Porto, Portugal. By guest blogger Judy Leaver.
I feel history, I feel culture,
I feel the city in the aroma of a coffee.
Translated from a poem in Portuguese by Tues Ruinet, and written for Guarany Restaurant
It was 9:00 Wednesday night when Sheila and I left for dessert at Guarany. We could see as we walked past the restaurant’s elegant windows that most tables were full of people eating, talking, drinking wine and beer with their meals, and listening to the same pianist who had been there on Tuesday night. Sheila ordered sparkling water and a repeat of the chocolate crepe confection she had snarfed up previously, and I ordered the Gran Marnier crepe and café com leite. My crepe arrived dry and lacy on my plate until the waiter poured a small pitcher of Gran Marnier over it and flicked his bic to produce a blue flambé that danced over my plate for several minutes before I dived into it.
Note to All Souls Pilgrimage Hikers: Do not miss the opportunity to eat here!
Guarany was established in 1933, and bills itself as a ‘traditional coffee house’. It also reports having live music and entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights, though a pianist was playing on Tuesday and Wednesday nights when we were there. The ambiance is warm and friendly —classy but not snooty–and looks like it was once a bank building, given its position on the corner of the Avenida dos Aliados in Porto, its high ceiling, and 1930s-era fluorescent lights (that are no longer in operation).
For bloggers who live in Washington, this is Busboys & Poets Portuguese-style….yet, there’s not a single laptop in sight. There were a few tables of single people (mostly men) reading the paper, drinking espresso, lots of families eating dinner, and a fair number of tourists.
Two exotic murals, “The Lords of Amazonia” by Graca Morais dominate the space. They each contain Indian faces, designs and symbols. They were completed in 2003 and add a contemporary twist to the venerable space. The largest Indian face gazes over the room in a proud and rather challenging way. There is also a television monitor above the bar, soundlessly showing videos of sites in Portugal—no sports activities or hyperactive CNN.
Guarany provides a skillful blend of good food and culture, the old and the new, much like the city of Porto. Again, the Portuguese poet:
You are a world apart,
or a part of this world,
you are poetry, you are silence,
you are bright talks, glances and smiles.
You are Porto, Guarany…