While visiting Lisbon, in October last year, I discovered a very peculiar shop. When you enter it you feel like travelling back in time…it’s like a time tunnel. A Vida Portuguesa is one of the country’s most interesting souvenir and vintage shops, a place where you can find everything from intact reproductions of religious images to vintage bicycles. It’s almost like an antique shop!
We can say that the famous “saudade” (nostalgia in Portuguese) is hidden in a former grocer’s shop in Chiado, central Lisbon. Since around the 19th century, this neighborhood has been home to dozens of artisans’ workshops and shops. In fact ,even the street names in the area are related to these old crafts: Sapateiros (shoemakers), Douradores (blacksmiths), Correiros (saddlers). So, there’s no better place to find a shop with all sorts of products that are very typical to Portugal and that belongs to its identity. On the shelves you can find soaps, oils, toothpastes, flour, cans of tuna, vintage toys, drawings, etc.
We can actually say that this place is more than a shop. Within its 100-square meter perimeter, you can discover objects that tell a lot about the Portuguese Culture: food, religion, fashion, literature, among others. It’s a trip through time to examine Portuguese life, with its Cabrita bars of soap, Couto toothpaste, 1940’s clothing, and period photographs. There are also cartels explaining each range of items in the shop. The display of this shop actually reminds me of a small museum.
When it opened in 2006, the neighbors were surprised by the kind of products, their originality and the care that had gone into the packaging. More than just a retro shop, this place was a sort of “museum” of relics, with cooking utensils, books and creams and pomades from far as back the nineteen-fifties, perfectly conserved.
“Objects are able to tell extraordinary stories about people, their customs and tastes. They define our identity. And with this shop we wanted to show Portugal in a surprising way”, explains the owner, Catarina Portas. This ex-journalist had the idea eight years ago, when she was to make a book about vintage products. At the time, she only had 2000 euros but her ambition was in fact to recover Portuguese tradition and find brands and designs that had marked people’s lives.
By December 2004, she had managed to collect all kinds of articles, like Viarco pencils with historical designs, postcards of Portugal in 1815, the classic Triunfo olive oil and other curios. She sold 70 boxes worth from a shop in the Chiado area of Lisbon. The income from the project was such that a year later, she opened A vida Portuguesa. It is not about indulging nostalgia, but about recovering identity and respecting tradition," says Catarina.
So here’s one place you should definitely visit while you’re in Lisbon. Don’t forget to bring your Camera with you! It is certainly worth it to take some snap shots in this place. Boa viagem!
For more information visit the A Vida Portuguesa Website.