Ten Things That I Want To Do In Portugal This Time

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Ten Things That I Want To Do In Portugal This Time

“Life is what we make of it. Travel is the traveler. What we see isn’t what we see but what we are.” Fernando Pessoa, Book Of Disquiet

Porto is the colorful, Unesco city that I  have wanted to visit. The photos are beautiful and I can’t wait to walk down those streets.

 Livraria Lello and Irmao is one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. Ask JK Rowling.

Drink Port which is named after….

I love seafood and both Porto and Lisbon are on the sea – codfish, sardines, snails, grilled whole fresh fish of the day with coarse salt and crispy, skin, octopus, eels, and snails along with kale soup and pastel de nata  is a great reason to go to Portugal  (This is a major eating trip)

When I was in Lisbon I didn’t make it to the National Tile Museum ((Museo Nacional De Azulejo). It is located in the Alfama area (where we are staying this time)  in a fifteenth century convent. I saw those beautiful tiles on many of the old buildings and palaces when I was there and I want to know more about them.

The Fado Museum (Portuguese guitar music) is also in Alfama and sounds like something I would like. The Fado Museum is a  testimony of passion and dedication this country has for Fado and has helped musicians, instrument manufacturers and researchers gain the exceptional esteem which the practice of fado enjoys today.

Buying a few more pair of handmade gloves at Ulisses in Lisbon.  They are guaranteed for life so i will check mine before I leave for Portugal . 

The Douro Valley is known for its vineyards, landscapes and the Douro River. It’s another amazing place in Portugal that I will see this time.

Drive from Porto to Lisbon stopping in towns and fishing villages along the way.

Buy canned fish to take home from Lisbon. There are many different cans to choose from. Shelves in every corner of the city sit stacked with cans of sardines, horse mackerel, tuna, anchovies, octopus, eel, and more. Some shops sell nothing but tinned fish. It is surprisingly good. It is not like Chicken of the Sea.

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Old World Palaces And Castles

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Palaces and Castles

“ And if she asks you why, you can tell her that I told you, that I’m tired of castles in the air “Don McLean (I love that song)

Castles and palaces are pieces of the past. They are evocative of the people who lived in them many centuries ago. They are rich in folklore and history and often built with astonishing craftsmanship and innovative design. Here are some of the palaces that I have toured. Many of these photos were before I was blogging so less palace and more look I was there shots.

Alhambra – Granada, Spain

fullsizeoutput_5ea7Buckingham Palace – London, England

Buda Castle – Budapest, Hungary (view near castle)

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Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) – Venice, Italy

Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland

Neuschwanstein – Hohenschwangau, Germany

Pena Palace – Sintra, Portugal

Peterhof, (known as Petrodvorets and Petergof) – Petergof ,Saint Petersburg, Russia

Pitti Palace – Florence, Italy

Prague Castle – Prague, Czech Republic

Schoenbrunn – Vienna, Austria

Trakai Castle – Trakai, Lithuania.

Palace Of Versailles, Versailles, France

Fly safe,

JAZ

Day Trip From Florence To Fiesole, Italy

Day Trip From Florence To Fiesole, Italy

“You may have the universe if I may have Italy.” – Giuseppe Verdi

Fiesole is eight kilometers north of Florence. It is an ancient Etruscan city in the Tuscan countryside. There is a beautiful chapel, Roman ruins and spectacular views of Florence.

It’s nice just to go for a stroll, walk around the winding streets and see what ancient wonders you will find, what charming little stores you will stumble across and the locals you will meet along the way. It is full of art, history and literature.

Leonardo da Vinci spent much time in Fiesole testing his flying machine, while Michaelangelo learned his carving trade on the hillside stone works.Robert Browning, who moved to Florence during the Victorian era to elope with fellow poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, mentioned Fiesole in his poem ‘Andrea Del Sarto’

The Archaeological Museum gives you entrance to the Roman and Etruscan ruins as well.  The Roman amphitheater, baths and the Etruscan walls are amazingly well-preserved. The theatre is still in use today.

