Lisbon, A Food Lover's Dream

Day 2:

I woke up first, late by my travel standards–perhaps a testament to decreased travel anxiety? Good. I sorted through my notes and the books we dragged along and decided on a full day here in opposed to a rushed day trip south. A good decision.

After coffee, we begin the day looking for a fish market in the Alfama that did not appear to exist. But those streets are a site in their own right, so all was well. I loved seeing the city wake up today: a butcher lugging a side of beef and placing it purposefully on a hook, suited businessfolk bee-lining towards their office buildings in Baixa.

We cut across town to the Mercado Riberio. The vendors were just arranging their produce and the flower stalls were heating up. From there we headed into the thick of the city, arriving in Chiado neighborhood.

While Baixa is more business, Chiado is more pleasure. Along the main thoroughfare in Chiado (Rua Garrett I believe) there are shops covering all of your needs– from beautiful clothes to breakfast to flowers and books. We pop in the mostly-organic supermarket, Brio, then into a charming old bookstore for a bit of respite, then casually find our way back to the apartment to regroup.

We arrive at Tasco do Vigario for lunch after wandering through Alfama alleys once more. We poke our heads into the tiny storefront and are guided to a tiny table perched across the street on a platform. I already love this place. The waiter is so kid and fluent in English; I’m sort of embarrassed to admit my relief. Anyway, he guides us through the menu–Well you are in Lisbon, it is a beautiful, sunny day, I say grilled fish– and we order everything. His pride for his country and enthusiasm about the food and culture there is so charming. He reviews our order and rushes off, mistaking mine. I hurry after him and remind him I would like the grilled squid, to which he exclaims and we laugh at the confusion and he is just about my favorite person ever at that moment.

Sitting behind us is a family that moved there short term for the weather and never left. They admitted they go to this restaurant every day  for lunch! I can see why. After a long, leisurely meal, our waiter returns asking about dessert, coffee, and digestif options. We decline, wanting to see a bit more today, and he seems a shocked- we’ve totally interrupted the flow of the meal. Before we leave, he asks me May I ask where you’re from? I respond, and he yips I knew it! USA! Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The liberty bell! The best.

With the Jardim Botanico in mind, we walk in that direction–up and down and up and down (Lisbon is very hilly…),finally spotting it but not being able to find the entry. At this point jet lag is catching up and I’m cranky…But at last we arrive and take respite in this sort of neglected but very peaceful stop. After a couple hours of leisurely walking and resting on benches in the shade, we head into the Lapa neighborhood, a beautiful, peaceful residential area that is worthy of a linger. We find a specialty sardine shop on Rua da Palmeira across from the Jardim Fialho de Almeida, a park that reminds me a lot of home. We speak to the woman there and she advises us on a few types she thinks we would like, one with traditional laurel that she mentions Made up the crown of Jesus. We’ll take that, then.

It’s late afternoon. Before heading back, we stop into Nannarella Gelati alla Romana . A line filled with kids just home from school is snaking down the sidewalk. I pop in, grab my serving, and we settle in for more people watching at the Jardim de Sao Bento across the way.

Before long we’re setting into our new evening routine of two days: change, read about what we saw that day, and get dinner going while listening to the fado coming out of the nearby bar. Some think cooking on vacation is a chore, but I disagree: it’s comforting and a relief, really, after a day of stimulation in a new place.

Just before bed I commit to taking what I have dubbed a European Shower: heating water up in a kettle, pouring it in a bowl, adding cold water to it, and bringing it into the bathroom to use to soap up and clean my body. Repeat; this time having L pour it over my head as I wash my hair. The hot water doesn’t work, and the hostess isn’t responding to our pleas for help. Ah, vacation!


Addresses to Know: 

Tasco Do Vigario
R. do Vigário 18, 1100-451 Lisboa, Portugal

Nannarella Gelati alla Romana
Rua Nova da Piedade, 68, Lisbon 1200-299, Portugal

Jardim Botanico
Rua da Escola Politécnica 54, 1250-102 Lisboa, Portugal

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