imprisonment at all times if one spoke out of turn, whatever that might mean at the moment.

The poems written by Pessoa and the tradition of Fado for me go hand in hand. The melodic songs of separation and sorrow that are sad, yet beautiful, almost hopeful at times, and the words of Pessoa with more questions than answers, written with a soft and poetic voice.

There is much more to learn and understand of this beautiful country and its people and the door was opened to me.

Thank you my friend.

Azulejo
An apartment building in Lisbon.

The painted blue tile in Portugal: Azulejos

Throughout Portugal you will find everything from murals to trivets made with a tile that is painted a particular blue.

Many of these murals tell the history of the country. The tilework is equivalent to the frescos in Italy, adorning the interior walls with color.

In 1503, King Manuel I brought tiles back to Portugal from his visit to Spain and decorated the Sintra National Palace with them. Soon after, tile became very popular and began to be produced around the country with production mainly centered in Aveiro, Porto and Lisbon.

Sintra

At the Mercado in Cascais, along the outside wall is a mural depicting the life of farmers during an earlier time. Below is one of the panels.

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My neighborhood

As a point of reference, I live in an area that might be considered the suburbs of Cascais. It’s about a 15-minute drive to the heart of Cascais where the Mercado along with businesses, banks, hotels, parks, museums and the waterfront are.

Where I live still has patches of land that are untouched although there are housing developments being built nearby.

My favorite walks are in an area that has not been developed and I would like to show you that part of Cascais.

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My favorite photo is this one of the horse literally standing in a field of clover.

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The little streets in the town of Cascais

There are small streets in the town of Cascais that are worth exploring. You might find a shop, a hotel, a residence of note or a glimpse of the coastline.

There is always a little treasure to find. You always want to keep walking to see what’s around the bend.

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Dora Taylor

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