We were going to try the fado house Anthony Bourdain had promoted on his TV program No Reservations but alas we should have made a reservation. There were people everywhere and front of house seemed to be adding to the chaos. A retreat to take stock led us across the road where an older lady (let’s call her Leonie) wielding a pencil and a scrap of paper seemed in charge of bookings. Negotiations, hers in Portuguese ours in English were a little difficult to start with until she noticed my fox brooch (a much loved birthday gift) paved the way to an immediate opening and menu recommendations.
So what do I think of Fado? After the first performance I was unsure – mournful, dark, would have been great to know the lyrics.
Next stop the Fado Museum – we should have gone there first. I’ve come away better prepared for our next Fado encounter.
Travel writer Rick Steves sums it up beautifully
Fado is the folk music of Lisbon’s rustic neighborhoods. Since the mid-1800s, it’s been the Lisbon blues — mournfully beautiful and haunting ballads about lost sailors, broken hearts, and bittersweet romance.
Fado means “fate” — how fate deals with Portugal’s adventurers…and the families they leave behind. The lyrics reflect the pining for a loved one across the water, hopes for a future reunion, remembrances a rosy past or dreams of a better future, and the yearning for what might have been if fate had not intervened. While generally sad, fado can be jaunty…but in a nostalgic way. Fado can also be bright and happy when the song is about the virtues of cities such as Lisbon or Coimbra, or of the warmth of a typical Portuguese home.
The songs are often in a minor key. The singer (fadista) is accompanied by a 12-string guitarra portuguesa (with a round body like a mandolin) or other stringed instruments unique to Portugal. Fado singers typically crescendo into the first word of the verse, like a moan emerging from deep inside. Though the songs are often sad, the singers rarely overact — they plant themselves firmly and sing stoically in the face of fate.
So, the easiest way to hear and learn about fado is to drop by the museum – three levels of wall murals show three generations of local fado stars, and the audioguide lets you hear the Billie Holidays of Portugal.
We visited this beautiful small village in the Prades Mountains. Siurana overlooks the Siurana Reservoir and the cliffs around the village – lots of walkers and climbers around. Apparently you can do a climb to 9b! Impressive Roman Church too. €1 to turn the lights on for two minutes and worth it.
Alexander, kamikazi walker took a tumble and we were off to the local medical centre for first aid. Within minutes of our arrival Alex was seeing the doctor, butterfly bandaid applied, rather impressive dressing on forehead and none the worse for the experience.
The holiday begins with David, Nuri and Alexander (1 year old) in Falset. But first we need to get there. So we fly Adelaide to Barcelona on Emirates (code share with Qantas), pick up car, drive 79kms to Tarragona (€5 toll), get slightly bushed before locating the road to Falset and 40 minutes later arrive at our destination (car intact).
Priorat is one of the stand-out Spanish wine regions, (Grenache, Mourvèdre and Shiraz). A small appellation, with 1,700 hectares of vines and just over 60 bodegas, lies to the west of the province of Tarragona in Catalonia, and includes the municipalities of Scala Dei, Gratallops and Falset.