Although we have written over a dozen articles on what you should experience in Lisbon, we have yet to focus on its monuments. As an Iberian wine and food focused website, whenever we visit a location, our palates tend to sway towards homemade recipes passed on from grandmother to granddaughter over generations; innovative culinary dishes; festivals highlighting regional delicacies; and of course, their vast and diverse wine culture. Historical landmarks generally fall off our radar when given only a few hours or days to explore an area, despite their key importance in telling a story about a people and their culture.
Consequently, when we received a video in the mail called, “Os Misterios de Lisboa: What a Tourist Should See“, we couldn’t resist sharing it with you. Based on writings by the acclaimed Portuguese author and poet, Fernando Pessoa, and directed by the famous Portuguese director, Jose Fonseca e Costa, the video takes you on a romantic tour of the city providing not only historical references of monuments in Lisbon, but also back stories on famous neighborhoods.
Born on June 13, 1888 in Lisbon, Fernando Pessoa came into the world with the rare ability to express himself fluidly. While the majority of us struggle with self expression, Fernando at the ripe young age of 15, won the “Queen Victoria Memorial Prize”, for his admission paper into the University of Cape Town. He published his first poem at 16, under the name of Charles Robert Anon (Anon was short for Anonymous), and left the following year to live indefinitely in his beloved hometown of Lisbon until his death in 1935. Fernando is renowned for his poetry, but was also deeply devoted to writing prose, drama, literary and political criticism, and philosophy.
The movie begins on the river Tejo, with a gorgeous view of the city from the choppy, clear waters. The colored houses blanket the horizon, with brilliant splashes of yellow, pink, beige, pale blue and white with bushy sprigs of green sprouting through the concrete scenery. The opening scene alone makes me want to go back, wishing I was lounging on a terrace along the coast with a fresh glass of espumante in hand. But over the course of the next hour, the pace intensifies, teaching me about 44 different monuments, churches, parks, castles, plazas, sculptures, museums and neighborhoods. Some, were simply mentioned as unique and interesting places, while others were explained in detail, with amazing footage of its interior and exterior. And what makes this video incredible, at least for me, is that I now know a series of locations that I desperately want to visit. For example:
- Camara Municipal: This is Lisbon’s city hall, also called the Paços do Conselho, which is absolutely stunning. Situated on the east side of the Praça do Municipio, and was originally built in 1774, but was completely burned down in 1863 and rebuilt in 1875. What makes this incredible, for one, are the ceiling decorations, created by famous Lisbon artists such as José Malhoa and Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro. The walls are wood paneled and covered in part with breathtaking wood carvings that only accentuate the lavish chandeliers and 30+ ft ceilings. Unbelievable!
- Convento do Carmo: Although I have visited this church once, I fail to remember the 16th century blue tiles, which I would love to see.
- Campo Grande: Over 1km in length and over 200m wide, to date, I’ve never seen this palm covered space dotted with rowboat filled ponds.
- Campo Pequeno: a bull fighting stadium that requires that the bull not be killed, but merely, thrown OVER the bullfighter onto its back through the mere strength and leverage of the bullfighter. Amazing to watch!
- Sao Pedro de Alcantara: Located on a hill in the NE part of the city, this park not only has a killer view, but it looks like a place I would love to have a picnic with a Dao red and linguiça.
On the negative side, there are a few aspects of this film that grated on us. First and foremost, the language makes a used car salesman sound tame. Comments such as: “3 majestically impressive naves”, “it offers animated scenes of lively interest”, “sumptuous organs”, “lavish woodwork”, are great when sprinkled conservatively in a film. However, because every sentence is a grandiose one, amplified with the dramatic tones of the string orchestra in the background, the movie can get rather tedious. I sort of felt as if at any moment, a drama would break out, and 13th century buildings would come alive with extravagant parades and acts of showmanship.
The second criticism is that the movie only highlights the old and never the new. Having visited Lisbon a half dozen times, I can honestly say that the new is just as enticing and incredible as the old. Take the Parque das Nações, which went through a massive transformation in the 1990′s as a result of the 98 World Expo, and is one of many new sites in Lisbon we love to visit. Mind you, we understand that the movie is based on the visions of Fernando Pessoa, which was clearly dated in the early 19oo’s, but we also think its important to at least mention the massive transformations that revamped the city over the last half century.
What’s absolutely brilliant about the project, however, is that they had the forethought to include a booklet that lists each area discussed in the film, along with places to visit around each monument, such as famous record stores carrying vinyls from beloved Fado singers, vintage clothing and shoe shops, restaurants highlighting traditional dishes, book stores devoted to poetry, hidden natural parks and so much more. All texts are provided in Portuguese, Spanish and English. In addition, you’re given a fold out map of the city listing every monument discussed in the video, along with an interior map of the metro system.
Dramatic script aside, the film is well done. So if you’re looking for a funky gift for that traveler or historian in your family, this just might hit the mark! You can order directly off their site through paypal, with shipping and tax included; or if you would like to win a FREE SIGNED COPY by the director, simply leave a comment telling us about your favorite experience in Lisbon. If you haven’t been to Lisbon, simply leave a comment