AE Monthly

Articles - July - 2011 Issue

Booking It in Europe - Volume II!

Lello2

Inside the Lello Bookstore.

Three days later we were on the train headed to Barcelona and then by airplane to Lisbon, Portugal.  We actually found more bookstores in Lisbon, and later in Porto, than anywhere we had been, except maybe Amsterdam.  We walked the streets of Lisbon for several days, took a road trip with a terrific guide to Sintra and a park and palace called Pena.  It looked like something out of Disneyland and is considered the finest example of 19th century Portuguese Romanticism.  There is a Moorish Castle, Monserrate Palace, and a 16th century Franciscan hermitage on the grounds, as well.  While we were on the trip we went to Cabo da Roca, the place that the Portuguese sailors and explorers considered “The Place Where the Earth Ends.”  There is a lighthouse dating from 1772 there.  It is the westernmost point of the European continent and they believed that if you sailed from there to the west, you would fall off the Earth.  The sea roils and crashes against the rocks and the cliffs remind one of the roughest parts of the Oregon coast.  It is quite beautiful to behold.

 

But back to bookstores, or one bookstore in particular.  We found a number of small bookstores in Lisbon and with the exception of one small store, we found no English language books, or very few and a poor selection at that.  Of course, we were only there about four days and could not cover the whole town.

 

By this time, we were in serious need of a Laundromat.  It might surprise you to know that there are none in Portugal – we asked everywhere.  I took to rinsing out clothes and hanging them in the windows of our hostel rooms at night.  It took the whole next day to dry, but we made it through a week and a half that way.  There are many laundries where you can take your clothes and they will do them, but it is prohibitively expensive – the equivalent of $4-$5 for a shirt and $2-$3 for each pair of undies.

 

We left Lisbon by train and traveled to Porto.  This is where port wine was invented and at one time it was their principal export, excluding fishing.  We sampled some and it was quite tasty.  At 10 Euros a glass, we didn’t drink much of it.  Wine was much more reasonable. 


Porto is the home of The Lello Bookstore or Livraria Lello in Portuguese.  It is one of the most famous, and in my opinion, one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world.  Working at Lello’s (if you speak Portuguese) would be a bookseller’s dream.  The only drawback is that it is packed with people all the time.  Also, it is packed with books of every kind imaginable – old, new, antiquarian, you name it.  We noted quite a few foreign language books; English, German, French, Spanish, but of course, most of the books were in Portuguese.  It was established by Jose De Sousa Lello and his brother in 1894 then moved in 1906 to its current location.  It was built at the height of the Art Deco movement in Europe by a well known Portuguese engineer and architect, Francisco Xavier Esteves.  It is neo-gothic on the outside, high Deco on the inside with beautifully kept woodwork, curving banisters, graduated stairwells, incredible stained glass in the ceiling and windows, ladders along the walls, and a small, cozy coffee shop upstairs (which was closed when we were there).  After Lello’s we really didn’t want to go to any other bookstores, so we went for coffee and marveled at what we had seen and at the booklet we bought full of pictures of the store.  I suspect they sell more pictures of the store than anything else!

AE Monthly


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