When in Lisbon – Beware of Snails and Other TipsPosted: January 12, 2014
Cy and I waited for the “best” time to go on our honeymoon. It just so happened to be nearly 2 years after we got married, bought a house, finished some renovations…and procrastinated enough. We left for Lisbon right after I quit my last job! In one carry-on bag, we packed lightly and stored tons of iPhone notes on specific restaurants and destinations from friends and Anthony Bourdain.Our flight took us through Amsterdam to Lisbon. Once we arrived, the cheapest way into the city was via subway. Eventually, we emerged from Biaxa Chiado station – our first views were of the winding and hilly cobble-stoned pathways shooting off into different directions towards restaurants, shops and cafes.
The first path we took was to our apartment for the next few days. It was a cheap and more importantly clean rental from rent4days.com – it ended being a fraction of a hotel stay. Plus, it was one of those experiences where you can feel less like a tourist and more like a local.
Tip 1: Celebrate Festas De Lisboa We came at a special time, and we didn’t even know it. June is the month where Lisbon celebrates a specific saint with lots of food, basil plants and street parties. Pop-up restaurants surprised us at the most random nooks of the city. We found an outdoor one where we shared a feast of AYCE grilled sardines, Lay’s chips and grilled meats with sangria shared with locals who cheered, sang and danced to the blasting music that included…Gangnam Style. Better music was at the grungy fado cafe that we visited really late at night.Tip 2: Eat lots of Portuguese Egg Tarts I’m not going to lie, Cy and I ate these every.single.day. We tried them at different bakeries around Lisbon and then finally we had them at the famous Pastis de Belem. It’s the place to go, and it gets busy (the secret is to be seated, it is actually huge inside). Besides egg tarts, we had sandwiches and coffee (I loved the rich and flavourful coffee in Portugal)!Tip 3: Go to Cervejaria Ramiro Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations took us here. He gorged on seafood and raved about it. Then, we took the gastronomic hint and ate up a storm of fresh crab, giant prawns, clams, garlic shrimp and a deceivingly good bifana (pork sandwich with American yellow mustard). Again, can I emphasize how affordable Portugal is?! Our entire meal with beers for Cy and a pop for me came to 77.55 Euros.Tip 4: Escape to Sintra We took a day trip outside of Lisbon to Sintra – the old getaway escape for the royal Portuguese family with lush landscapes and castles galore. We bought a pass to take in the grand Pena Palace and the hobbit-like Moorish Castle. S-T-U-N-N-I-N-G!I didn’t get a picture, but as we had our lunch of traditional cod and meat at Sintra there was a makeshift band of kazoos and plastic-pail drums rocking out Michael Jackson and other rock/pop anthems.Tip 5: Rest Up on a Patio or Cafe There was a lot of walking. The day we went to Castle of Sao Jorge (or, I call it the Castle of Cats) – our feet were the most sore. It helps that Lisbon is full of little cafes and patios…it’s the best to satisfy our people watching/resting our old people feet.Tip 6: Down A Ginjinha! It’s a cherry liquor, and it comes out of a hole-in-the-wall store where this grumpy and distracted man pours you a sticky drink in exchange for less than 2 Euros.Tip 7: Dare Yourself to Try Caracóis I like to try all local cuisine, but this was probably my very least favourite: caracóis. Or snails. But, not the buttery escargot kind – these were the kinds of snails with eyeballs and fat bodies that you named, played with and didn’t eat too many of. Oh well, we tried and I ended up eating about 15 out of the 100 on the plate.Now that I look back at Lisbon – it really was a city while small, there were endless charms in the colourful buildings, arts, food, cats and more. Go because you’ll have the best time even if it’s a short time – you can cover a lot of ground without spending a lot.The best part is going to be cheesy, but it was sharing it with Cy. He’s patient, and I’m less so. He’s willing to pose in fun ways for pictures so that they look less boring when we go through them in the future. He’s game to do anything, and he is really good at reading maps.
Plus, he’s good at renos, that doesn’t have to do with Lisbon but that’s next! And, maybe dreams of an Asia trip down the road.