Choose Your Own Adventure
Do you remember how I was going on and on about the hills of Edinburgh? Well, Lisbon is nicknamed the “city of seven hills” and My. Goodness. It lives up to its name and then some.
So, first, why Portugal? I’m not totally sure. I told S that I wanted to go somewhere other than France and Italy. I had a lot of amazing ideas (if I do say so myself) but eliminated all of them based on the weather being poor this time of year or the cities being prohibitively expensive. Or both. Somewhere along the way, S started going on about Portugal and Croatia. I don’t know how or when these showed up on his radar or why they lingered…but they did. Both were viable and I couldn’t choose – they both looked and sounded lovely, so I told him to pick. And he picked Croatia.
And then the following day, he changed his mind and picked Portugal. And I thought I was complicated.
Lisbon was a visual feast (and an actual feast, for that matter). The colors, the textures, the views. There really isn’t anything you have to see or do there, which is precisely my kind of place. You have just one agenda item: explore. And the planners that we are further elaborated that agenda into a detailed itinerary of walk around, check out a viewpoint, have a coffee, walk to another area, eat seafood, walk around some more, get a drink, eat more seafood, etc. You get the idea.
The city is divided into fairly distinct districts or neighborhoods, each having its own architectural and cultural character. We stayed in Alfama, known for its more traditional feel, narrow cobblestoned streets, and colorfully tiled buildings. It is beautiful.
The first day we ventured out into the city and took the scenic route to a gorgeous viewpoint – Miradouro de Santa Luzia. We settled down there for a beer and a coffee (just to cover all the bases) and stared out at the white towers, pastel buildings, orange rooftops, and blue sea. It was a slice of sunny perfection.
We filled the rest of our day with lengthy strolls throughout the city and lots of seafood. Portugal is very fish-loving, as are we – so we made a point to eat as much seafood as we could. Lunch consisted of tuna pâté, clams in butter and garlic sauce, and the pièce de résistance: a whole octopus adorned with shrimp and roasted potatoes. And we washed that all down with a bottle of Vinho Verde. I thought we did lunch well, but for dinner S found this hole-in-the-wall joint near our apartment (by this point our legs could not take us very far) where people were practically sitting on top of each other. We shimmied ourselves next to another couple in a tiny spot outside. After conspicuously eyeing their food to help us decide what to order, they started chatting with us. Super lovely and fun, and their conversation helped us land on codfish critters, octopus salad, grilled sardines, beans and rice, more wine, mango mouse, and some type of caramel-icious dessert. So, so good.
For a mid-day snack, we headed to the Biarro Alto area and picked up pastel de nata, a small crispy pastry with a custard filling and ate a couple of these while enjoying the view from another viewpoint – Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara. This city has no shortage of amazing viewpoints. We also took trolley 28 around the city – a common recommendation as an easy way to see many of the districts. I guess we got lucky because it was surprisingly not packed to the brim with tourists. We snuggled up on a bench and rode through the city, thinking back to streetcar rides in New Orleans.
Speaking of, Lisbon pretty much wins at transportation. They have it ALL: buses, metro, trolleys, funiculars, taxis…and wait for it, auto rickshaws! Just my favorite form of transportation. Who knew!?