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Mike’s Next Adventure

Banff, eh.

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Trepidations linger upon our arrival at the Rossio station metro smack-dab in the middle of Lisbon. Heard the same question half a dozen or so times before we left: ‘Portugal? What’s in Portugal?’

We resurface at Praça da Figueira, nostrils instantly gripped with intoxicating smells wafting from a myriad of tents hawking various sizzling pig parts, seafood, pastries, coffees, and ginjinha —the local liqueur with a love child of cherry robitussen and whiskey taste.

Over an adjoining walkway of worn, black and white patterned mosaics away from the proud pose of King John I’s statue, we gravitate towards the epicenter of Rossio square, a meeting point for Lisbonites since the early 13th century, marked by the tall, phallic statue of King Pedro IV.

Bookended by Manueline fountains, enclaved by stunning neoclassical architecture with splashes of mustard and bumblebee yellow facades above patio-dining and traffic/tram watching tourists and locals, with the burnt red-tiled roofs of jumble-stacked peaks topped by St. George’s Castle on the dramatic ascension of the highest hill in Lisbon, ‘Why Portugal?’ becomes an afterthought.

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The Mediterranean way of life starts high above in the soul-warming, cloudless blue skies which meld seamlessly into the sustenance providing sea.  What this temperate climate offers is a healthy diet of vitamin d, grains, olive oil, fish, cheese and the occasional meats and sweets and vinho.

Roam About Mike and Bones steer towards “the occasional”, often, devouring the ever-present pre-dinner/lunch spread of salty meats, olives, sheep’s cheese and bread, guzzling red wine; basically a full meal before the real courses consisting of grilled octopus, sardines, or even MORE meats— capped with a custard tart and Graham’s Tawny Port or moscato for dessert.

Such delicious intake doesn’t burn itself off, luckily, the greatest part of Lisbon is the walkability of the city. There’s really nothing more enjoyable than burning off calories wandering through the mazes and steep alley staircases of Alfama, Bairro Alta and Chiado, and Biaxa neighborhoods ending up even further into the maze of residences and store fronts and hills.

In fact, this is exactly how we set out to tour the city; lonely planet/tourist guides left at the guesthouse, map for reference only, bipedal transportation.

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Lisbon has some grit to it; there’s graffiti proudly scrawled everywhere, the streets are (sometimes) dirty, and the city has that magnetic ‘My bar/house is in the middle of this alley on a steep hill off another alleyway which has a tram running through it and I deal with it just fine, thanks’ persona. Maybe it’s the lingering moxy from the rebuild of the city after the great earthquake of 1755*, which decimated Lisbon’s then population of 275,000 to the point of a contemplated full-scale immigration to newly colonized Brazil.

Instead, thankfully, the Portuguese people stayed and rebuilt a city replete with Roman, Moorish, Italian, Spanish, and French influences.

(*The Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 lasted around 3 minutes, had an estimated magnitude of 8.5-9.0, created a massive tsunami, and killed approximately 50,000-100,000 people!)

Lisbonites are a friendly, chilled out and beautiful people. Their food is stunningly good. The colors, the natural views and cityscapes, inspiringly spectacular. There are pockets within Lisbon where the wind barely stirs moments of quiet, Mediterranean zen…I will stop raving now and just show you Lisbon.

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View from Miraduoro da Senhora do Monte

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Pantaloons

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Walkway in Praça do Comércio

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Mellow Yellow

Praça do Comércio

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Tram 28 sponsored by Ye Olde H&M

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Ruins of Carmo Convent & Church

Where to stay: Options are plentiful, but I suggest staying somewhere centrally located, like Rossia Square. Easy access to metro/trams and you can walk anywhere.

Lisbon Story Guest House was a great spot. ~$100/night for a cute Tram #28-themed room with a private bathroom and complimentary breakfast. There’s a tiny terrace on the top floor called…the ‘tiny terrace’; a place to enjoy some private balcony time with a cup of coffee or glass of wine. The en suite bathroom below was built by/for midgets. Sitting down to shower was a new/fun experience.

