This was my third trip to Lisbon. When I left this genteel and surprisingly romantic city two and a half years ago, I never thought I would return and that too so soon. But circumstances had conspired to get Sunil and me back here and you weren’t going to hear any complaints from either of us.
Lisbon captured our imaginations from the get go. It’s faded past is evident in the gorgeous blue-tiled buildings that line the sweeping cobblestoned avenues. Its muted history echoes within its many crumbling churches and the imposing Castle St. George. Its locals are a wonderful blend of cultures who manage to convey their joie de vivre in spite of not speaking a word of English. And to top it all – the food and wine in Lisbon is amazingly cheap and tasty. These were all reasons enough for us to fall in love again and again with this often bypassed European gem.
Our first day in Lisbon felt strangely like coming back home. The cheap thrill of spending just 8 euros to get a cab from the airport to our airbnb apartment set the tone for the day ahead (take that Paris and your 70 euro cab rides!). The apartment was a joy to behold and convinced us that airbnb was the way to go. Seriously guys, why pay an exorbitant amount for a restrictive hotel room when for much less you can get a fully-equipped apartment in the neighbourhood of your choice?
The last time around, we stayed in a bed and breakfast in the heart of the old town – Bairro Alto. This time though we wanted a taste of living like a local. We chose a great one bedroom apartment in the neighbourhood of Largo de San Sebastio. Lisbon is a compact little city and most of it can be traversed on foot. So, while San Sebastio is as different architecturally from the old centre of town, it’s barely a few metro stops and at the most an hour’s walk away. However, with the uneven cobble stoned streets you may want to rethink walking all the way through!
The plan for this blog was to keep a daily diary of what we saw and did and ate during our week in Lisbon. However, like all best laid plans, it fell by the wayside very soon. The next seven days seemed to pass by in a blur of walking, coffee stops, more walking, food stops, and more walking with some shopping and sightseeing thrown in for good measure. The best way to keep track of the days was through our photos. What follows is a photo blog of Lisbon and its charms that will keep us coming back.
And let’s not forget the food! Food in Lisbon is a marvellous blend of local delicacies and international favourites. There is a pastelaria or cafe on every sidewalk serving the best bread and pastries you could imagine. Some pastelarias date back to the early 1900s and have retained much of their old world charm (and some of their staff too :)). The desserts are a delight with most recipes being egg or custard based but I have to add that I had possibly the best chocolate cake in the world from Landeau – a cafe that serves only this cake and coffees and teas. There’s confidence in your product!
Coffee or tea is available for less than a euro in most places and wine for a euro and a half. Special kiosks in public squares serve you options that range from port wine to iced tea if you so desire.
Portugese cooking is surprisingly bland. One would think that spices would feature strongly in their local dishes but it isn’t so. Rice with beans and a grilled meat (either pork or beef) with fries is found across the board in cafes and restaurants to suit any budget. While we found the meats a bit meh, one can always ask for piri piri chilli oil or sauce that is stocked everywhere. It adds that much needed punch to any dish.
Food courts in shopping malls and smaller chains of restaurants serve up other favourites like pizzas, pastas, soups, salads, and stuffed baguettes. Japanese food is also huge in Lisbon and there is always a sushi place close to you. Another must do when in Lisbon is to enjoy the seafood. The prawns, lobsters, crabs, and clams are pure heaven and not too heavy on the pocket either. If you are more adventurous you can try snails, eels, monk fish, or razor clams. We weren’t.
We ate at some amazing restaurants (thanks to the food tour we did – more on that in the next blog). A few that stood out were Jesus e Goes run by a true blue Goan serving a short but delicious menu of Goan dishes such as prawns reichade, pork vindaloo and fish curry rice. O Fondue just down the road from our apartment deserved two trips to enjoy their eclectic offerings of grilled meats (horse or wild boar anyone?) and their awesome tapas. And one has to make the ferry crossing over to Cacilhas on the other side of the river Tagus to feast on the freshest and best seafood ever at Farol.
In order to prolong the joy of our trip to Lisbon, we shopped for a whole lot of foodie goodies. Iberico ham and chorizo, goat cheese and Camembert, tinned sardines and venison pate, vinho verde and port wine, chocolate truffles and almond nougat – nothing escaped our greedy paws. Now all that’s left is to recreate those wonderful meals and re-live our perfect Lisbon escapade.