If you are a fan of the Uffizi, then you will also fall in love with the twelfth to fourteenth century works at the Bandini Museum. There are works from Della Robbia, Taddeo Gaddi, Bernardo Daddi, Lorenzo Monaco and Nardo di Cione.

Fiesole’s main square, Piazza Mino, is the setting for an antiques market every first Sunday of the month. It is also the setting for recurring markets, so it is always likely you’ll find one going on when you visit.

The slower pace of Fiesole after frenetic Florence  makes it easy to go to a coffee-house, bakery or pizzeria and sit and relax in the Tuscan countryside.

The monastery of San Francesco is  located at the top  of the hill. It will be a tough climb but worth the view you’ll have over Florence. There are nice restaurants with great views on the street leading up to the monastery.

If you’re looking to burn off the unavoidable carbs of Italy, you can  hike to Fiesole from Florence, enjoying the steep ups and rapid downs on the curvaceous roads and bumpy country trails. The number seven bus from Florence drops you in the main square of Fiesole. As with all Italian public transportation, watch for pickpockets.  You can also share a taxi with some new friends like I did.

Ciao, Fly safe

JAZ

Post 9/11 Florence, Italy

Post 9/11 Florence, Italy

“To see the sun sink down, drowned on his pink and purple and golden floods, and overwhelm Florence with tides of color that make all the sharp lines dim and faint and turn the solid city to a city of dreams, is a sight to stir the coldest nature.” – Mark Twain

My daughter had the opportunity to dance in Florence during the Easter Break following 9/11. Most people were scared to travel. Airport security was a mess with very long lines.  It was my first time going to Europe in fifteen years. I fight a daily battle with anxiety but doing something for my kids always helped me push through my fears so off we went.

She danced all day and I walked around for the first time anywhere by myself. Florence was crowded. There were protests, shopping, antisemitism, more shopping, a lot of art and a looming terrorist threat at the Duomo on Easter Sunday.  Police were everywhere.

We were trying on shoes and an anti-American protest walked by. They were burning the American flag and there were a lot of people walking and cheering. I had only seen that in movies. In the post 9/11 world, we knew anything could happen. We threw the shoes and ran back to the small hotel. The owner laughed when we arrived completely shaken up. “It’s Italy. They protest everything here. Tomorrow they will burn something else.” I had a lot of anxiety during this trip. Luckily, there was so much to see and do, I had no time to focus on it. 

This was not my first visit to Florence and my number one thing to see is the Uffizi Gallery. Art haters will not agree with me. The Uffizi Gallery is Europe’s first modern museum created by the Medici family in the sixteenth century. It is the best collection of Italian paintings in the world. I forced my daughter to go there at eight am before dancing all day. In my mind, you could not go to Florence without seeing Botticelli, Raphael and Titian. There are huge lines and it is the one museum to plan in advance for. Get tickets before you go.

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The second thing to do is gelato. Art haters might make it the first thing. I am not even a fan of ice cream but eating gelato every day in Florence should be on everyone’s to do list. Gelaterie are all over Italy but it is the best in Florence. Festival de Gelato on the walking street is a good one to try. If you do not go there try to find one where the gelato is made fresh on site and not from a mix. Brightly colored gelato probably has other things in it and is from a mix. There is a lot of pre made gelato these days so do the research. 

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Piazza del Duomo is  good for people watching  but is the preferred hang out for pickpockets  so be careful.The two big sites here are the Duomo and the Baptistry. The set of doors on the Baptistry that faces the front of the Duomo was designed by Ghiberti in the early 1400s, and a young Michelangelo thought they were so beautiful that they could be the Gates of Paradise. The original panels are now kept in the Duomo Museum, but the replicas on the Baptistery are still gorgeous and attract a crowd. The Duomo’s relatively empty interior can be a bit of a disappointment  but most of the art was removed to the Duomo Museum after the 1966 flood.

