Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Restaurante Martinho da Arcada in Lisboa

Who is Pessoa now ?

Lisbon is, like Prague,  a city where I could easily live. It has charm, culture, it is close to a mythical river, it is very animated, vibrant and even bookish.

I travelled several times to the Portugese capital and now again, when touring the country during my summer holiday, it was an obligatory stop. 

A few years ago, I noticed at the Praça do Commércio, a terrace under the spacious arcades, with cool stone floors, hidden in the deep shade and cooled by the swirl of the wind coming from the mouth of the Tagus river. It stands in stark contrast with the more fancy terraces along the east and west side of the grand plaza.

The fact that it was older locals sitting at the tables, and not tourists, meant that the quality of the food and the prices were probalbly more than acceptable and I made, over the years,  Restaurante Martinho Da Arcada my traditional resting place.

I never bothered to go inside the restaurant.

Sitting at one of the tables last week, having a small snack and a large drink, I stretched out and looked from a safe distance at the stream of tourists following each other behind flag- poled guides.

Enjoying the relaxing place and congratulating myself on my good choice, I started looking around and noticed for the first time, beside the name of the place painted above the green framed glass doors, the year that the restaurant was established : 1782. 

It was in fact the oldest restaurant of Lisbon.

As I stood up to make a picture of the door, one of the waiters beckoned me inside and brought me to a table in the back of the restaurant. Proudly he explained to me that it used to be the table of Mister Fernando Pessoa. They kept the table dressed exactly how it had been when Pessoa was immortalized in a picture, which hang above the table.

The place, I was told, was regularly frequented by the likes of Manoel de Oliveira, Júlio Pomar, José Saramago and Eduardo Lourenço.

I am an absolute sucker for such literary tourist trivia. Pessoa does for Lisbon what Joyce did for Dublin and Kafka for Prague. Without knowing my fascination for such things the waiter insisted that I sat at the exact place of the famous poet and took my picture.

I sealed the moment with a huge smile and a golden tip.