Lisbon

Lisbon was a bit harder to love than Porto, although some of that may have been that it stormed off and on while we were there. It also may be because the area we stayed in seemed to have a LOT of dog and cat shit on the street.

On our first night, walking around the Alfama district, we dodged traffic by stepping between two parked cars and narrowly missed  pile of corn-studded human excrement. Needless to say, it was not the best introduction to Lisbon.

It took longer to find areas of Lisbon that resonated with me. Coming from San Francisco, some of Lisbon’s famed sights didn’t really seem that special. We didn’t last long on tram 28, for example, before Mr. WholeHog turned to me and said “Our cable cars and F-line kick this thing’s ass.”

We weren’t really awed by Lisbon’s 25 de Abril Bridge since it is pretty much a copy of the Golden Gate. Lisbon is also a hilly city, like SF, with many miradouros (look outs or view points) and some of these views seem like they could be of SF’s Telegraph Hill.  The city is full of pastel colored buildings which reminded me of the Cinque Terre. I think that’s part of what I struggled with initially in Lisbon — it was nice, but it often reminded me of other places.

Although it took me a little longer to warm up to Lisbon, I did eventually find areas that I liked. We stayed in an area near Barrio Alto which was full of very narrow streets with few sidewalks, and learned that I ultimately preferred to be on the cleaner, wider streets near Praça do Principe Real.

We didn’t have the same luck with food in Lisbon that we’d found in Porto. We were also seriously in need of some vegetables by this point and we had a salad on our first night in town that was only memorable because it was so strange, as if the kitchen just swept whatever it could find into a bowl: celery, cured ham, sesame seeds.


I hate to admit that our best meal was at Kaffeehaus, a restaurant owned by someone from Vienna. We went for the coffee which Mr. WholeHog said wasn’t anything special, but we had a really nice wine, a real salad and I had a fantastic soup. (I was jealous of the table of people eating schnitzel, but it just felt wrong to order German food in Portugal.)

On our last night in Lisbon, we went to a restaurant suggested by an old New York Times’s 36 Hours in Lisbon. Although the food wasn’t terribly interesting, the wine pairings gave me a chance to learn more about Portuguese wines. We got to try a local sparkling wine, taste Lisbon-area white wine against one from the Douro valley, and finished with a very light-bodied port.

On our way out, our server encouraged us to look in the wine cellar. “It’s very special,” she said. And it was.

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