If you feel like climbing and you don’t get vertigo or claustrophobia, climb up Brunelleschi’s Dome. You can also read the novel of the same name if you are interested in history or architecture. I opted for the novel and was not disappointed.

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Piazza del Signori is also a good spot for people watching and outdoor art. It is outside the Palazzo Del Vecchio and you can find the plaque where the monk Savonarola was burned at the stake in 1498.

Even if you are not a shopper, go to the leather markets. The one near San Lorenzo church leads into the Food Market which is always fun. There are also a lot of pickpockets here while you are focusing on gloves or olive oil so watch your things.

I don’t think there are any deals to be found  anymore for Italian designers like Gucci and Prada though filing for the VAT tax helps. There are interesting stores from young  designers that we do not have here that are more fun to look at.

I am fascinated by Dante Alighieri and I had plenty to see in Florence. There is a statue in his honor in Piazza Santa Croce, a museum dedicated to his life and works (including The Divine Comedy), and verses inscribed on various streets in the historical center.  Santa Margherita de’ Cecchi is  the church where  Dante fell in love with Beatrice which is the passion that is thought to have inspired much of his work. I spent Easter Sunday with Dante avoiding the crowds at the Duomo if the terrorist threat turned out to be real. It was not.

We had Easter Dinner at Il Latini, a famous Florentine restaurant known for its Bisteca Florentina. Ristorante del Fagioli is also good and it displays certification for sourcing the original Chianina breed of cattle, where bistecca fiorentina should come from. They are still among the best restaurants in Florence.

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The city is full of carbs. I ate either pizza, pasta or panini daily. Sometimes I had all three and I loved every second of it.  Since I walked all day long, I did not gain any weight. Don’t try this if you live in LA and sit in your car all the time.

Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance and  there are many famous people buried here. In Santa Croce, you can find Galileo, Machiavelli, Rossini, Ghiberti and Michelangelo.There is an honorary tomb to Dante.

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Adjacent to San Lorenzo is the Medici Chapel. The wealthy Medici family sponsored the great artists of Florence and Michelangelo statues adorn the tombs. The Lorenzo Library with the great Michelangelo Staircase is also worth a visit.

Watch the sunset on the Arno from the Ponte Vecchio like the Medicis did or see it on one of the less crowded bridges.The Ponte Vecchio has survived floods and World War ll making it one of the oldest bridges in Italy.

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The Renaissance capital of the world  also has a lot of Modern and Renaissance street art so enjoy it as you walk around the city.

The Bargello Museum which is housed in a former prison has some incredible early Michelangelo works and Donatello’s David. It is much less crowded than the Uffizi.

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The Salvatore Ferragamo Museum  is a fashion museum dedicated to the life and work of Italian shoe designer Salvatore Ferragamo. The museum has 10,000 models of shoes created and owned by Ferragamo from the 1920s until his death in 1960 The museum is housed in the historic Palazzo Spini Feroni, which was purchased by Ferragamo in the 1930s. If you like shoes and need an art break, it’s a fun thing to do.

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The Pitti Palace is a  very large Renaissance Palace  on the South Side of the Arno near the Ponte Vecchio.  It was started by Filippo Brunelleschi  for Luca Pitti but was eventually purchased by the Medici family and finished by other architects. Today, the palace and the Boboli gardens house the Palatine Gallery, the Silver Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Costume Gallery, the Porcelain Museum and the Museum of Carriages.

The collection of the costume gallery comprises six thousand items including costumes dating from the 16th to the 20th centuries, theatre costumes and accessories. It is the only museum of the history of fashion in Italy and one of the most important in the world. The Palatine Gallery has an impressive collection of Titian,Correggio, Raphael and Rubens. It is second only to the Uffizi.

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Piazza Del Michelangelo is where everyone takes their view of Florence  picture from. There is another fake David in the square.

