We arrived in Lisbon early Friday morning, stopped in at the baggage claims office to request delivery whenever our luggage arrived, had a freshly baked gourmet pastry at the airport, and then caught the metro to Santa Appollonia, the station closest to our Air B&B. Walking up into the bright sunshine and fresh sea-salted air, I smiled and then sprinted towards the nearest bathroom.
The closest option happened to be a gorgeous, clean, modern restaurant with a gardened patio overlooking the Rio Tejo, so we decided to stay and have a “welcome to Portugal” drink. I had strong port wine (only 2 Euros) and Ashley had a Passionate Affair ( a fruity strawberry cocktail. Gazing out over the sparkling water, lulled contentedly by the 20% alcohol content, I decided I liked Portugal very much.
Slightly tipsy, we asked for directions and then walked for quite awhile uphill (suddenly grateful our larger suitcases weren’t being pulled up the cobblestone behind us) through a confusing warren of streets with names like Rua de Vincente Gilberto and Via Mato Grosso. All the apartment buildings looked alike, and our directions weren’t panning out. After a few false leads, we came upon a tiny Nepalese restaurant and a helpful man named Antonio finally gave up trying to shown us Google maps and instead just drove us three minutes in circles and deposited us at the right address.
Giorgia, an Italian painter living and working in Lisbon, let us in to her small but tastefully decorated apartment. We unloaded our backpacks, said goodbye to our host as she headed off to work (or for a walk as AshWat confessed she misheard hours later), and waited for AshCap to arrive.
Two hours later we were being introduced to Sagres Preta in a small cafe we encountered down one of the small side streets. Portugal basically has two beers that you can count on: Super Bock and Sagres. Both are made in-country and served (sometimes exclusively) with pride at almost every establishment.Preta means “black” or “dark” and is stout version of the beer. Not bad at all..and cheap! Beer and wine are usually cheaper than bottled water in Portugal. My kind of place.
That night we got dinner at a place recommended to AshCap on her bus down from the mountains of Serra de Estrella: Cafe Mutombo! It turned out to be African food of all things, but it was delicious and we had our first taste of Ginja, a popular Portuguese cherry liqueur. It tasted like a slightly more delicious Nyquil. Full and happy, we climbed the mountain back to Giorgia’s and fell into bed.
The following morning,Saturday, we were off to explore this city. We walked down, down, down, into the main square, which was bordered by the Rio Tejo on one side and a steep jumble of the city rising on the other.
Lisbon seemed..old. Thousands of dingy apartment buildings hunched over narrow cobblestone roads, some patterned beautifully in brightly colored tile, some gray and only cheered by a line of rainbow laundry hanging out to dry. Sidewalks were laughably small and sometimes non-existent. It was so.. European! Seriously different than anything I’ve seen in this U.S.
Saturday consisted of a self-guided tour, dotted with monuments, coffee, pastel de nata ( delicious custard pastry), souvenir shopping, more ginja (this time in a chocolate cup!),and girl talk. We saw a good portion of the city and got a heck of a leg workout.
Dinner out, and then back to the Air BnB, eager to get to sleep because the next day was hiking in Arrabida!
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s exciting episode..