Notes from Sunday, April 3, 2016
When I thought of Portugal, I always had mental pictures of bright blue skies, white washed quaint villages, dramatic cliffs dropping vertiginously from green flats to white sand beaches. Or maybe, at worse, they would be pebble beaches; with the round kind of pebbles, not the ones that will shred into your foot into thin slices. These pebbles might even burn you a little (because, you know, the sun would be soooo hot).
I did not have (many) expectations about Lisbon. I had heard it was hilly, that it was gritty and had lots of old buildings covered in tiles. But how different could it really be from the rest of Portugal? (I naïvely asked)
Well, let me tell you how Lisbon in early April was: cold and wet.
This, of course, begs qualifying and quantifying: I’m born and raised in the tropics so anything below 65°F is ‘cold’ for me. And back home you still have to wear sunblock with those temps. Of course, I then went ahead and I married a cold-averse Swiss guy that thinks that anything below 70°F is cruel and unusual punishment. And refuses to wear sunblock.
Lisbon was in the low 50°F’s. During the day.
I mean, I’m not an idiot, I was expecting brisk April mornings and somewhat chilly evenings with a nice warm, sunny day sandwiched in between. But instead it was the kind of weather that makes you wonder why you did not bring your winter coat, given all the locals were still wearing woolen jackets with hoodies with faux fur, knee high boots, and thick, heavy scarves. Gloves and hats were certainly seen all around. Yeah, not what were expecting.
If, I’m fully honest, we were not really digging Lisbon the first few days. We lingered over breakfasts until almost noon, waiting for the sun to show up (never happened). But that is the beauty of extended stays! You can sleep in, do YouTube Pilates classes, write in your journal, have a third cup of coffee… And THEN go out. Hopefully when the rain has stopped.
These lazy starts would have been unheard of two years ago, when I was still a Trip Nazi, trying to cramp as much as possible into the 3-weeks of vacation I was able to wrestle away from my boss each year.
But just over a year ago I quit my job and officially became a corporate burnout. Have not regretted or even missed it for a second. Not even on paydays. So now we could actually go on extended trips without any other worries than securing a pet sitter for our cats (not an easy task!).
So on these rainy Lisbon days, when we finally ventured out, under ominous skies we mostly dashed from site to site between downpours, only to take refuge in warm and cozy bars (that…. well, that might have happened under full sun anyway).
We walked up (and UP) to Praça Principe Real / Bairro Alto and moseyed around the stores in there. The Embaixada group of stores looked particularly nice (and warm). In case I forget to mention this further on, there is a good weekly market on Saturdays here with food and crafts.
Then we walked down to view the outside of Igreja Santa Maria do Carmo. One of Lisbon’s oldest churches which was severely damaged in the 1775 earthquake that basically leveled the city. Reconstruction was started did not go to far as all religious orders were expelled from Portugal in the 1800’s; leaving the church without a roof for spectacular effect.
Walked through Pedestrian Rua Garett (highly recommended for shoppers; something I’m not). It was too cold to sit in Café A Brasileira (hey, we ARE tourists) though that did not seem to be a problem to the Nordic Folks occupying every available seat.
Afterwards we strolled into Praça Luis de Camoes until we saw the line forming outside Manteigaria Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata and made a quick detour to partake of this quintessential Lisbon tradition.
These are like individual egg custard pies with brulée tops. They come in sizes from tiny to 6” diameter and are ubiquitous through the city. However, this Fábrica seems like the place to have them and it is the only thing they make. I expected cloyingly sweet, but it was not. The custard is creamy and slightly lemony, and the purpose of the very crispy filo pastry (I would have loved it thicker) is solely to hold the cream together while you eat it. The ones we got were still warm and were delicious, even by my savory-tooth standards.
Detoured past the Elevador de Bica into the Miradouro de Santa Caterina for more great views of overcasted Lisbon. Funny thing, random guy hanging out before the park offered us marihuana. Really? Us? Now THAT (the being offered part) hasn’t happened in more than 30 years, I seriously doubt we look like party people. Wondered what made him think we would want any (I know, I find weird stuff interesting!).
Eventually, and not quite sober, we got back to the apartment started on the cheeses we hd bought and made a rather good dinner from prepackaged turkey brochettes, grilled zucchini and rice cooked with lentils all purchased from the corner mini market.