The Finest of Social Butterflies
Once known as a city of explorers and colonizers, the city was as wealthy as any of the city-states of its time. But times change, rulers mess up and presto, you’re just a has been. But through those hard times, including the worst recorded earthquake to hit Europe, the Portuguese have maintained their joie de vivre. I know that’s French, but Alegria da Vida, just doesn’t seem to roll off the tongue.
So, what would have led me to believe that they have this thing called joie de vivre? After all, we only spent 3 days in Lisbon. But using the power of observation, 3 days was plenty of time to assess their spirit, because they made it pretty easy. As an example, if you see enough people of a certain
culture constantly photographing themselves in front of anything and everything, you assume the group to be narcissistic. Or how about people that in social situations, i.e. dinner, are either texting or playing a game on their phone? I see someone self-absorbed with a lack of respect for their fellow man. If I’ve upset or insulted someone that loves their selfie stick or is a slave to their phone: Good!
But the Lisbonites (I made that up), are experts in social networking in the finest and truest sense of the term. The art of conversation is not only not dead in Lisbon, but flourishing. On a Saturday afternoon are they home trying to reach the next Pokemon level? No, they’re engaging with their friends and family over an apero and/or tapas, or dinner; laughing, arguing, solving the world’s problems. Or put more simply; socializing. We Americans complain about the decline of family run local businesses, but they thrive here. Why? Because they frequent them. Go figure!
Oops! I forgot. This is a travel blog and I’m supposed to be enlightening you about all the wonder that is Lisbon. I guess I need to focus more and stop all my ranting. So, Lisbon is a pretty cool city, but we got off to a rocky start. And by a rocky start, I mean that nothing went according to plan from the time we left Palmela until after we were checked into the Marriott in Lisbon.
Three Strikes and You’re Out
We left Palmela on the early morning train with Aldina’s teenage son who was going to Lisbon to visit his father (see Carrie’s post on Palmela, Portugal). Since Ricardo had the afternoon free, he graciously volunteered to show us around the city. Cool! Our lodging, the Lisbon Marriott, appeared to be walking distance from the train station, so after disembarking we started walking. The problem was that someone had built a damn freeway between us and the Marriott. After walking for what seemed like 10 miles, luggage in tow, up and down the hilly streets of Lisbon, we gave up and hailed a taxi for a 3 minute drive to the Marriott for a nice 5 euro fee. Strike 1. I was cranky, but quickly over it. So now we’re in the check-in line at the Marriott, which is usually hassle free. But no, not this time. I won’t bore you further with the details, but suffice it to say that each person in line ahead of us had issues, questions, with one person so angry that he demanded to see the manager. Check-in took 45 minutes, all the while poor Ricardo sits and waits. Strike 2. OK, we’re finally checked-in so we headed to the nearest metro station with Ricardo. Again, I won’t bore you with details (this rant is boring enough), but after 1 hour of trying we were unable to buy a metro ticket. Strike 3! And that’s when I blew a fuse.
I told Ricardo to take off to visit his father, because we were heading back to the Marriott to chill before I go postal. As we’re walking back we pass a small restaurant with outside seating. Carrie sensing that I’m in overload and being a wise woman says: “You look like you need a beer. How about we sit down and relax?”. “Yeah, I guess a beer might help my blood pressure a bit.” I grumble. I must have been sending out intense negative vibes because the owner/waiter suggested we have a bite to eat and a second beer. He was a very kind man and the food and drink was very good. We ended up going back 3 times during our 3 day visit.
Back in our room, a bit less cranky, we spent the day relaxing. Apero time was spent sunning ourselves near the pool. As an aside, those of you that know us, know that in our working days we spent a great deal of time in Marriotts. So when I tell you to skip the Lisbon Marriott, it’s well founded. The facilities were poorly maintained and the personnel poorly trained.
Oops! I’m ranting again. This is a travel blog and I’m supposed to be enlightening you about the wonders of Lisbon and so far you’ve learned nothing. Damn! This time I mean it, so here goes.
Things Finally Go our Way
OK, so let’s try this again. Carrie found another metro station nearby that actually had ticket
machines that worked and made change. So we’re off to the famous Bairro Alfamo, one of the most famous and most written about neighborhoods in the world. And with good reason – as we strolled through its web of ancient narrow streets, we explored its ancient churches, and loved watching how the light changed the beautifully tiled homes throughout the day. Bring your camera as there are photo ops around every corner. I won’t get into the specific sites to see, as they are readily available on the net, but I would
suggest that you seek out the small bars for apero time and to eat at the local’s restaurants interspersed throughout. This is still very much a locals area, many living there all their lives, and
you’ll be rewarded kindly by frequenting a local’s business with a uniquely Portuguese experience.
And the Good Times Keep Rolling Along
Throw out the old and bring in the new, that’s what we always say. Well, not really, but it’s the only segue that comes to mind for the start of our next day in Lisbon. Bairro Alfama is a very old if not ancient part of Lisbon, so for the start of our next day we decided to visit the Centro De Arte Moderna or the Modern Art Museum. It was an interesting museum, not the best we’ve seen, but still interesting. If you’re into modern
art check out Gil Heitor Cortesao, Pedro Gomez, and Thomas Weinberger. After hours spent gawking at works of art we required a little apero, so we headed towards Parque Eduardo VII.
The upper section of the park provided a great view of Lisbon as it looks down towards the seaport and, as luck would have it, there was a book fair in the park and it was in full swing. Yes, you read that correctly, a book fair. Used book stalls, new book stalls, electronic book stalls, and most importantly many food and apero stalls. And we thought real books were dead. This event was very well attended and many were buying books. Lisbon nerds know how to party!
After our little apero, we continued downhill and then back uphill which led us into Bairro Alto. Another old traditional neighborhood of Lisbon with spectacular views of the city. It was here, in the late afternoon, that we could really feel the pulse of the city.
There were little cafes and bars everywhere, filled with people enjoying each other’s company over aperos and tapas. Whenever we found an empty seat we filled it for another apero and the always enjoyable people watching. It actually made you feel good again about being a human being. Oh, I should mention a very popular apero here in Lisbon called Ginjinha. Made from ginja berries, whatever the hell those are, and some other unknown to me ingredients. You can get the full scoop on it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginjinha. It was good, but we preferred the vermouth we had in Spain. Anyhow, you should give it a try and let us know what you think.
So that’s my take on Lisbon. Mostly rant with a whisper of information and a hint of Lisbon life. The next day we departed for a new country. Look out United Kingdom, because here we come! More photos below.
Apero Time! Hike Drink Live Laugh ==>Peace
P.S. We had nothing to do with the UK leaving the EU or the resignation of many of its politicians or the drop in the value of the pound.
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