in which your author gets pleasantly lost in one of the world's most beautiful cities
02.08.2016 - 03.08.2016 80 °F
- ARGHHH. I’m writing this from the plane and have to type this entry out again after not saving it and typing another entry in the same document. Will have to try approximate what I already wrote. #ANNOYING
After a reassuring check in with a friend over Facebook after a late and harrowing night, I venture out with my bags toward my new Airbnb, and stop along the way at a welcoming café. An employee is extremely friendly and helpful, and I get some breakfast and write for maybe two hours. They’re playing the soundtrack from Buena Vista Social Club so I feel very much at home. I have no cash on me, but even before I had ordered, the employee tells me to get cash after I sit and relax. The walk to find an ATM machine proves to be challenging, as five different people seem to give five different sets of directions, and sadly I pass by a flea market with no money to spend! (Some graffiti on the street reminds me: “Don’t worry!”) Eventually I find a cash machine, return to the café, and thank them for their hospitality, continuing on through the cobblestone streets to the Martin Muniz neighborhood where I had booked a small flat.
My host Pedro lets me in and we climb the narrow staircase – somehow, every building I stay in in these old European towns seems to be on the top floor of elevator-less buildings. I unpack and grab a shower and resolve to explore Lisbon on my own terms. I pop into a comfortable café where a helpful waiter brings me some Portuguese wine and a plate of delicious local cheeses. The cheese is served with bread and fresh figs, which are juicy and refreshing – how have I never had fresh figs before? (Fig Newtons? Not in the same universe.)
The view from a spot high above Lisbon is probably the most stunning of my entire trip. Lisbon is a city of many red roofs, all arranged at odd angles. About a dozen young tourists take selfies and sit on the overlook with beers and cigarettes. I’d love to see this view again some day.
I pop into a small dive bar called O Botequim and have a drink common to the area with white port, fresh mint, and tonic.
I’m headed to a bar called Cinco, supposedly the best cocktail bar in Lisbon, and along the 1.8 mile, winding walk there I pass by many fellow walkers enjoying the scenery and locals conversing in loud, hearty tones. There’s a lot of graffiti in this city, including on some ancient ruins and on a tram which pulls up into the popular neighborhood of Bairro Alto. I spot some street art depicting the great queen of fado, Amália Rodrigues. I stop in at a hotel bar and a Middle Eastern place where I get a falafel and watch a bit of the Portuguese version of The Voice, where a Portuguese man is singing an operatic, oddly goofy version of Sinatra’s My Way.
Upon entering Cinco, I’m greeted by one of the bartenders with a personal welcome, a handshake, and a menu featuring an abundance of original drinks. The two boisterous bartenders are carrying on a flurry of jokes in both Portuguese and English with the other tourists who sit at the bar. I ask for something unusual and they bring a drink with pineapple and red pepper puree, with a lit sparkler on top. I follow that up with a hot drink made with Singleton single malt and Drambuie, a blazer-type which means the bartender lights the drink on fire and passes the liquid between two flaming tins. I’m a bit worried because my iPhone is now at 1% battery life and I don’t know my way back to my Airbnb; I make sure to write down the address. Loved this bar and the warm reception, but could really do without the smoking, which seems pretty pervasive in all Lisbon bars.
On my way back I pass through the Erasmus section, where hundreds of college-age students mill about drinking beers openly in the street. As I’m taking a few photos, a young couple asks how the photos turn out, and I end up hanging out with them for another hour or so, along with a couple from Montreal. (Sadly I can’t capture their info because my phone is now dead.) It’s some nice, relaxed spontaneous fun and I’m glad to soak up some of Lisbon on my own terms. I make the wise decision to take a cab back to my flat, and call it a night. Lisbon is a gorgeous place!