Flea market and Fado

Trip Start Nov 09, 2007
Trip End Feb 03, 2008

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Now if you have followed the blog since Brussels, you'll know that Jess is a sucker for a flea market. There is one in Lisbon every Tuesday and Saturday, so we planned to visit it on Saturday, our last day in Lisbon.
Because Internet access was not as freely available as some of the other places we have stayed I spent the first hour at the nearby Internet café loading up a week's worth of blog. After this I collected the others ad we headed up to Campo de Sta. Clara, about a five minute walk from our place, where the flea market is held.
My first impression was that it was a load of old junk. I know that that is what a flea market is supposed to be about, but this was more junky than normal. We still managed to spend a couple of hours examining every stall. The flea market had three types of stall holders. First, there were people who had stretched out a tarp on the ground and appeared to have collected piles of junk from around their house and brought it down to see what they could get for it. Second, there were shop keepers who had spilled out onto the footpath outside of their shop, appearing to by trying to capitalise on the market goers. Third there were more professional looking stalls of handicrafts and other new items such as pashminas and the like. We spent most time looking at the junk, because you never know what you might find, but also had a good look at the other stalls too.
In the middle of our wanderings through the market we found ourselves back at Sao Vicente da For a and across the road from our baguette place of a couple of days ago. We decided it was time for lunch and found a table. It was very busy today and we watched a battle emerge between a Dutch woman who was insisting that the muffin she had bought was stale and the shop owner who took the line that there was nothing wrong with the muffin. 'If you don't like the taste, it's not my problem' she said firmly. The Dutch woman left the muffin on the counter broken into pieces and stood with a disgusted look on her face. A Mexican standoff ensued. In the end the shop owner prevailed. One thing I have noticed about Portuguese woman is there tenacity. I knew from the start that it would be unlikely that the shop owner would back down.
We returned home with our scant purchases and had a rest then packed our bags ready for the morning. It had been our intention all along to go to a restaurant here in the Alfama that had fado, but we had left it until the last minute. One thing was for sure, we didn't want to miss out on this experience, so at 8 o'clock we got dressed up and headed out.
Our main dilemma was which fado bar to go to. We had been seduced on a number of occasions by spruikers telling us that their bar was the authentic experience. In the end we avoided the one that had the football on a large plasma screen and instead went to the one we had been eyeing up. Restaurante Maria Da Fonte (Rua S. Pedro) was much busier than any of the others anyway.
Soon after we took our seats a man started singing. Right beside us there were two guitar players pouring their soul into their playing, and the singer was standing looking so cool as he told us his tale in his song. We ordered our food and watched the other patrons enjoying the show. Next came a tall woman with an enormous chest (all the better for the sound to reverberate I guess). Her name was Lucinda Gouveia. Jess threatened that if I turned around I would get whacked in the eye, so of course I turned around to be confronted by a wall of bosom.
The venue was small and very intimate. The musicians were right beside us and the singers walked among the tables, engaging with the audience. We weren't quite sure how many different singers w would see or how long each one would sing for. The next singer was Tina Monteiro who was dressed dramatically in a cape. Right from the outset she appeared to be smitten with Maggie, stoking her hair and taking her hand as she sang directly to her. She sang a song about her 'Malmequer Pequenino' which seemed to be just for Maggie. She was joined in this song by a younger singer, Sonia Gomez, and the harmonies they were able to produce were spine tingling.
Sonia Gomez sang on her own next. She has an amazing voice. Both Jess and I though (and discussed later) that she sounded just like Piaf, and the fact that she could produce this sound was surprising and inspiring.
We stayed in the restaurant enjoying the show until after 11. The girls were great, listening to music that was not really their thing, but enjoying it anyway. They were the centre of attention of most o the singers, so this helped. The food at Maria Da Fonte was also good. Although a little on the expensive side, we figured that as the show was free this represented amazing value.
On the way out Tina and Lucinda (no, they weren't country singers) offered us their CDs for 15 euro each. We didn't want to offend and could therefore buy just one, so we bought one of each. They will be a lasting memory of our stay in the Alfama.
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