Plan Travel to Lisbon

Want to track down the locales of a Portugal mystery so you can plan travel to Lisbon? Because so many readers were interested in the review of A Small Death in Lisbon, I am very happy to share some portions of the latest Pack A Book newsletter detailing locations discussed in that novel, and what they look like today. Pack a Book’s web site, published with both British and American versions, has lists of books for many, many countries. A later newsletter will feature reviews of the book from various sources–including A Traveler’s Library.
I am giving you a taste of what is in the Packabook newsletter. In addition to the locales below, the newsletter covers the arts district of Santos on Lisbon’s Waterfront; the Hotel Palacio and Casino Royale where oodles of spies hung out during WWII; and the area of Cascais (accompanied by a video). Sorry as I am that I cannot include everything, if this whets your appetite, you’ll just need to subscribe to Packabook’s newsletter.

From Packabook Newsletter

Robert Wilson’s A Small Death in Lisbon is rich with geographical detail, giving you many opportunities to get to know Lisbon and beyond. Streets, parks, public buildings and spots along the River Tagus are frequently mentioned throughout the novel, and it would be a joy in itself to just wander the city and follow the trails Wilson gives us.

But if time is short – here are some highlights of things you can get up to, inspired by the book itself.

Enjoy the nightlife (and daylife!) of the Bairro Alto

 “An eighteen-year old Zé Coelho was drinking cheap bagaço in a white tiled tasca in the middle of the Bairro Alto with three of his school friends when the owner came thundering down the stairs from his apartment above.
    “Something’s happening,” he said, breathless and shocked…..
Zė Coelho flicked his shoulder-length hair over the wolfskin collar of his floor length woollen capote Alenteano and they started running down the narrow cobbled alleyway towards the square below.” 
(Robert Wilson’s A Small Death in Lisbon p387-8) 

Image by Thomas from Vienna, Austria via Wikimedia Commons

Not far from Santos is the Bairro Alto, its steep, cobbled streets filled with galleries, museums and bars.
This is where the teenage Coelho is drinking with his friends when the 1974 coup against Salazar breaks out – and more than thirty years later it is still a center for youth culture. The authorities may have tried to clean up the area, but it remains one of the most colorful parts of the city, with a hectic nightlife, vestiges of prostitution and extensive graffiti.

Come the dawn, the Bairro Alto transforms back into a traditional local community, complete with laundry drying on the balconies and shop-keepers trading their wares. Visit the Chiado art museum, drop in on the area’s historical churches and enjoy one of the oldest districts of the city.
Drive along The Marginal
“He drove out onto the Marginal and noticed for the first time on the outskirts of the city that the air was fresher and purer. After five days of brutal swelter, the sea was blue again, the sky clear and the twin steel towers of the Ponte Salazar, the new suspension bridge being built across the Tagus, were pin-sharp in the flat calm of the estuary.” (Robert Wilson’s A Small Death in Lisbon – p359)

The characters in this novel spend a fair bit of time driving along the coastal road between Lisbon and Cascais known as ‘The Marginal’, and so should you. As you drive, there is little to block your view of the beach towns dotted along the way, each with their own restaurants, bars and golden stretches of sand down to the water to tempt you off the road.

Stay in your own ‘House at the End of the World’

“They spent the time driving out to his house, the westernmost house on mainland Europe – only heather, gorse, the cliffs and the lighthouse at Cabo da Roca between it and the ocean…they bought two chairs and sat in the enclosed terrace on the roof and drank brandy and watched the storms out at sea, the deranged clouds and the blood-orange sunsets.” – Felsen and Susana

(Robert Wilson’s A Small Death in Lisbon – p288) 
Image by Pauldavidgill at en.wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons 
I’m not sure if Felsen’s house actually exists, but there is a place that you can stay which is pretty close by. Quinta da Rio Touro is a guesthouse and organic farm less than a five minute drive away from the Cabo de Roca lighthouse, the most westerly point of continental Europe.

The restored farm house is part of the Sintra/Cascais Natural Park, and gives you a taste of more traditional Portuguese life, on the edge of the ocean. Take a picnic to the lighthouse to watch the sunset and you are sure to leave with some stunning photographs.
The joy of this novel is that we are able to explore Lisbon from two different avenues of the past.
During World War Two we see the city mainly through Poser’s cynical eyes and Felsen’s almost indifferent ones  – where the struggles of a city trying to cope with a huge influx of refugees and little time for aesthetic values leave us with a picture of grime and despair.In Coelho’s time we see Lisbon as new money comes to the fore, with a rapid program of change and development.
If you make a trip to the Portuguese capital now, you will see the city has moved on a step further. This novel made me want to explore Wilson’s city for myself, to discover what is new and to find the beacons of the past which remain.

Thanks so much to Suzi Butcher at Packabook for allowing me to share this portion of the Packabook Newsletter with readers of A Travelers’ Library.  The link to A Small Death in Lisbon that you find above leads to Packabook’s Amazon affiliation, so the profit goes to them if you choose to use this link.

Can you think of a time that you have visited a particular neighborhood or region because you read about it in a novel or travel literature? I planned my travel to Paris by zeroing in on the Latin Quarter of Paris after reading Hemingway’s Moveable Feast. But now, I’m dying to go to the end of the world in Portugal. How about you?

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About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, or recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She has written for Reel Life With Jane, Life is a Trip and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

11 thoughts on “Plan Travel to Lisbon

  1. Thank you everyone for your lovely comments, and welcome aboard to those of you have subscribed. And a special thank you to you Vera for introducing Packabook to your readers…

  2. Sounds like a great book, I love reading novels that refer and describe well real places. I’ve been planning to visit Portugal for a while, and now that I’m back in Europe I’ll be certainly making the trip.

  3. You are a treasure finder- and I love how you willingly share your treasure with everyone.

    I did get your email- THANK YOU!!!! I will be responding tonight- things have been crazy busy so I haven’t had a chance before now to respond.

  4. You do find the most wonderful things! This is absolutely fabulous. We are heading to Spain in November and I’ve been searching for books to ‘take me there’ in advance of the actual trip. I visited and now have a whole world of temptations before me.

    In answer to your questions, about using books and travel. I’ve discovered many special ‘novel’ destinations in Crete thanks to the books I’ve read about them. . .books that made us go in search of the actual place described in a particular chapter.

    1. I’m glad that Packabook is helping you out with Spain. Be sure to read Washington Irving’s Tales of the Alhambra. And Don Quixote, of course.

      As for Crete–mind sharing your reading list? I have a couple, but always can use more Greek reading.

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