fado

Currently listening to Fado (traditional Portuguese music). The music has a strange hypnotic effect and takes me back to the wild days I spent in Portugal with my best friend.

Lisboa – one of my favourite cities. Not content with merely walking down the rickety cobblestone streets, instead you glided along them in a trance, taking everything in around you. From professional street acts to old men playing guitars, fresh bakeries on every corner, old homes fashioned into restaurants, aromatic coffee, alternative stores with hair salons out back and eccentric Brazilian hairdressers. The Feira Da Ladra flea market on the outskirts of town or ‘thieves market’. How beer costs 1 euro and the way people spilled out into the streets with their drinks to take advantage of the mild spring air. Every alleyway was a party. Every tiny bar dark lit and secretive, with an unofficial night of tango. I recall being chosen from the onlookers, swept up into the arms of an instructor, clumsily crossing the floor, passion and heat emanating from the moving bodies around me, fear emanating out of mine, then exhilaration when the music stops, catch your breath. The best coffee of my life in a nondescript cafe, topped with just enough whipped cream to make it sinful. Finally travelling two hours to sample the most incredible Portuguese custard tarts or pastel de natas in the country, before falling asleep in a park to the soothing caresses of the mediterranean sun.

Porto. We searched high and low for ‘Portuguese chicken’ ala ‘Oporto’ (something we discovered in hindsight to be an Australian immigrant creation). But in Porto we came close to finding it with greasy, delicious chicken accompanied by a variety of hot sauces. An array of mustard yellow, terracotta red and muted white houses clung to one side of the cascading city, as you crossed the bridge and over the river to the other side with port and wine tastings. The whole city is perched on a vertical hill and you’re always out of breath, climbing the steep streets and tripping on dangerously placed stones. We found a bookstore designed like a cathedral; it felt enchanted. We worshipped the books. That night we accidentally crashed a birthday party full of Cuban immigrants, where we danced and ate cake, port and chocolate. Drinking fancy green wine with a fancy cheese platter. We sometimes tried to speak Spanish in the misguided attempt to satisfy locals with a familiar sounding tongue, but they wouldn’t have a bar of it. They all wanted to speak English. The bus trip home to Spain felt like traversing forward in time, to a whole other world. I stared behind me the whole way.

But the music always takes us back.

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