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Roam About Giant

What to see/do: Walk around, then walk around some more. Here’s the deal: You can look at TripAdvisor’s Top 10 things to do in Lisbon, get set to visit these places, then realize it’s too damn nice out to waste half a day inside. I don’t mean any disrespect, but an Oceanarium is an Oceanarium – you’ve seen one seahorse, you’ve seen them all.

The Museu Calouste Gulbenkian – touted as a must see in Lisbon but honestly, the historical collection is pretty ho-hum. Skip the old stuff and tour the surrounding gardens, visit the modern art museum next door to see some very cool ‘Alice in Wonderland’-esque interactive exhibits, and the works of the very talented multi-media artist, Claudia Larcher:

Vinho Venha – Bones found this wine tasting last second, and I’m so glad she did. Vinho Venha offers wine tours, and wine tastings all over Portugal, but their Lisbon home tucked in a nook off Rua de S. Paulo, just next to Calcada da Bica Grande, is a hidden treat. Francisco wasn’t available for the tasting, but his wife, Janice took us for a delightfully boozy journey through Portugal’s wine regions. Can’t recommend this enough – was a highlight of Lisbon.

After wining up, sweat it off by climbing up a view-point like the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte below.

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Not Bones.

Where to eat: Like majority of the Mediterranean, people eat a late lunch, and a super late dinner. Getting inquisitive smiles for sitting down for a lunch before 3pm isn’t uncommon. Eating dinner before 8pm…please, goofy tourists!

Maria Catita: Close to Praça do Comércio, this unassuming little place literally translates to Quaint Maria. Anything on the menu is solid, but the grilled octopus is a must and meaty enough to compliment the barrage of douro reds offered. The place was so good, we came back the same day for dinner – I had the shrimp stew bowl – ate so much, Bones had to roll me home. Also, they sell these sardines…I mean, c’mon, ‘Psycho’-themed Sardines. Sold.

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Largo: This is a cool-kids lounge restaurant. I think I had the sautéed squid (we drank a little too much wine before hand). I remember the decor being awesome, the wine was great, the bread, good, and the chilled melon ceviche shot pre-dinner was nice…anyways, try it out.

Time Out Mercado da Ribeira, Cais do Sodré: The recently (still being) remodeled market has been a Lisboan staple since the 1800’s. Time Out got a hold of the space, gave it a modern overhaul. One of my favorite spots in Lisbon. You want fish? They’ve got fish. Want meats? They’ve got meats. Want cheeses? So many cheeses!

There’s a common bar area set up in the middle (pic below) to wet your proverbial whistle with self pouring beer and wine stations. I believe produce stalls will return soon.

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Cafe ‘A Ginjinha’: Conveniently located a few paces from our hotel, Cafe Ginjinha is nothing more than a closet-sized space selling ginjinha. The national drink is around $2 for a shot of it – you can order with or without the infused sour cherries. Bones took a sip and started critiquing in a very throaty, Kermit the frog voice (she didn’t like it). It’s strong fruit brandy front with a very boozy aftertaste, and gets you loose – get some!

Next up: The End of Europe, The Queen of Fado, and Comfy Comporta.

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65 comments on “Why Portugal? | Lisbon

  1. Back in the early 70’s “Matues” vinho was the wine that took America by storm…same as Corona beer…cheap shit marketed marvelously.
    Cases were sold with a “lucky” 13 bottles inside.
    Bon voyage !
    -Jim H.

    1. mabukach says:

      Oh man – I just googled that stuff. Looks like a wine cooler in a booze bottle. Did you save a bottle? Might have fermented into jet fuel by now…

      Thanks, Jim.

      1. According to Wikipedia…cases of Matues were found in Haddam Hussein’s places…I rest my case.

  2. Hi!
    This post gave me an “ah! Que saudades!!” even though I have never been to Lisbon, I am Portuguese, and an immigrant from the Archipelago of the Azores.
    We come to America thinking that it is the most beautiful, and yet, beauty is all around us, in our mainland.
    It takes a Gringo, (no offense), to show us how special our own country is.
    Thank you Mike. You’re officially a half-Portugues!!
    Que tenhas uma boa viagem!

