Let’s Add Lisbon to the List
It’s our last night in Lisbon and we have just succumbed to our cravings, opting for an all-you-can-eat sushi bar (a decision we will quickly regret in the upcoming days). With soy sauce now flowing through our veins, we find ourselves moving with the rhythm of this European seaside capital. Up and down gentle hills, our feet occasionally lose grip of the colorful tiles soaked with winter rain. Instantly, we feel the presence of Carnival, samba beats and joy spilling from a crowded bar onto a quiet street. From the doorway, our bodies naturally align to the festive sounds, but all too quickly the finale fades, and we are standing back on the quiet, slick street wanting more.
I find myself still wanting more of Lisbon, more of Portugal. This city, crumbling and alive, decadent and decaying took me by surprise, really.
For one, the flavors had me sold. Menus filled with light dishes of fish and roasted vegetables washed down with tasty Portuguese wine left our bellies and wallets feeling satisfied. Salty bites of cod were juxtaposed by sweet sips of ginja (a cherry liquor) from chocolate shooters. The breads, the pastries, oh my. We actually trapaised eight kilometers along the river one day to Belém, one for some lovely views, but more importantly to visit the famous Pastéis de Belém and try their famous pastéis de nata, flaky custard cups. Sadly, this fat kid couldn’t even get a snapshot of these scrumpcios tarts sprinkled with cinnamon before I had inhaled all evidence that we had indeed stood twenty-some minutes in line to get them.
There was a culture of kiosks, outdoor bars with dazzling cityscapes and waterfront views. At one a little Canadian girl yelled out, “I can see California from here.” “Oh no little one”, I thought. That bridge may resemble the Golden Gate, but the prices of Lisbon have nothing in common with San Francisco.
But like SF, part of Lisbon’s charm are its trolleys, the classic and graffiti-clad, canvasing the colorful city streets with the same juxtaposing character as Lisbon’s many facades.
We were often reminded of that light cloak of grit while walking through the more touristy areas, where nicely dressed men would approach us and asking, “Hashish, marijuana?” which when turned down was followed with one final offer, “Cocaine?” We began making a game out of how many of these peddlers would casually catch us from one end of the square to the other.
We couldn’t have been happier with our comfortable AirBNB in trendy Chiado, neighboring the bohemian nightlife of Bairro Alto. We spent the weekend exploring these different neighborhoods, dodging trolleys and rain, winding through the narrow streets of Alfama, and watching tango dancers in a upscale market near the river.
And to no surprise, our steps led us to one of those familiar yellow Camino arrows that always marks the way no matter how far we roam.
Did I mention I was all the while battling a fierce cold that was ripping apart my throat and leaving me weak? No? Well, I guess in the end, the beauty of the adventure trumps any pain or stumbles in the journey.