Much of Lisbon was destroyed in the deadly earthquake of 1755, cobbled back together and rebuilt in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Today marks our forth day in the city and, the more time we spend here, the more I find myself wondering if Lisbon’s sense of wanderlust was among the earthquake’s casualties.
While statues of heroic explorers gaze outward toward the horizon, perched agitatedly atop the centerpieces of plaza fountains, Lisbon’s human residents seem immovably focused on their daily routines. Whatever sense of forward-looking adventure once existed here seems to have matured and aged into a bittersweet nostalgia for the past. While signs of modern life are inevitably present, Lisbon’s people seem as traditional and sentimental as the amber-toned pastries protected behind the glass display cases and art deco façades of the city’s time-warped cafés. A small boutique on one of the main shopping promenades, selling nothing but men’s and women’s dress gloves, stands stubbornly frozen in time, holding its own in a David and Goliath standoff with an invasive H&M down the street. The painted ceiling of the Igreja de São Roque protects its parishioners under the manmade effect of a barrel vaulted interior rather than inviting the faithful to ascend through ethereal clouds. The doors of heaven, depicted in a medallion at the mural’s center, are closed, barred, and guarded by unsmiling angels as if to suggest that we’d all best get comfortable down here because no one is going anywhere.
And we are comfortable. Lisbon is beguiling, old fashioned, soft spoken, mild mannered… and something else. I have a gnawing feeling that there is something hidden and unexpected beneath the patina. Why rush off? We’ve decided to stay a full week.
Living the good (enough) life,