You know how sometimes you visit a place at just the right time in your life? For me, Lisbon was like that. I was hungry for something a bit imperfect, colorful, alive, different. And Lisbon hit that sweet spot. It seems the more you travel, the more you understand your own aesthetic. For instance, I love things that aren’t too clean and perfect, that combine the right amount of grit and color and whimsy and liveliness. Lisbon had all of those things and more. And for that reason, it gets a spot on my favorite cities list: places I will gladly revisit throughout my life.
And speaking of lists, it’s almost always the unexpected, the novel, the unplanned thing that makes my list of favorite travel moments. And our trip to Lisbon was full of those. Days overstuffed with sights to check off–no thanks. The way a place looks and tastes and feels and sounds–that’s my preferred way of getting to know a city. We approached most days with the same agenda: walk outside (after a leisurely breakfast) and see what the city has in store for us.
A few favorite moments:
*Chatting with our host Luis, over blue cheese empanadas and a huge plate of blistered, salted peppers, about the way you can tell a Lisbon woman from a tourist by her choice of footwear and the elegant way she traverses the slippery stones lining the hilly streets. (I, for the record, did not look like a Lisbon woman in my flat sandals).
*Stopping for lunch at Darwin’s Cafe, consuming a tad too much sangria and forgoing Jeronimos Monastery (for fear of giggling uncontrollably in a religious environment) in favor of a beach adventure. Getting lost repeatedly. Realizing getting lost is half the fun.
*Exploring the narrow mountain-top terraces of the beautiful, colorful Pena Palace as a blanket of cool white fog crept in around us.
*Navigating the elevators and stairwells of a parking garage, unsure of where our tipster had sent us and, just as we were certain we had the completely wrong place, emerging onto a secret rooftop bar with a panoramic view of the city, the sun slipping below the cathedrals, painting everything an ethereal pink.
*Enjoying wine-poached pears and beet gazpacho and caramel covered pastries and port and caipirinhas and ginjinha (a cherry liqueur), most of it after 11 pm, the dinner hour in Lisbon.
*Rumbling through the streets at breakneck speed aboard yellow streetcars.
*Climbing up, up, up (as Luis says, “Always up!”).
*Escaping the oppressive heat each day with an outdoor rain shower and an evening nap.
*Buying 2 euro drinks and watching the streets of the Bairro Alto come alive from an outdoor stoop, a set of stairs converted into a makeshift bar or a rickety chair outside of one of the myriad teensy tiny bars.
*Finding little surprises everywhere–hot pink pavement, a cheeky piece of street art in a hidden alley, a square festooned with colorful streamers, waterfront chairs planted with trees, heads popping out of tiny doorfront windows to say hello or hang laundry or warily eye my big tourist camera, little children dancing around fountains after midnight.
And here, some more favorites….
Luckily, we left ourselves plenty to discover next time. Hopefully, we’ll make it to Jeronimos after all. Unless, of course, something more enticing comes along. ;)
What type of cities are you most drawn to? Ones full of natural beauty? Quiet hideaways? Busy and boisterous? Colorful, orderly, serene?
(P.S. If you ever visit Lisbon, check out Zuza B&B and Zuza Apartment and Suite Rentals. We stayed in Zuza Villa Rosa. And the whole experience, from the location to the decor to Luis’ above and beyond hospitality was seriously the best.)