, ,

Roll Me Out of Lisbon

Ah, Lisbon. Currently one of the cities at the top of the list of my favorite places. What a time! I traveled to Lisbon in May of 2022 with no expectations. I had never considered Portugal as a place to travel to before I moved to London. Everyone I met here spoke of how amazing Lisbon was and its ease of access from here. I even made a few Portuguese friends since moving that had encouraged me to go. So, when a friend of mine from the States said she wanted to come back to Europe in May and that flights to Lisbon were relatively affordable, we took the opportunity to plan an adventure there.

And what an adventure it was. The colorful buildings dressed in tile and graffiti, the obvious Roman, Gothic, and Baroque architectural influences, and the alluring views of the river Tagus. And the hills, Lord! I should have been exercising more before my trip (especially since we were staying on the top floor of a walkup Airbnb). Despite the hilliness, the city was pretty walkable, and Ubers were super cheap, making it easy to get around. Lisbon is a beautiful and vibrant city, full of life, and although very touristy, it still feels local. You’ll see school kids playing in the squares, clothes hanging on lines from outside windows, and old men doing their workouts on stationary workout equipment in the park. We even stumbled upon a party in a park in Bairro Alto with food stalls, a DJ, and tons of sangria available. Tourists, locals, and even children danced into the next morning. This I thought, is my type of place. 

We saw all sorts of people of many different races and ethnicities, from other visitors to residents. It felt relaxed and the locals we interacted with were friendly and generally forgiving of the fact we did not speak the language. The language itself was an interesting surprise. I don’t think I had ever heard anyone speak Portuguese, either from Portugal or Brazil, before I stepped into the country. I had this idea in my head that it would be similar to Spanish in its delivery and therefore consistently tried to pronounce things the way I would in Spanish. And although it has many similarities with Spanish and even Italian, the language is like nothing I’d ever experienced before and at times sounded Polish or Russian to my ear.  

“…the Portuguese accent most of us put on if we’re giving it a go is also Brazilian; it can be quite a shock to hear Portuguese Portuguese, which sometimes sounds Eastern European in intonation to English ears and is really heard outside of Portugal.”

– Johny Pitts, Afropean (2019)

But the best part of Lisbon for me, hands-down was the food. I had no idea what Portuguese food was like. I had this assumption that it would be like Spanish food, which I have a love-hate relationship with. What I came to find out is that Portuguese food is a bit of everything: African, Mediterranean, Asian… And though the immediate thought “colonizers” came straight to mind, I enjoyed the surprising mix of influences in this cuisine I knew nothing about. 

Photo by Edy Ndem (2022)

We had most of our meals out, but the dinners were by far the best. Lisboa Tu & Eu 2 was the ultimate dining experience. A tiny little hole-in-the-wall restaurant with views into the kitchen and writing literally all on the walls (you’ll find our names written on the column in the middle of the room). The menu tells the sweet tale of how the restaurant came to be; a note written by owner Maria to her late love. Maria was even there that day, taking our orders and serving guests throughout the restaurant. Food is served family-style in seemingly small portions that are sneakily filling. Rice, octopus, chicken, potatoes, salad, and more. Everything is buttery, perfectly seasoned, and full of flavor. We filled ourselves with a mix of what felt like half the food on the menu. By the time we left the line was around the block to get in and believe me, that spot is worth the wait.

Photo by Edy Ndem (2022)

Pastéis de Belém is a place you will find on every Lisbon recommendation list (with good reason) and because of that, it is a major tourist hot spot. They specialize in traditional Portuguese custard egg tart pastries called Pastel de nata. We stood in the extremely long line for about 40 mins waiting for this tart I had never even heard of. Once we finally reached the door, the smell inside the bakery was intoxicating. We each bought the largest pack available and indulged in one on the sidewalk outside the bakery. Each came with packs of cinnamon and powdered sugar to dust on top before you ate one. Buttery, flaky, creamy goodness that seems to taste better and better each day as we enjoyed them with our morning coffee. 

For our final meal, we simply couldn’t decide what to do. The city was beginning to fill up with tourists coming in for the weekend and we hadn’t made reservations anywhere. On our way back to the Airbnb after a long day of sightseeing, we happened upon a restaurant by the name of Duque. I ran in and made a reservation for that evening. When we arrived a few hours later the place was packed, and we’d soon discover why. The American couple sitting next to us raved about their food which made us even more excited to try. We decided to go with the fish and the lamb to share. The food was amazing! Simple and aromatic, every bite was deliciously delectable. We left thoroughly satisfied and vowed to recommend the restaurant to everyone who asked. 

Photo by Edy Ndem (2022)

I describe the Portuguese food I had in Lisbon as a beautiful blend of Italian, Spanish, and French cuisine. Everything I consumed warmed my soul and satisfied my palette completely. I can’t wait to visit more of Portugal now and experience more of the country’s fabulous food but also indulge in libations like the famous Port of Porto. I highly recommend Lisbon to all who are considering it. I promise you won’t regret it!

%d bloggers like this: