When a friend offered to show me the famous Chiado district in Lisbon, I had no idea what to expect. As we wandered down the steep streets and up again, looking in shop windows as we passed, I halted in my tracks. Peering through the glazed entrance doors to the shop, I realised that I had stumbled upon a veritable Aladdin's cave, and in more ways than one!
We went in, down a shallow step, into a showroom cum shop, of not very large proportions. Hanging from every available place on the ceiling, like stalactites, were lanterns, for that is what they really are. Every available section on the walls also was decorated with the most exquisitely beautiful lamps that I have ever seen together in one place.
I experienced, in that moment, a feeling, which now I am becoming accustomed to when in Portugal: Some things never change . . .
The older gentleman, quietly sitting at his desk reading a newspaper, was 21st Century. Put him in the garb of any of the previous centuries, then the scene would remain unchanged, except for he. His vivacious daughter burst in on the scene, and I could see from her face that she was taking in my dumbfoundment with amusement. With her perfect English, she allowed me to stammer out my wonder at what I was looking at. Sensing my interest, she started talking, and what she had to say was truly amazing.
I left with a lamp, (one of several, the balance made to order), as security against never returning! I have bought various of their lanterns for my house, and each one has a story.
I visited the shop very recently, (for another lamp!). Obviously the younger generation are at the helm, but things are pretty much unchanged for that. I asked the lady if she would be prepared to lay aside a little time to tell me about her business, and how the family have been making these lanterns, by hand, in the same premises, since 1810. I felt it was a story that needed to be told, but where to start, I wondered. When she told me that every lantern has a name, that being given to it according to the King or Queen, here in Portugal, or around the world, for whom it was commissioned, I knew I had my answer.
I shall go back to the shop, and let her tell the story, lantern by lantern.....
Store: Casa Maciel, 63, r. da Misericordia, 65, Lisbon.