A Lovely Layover in Lisbon

I didn’t want to like Lisbon. Not because Lisbon had ever done anything to offend me, or that I had ever been beaten up by a gang of roving Lisbonians (Lisbonans? Lisbans? Lisbonaires?). My issue was that everyone loves Lisbon. Whenever we mentioned that we were going to Lisbon, we heard:

“Lisbon? Oh, it’s so cool. You’re going to love it.”

So, in my eyes, Lisbon was obviously going to overrated – it had to be.

Spoiler alert – I’m about to be wrong.

I’m sorry to say that Lisbon is not overrated. As a city, it may be the most properly rated one we have been to on this trip. I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

What a great city for walking around Lisbon is; the kind of place where small alleyways beckon you to climb up steep hills to gawk at the lovely buildings, and you end up on the other side of the hill at a tiny craft beer bar, where the non-pilsners are actually decent and the staff is heavily tattooed and happy to see you.

Lisbon is also a great city for floating – we took a fun Hippo tour (Fiona may have more on that later), and got some great views of the Iconic Sights, including their mashup of our very own Golden Gate Bridge and Rio de Janeiro’s Cristo Redentor.

For the first time since we left Porto, we ate lunch at a Hanging Ham Bar. Our waiter was quite the character – a Brazilian dude who prided himself on picking out regional American accents; he picked out my NorCal words after hearing me say “bottle of water.” After hearing Julie say the same thing, he was pretty sure she was from the lower Midwest. Even with that whiff, he remained charming and our lunch was excellent.

Me with a big ol’ beer, anticipating future ham

The rest of Europe was being hit my a monster heat wave that day, and Lisbon was warm-but-not-stifling. So it was not that hard to hoof it up to Castelo del Sao Jorge to see the city views. The walk up was on a lovely winding cobblestone road, complete with bonus art walls. Sao Jorge is a proper castle (take that, Barcelona! Your castle is just a fort!), complete with towers, walkable walls and the most atmospheric co-working space I’ve ever seen. The walk down was a dreamy descent of discovery – tiny walkways, mysterious alleys, and the first outdoor escalator of our trip!

We ended our near-perfect day with a magnificent dinner at a tiny restaurant on (of course) a hill in Bairro Alto. Our post-dinner walk took us up some stairs with an amazing castle view, and then to Chafariz do Carmo for an after dinner sit-down and a drink. It was a lovely warm night, and the cafes and bar kiosk were buzzing with people eating dinner, reading, getting ready to go Out for the Night… it was a little snapshot of what the best of city life can be. I never wanted to go.

So, yes, we loved Lisbon. Like so many places on this journey, it exceeded our expectations and made us sad to leave. But.. by going for only two days, we gave ourselves reasons to go back. We saw the merest smidge of this amazing city. And when people ask us if they should go to Lisbon, here’s what I’ll say:

“Lisbon? It’s so cool. You’re going to love it.”

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