Lisbon, named by Ulysses, means friendly bay (Alisubbo) and NOT good air as we previously thought – and we were very warmly greeted in to the embrace of this city, much like reuniting with an old friend. Everyone here was nice, including the immigration agents, the Uber driver, the airport information staff – everyone but the Enterprise desk agent who we asked for help looking for the uber pickup point. He pretended like they didn’t exist at the airport and was a total dick. That’s what happens when you ask someone in a technologically irrelevant profession for help finding his replacement.
Soon after we were in an Uber that cost 10 Euros and whisked us to a within a block of the pedestrian area in Baixa that we were staying in less than 30 minutes. We were in to our Air BnB by 630PM.The place was great – right in the middle of the pedestrian Baixa area, which is the heart of Lisbon – and within easy walking distance to every other neighborhood including Bairro Alto where we spent most of our time. The place also had a hipster, funky decor – with the bed upstairs in a loft style arrangement.
I showered and then we decided to take a walk and grab dinner. We were appropriately on European dinner time and were not even hungry to eat until 8PM.
We first decided to check out the Christmas lights, which were sprinkled all over the city, even right outside our AirBnB. Stumbling in to the main square (Rossi, but kind of pronounced with an H instead of an R), we were blown away by the beauty of the display of lights and a myriad of Christmas stalls selling all sorts of goodies. We walked up the promenade beyond called the Praça dos Restauradores.
It felt like a crisp winter evening and was the perfect night for roasted chestnuts and hot chocolate.
We retraced our steps and headed to dinner in Bairro Alto. We had researched a top 10 restaurant on Trip Advisor called BA Wine, but unfortunately when we got their it was completely full. We meandered a bit more and found another place called Bairro do Alvillez.
It looked packed and without many tourists. The hostess greeted us and mentioned it would be a 20 minute wait, but then was immediately able to shuffle some tables around in the back to seat us. A waiter soon came by and explained the format and menu options in perfect English and with a passion for the cuisine of the house. We couldn’t have chose better.
We ordered a charcuterie board, bread and olives (for me), a small meat pie appetizer, and two glasses on dry red wine that were both delicious. The food was prepared extremely quickly, almost too fast to allow us to linger and enjoy the vibe. All around us were Portuguese speakers and not an expat or apparent tourist to be found.
For dinner, I ordered a beefsteak sandwich dry aged, and Brendan ordered the pork plate with the Brazilian seasoning farafa. More on Brazil here.
For dessert, Brendan ordered a port wine to match his Pastel de Nata (custard crème pastry) with coffee ice cream, and I ordered another glass of what I was drinking before to match the salted caramel that the waiter seemed thrilled with. Mine won the day, even though Brendan’s was the traditional favorite. While unfortunately we weren’t able to visit the famous Pasteleria in Belem where Pastel de Belem and Pastel de Nata became famous, we did get to try this delicacy at several different places. It was not eggy at all like the one I tried in Hong Kong.
After a great dinner, we walked backed to the room. We were met with our first encounter with Fado outside a club on a narrow passage. Creeping closer to listen, we heard the mournful, drenched sadness sweep over us as a beautiful female alto’s voice unfolded. I had no idea what she was saying, but I wanted to cry. This was Fado. Torn between the unexpected emotion drawing us in, and the need for sleep calling us out, we chose sleep, knowing that we simply had to experience this again the following evening.
On our walk back, we went through the trendy Chiado neighborhood where all the high-end shopping was to be done. It was also beautifully decorated.
We attempted to sleep around midnight, knowing that we could sleep in a bit the following morning. Since the room was in the city center, it was incredibly noisy outside and Sunday night was apparently trash collection day. We were both in and out of sleep, and I only slept soundly starting at 530AM when I grabbed my ear plugs. We would know better for the next night, our final night in Lisbon.