Forgive me, Reader.
For I am apparently incapable of posting travel photos unless they were taken over a year ago. And since so much time has elapsed, I am also terrible at coming up with words to accompany them.
When we visited Portugal two summers ago, we didn’t spend that much time in capital. Lisbon served more as a jumping off point on the way to and from the beach cities of the Alentejo coast. We didn’t actively seek out the ultimate Lisbon experience (as evidenced by the fact that we passed on Lux and opted for drinking in the street on our only weekend night there). We just tried to go with the flow and to experience the city at our own pace, without pressure or expectations. Sometimes it’s nice to have holidays like that. (Though I am a firm believer that some planning is required if you want to eat decently well instead of just falling into tourist trap after tourist trap. This especially holds true in a capital city. Luckily we had a list of recommendations from Kai’s coworker, a former Lisbon local.) Here a few things we especially liked.
To Do: Walking tour through the Alfama district.
This is the oldest, most historic part of the city. There are many different walking routes that lead to some spectacular look-out points. All-in-all it’s just a pleasant way to soak up some sun and take in the city.
To Eat: Pastries at Pasteleria Cafe Luanda.
We tried a lot of bakeries, and this was our favorite one based on the criteria of variety, old-people-watching and freshness. The pastéis de nata were good but there were also plenty of other pastries to choose from. I also had one of the best tosta mistas of the trip there.
To Eat: Pork sandwiches and beer at O Trevo.
Nothing fancy. Just a solid pork sandwich and a cold one to wash it down. Here you definitely get the sense that you’re snacking alongside the locals.
To Drink: Cocktails at Pensão Amor.
Come for the kitschy interior; stay for the freaky show.
That’s all I’ve got on Lisbon for now. Not trying to pretend to be an expert or anything. I hope I’ll make it back there soon so that I can add more to this list.
Since I’ve been living in Europe, my vacation planning style has become increasingly haphazard, and my summer holidays increasingly last minute, low budget and low maintenance. Naturally this is related to the fact that I work a lot and don’t have that much spare cash lying around for extravagant vacations. But I think it might also be because, in Europe, one can generally afford to wait until the last minute before finalizing any trip plans, because there are so many appealing vacation options just an EasyJet flight away.
Our decision to make holidays in Portugal in August 2013 happened very quickly. We knew we wanted to take a holiday of some sort but neither of us had taken the initiative. Suddenly we were getting dangerously close to missing the window for vacation time. We’d heard it was cheap to live Portugal that the weather was nice, and that there are some nice beaches. And well, it was basically the only destination that still had affordable flights available.
[She’s sharing her ice cream with the cat.]
Here’s what I learned about Lisbon. It is possible to live pretty cheaply here, but if you’re really on a budget, you’ll be fairly limited in what you can eat. For me, Lisbon didn’t really prove to be a compelling food city. This is largely due to the fact that we chose not to spend a lot of money on food during our trip. But even on the occasions when we did decide to spend a little more, we ended up being disappointed half the time. There was one meal that we had during our time in Portugal that was truly spectacular and worth writing home about, but it was not in Lisbon.
They are really big on pastries here, and you can get good espresso at basically any cafe you walk into. Even the smallest, dirtiest little corner store will have a professional grade espresso machine. Priorities.
You can get really fresh seafood here, but that doesn’t mean it will be any good. A lot of the seafood restaurants we saw here were really old school — the kind that just pan-fry the whole fish and then serve it plain, skin side down, with a lemon wedge. (This can be good but wasn’t at the place we went to.) And steamed vegetables on the side. I find this bland sort of treatment of a fresh, star ingredient to really be a shame. Maybe I would’ve felt differently if we’d managed to get a reservation at O Ramiro.
If you need to satisfy your hunger in a pinch, a Tosta Mista (aka grilled ham and cheese sandwich) is a fool-proof and inexpensive way to do so. This was our number one life hack throughout the whole trip, both in Lisbon and while we were touring the Alentejo Coast. Tosta Mista + an espresso equals the perfect breakfast. Tosta Mista + an ice cold Sagres equals the perfect lunch. Life hacks, man. #lifehacks.
If you don’t book reservations ahead of time, there’s a good chance you won’t get into the restaurants you want to check out. Any of them.
The people here are laid-back, and many of them like to hang out and drink on the street. Joining in is a perfectly good option for a Saturday night.