Why I’m Here In Lisbon

What am I really doing here in Lisbon — I don’t have a definite answer. When I meet people and they ask, I say something related to my desire to learn about the world.

I have an ambition to travel, fueled by the love for discovery and the passion to write.

That ambition coincides with my desire to explore why we’re on this earth — why now — in these bodies, these souls, with perspectives, backgrounds, a life force within each of us that’s unique and longs to be expressed.

I think that who I am, the life force within me, won’t be fully realized without experiencing the different ways of life that make this world our home.

I’m connecting with my lifestyle in Lisbon on a profound level, and I feel I must continue exploring the reasons why.

This city — where I can step from the door and lose myself on foot for hours — compels me to open my eyes and leave the bed early in the morning, simply to watch the way the sunlight changes.

When I get up and go; when I leave into the night to watch the setting sun; when I become a part of that energy, that pulse, that beating human experience, I change on the inside.

I feel connected to something that’s beyond my limitations, beyond self-doubt, beyond the uncertainty that comes from being human. I become united with a world where nothing is certain; not who we are today, not who we’ll be tomorrow — not why we’re on this earth.

I’m compelled to embrace that uncertainty. Challenge it. Question it. Learn from it.

I know very little about this world.

What do I know about myself? I think that’s what I’m here to discover. I want to know who you are, too. That, perhaps, is the true gift of travel, recognizing that even if you’re on your own, you’re not alone in this world.

I recently found myself in a beautiful old bakery that’s been transformed into a store called Tudo e. Todos, everything and everyone.

The store sits in the neighborhood São Bento, a peaceful part of Lisbon that’s become my favorite place to wander. My gravitation towards this area began a couple of weeks ago.

I sat in the Jardim Fialho de Almeida eating a slice of pizza, quite satisfied, considering what I love so much about this city’s spirit. On this afternoon I felt a part of it; this area exemplifies what I find so lovely about Lisbon.

Several lush trees shadow the small park; some trees are towering and bare. In the afternoon, when there are few clouds in the sky, the sun breaks through the leaves and gives the park direct, golden light.

There’s a simple stone fountain in the center.

A few restaurants and bars circle the park, and there’s a kiosk cafe to one side close to the street. At any park or miradourothe lookout points, people sit at these kiosk cafes and sip coffee, beer and wine beneath the trees or in the sun. They give Lisbon its vibration, its charm.

The walls of the surrounding buildings are pale pink, tiled and green, a sort of golden yellow. Some are cracking, with dark green iron over the windows.

From São Bento on the way to the neighborhood of Santa Catarina, the streets have this vibrant energy which comes from the combination of beautiful cafes full of plants and natural light, eclectic boutiques, art galleries and quaint bars, all settled on narrow streets and rolling hills.

On my first outing here, I visited Homecore, one of my favorite French brands with stores in Paris, Lyon, and here in Lisbon.

A couple of years ago my brother and I visited one of their stores in Biarritz, France, and were lucky enough to meet the owner, a man with a bright personality and warm aura.

Here in Lisbon, I entered the shop and saw him deep in conversation with two guests; he’s the man behind Homecore’s originality, and unexpectedly seeing him brought a smile to my face.

I went to say hello. He’s one of those people that gives you undivided attention when in conversation; he told me that Lisbon is where he now spends most of his time running the brand.

This man epitomizes Lisbon’s style: bright, laid-back, a gust of wind drifting through verdant green trees. We sent a picture to my brother.

The people that I’ve met in this neighborhood, the people who call it home — whether that’s their shop or restaurant or apartment — make it my favorite place to spend my time.

Locals sit in front of their shops or stand on their balconies, taking in the air, the sun, the colors of Lisbon.

I told one of the staff members at Homecore that I’d be in Lisbon for a couple of months. He gave me just the list I needed — full of things to see and do to occupy my days.

This time around, I saw him sitting on the windowpane outside of the store, chilling with a buddy. As I walked by, he shook my hand and smiled; I told him I was on my way to a store/artistic space that he recommended in the area, Casa Angelita.

We chatted for a moment and he bid me adieu; I continued on my afternoon odyssey.

I came out of Casa Angelita and across the street stood a dapper gentleman with a disheveled head of long grey hair. He leaned against the wall and smoked a cigarette, looking at me rather inquisitively.

I looked back across the narrow street.

I crossed and went into the store beside him — a considerable space full of anything and everything. Nicknacks, statues and jewelry occupied the wooden tables; colorful paintings, tapestries, art of all kinds covered the blue and white tiled walls.

The man followed behind me, as this seemed to be his store.

We got into a conversation and he told me that this store is an old bakery, built in 1906. It’s full of whatever people wish to give, that which gives it life, color, a feeling.

“When I’m done using it as a store,” he told me with an affection for the space, “I think I’ll just live here.”

His name is Michael. He works as a civil engineer. Running Tudo e. Todos is his hobby, his passion. The afternoon had slowly passed, and the sun had begun to set. On my way here, I’d spoken with a friend with whom I’d met in the same way — perusing, wandering, asking questions, saying hello.

Now I’d made another.

This is one of the oldest streets of Lisbon, Michael told me, and still retains its charm, its history, its character.

A DJ owns the shop next door and often plays to add music to the streets — this is what I felt, the rhythm of the cobblestone sidewalks and local cafes which come together to create a brilliant melody.

Michael showed me the old bakery’s vault, a small space in the wall. “Although I don’t have the key,” he said, so it remains open. The vault was full of dusty painted tiles.

In the back of the store, behind many things and a flowing hanging tapestry, there was a cavernous room — the bakery’s oven. I turned on my flashlight and peered into its depths.

After exploring the store, I told Michael about my writing and the reason for my travels. Like I said, I don’t have a definite answer to my reason for being here.

But what I’ve found is that talking, opening up, smiling, sharing what I feel in my heart — this is how I’m learning who I am. I’m here to observe why I’m here.

You never know what you’ll find, just by talking to people. By going in a store that looks interesting. By spending time in a new place without a plan.

I feel a deeper sense of connection with Lisbon because of the conversations that I’ve had, the friends that I’ve made. That desire to talk, to open up, to lend a hand, to be a friend — that will make you feel at home, no matter where you go.

That will give life the meaning it deserves.

  • Carol
    Posted at 20:52h, 03 May Reply

    So do most people know English or can you speak Portuguese? Lisbon seems like a wonderful city. I’d never heard of Homecare but plan to be in Biarritz this summer. Maybe I’ll come across it. Safe travels.

    • Vincent Van Patten
      Posted at 09:22h, 05 May Reply

      English is pretty common, but trying to learn some Portuguese as well 🙂 It truly is. Homecore is an awesome clothing company; the store closed in Biarritz unfortunately, but there are a couple of stores in Paris. I appreciate you reading Carol! 🙏🏻🙏🏻

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