How to put into words, what I just felt in my heart?
Last night we went to an old palace to listen to Fado, music of the soul.
The palace had long since been converted into a small chapel and we sat between it’s walls, listening to it cry.
Hundreds of years ago, in 1755, this particular palace survived an earthquake.
The earthquake had taken all of the life out of lower Lisbon, but since the Alfama neighbourhood sits on one of the seven hills, it survived.
The King restored the little damage done to the palace, changed it into a chapel … and gave it to his mistress. That way when he was visiting Alfama, he could claim that he needed to pray, and slip inside the chapel to see his lover.
And so the palace became a chapel, dedicated to Mary.
They adorned the walls from floor to ceiling with the beautiful tiles that Lisbon’s known for.
There are four stories written on the walls, read from left to right.
The first one shows the birth of our Mother Mary.
The second is when she was presented to the church.
The third is of her wedding day, married off to Joseph.
And the fourth story honours the arc angel, Gabriel.
When we walked into the small, stuffy chapel, our table for eleven was already laid out with little bites of food. Pickled quail eggs, green olives, plain bread with delicious tuna spread. Serra de estrela cheese and sautéed mushrooms with little squares of bacon. We were served sangria, and white wine, and red. My main course was medium rare beef tenderloin with cream sauce and a tiny quail egg served on the side.
There was only room for 30 souls packed into the chapel. When the dinner was over and dessert was done, the lights were turned off and candles were lit. Two unassuming men picked up a Spanish and a 12 string Portuguese guitar. They started to sing. They started to wail. They started to cry their hearts out, with the saddest words overlying traditional melodies.
Fado is called Portuguese soul music for a reason. It rips through your bones the way that a frigid wind does during winter. It shakes you to the core as it echoes off the walls.
The very name Fado, translates to “fate.” It’s sung with such sweet sorrow that I found it a bit frightening.
I’ve always considered fate to be a magical thing. A sweet promise, of the lovely things that could come my way. A blessing in disguise, on behalf of the things that never did. And as an experience to learn from, when the hands of fate are unkind. Though in all honesty, fates been pretty kind to me.
But Fado singers; they’re always on the wrong side of fate. Their songs yearn for something that they wish was different but that can never be. They sing their way through the heartbreak and the hurt.
After a few sets of songs the two men and two guitars were accompanied by an Angel. Turning two into a trio, a young woman joined and sang her heart out, too. The few candles in the room lit up our wine glasses and little orbs of red and white shone from the tables. The tiles and the stories, lit up the walls.
My belly was happy.
My heart was full.
And it was only when I got up to leave, that I realized I was sitting beneath an Angel.
Visit: Mesa de Frades – Rua dos Remedios 139A, Lisbon, Portugal
Price: 45 euros for all the food, and all of the wine.
Time Spent: 8pm -1am