When we watch movies or documentaries, sometimes they spur my husband and me to put a destination on our travel bucket list. Such was the case when watched the Portugal episode of Anthony Bourdain’s show, No Reservations, back in 2013. It took us awhile, but we finally made it to Portugal in 2018.
Once we choose a destination, we find it helpful to watch movies so that we can hear the language. We don’t learn the language, but we pick up a couple of words and no longer fear being lost in communication. We also sometimes pick up ideas for additional places to visit while we’re in that locale.
A non-fiction book can help you learn more about the history and culture of the place you’re going to visit. A fictional book can make a destination come to life through a story. Guidebooks can help you plan your trip.
If you’re thinking about heading to Portugal, check out these resources:
Anthony Bourdain’s visit:
Lisbon film recommendations from Nina Santos of Culture Trip (You’ll probably have an easier time finding these than the ones Rick Steves recommends below.)
Movie: Night Train to Lisbon (2013). See fiction books below for description.
Suggested by Europe travel guru Rick Steves:
- Amália(2008). This film captures the life of Portugal’s beloved fado singer, Amália Rodrigues, who rose from poverty to international fame. (If the film is hard to find, listen to a YouTube clip of her lovely singing.)
- The Art of Amália(2000). Interviews with the diva are highlighted in this documentary.
- Capitães de Abril(2000). The story of the 1974 coup that overthrew the right-wing Portuguese dictatorship is told from the perspective of two young army captains.
- Letters from Fontainhas(2010). This trio of short films follows three troubled lives in Lisbon.
- Pereira Declares(1996). Marcello Mastroianni plays the namesake in this film inspired by the Tabucchi novel mentioned earlier.
- The Strange Case of Angelica (2010). Manoel de Oliveira’s film about a photographer haunted by a deceased bride is set against the landscape of the Douro Valley.
- The Book of Disquiet(Fernando Pessoa, 1982). This collection of unpublished poetry and thoughts from the great Portuguese writer, Fernando Pessoa, was compiled after they were found in a trunk following his death.
- The First Global Village(Martin Page, 2002). Page explores Portugal’s profound influence on the rest of the world.
- The History of Portugal(James Anderson, 2000). Anderson provides a concise, readable overview of Portuguese history.
- The Last Day: Wrath, Ruin, and Reason in the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755(Nicholas Shrady, 2008). The earthquake that leveled Lisbon not only destroyed one of the leading European cities of the time, but also had a lasting effect on the world at large.
- Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe(Laurence Bergreen, 2003). Magellan’s fascinating tale of circumnavigating the globe is told through firsthand accounts.
- Portugal: A Companion History(José Hermano Saraiva, 1997). This easily digestible primer on Portugal is accompanied by maps and illustrations.
- The Portuguese: A Modern History(Barry Hatton, 2011). Hatton combines information on the country’s history, landscape, and culture with anecdotes from his own experience living in Portugal.
- The Portuguese Empire, 1415–1808: A World on the Move(A.J.R. Russell-Wood, 1998). Russell-Wood explores the rise and fall of the Portuguese empire.
- Prince Henry the Navigator: A Life(Peter Russell, 2000). This biography reveals the man who helped set in motion the Age of Discovery.
- Unknown Seas: How Vasco da Gama Opened the East(Ronald Watkins, 2005). Reconstructing journeys from captain’s logs, this book explores the expansion of Portuguese trade routes.
- Baltasar and Blimunda(José Saramago, 1998). Saramago’s love story offers a surrealistic reflection on life in 18th-century Portugal.
- The Crime of Father Amaro(Jose Maria Eça De Queirós, 1875). Set in a provincial Portuguese town, this book by the great 19th-century Portuguese novelist highlights the dangers of fanaticism.
- Distant Music(Lee Langley, 2003). Catholic Esperança and Jewish Emmanuel have an affair that lasts through six centuries and multiple incarnations; the book also delves into Portugal’s maritime empire, Sephardic Jews, and Portuguese immigrants in London.
- The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon(Richard Zimler, 1996). The author illuminates the persecution of the Jews in Portugal in the early 1500s.
- The Lusiads(Luís de Camões, 1572). Considered a national treasure, Camões’ great epic poems of the Renaissance immortalize Portugal’s voyages of discovery.
- Night Train to Lisbon(Pascal Mercier, 2004). Mercier’s international bestseller, turned 2013 film, follows the travels of a Swiss professor as he explores the life of a Portuguese doctor during Salazar’s dictatorship.
- Pereira Declares: A Testimony(Antonio Tabucchi, 1997). Set in Portugal in 1938 during Salazar’s fascist government, Pereira Declares is the story of the moral resurrection of a newspaper’s cautious editor.
- A Small Death in Lisbon(Robert Wilson, 2002). In this award-winning thriller, a contemporary police procedural is woven with an espionage story set during World War II, with Portugal’s 20th-century history as a backdrop.”
If you’re scratching your head and wondering, “Why all of these travel-related blogs in a time management blog?”, the answer is simple. Getting away from it all allows our bodies and brains to take a break. Going on a vacation – no matter how long and no matter where – will do wonders for your productivity. But sometimes properly planning for the type of vacation that lowers your stress levels (and doesn’t add to it) can take a lot of time. To save you time and stress, I’m sharing my travel tips with you.
If you always say that you’re going to watch a movie or read a book about a place that you’re going to visit, but then you never end up doing it, be sure to schedule some time on your calendar. If you make appointments with yourself, you’ll create the time that you need to watch a movie or read books about Portugal.