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The real David by Michelangelo. is in the Galleria dell’Accademia and has a high entrance fee. David is the only thing worth seeing here. I had to see it but if you don’t, you can be happy with all the fake Davids around the city.

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No matter how much time you spend in Florence, it never feels like it is enough. There is always more to see and do.

Ciao and fly safe, (not my photos – mine are in storage.) 

JAZ

Just A Lot Of Walls – Urban Art In Lisbon

  Just A Lot Of Walls –  Urban Art In Lisbon

“I was here but now I’m gone. I left my name to carry on. Those who liked me, liked me well. Those who didn’t can go to hell'” The bathroom wall

Like any subculture, street art has its own slang. You don’t need to know it to appreciate the art but some words that pop up are spot jocking (putting your work up next to a popular artist for some attention), child style, tiling, (both self-explanatory ), reverse graffiti (creating art by taking off and not applying paint) and one that I heard a lot on my street art tour of Lisbon – intervention. (Sainer)

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It’s not a word I hear often unless it involves rehab. Intervention is a street art term used to disrupt public space as opposed to street art which is decorative. My  street art guide in Lisbon used the word  as a form of urban  artistic expression. Art intervention is art specifically designed to interact with an existing structure.  I guess with that definition  all street art can be called an intervention.

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The only street art tour I could find was a private tour given by the street art collective Underdogs. http://www.under-dogs.net/ They have a gallery with exhibitions of interesting street artists, affordable editions at their shared store space, and public art and community programs. They do not do group tours  and instead invest their time in promoting artists and art  education in the community. (Bicicleta Sem Freio)

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My tour guide Marina Rei shows up full of passion and enthusiasm for the art on the streets of her city.  She is excited about the artists in residence and the educational programs  she has just completed.

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Underdogs was started by a famous Portuguese street artist named Vhils.  The word underdog means to struggle against something more powerful than you. They are “underdogs pushing to be top dogs .”  (Vhils)

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The tour includes works by Alexandre Farto AKA Vhils, PixelPancho, How & Nosm, ±MaisMenos±, Finok, Okuda, Nunca, Clemens Behr, Bicicleta Sem Freio, Wasted Rita, Sainer and Ernest Zacharevic. (Clemens Behr)

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Their souvenir shop and offices share space with a paint store. Classic artists, students, serious street artists and vandals come to buy their paint. ( ±MaisMenos±,)

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Their art gallery is in an old warehouse area just starting to be gentrified. The current exhibition is by Spanish street artist Okuda.

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Street  Art started in Lisbon around 1974 when the Carnation Revolution overthrew the Authoritarian regime. Almost all  the territories became  independent.(A Lei Do Meis Forte -Nomen, Slap ,Kurtz, Exas,Lukas)

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Graffiti and tagging began with the new democracy. (Merkel’s Puppets -Nomen,Slap,Kurtz)

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Murals appeared around the city similar to those in unstable South American countries portraying the problems and the dreams. There are still references to it throughout the city.

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The old warehouses of Clube Naval de Lisboa,  are now covered in a work of art by Bicicleta Sem Freio, a group of Brazilian artists. They create murals around the world.

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My favorite work that I saw that day  was a series of girls  by Lithuanian street artist Ernest Zacharevic. He sees himself as a fine artist who paints in the streets and that is evidenced by the combination of spray paint and detailed art.  I really wanted one of these. The last time I thought about cutting a piece of street art out of the wall it was by a guy named SAMO in New York. 

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The  outdoor walls in Lisbon have become a lot of blank canvases for the artists. It is sometimes  a strong form of communication and sometimes it is quieter.  But, there is always a splash of color.

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Fly safe,

JAZ

Sintra, Caiscais and Estoril, Portugal

Sintra, Caiscais and Estoril, Portugal

Some places speak distinctly. Certain dank gardens cry aloud for a murder; certain old houses demand to be haunted; certain coasts are set apart for shipwrecks”. ~Robert Louis Stevenson

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Sintra was the place to be for the rich, famous and royal.

