In the Praça do Comércio, there is a temporary museum exhibition showcasing the light in Lisbon. From a photographer´s point of view (or simply an observer´s) the exhibit might be best viewed as a stimulus for ideas. The best way to see that light, though, is to walk the streets and look around.
There does seem to be an intensity in the white light of summer in Lisbon, especially in the pale and unsheltered main plaza. On a recent trip to the Portuguese capital, our expectations, bordering on positive stereotypes, were reinforced: the superior coffees, the excellent wines and ports, the friendliness and cultural diversity of the Portuguese people, the available seafood (fresh from the sea), the incredible creativity in the hundreds of azulejos (tiles), the sweets. So, we ate and drank, and then ate and drank some more. And I took a few pictures.
The city was absolutely filled to the brim with tourists. At times it seemed that the city was at its breaking point, both in its patience and its mere ability to keep up. While there was a noticeable collection of rubbish in the streets, it was undoubtedly a result of the overflow of visitors. Even so, the almost masochistic Portuguese service industry continues to pack in its rustic trolleys (the old no. 28 is a classic for even amateur photographers and is catnip for tourists) and its restaurants, and almost always with a smile. It is what smart, industrious people do to take advantage of pocketfulls of money walking the streets looking to buy momentos and memories, and often outside of standard business hours. After all, they have a lot to offer. There is also a refreshing attitude to foreigners here. Instead of a stange inferiority complex to outsiders that manifests itself in rudeness, Lisbon seems to handle the multilingual mix of its visitors with the ease of a wise, experienced European capital.
In a small, family restaurant planted in a corner of Alfama (sorry, you´ll have to find it yourself), we had just finished our superior plate of grilled sardines. We then watched the owner of the restaurant close and lock the door, and he put out a plate of his own freshly grilled food and sat in the corner table by the window. His wife, who must have been working in the kitchen, joined him with a chilled bottle of vinho verde and they sat together and ate in silence. It reminded us of the sweetness and simplicity of life, so easily found if there is the desire to find it.
(stayed tuned for Lisbon street photos in a travel magazine near you…)