[I’ll have to come back and properly mess with these snaps later; precious Lisboa time ought not to be spent Photoshopping!]
A Justin Faust DJ set in Lux enticed me out to Lisboa last year with my dance floor comrade-in-arms Seán for my 25th birthday. A trip from Madrid to Portugal seemed somehow unattractive at first, perhaps due to the ultra cheap flights (if it’s so cheap, it can’t possibly be any good?) and the feeling that it was the default choice for every single English auxiliar in the city.
Wrongo, kemosabe. (does anyone else even say that? Google yields a mere six hits. after exploring the etymology of rooming/cherrywinking last night, I feel my speech may be irreconcilably colloquial) I immediately fell for Lisboa, the red roofs and the crumbling tiles, the city’s veranda overlooking the beckoning sea. It was the clear choice for the next Short-Haired Ladies excursion, and I volleyed and volleyed hard.
Janet was a tricky sell. Seems our friend Anthony Bourdain did a show on Lisboa that left her lackluster, and it took promises of northern wine region exploration to ply her. Yesterday evening in Madrid, she still held out as we contemplated the trip in front of us, offering pre-disappointment in the Portuguese capital.
Might as well say it again: Wrongo, kemosabe.
The “20-minute flight” – in reality a little over an hour, but Portugal is in a different time zone – affords weary heads a chance to rest. We’re greeted in the airport by enthusiastic driver Felipe, doubling as our Sintra guide tomorrow. We zip into the Bairro Alto, and a few stairs later are atop our private rooftop terrace at Zuzabed. Oh my. Oh yes.
There’s a distinct temptation to just sit and stare at the amalgamation of color and form stretched out in front of us. Lisboa is breathtaking. I’m awash once more with ideas of moving here (the how seems distinctly less important than the red-roofed why).
Zuzabed host Carlos highlights a few key destinations on a map; I take note as the Designated Navigator (luckily, unlike driving, this combines well with vinho).
In addition to proving an excellent source of information, Carlos is more than kind, personally escorting us to the top of the Santa Justa Lift for a bird’s eye view of the city. The zh-zh-zh is practically audible from here. We dive in, beelining it to Carlos’ number one lunch spot recommendation.
Casa Da Índia is a seriously unassuming joint just outside of Bairro Alto, one we never would have poked into or even given a second glance otherwise. The common tables are teeming with locals, overflowing metallic serving dishes, and bottle after bottle of wine. We trust in Carlos’ suggestions for eats and ask for the salada de polvo, which is a many-suckered vehicle for excellent olive oil and piquant points of onion.
The arroz de marisco is equally blissful, blossoming with succulent mussels and shrimp in their shells. We could do without the Krab, but the savoriness of the rice is more than enough to distract.
Accompanied by a bottle of white vinho verde – “green” in the sense that it’s made from immature grapes, has a simple flavor and is meant to be enjoyed within a year of harvesting – it’s a bem-vindas a Portugal feast. We munch til we can munch no more.
The sun loves us as we gleefully skip through the Chiado district. We somehow acquire a couple pairs of colorful pants on the way.
Cafe A Ginjinha is a must-stop for me; I adored the delectable berry liqueur the last time I was in Lisboa, and have been passively (and fruitlessly) seeking it in Madrid ever since. The usual custom is to purchase just a shot and then drink it standing in the plaza, but Carlos has suggested that we may well snag a whole bottle and tote it henceforth to the shoreline in Belém. Groovy.
We tram it to Belém. Tickets may be purchased aboard the iconic yellow transport, but only with coinage, of which we have far too little to cover fare for all three. Whoops. After managing to eke one ticket out of our combined cash, we guiltily sit down anyway and hope for the best. Nothing comes of it, of course – but we resolve to somehow acquire tickets in advance for the return journey.
Belém is best known for its pastéis, baked custard sweets which originated here and spread all over the country. Folk will assure you that these are the only true pastéis, that only four people know the secret recipe, that anything else is a mere imitation, a faux tart, a sham pastry – but if you ask me, any pastéi is an excellent pastéi. We enjoy them with coffee.
The Padrão dos Descobrimentos inspires. Land ho!
The shoreline is a ripe place to pop open the ginjinha. I love it and reminisce. Janet and MP are less enthusiastic. Looks like I have 95% of a bottle to cart back.
The time comes to take our leave of Belém, and I’m charged with asking that-guy-over-there if he might sell tram tickets. Não, you must go to the post office for that – it’s down the street. Bom, I take off. After waiting ages in line and faking comprehending amusement at the apparently hilarious conversation of the locals in front of me, I manage an exchange in total crap Portuguese that results in paydirt. Três pessoas, três cartões, um viagem por cartão. I am liking this. Zh-zh.
The tram takes ages to return to Lisboa, and we have a place in mind for sunset, so we scoot a boot back up the hills to drop off our acquired goodies at Zuzabed. Along the route, the façades are simply splendid.
A taxi takes us through a glut of rush hour traffic to the ferry station, and we hop a boat to Cacilhas. The sky is quickly darkening and sunset appears to be a no-show today – ah well. We press on.
We’re seeking a spot Carlos has mentioned this morning as being ideal for “sitting in blankets and drinking red wine.” I’ve seen where it is on Google maps, but the apparent path to arrive is utterly devoid of life, and our intrepidness peters out after about 500 meters, we begin to doubt. Luckily Zuzabed gives its guests pre-charged Portuguese cell phones specifically for use in such a calamity, and we give our man a ring. He reassures us – yes, keep walking, yes, it’s perfectly safe. Onward.
O Ponto Final. And it is – there is absolutely nothing else out here. A mini-pier with tables juts out into the water.
We sit here at the furthest point out, surrounded by lapping waters on three sides. Nighttime Lisboa sparkles from across the way. The wind drives us to seek shelter within a few minutes, though, and we take another table protected by a wall.
Vinho verde, sauteed olives, marinated sardines. The sea.
MP notices a few clients with the aforementioned blankets and thinks how wise it would have been to bring some. But – ho! – what’s this? Someone else emerges from within the restaurant carting similar-looking sheets. MP investigates and is rewarded, big time. We huddle like babushkas and drink our wine.
The ferry back offers an opportunity to rest our weary dogs.
Today is a celebration of modes of transport; we’ve gone from taxi to bus to plane to car to foot to tram to ferry. One last taxi and we’re at BA Wine Bar in Bairro Alto. A selection of cheese, a local red, crooning Adele along with a coquettish singer – and that just about does it for the evening.
Good Friday night. Good return to Lisboa. Good night, sweet prince.