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There are villas, palaces and castles with a mix of very colorful architectural and decorative features.

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It is about an hour out of Lisbon with a cooler mountainous climate.

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Pena Palace was built by the last Portuguese Royal Family In the mid-nineteenth century.

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The palace is an unusual and ornate blend of design and color.

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They were not afraid to mix prints, materials or styles. 

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It is on the highest hill and views are spectacular.

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Being from a country that does have not have royalty, (other than rock, sports and Hollywood royalty) I have  used the term castle and palace interchangeably. In Sintra where they have  both, I have learned that a castle is built as a defense and a palace is used more to showcase wealth. A good rule of thumb is if there is a moat it is a castle. Pena is for sure a palace.

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There is nothing practical here.

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You can see that National Palace with its two chimneys from almost  anywhere in Sintra.

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  It was built as a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family who resided there from the early 15th century and was in continuous use up until the late 19th century. It now belongs to the State and it is used as a Cultural Centre where exhibitions are usually held.

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Sintra’s charming historic town centre is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Every visitor should spend some time exploring the maze of cobblestone lanes lined with quaint shops and cafes.

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We head to Cascais. Cascais represents the hardest part of the Portuguese language for me. It looks French but it is pronounced  Cazh Cezh with a hard C. Sometimes a word looks Spanish and it means the same thing in Portuguese, but when said, it sounds Russian. (photo – Sintra Magik Tours)

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Caiscais  was once a sleepy fishing village and  has transformed into a favorite holiday destination for Portuguese and Europeans.

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It is a nice town with cobblestone streets lined with shops, bars and restaurants. It’s not just a holiday town, there’s a resident working population which generally commutes to Lisbon – half an hour or so – so it doesn’t close down as the tourist season ends. (photo-Sintra Magik Tours)

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Cabo da Roca  is the most westerly point on the European mainland.

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It stands on a cliff and it is marked by a monument (with many people taking photos)

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  and a lighthouse. ( photo – Sintra Magik Tours)

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Lisbon and the surrounding area was a spying hotbed during WWll because of the country’s neutrality, the city’s strategic position by the Atlantic and the presence of all sorts of displaced European royalty.

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Hotel Palacio was not only Bond’s hotel in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but  Lieutenant Ian Fleming himself stayed here during the Second World War.

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The Allied spies based themselves at the Palacio and the bar they frequented in the hotel, and where Fleming enjoyed a martini or three, is today known as the Spies Bar. ( photo – Sintra Magik Tours)

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The Casino in Estoril was the basis for Ian Fleming’s first 007 book Casino Royale.

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There is no shortage of things to do in Lisbon but if you have a few days definitely get out of the city and explore the surrounding areas. I highly recommend doing it with Diogo of  Sintra Magik Tours. http://sintraprivatetours.com/  He is intelligent and very knowledgeable about all of Portugal. As you can see from all the photos of me, he is also an excellent photographer. Special thanks to Sintra Magik tours for answering all my questions and for the needed photos. It was such a wonderful, special day.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Finding Fernando Pessoa In Lisbon, Portugal

Finding Fernando Pessoa in Lisbon, Portugal

“I’m nothing. I’ll always be nothing.I can’t want to be something.

But I have in me all the dreams of the world.” Fernando Pessoa

I was looking on the internet for interesting things to do in Lisbon and there was a tour with Lisboa Autentica http://lisboaautentica.com/en/ of Fernando Pessoa’s Lisbon. Fernando Pessoa was a famous writer and poet in Portuguese speaking countries.  Seeing a city through the eyes of its artists, writers or chefs  is always the way I want to see  a city.

