How does one fall in love with a city?
You can’t find the recipe in any tour guide. There must be a perfect combination of circumstances, that might have nothing to do with your expectations. You just accidentally feel that your heart is arrested by that place. That’s when you get in trouble.
I didn’t expect at all, that the interiors of an ancient palace near São Jorge Castle turned into a boutique hotel, the soundtrack from the movies of Almodovar, the french monsieur Frederic Coustols telling me stories about how Marcelo Mastroianni stayed 6 months and Wim Wenders filmed his movie “Lisbon story” with a fadista singing in the hotel, would make me feel that little magic in the air.
Frederic is the wisest of all my friends and one of the most unordinary people I have ever met. Random curious tourists enter the big red wooden door to the right from the São Jorge Castle in Alfama and find themselves in the cafe of Palacio Belmonte. Accidentally, a man in pyjamas and inevitably with a cigar, chilling on a sofa, starts talking to them, telling fascinating stories they want to believe in. People usually have no idea that the man in front of them is the one, who back in 1994 “came out of the blue” to save the building and turn it into this magnificent boutique hotel: “The building called me. I was taken by the building”.
I first met Frederic in my first trip to Lisbon in 2012, when I went to interview him for a project of Aisha.Mir – Russian magazine about travelling. Since then Palacio became for me a very special place, that welcomes and comforts me every time I go there. Whenever I feel like it, I pop by surprise for a chat or a dinner with Frederic and Maria in the cozy kitchen of Palacio Belmonte.
I think Lisbon is special for the light, for the quality of the year, but also, mainly, for its rare architecture. The harmony of the colours. People feel in peace in Lisbon.
And then, what is strange in Lisbon is the pace of life: you are in a car, the car is going fast and somebody starts crossing, and you have to stop. And the people crossing, they won’t go faster. It will take one minute, maybe. But you have to stop. It’s not a stressed, speedy city. It’s a calm city.
Frederic is the biggest dreamer I know. Once he told me: “I like creating beauty, and when people come here, they become beautiful too”.
Lisbon is a beautiful city. But I’m sure that it’s not just about the nature, the architecture and the light, but also about the people, like Frederic, that can see the beauty in details and multiply it by sharing their vision with the others.