Tuesday, May 8, 2012
We left for Lisbon the day before the second round of the French presidential election. It wasn't the election we wanted to miss but rather the very rainy weather Lisbon had been having the week before, when we had originally planned to go. It worked, sort of.
We landed on a sunny afternoon and checked into our pretty boutique hotel on the main drag, the Champs Elysées of Lisbon apparently, well located between the heights of the Barrio Alto on one side and the Alfama on the other.
Brightly painted buildings and tiled facades greeted us as we walked
and a block away, in a great Art Deco building next door to the Gucci store we came across the headquarters of the local Communist party, waving red hammer-and-sickle flag and all.
Lisbon is built on seven hills and the resemblance to Rome is mentioned by every English speaking cabbie. Cabs, by the way, are cheap, but the way to get up those hills is to take the Elevadors, the funiculars that run from the flat center to the heights.
And from the heights the belvederes or Miradouros provide views across the city to the opposite heights.
I'd heard Portuguese spoken before but hearing it all around is really something. There are lots and lots of "shh" sounds and "djze" sounds and all in all it sounds like a crazy combination of French and Russian. A young Portuguese man we met told us that there are a lot of Russians and Ukrainians who came to Lisbon while the economy was still booming and they had very little trouble learning the language. The sounds came naturally to their lips.
What came to our lips the first evening was the incredible seafood at Ramiro, a popular local place that we were turned on to by a Portuguese friend of a friend. At 8:15 we had to wait about 30 minutes for a table but boy, was it worth it.
Shrimp in garlic butter sauce with red pepper bits, clams in herb butter sauce, grilled tiger shrimp, piles of delicious buttered bread to soak up the sauce, and have I mentioned the butter?
We loved it all, needless to say, and if I had enough time I'd go back in a minute. But there's a lot to do and see here. Tomorrow it's fado, the emotionally wrenching Portuguese singing that we still remember from our last visit decades ago.