One of our OG Apron Squad account managers/apron designers, Allie, took a break from designing custom aprons for restaurants all over the world to visit another part of it... Portugal! She hits the streets of Lisbon apparently, there is a lot of tile work. And sardines. Tune in next week for a recap of adventures in India!!!!!
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Honestly, never did I ever think I would go here. It's just not on the *typical* list of European cities to visit in your lifetime.
"Why go there when you can visit Spain next door?!" "It's tiny!" "Who even speaks Portuguese?!" - I am assuming these are common questions.
My best friend & travel bud Felix Kunze was heading to Lisbon for a few days to do a photoshoot, just before our lengthy trip in India. I figured I might as well add a few days onto my vacation and I can cross Portugal off the “been there” list.
I'd have a couple of days to explore on my own while he was working and then we'd start our real trip to India together.
They call it “The San Francisco of Europe" which kind of rings true, except for the fact that no one would ever say "hella" there. Otherwise, similar in that it’s a hilly city by the ocean, has incredible views, weird weather, trolleys, unpretentious artists, and even a Golden Gate bridge doppelgänger by the very same architect who designed the Bay Bridge.
Pushing through the jetlag - I checked into my hotel, power napped, showered, and hit the pavement. First stop, food. Duh.
This little hole in the wall I found through a local has the best cheap lunch in town. Crowded with old Portuguese men, it has no seats. Just a tiny kitchen, a metal counter top and the greatest smelling something you'd ever smell.
It's stewed pork with crap tons of garlic, slopped onto a crusty bread roll, cut in half and then you top it with spicy mustard and hot sauce from dirty squeeze bottles. 2 Euros. No one speaks English. Basically my favorite restaurant in a nutshell.
Then I walked. A lot.
What did I say about the weird weather?
Later that night, I went to dinner with some local friends that Felix met through Airbnb once. We ate at Bairro do Avillez. Portugal’s well-known chef, Jose Avillez runs the joint.
Muito Boa Comida, Chef!
Ginjinha - popular sweet cherry liqueur that originated in Lisbon, chilled on ice for dessert.
Day 2 : About 45 minutes from Lisbon by train is the village of Sintra.
What was once considered a resort town for Portuguese royalty, is now a lovely day trip for tourists like moi. It's hills are filled with lush gardens and colorful castles and looks like Disneyland and/or Rivendell.
I figured I would “walk” by myself up the hill to the castle, which somehow turned into a 4 mile mountain hike (bad idea, not recommended).
I made some random tourist take my photo.
After Sintra, I headed back to Lisbon for my final evening before heading to India.
Last thing to check off my list was to see some live Fado music, which just completely moves me to tears.
Once I read this really great article on BBC that had a list of words in other languages, for feelings or experiences that can’t be directly translated into English.
One that always stood out for me was the Portuguese word “saudade”. I asked a lot of people I met in Lisbon about this word and learned that it’s an unquestionable part of Portuguese culture, and any Portuguese man or woman will know what it is. Whenever they’d explain it to me in English, it always took a few minutes to describe the concept.
Here’s a definition I liked:
“A vague and melancholy desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist. A turning towards the past or towards the future; not in an active discontent or in poignant sadness but a lazy, dreamy wistfulness.”
Isn’t that beautiful?
So is Portugal.