As we drove into Lisbon towards the Art Inn Hotel in the glossy Mercedes, I began to have second thoughts about my plans for a pilgrimage. Pilgrims let go of normal life; they walk, carry little, face deprivation, and visit sacred sites. Like the pilgrim in The Way of a Pilgrim, I had chosen my mantra and a practice that I planned to use as I made my way around Portugal, but, with my “way” so paved in luxury, could I realistically call it a pilgrimage? With some reflection, I soon realized that I had to let go of my antiquated parameters and allow the tao to unfold. Facing what it brought my way seemed much more in alignment with my intentions.
When we got to the door of the Art Inn, I faced a set of steep stairs. To get to the reception required a testy climb. From there I would face another to get to the second floor. The hotel granted my reservation request and put us on the second floor, but, with the stairwells so steep and long, we could have been on a fourth floor. Warmly greeted by the staff, we felt as though we had arrived home!
As I ascended huffing and puffing all the way, I recognized how much I needed the cardio. At the landing between the first and second floor, a welcoming work of sculpture, a seated woman coated in white buttons greeted me. Painted on the large white wall behind her the words, “You are exactly where you need to be.” With the challenging stairs and the greeting, the pilgrimage began.
It is not often that I feel compelled to write about a hotel, The Art Inn is a rare exception. Originally a gallery, the owner decided to convert it into a hotel as well. With only eleven rooms and a very casual, more-art gallery-than-lobby-like reception room, it is intimate, and more bed and breakfast-like than hotel. High ceilinged stairwells provide ample space for large paintings with the exhibition in the lobby focusing on shoes and purses. Each room is dedicated to a well known Portuguese artist or site. Ours, the Fado Room, illustrates the life of Amalia Rodriguez considered by many as the greatest Fado singer of all time, through paintings and photographs.
Bathroom photos of Amalia
Wall paintings of elements important to Fado
The famous shawl painted on the walls of the closet!
We arrived at 9:30 AM, too early to get into our room so we left our luggage with reception and headed out for a walking tour of the neighborhood. While we had been traveling for eighteen hours sans a good sleep, the beauty of Lisbon took over and fatigue fell away.