    1. mabukach says:

      Hi, carmoteixeiral!
      Yes! I’m only half Gringo now.

      I really, really wanted to go to the Azores, but with time/budget it just didn’t work out. Next time for sure. Portugal was captivating; an amazing country. Thank you for the compliment – I really wish I were half-portuguese – i could live there half the year, right?

      -Mike

  3. socialdee says:

    I LOVE Lisbon- so beautiful, relaxed, historical awesomenessand modern vibrancy-the food! The Green wine!

    1. mabukach says:

      The Green wine, indeed! Delicious, all of it. Did you go anywhere else in Portugal, Socialdee?

      1. socialdee says:

        Nah- we had planned on going to the South, to Lagos, but at this point had been already traveling many weeks. We had taken a road trip to Italy, been around Croatia, Germany and after Portugal would be going on a Mediterranean Cruise- a strange experience. So when we got to Portugal we just wanted to chill. We were in Lisbon 6 days. I want to go back 🙂

        1. mabukach says:

          Nice! Sounds like an amazing trip. How was Croatia? Has definitely creeped to the top of my list.

          1. socialdee says:

            Croatia was very beautiful, but popular now- it is not cheap. In tiny island town there was just tourism, so it didn’t have any local feel. Zagreb was my favorite place. It’s not on the famed clear, blue water, but it’s quirky and awesome. The best food in the country was the pizza- the other stuff- not so much, It’s worth checking out!

            1. mabukach says:

              I’m writing all this down…many thanks for the recommends, I’ll have to pick your brain when I start planning, if you don’t mind.

              Do you live in europe?

              -Mike

              1. socialdee says:

                I would love to live in Europe! I’m starting my 3rd year in Dubai. One of the best things about Dubai is its proximity to travel opportunities, so I’ve been on a couple amazing European adventures. Feel free to ask away.

                1. mabukach says:

                  Me too! Or Dubai, for that matter.
                  That’s really cool, Socialdee! I’ve always wanted to visit Dubai.

  4. I feel like I’ve just visited it, thanks to your post. The Ruins of Carmo Convent & Church look inspirational. Thanks for sharing

    1. mabukach says:

      Thanks, cindy – Those ruins are the main remnants from the earthquake of 1755 – pretty crazy. They had a couple of mummies on display as well, which was a bit random, but cool. Thanks for stopping by!

      -Mike

  5. Honie Briggs says:

    Makes me so want to go there. Even though on a recent trip to Boston I swore that was the last air travel for me – ever. I swear that on every trip. Actually Portugal has been on my list for some time. Maybe I will reward myself next year, yes, a graduation gift perhaps. I’m just the right height for the bathrooms! Safe travels, Mike.

    1. mabukach says:

      Hey, Honie – how goes it?
      Well, Portugal is only like six more hours on a plane from Boston.
      Like the Three Dog Night song says, I’ve never been to Spain but I kinda like Portugal better. At least I think that’s how the song goes…

      I sometimes swear the same thing about not traveling, then the travel bug grabs me by the ears.

      Honie/Portugal ’15.

      1. Honie Briggs says:

        It goes well, Mike. This year has been fierce, and it looks as though it will go out the same way it came in. Once I add “have degree, will travel” to my resume – step aside platinum members, HonieBriggs is coming through!! HA!

        1. mabukach says:

          And what degree are you pursuing/soon to use as a travel mechanism?

  6. susielindau says:

    It looks like a great trip! I love your refined matter of phrasing in your description. It was poetic!

    1. mabukach says:

      Thank you, Susie. And thanks for letting me pimp my blog on Wild Ride today.

      Poetic Portugal, and I even managed to misspell dessert! haha
      Hope all is well with you.

      -Mike

      1. susielindau says:

        Everything’s great! Good to “see” you!

  7. I’ve been trying to talk myself into taking my next trip in Portugal–you totally convinced me, thanks.

    1. mabukach says:

      Thanks, Wife of Bath. What a great compliment – have fun in Portugal.

      A little Canterbury reference…excellent.

