Portugal means a lot to me. In fact, it turns out to be an eventful journey and plays a big part in my life. As the country continues to shine on international stage, so as the experience the country has to offer; don’t expect them to brag about how good and successful they are (they are the subtle type), but I can guarantee you the country is full of priceless surprises, impeccable charm and sensibilities, sophisticated and friendly individuals. After all, an act of goodness is an act of happiness. If the people we interact with carry such qualities, it certainly would light up our journey –and this is a rare thing. In Portugal, we encounter them time after time. If they lend you a hand, they mean to; when they discuss a topic with you, you can tell they are well versed in the subject. An ex-colleague said to me once that, if we cannot respect ourselves first, we won’t be able to respect others. I guess, this piece of wisdom reflects very well in a country like Portugal.
The poetic trait of Portugal is a cultural heritage in itself. Perhaps it is because of its closeness to the ocean –it is easy to get struck by its beauty and tenderness just by listening to the sound of the waves and observing the ever-changing colours of the sky. Love at first sight may happen more often here than anywhere else, I suspect.
Talking about love, one of the many things I love about Portugal, apart from its refined sensibility, is its food-high quality, reasonable price, fresh, and of fine taste. Good food moves people, and this is exactly one of the key motivations for people, including world celebrities, to keep travelling back to the country for more. Like how gravitational force works, people who love coming back and continuing with the connection here incline to keep a low profile, just like the way the Portuguese generally are.
A week ago, I was in Lisbon again. This time, it was more of a memory re-collection journey. The idea is to keep a record about all the important spots which are etched on our memories while adding new ones to it. One of the new memories we added to our record was about this iconic eatery, which used to be located in Bairro Alto, that we always said we would go but never did. (Albeit, there are too many good spots to try in this neighbourhood.)
Located on the top floor of Mercado da Ribeira market, this restaurant was moved to Cais do Sodre 3 years ago. It is very spacious with two dining rooms and a river view; it is a hot spot for famous faces, celebrities and politicians as the food they serve really move people. Robert De Niro has been their customer since the 80s, and he just made another visit to the restaurant this year.
The interesting thing about this restaurant was actually about the Protagonist behind it. In this case, it is about Manuela Brandão-the head chef. She moved to Lisbon from a small village in Trás-os-Montes when she was still a teenager and started out working at this restaurant simply preparing food for the staff. At one time, the then chef and the brother of the owner was not able to go back to Lisbon because the roads were blocked due to the snowstorm. The restaurant was going to close but Manuela said she would take on the kitchen. The rest is history. This restaurant serves traditional Portuguese cuisine with modern touch. Since I am a seafood lover, I chose the fish soup as the starter. All I can say is, once you started eating it, you would never wish to stop having more-it is fresh and nourishing. It is a happy and moving meal.
I had given some thought to what I learnt about the story of this restaurant: the Universe always leaves me awed by the mysteries of practically everything I observe; unresolved questions such as whether chicken or egg came first, what governs timing, or why we meet somebody but not others remain no end of wonder and hard to keep my thoughts on course; I tried, once, by taking certain philosophy courses during the University time in order to find that exit, but it seems that being heavily trained as a logical thinker would only complicate it.
But, as time goes by, I realize there may be an answer, at least, to some of these questions, about which they almost make my head spin off my neck.
First of all, I believe that Fate does exist, and that it is largely interlocked with our personality traits. Our personality determines how we want to use the information we receive and our choice is a by-product of it. The orbits of our lives continue driven by this gravitational force, and the orbit is the fate in this context. Rather than complaining about our fate, what a wiser thing to do, perhaps, is to revisit our orbits, change the gravitational dynamics and thereby, our next choice to make.
Whining is not an option.