I can’t say that I have gotten to know Lisbon. I didn’t cover as much ground as Kellee and Mary because I was sick for a portion of our time there, What I saw left me to experience a city in the way I love best – by its ambience, its people, and my take on its culture.
Lisbon, to me, is comfortable in its familiarity and entirely different from any other place I have been. Our landlords in Paris raved about their love for Lisbon. And yet, how can a Parisienne feel at home in the Portugal we have seen so far?
In the Baixia, that was our introduction on the night of our arrival, cafes are small shops with inside counters and the restaurants fill the wide pedestres rather than being perched on street corners with the tables oriented to watching the passersby.
The grandeur is of an entirely different scale. The tall statues in the Plaças feel nothing like the overconscious presence of gilded personages in Paris. The ancient Castello de S. Jorge doesn’t feel imposing. It is much more the apex of a medieval climb through winding cobblestone alleys.
with displays of bumpy bras and decades old mannequins.
Which is neither good, not bad, just so different that I feel as if I am in a high evolved third world country in comparison.
It is beautiful here. And relaxing. The tiled streets and sidewalks are rivaled by the tiled buildings, all intricate in design.
It is easy to forget that one is walking through buildings and on sidewalks decorated by Azulejos that could be more modern but may have originated in the 15th Century.
The warmth of the air translates easily to the people.
From the cab driver who picked us up at the airport, to servers in our favorite restaurants, to the young man to drove us away, all were friendly, welcoming, informed, interesting, and helpful.
And so we have eased into our few days here. We have wandered the tiled streets into the hills, stopping to eat in the sidewalk cafes and have drunk wine while overlooking the city and the Tagus River below.
We have searched for the best restaurants, returned to our favorites, and wandered some more. And we have eaten fish. Stunning fish. Imaginatively cooked fish. Ceviches. Chickpeas with cod. Gourmet fish. Downhome style fish. Almost always served by friendly people who tried (unsuccessfully) to help us master the differences between Spanish and Portuguese.
Food, tile, ruins, churches…that can’t tell the entire story of Lisbon. One must hear music. And there were plenty of classical concerts going on (which I missed.)
But the music of the culture is Fado. There were so many recommendations that we finally just decided on areservation at one of the many cafe/bar/nightclubs. It was a great introduction. We listened to the haunting songs in a plaça where people passed by, pausing to also listen. Before long people were perched on stools, peering out windows, and standing against the ancient walls, catching a moment. The one caveat was that one must listen silently, paying rapt attention to the singer.
Afterwards, as we wandered the alleys toward home, we realized that there was music everywhere that night. We passed several young men carrying their guitars, probably hoping to join some group. Standing in the dark as an older blonde Fadista belted out her longing was a high point for me.