  8. calahan says:

    Long before I met her, my wife spent 1 1/2 days there and got inadvertently drunk (they suspect the bartender was being overly friendly). She does, however, recognize many of these places and gave me some extra insight into your pics.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it, again: Your life is awesome, in that I hate and resent your life. 😉

    1. mabukach says:

      You two should (re)visit, live through the inadvertent drunkeness Lisbon inevitably offers.

      haha – this weekend i’m cutting molding for my bathroom, and power washing the side of my house…it’s not all glamour my friend. 🙂

      1. calahan says:

        What I like about you is your attitude. You’re not just washing the side of your house, you’re power washing. 😉

        1. mabukach says:

          I used a flame thrower to dry the house…

  9. Maggie O'C says:

    Lisboan? Lisbonite? I’ve always thought Portugal would be a fab Idea so thanks for confirming. I thought that even before a read A Small Death in Lisbon. I can send it to you if you want. It’s a book, a mystery.

    Pig parts is my favorite food group.

    1. mabukach says:

      Lisboanite – Hmm, never heard of this book. Have you read it? Good?
      When are you going to portugal? 🙂

      There’s something about crispy pig skin that makes me swoon.

  10. HRH says:

    “Pig parts”? There had to be a far more appetizing choice of words to write other than “pig parts.” (I’d be a complete vegan, or at the very least, a vegetarian, if I didn’t love meat so much.)

    Are you entirely sure that was not Bones? Is Bones’s first name “Not”? Or perhaps Bones told you to caption the photo as “Not Bones”. Otherwise, you do not strike me as the type of person who would post a travel photograph on a travel blog with a single person on the photograph if that person were insignificant, i.e., “Not Bones.” If you did not understand any of my crazy, “magic-bullet theory” navigation of the writing in this paragraph, I must not repeat it as way of explanation. I barely understand it myself.

    Bottom-lining it: why not crop her out of the photo (if she was mistakenly included, which I cautiously doubt) if she weren’t Bones?

    All of this concludes me to believe that perhaps you were jesting that it was in fact Bones by writing it was Not Bones.

    I’m exhausted from this caption-analysis-paralysis. I believe Bones will become possibly as popular as your blog, perhaps single-handedly surpassing your blog’s popularity just because her name is Bones, and you keep her as a mystery in your blogs. I say “she”. Is Bones a “he”? Could go either way, I guess, but no matter since Bones is still a mystery.

    My favorite photographs:
    “Pantaloons”
    “Old, blue van” (I’m giving it that caption since it had none.)

    Those two are frame-worthy, money-making works of art. Seriously. I would purchase both.

    1. mabukach says:

      Pig parts are the best – I used that because, well, I would eat any part(s) of a pig. Seriously.

      Haha – Not Bones is what I call any stranger female who isn’t Bones that I photograph. I should start a Not Bones, or No Bones series…

      Maybe Bones is both…rest assured, all will be subtly revealed in the next post.

      Thank you very much, HRH. I really appreciate it. No shame, everything on this blog is for sale. 🙂

  11. Ahhh, so you went to Lisbon in the end! I am glad you liked it. it has been a while since I was there but I loved it. Sardines being the main reason. Probably not the best reason for liking a place but hey ho.

    you didn’t venture into Spain?

    1. mabukach says:

      I sure did! Would go back tomorrow if I could…mmm sardines. I bought a lot to take home, but ate them all the day I got back. 🙂

      Nope – I think Spain needs at least two weeks to explore. Will do soon.

      Thanks, eatsdrinks!

  12. irestab says:

    I’ve been in Portugal too, and even if at the very begging I was like: “What the fuck is this place? Why am I here??” I just love it. It’s like when you meet someone for the first time and you don’t really like him/her but then you fall in love with that person.. Come and see what I wrote, if you like to! http://ilovetravellinglowcostisbetter.wordpress.com/

  13. A friend of mine and I walked the Camino Portugues and loved LIsbon. We did a double decker bus tour. Very beautiful! I would love to do a tour with someone who lives in Lisbon and who knows all the best day and night spots. On a budget it is difficult to see and do everything. Need to learn the language too for exploring the city. Love your photos!