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I started reading the Book Of Disquiet and realized that I was reading something amazing. The story is hard to describe. It is a fictional autobiography which deals with the meaning of life and the quest and topics that go with that. The poetic language in which he tells his story is brilliant. A great book to me is when I read it and think that I feel the same way. This made me very interested about who Fernando Pessoa was in Portugal.

The tour was available on my first morning in Lisbon. It was going to be my introduction to the city. I jumped in a taxi and headed to the Cafe Brasilia in Chiado, a heavily touristic area.

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Many of Pessoa’s poems were written in coffee shops – at Brasileira in Chiado or in Terreiro do Passo’s Martinho da Arcada.  There is a bronze statue of him at his favorite table outside the Cafe Brasilia.

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The tour guide turned out to be  a person who had put his soul into learning about Fernando Pessoa. Fabrizio Boscaglia had come from Italy to the University of Portugal where he received his PhD in Philosophy.  He was part of the group of researchers who digitalized Fernando Pessoa’s private library and wrote his doctoral thesis about him. I was introduced to Fernando Pessoa through the eyes of someone who’s passion and enthusiasm for his writing had led him to this path.

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As we walk the cobblestone streets of Chiado we pass the book headed statue in front of the place of his birth and the “office” where  from the Book Of Disquiet worked.

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Fernando Pessoa  not only wrote under different names, he created different characters or personalities for them. He called them heteronyms. (heteronomonos) I think they were fragments of his personality. These poets  he created were also some of the great writers of Portugal. They had their own birth dates, life stories, jobs, astrological charts and literary style quite different from each other. Many of them wrote incredibly beautiful poems.  Pessoa who started a literary magazine also critiqued them. Some he liked better than others. There were at least seventy-eight heteronyms and probably many more.

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We walk passed the beautiful Manueline Church, Opera House and Theatre as Fabrizio tells us about his life.

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 Fernando Pessoa moved to  Durban, South Africa when he was five years old with his mother’s new husband who was  with the consulate. He lived there until he was seventeen. I had just returned from South Africa so I can picture him there. 

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 We  continue near the  places that Pessoa used to meet his lover Ophelia and the bars where he drank with his friends.

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Fabrizio saw my interest and offered me the “advanced Fernando Pessoa tour” usually given in Portuguese. I was in.  What better way to understand Fernando Pessoa and see Old Lisbon  than with someone who cared so deeply about him. 

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We meet a few days later in the Alfama district  of Lisbon, which is a maze of beautiful  narrow uphill streets.

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The city’s poorest residents, dock workers and sailors once lived there. It is now gentrified and trendy but still charming. There are several historic buildings and churches and one of the most beautiful views of Lisbon is here.

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 The Thieves Market -Fiera De Ladra happens every Tuesday and Friday.  It is a flea market full of junk and treasures.  A market had been in that spot had  since the seventeenth century.

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Fabrizio continues to tell me stories and little known facts about Fernando Pessoa as we navigate the picturesque streets as he once did.

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 Casa Fernando Pessoa  is the house where Fernando Pessoa lived. Outside is a café with quotes from his poetry. Inside is a museum with his private objects, interactive exhibits, a small bookstore and a library.

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One side of the library is dedicated to Fernando Pessoa books. Fabrizio shows me the book he published and is about to publish another one. The other side is a poetry section with books of poems from all over the world. 

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Fernando Pessoa published one book of poems in his life time  called Mesagem. He died a penniless alcoholic. 

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The manuscript for the Book Of Disquiet was found in a trunk after his death along with many other unpublished works.

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Pessoa is so important to modern Portuguese culture that he is buried in the 500-year-old Jerónimos Monastery, one of the most important buildings in all of Portugal, under a simple memorial.

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I highly recommend taking the Fernando Pessoa tour with Fabrizio. He speaks so passionately that you become absorbed in the story. It is not often that you find a tour guide so educated in a subject and with such a unique perspective.  He is also a really nice guy.  It was an honor to see Lisbon with him.

Fly safe,
JAZ