GUEST ARTICLE: It was a beautiful late sunny June afternoon when we arrived in the very picturesque city of Lisbon (Lisboa), Portugal. From the plane the stark contrast of red ochre roofs against the brilliant blue of the Atlantic Ocean looked incredible. We took a cab from the airport to our hotel (The Sana Lisboa – excellent hotel, btw).
As we wound through the streets we couldn’t help but notice how clean and picturesque the city was. When we arrived at our hotel we were really pleased with the cheap cab fare, something totally odd especially for Europe, but we didn’t complain!
Portuguese is a romantic language and is derived from Latin. It is said to be the 7th most spoken language in the world. Being fluent in Italian I was able to recognise quite a few similar words but that was it. It is certainly a unique language.
English is spoken in Portugal but of course learning a few words in their language is a definite plus and don’t forget to say thank you! (obrigado).
The next day we jumped on one of the open air tourist buses that allows you to hop on and off at a number of locations. There are a series of different coloured bus lines or zones that you can choose from depending on what part of the city you want to explore.
The tickets are good for 24 hours which we found to be really useful, especially when after a big day out you want to head back to your room for some R&R and then back out for dinner. We found taking the buses a great way to see the city. Fortunately the weather was excellent for us every day which made the experience that much better.
The first place we decided to explore on foot was a square called Il Commerce Square. As we got off the bus we were approached by a man who very blatantly offered us some hard core drugs held in the palm of his hand! We couldn’t believe he was just approaching people like this is public and in broad daylight. We found out later that it’s actually perfectly legal, something both very strange and sad to hear. After that little incident we continued on our journey.
Not too long after wandering through a maze of beautiful cobblestone streets we got lucky and stumbled upon a small eatery. The man inside was very accommodating and served us up a feast of local favourites. Deliciously seasoned grilled sardines, chicken, beef steaks, fresh salads, rice and homemade breads – yum! And for dessert a shot of Beirão, some of the smoothest tasting liquor I’ve ever had.
Another local favourite is a dried salty fish called Bacalhau (salt cod), which is an acquired taste – a taste I do not have unfortunately! A word of caution though, be careful not to order the Spaghetti Bolognese unless it’s from a ‘real’ authentic Italian restaurant or you may end up making the same mistake we did, which resulted in a plate of something like pasta mush with blended mystery meat on top… not nice.
We did find a really good authentic Italian restaurant located in the old district which served up some excellent dishes, perfect for dinner. And what a better way to end the night but with a glass of some fine port (which there is no shortage of) and a Portuguese custard tart – delish!
There are many wonderful sites to see in Lisbon, like the Jeronimos Monastery, Belem Tower, Santa Justa Elevator and St. George’s Castle just to name a few. Luckily there were stops on our bus route to pretty much all of these main attractions. We found June to be the perfect month to go, excellent weather and the flowers are in full bloom, absolutely beautiful.
We would love to go back to Portugal again to explore some of the other regions we’ve heard so much about and to partake in more of that wonderful Portuguese hospitality ~ until next time! Adeus!
This travel diary has been written by Rob Gower, a friend who enjoys taking roads less traveled!