    1. mabukach says:

      Hey, Newfoundland Traveller,

      Did you go recently? Yep, definitely difficult from a budget standpoint, but absolutely worth it.

      Thanks! And thanks for stopping by.

      1. We went in May of this year. The highway walking was dangerous. The way was not marked well so getting lost was easy. The people we met were lovely and kind. It was absolutely worthwhile.

        1. mabukach says:

          You actually walked along the highway? Interesting. Were you hitchhiking?

          1. No Yvonne and I were walking Camino Portugues…from Tomar to Santiago in Spain

  14. thesignorina says:

    What stunning pictures. I was in Lisbon earlier this year – and recognise that white/grey cobbles with the star! Funny what the mind picks up.

    I am in my twenties and write a blog on news, views, London, culture – The SIgnorina (www.thesignoria.com), (based in London but lived in Rome).

    I have never been to America but travelled Europe thoroughly, namely France and Italy where I lived for four months at a time (I’m not fluent in both languages.) I now live my my Italian boyfriend and he often inspires my blog as we are so different – he can be so hilerious.

    ie: http://thesignorina.com/2014/12/14/10-reasons-you-know-you-live-with-an-italian/

    Anyway, lovely to have found you!

    1. mabukach says:

      Awesome, thesignorina. Where else did you go in Portugal. I’ll check out your blog soon – let me know if you’re ever in the US, I might have some decent recommends for you.

  15. summerloveswinter says:

    You haven’t talked about the huuuuge queue there is always to buy “pastéis de Belém”, and really hope that doesn’t mean you didn’t try it!! If you miss them, please think of them in your next trip, it deserves every queue 🙂

    I’m living in Rio and in some places like to say they are selling the original ones, but they are just cheaters hahah I took a few kilos trying to find the good one here, but no way!

    Have fun wherever you are now!

    https://summerloveswinter.wordpress.com

    1. mabukach says:

      Sadly, it means I didn’t get to partake. I was too full of amazing vino and seafood to make the trek to Belem. 🙂

      Awesome! Always wanted to visit Rio. Have things settled since World Cup yet?

      Vietnam is next – you as well. Thanks, SummerLW.

  16. Loved Lisbon so much – we spent a lovely romantic weekend in last Oktober there and it was still 30 degrees 🙂 Thank you for the post
    tomkatontheroad.wordpress.com

    1. mabukach says:

      Thanks, Tom and Kat. Happy travels to you!

  17. Vanessa Almeida says:

    Hello Mike 😉 I live here, in Portugal (near Lisbon), you need to come back again and check out other places… Lisbon is great place with so much more to see 😀 By the way, love your blog 😉

    1. mabukach says:

      Would LOVE to come back, Vanessa. Hopefully sometime soon. Thanks so much for reading – glad you like it.

  18. I am moving to Lisbon next week and currently had that kind of feeling of “not knowing if it was the right decision” leaving my current home in Berlin for good. Thanks to your blog post I remembered why I wanted to move to Lisbon 🙂 I am going to try out your restaurant recommendations once I get there!

    1. mabukach says:

      How is Lisbon so for swingaroundtheglobe? You loving it?

  19. Tanja says:

    HI
    Great post! I also visited Lisbon last September!:) I loved it! I recently started my own travel blog so I will write too about Lisbon!

    1. mabukach says:

      Great! Let me know when you post!

  20. Awesome! I am planning to visit Lisbon next month without obsessing on the planning and make it a little spontaneous. Hopefully. Thanks for the this!

    1. mabukach says:

      You’re very welcome, Jennifer. Let me know if you have questions – always willing to talk Lisbon.

  21. Cristina says:

    I LOVE Lisbon ! It is a beautiful city with many attractions and unique landscapes. Beautiful pictures!

    1. mabukach says:

      Thanks so much, Cristina. I agree – amazing city.

  22. Love Lisbon! Great photos. Check out my new blog!!

    1. mabukach says:

      Thanks Sea the World!

  23. My takeaways are Portugal, the Azores, and Croatia. Great comments, And good blog too!

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