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Gabrielle de Saint Venant – From the world into A Loja in Mouraria

French photographer in Lisbon

What drives a French photographer fall in love with Mouraria and open a store with traditional Portuguese craft? The light, the people and what Gabrielle called an “international village”.

When did you arrive in Lisbon and why?
I arrive in 2009 to do a photo-shoot of a house in Comporta for an Italian magazine. At the same time I visited a French friend who lived in Mouraria, on Calçada de Santo André, and I was immediately in love with Lisbon and this part of the town. I fell in love with the light and the friends I met lived here, in Mouraria, so that was the first area that I met. I found it very beautiful, very central and very characteristic. Shortly after I started looking for a house, which at the time I thought it could work as a base because I wanted to continue to travel. That was my life, until I discovered that I did not feel like traveling anymore, I wanted to stay and what was planned as a base became a home to stay, it became a place where I wanted to stay.What do you think is the most characteristic in Mouraria, what makes it different from other neighbourhood?
At first it was something more visual, even before the redevelopment works (now it’s even more beautiful) when there were cars parked on pavements and tar, but I did not notice it. Instead I saw the beauty of the buildings, the church, the palaces. The passion started as a photographer, it was something visual, I found this a very beautiful area. And it was not like a infatuation, no! Once I start living here I noticed that I had a life that I like a lot: I live in a village, a historic district, which is very different from life in Paris, where I used to live, but what I love is that it is an international village, with local residents and a new life, a exoticism of people of other nationalities who came to live here, whether Asian or British, or German, or French. There is a mix of people, it is an international village. It’s the best of the big city in a very funny atmosphere. And it may seem utopian, but it seems that all people live in harmony, foreigners in general are welcome and it was also something I like in Mouraria. Nobody mistreats foreigners, quite the contrary, we are welcomed, we all have our different cultures, but what unites us is that we like to live here in harmony.How does a French photographer decides to open a store with Portuguese crafts?
It was something very spontaneous, I did not had much thought. Instead of keep on traveling, looking for images of the world, I wanted to stop here and there was something very spontaneous. I had the opportunity to rent a space and spontaneously I began to fill it with Portuguese objects and I really liked it. I think that in a previous life I have had a Portuguese grandfather because until today I can’t explain why I have so many old things. There is something in Portuguese objects, either in contemporary crafts or in antiques or vintage items, there is a very characteristic Portuguese poetry, a very simple side, but very emotional. There is much love, things are done in an almost naïve way, but with a great emotional charge. Without having thought of a concept, I think it was the joy I found in discovering all these things and share it with tourists who come to the city.

What do you like to eat and what is your favourite restaurant in Mouraria?
What I like in Portuguese food, what is more interesting is associated with the traditional things. The quality/price of traditional taverns is spectacular, unique in Europe, and the top of the tops is Trigueirinho. I opened the first store next to Trigueirinho and it was very dangerous to stay there because it has a homemade dessert just hallucinating.

And do you miss any French dish?
After four years living in Lisbon I’s starting to miss some things of French cuisine, such as delicatessen or cheeses.