Portugal is a wondrous place. The people are the friendliest we’ve ever met. The sites beautifully old. The sun bright and sky blue. Take a look at our gallery for the highlights. The following though are snippets of our time through our treats.
Fourth of July we stepped off the plane in Lisboa and dropped off our belongings at Zenit Lisboa in Saldanha. We USUALLY do not take the food advice of hoteliers, but we were hungry, and quite frankly, we had not adequately planned for our short trip to Portugal. We were pleasantly happy with Colina, a restaurant in this business district. They definitely did not skimp on portions. Pat’s salmon was fresh and plump. We learned at Colina that it is typical to get a basket of bread, butter, and cheeses at the start of a meal. We also learned that we would have to pay for each of these items. Ummm, whatever happened to free bread Portugal. That’s alright as long as you keep your bread soft and crusty.
After brunch we went on a half day tour of Sintra, Cais Cais, and Capo do Roca, the westernmost point in Europe. We took turns sleeping a great deal of the tour – me being the worse culprit – but we learned a lot and saw quite a bit. Our tour guide, Carlos, was an ex-skater, something of a socially conscious guide. We enjoyed asking him for Portugal’s perspective on Obama and their economic crisis. Carlos did not spare his Portugal’s opinion. Love Obama. As for the economy, unemployment is at 18%, yet the Portuguese live a good life. Family and friends first, job second, money third.
We definitely find the people to be in the right frame of mind. Aside from lead feet on the pedal, Portuguese are easy and friendly and proud. They are looking for a good time. We loved their winding, steep and slippery streets, the ways that looked like dead ends, the piercingly hot sun, the outdoor seating sharing the road with autos and pedestrians, their politically clever graffiti. Actually we learned that the City recently decided to invite graffiti artists to tag certain walls and buildings. Kinda like Mural Arts in Philly?? Maybe, maybe not, but the work is quite fascinating. Smarter than Philly, more honest.
After our tour, we walked straight away to Bairro Alto (Upper Town) well-known for its many bars and restaurants. As it is called upper town, you might wonder “how upper?” Quite! And we walked those steep slippery stone streets up and down. We asked a few people for a restaurant suggestion and eventually found two bartenders taking a smoke outside their bar. Contrary to our guide, Carlos, not everyone in Lisbon speaks English, but thank goodness one of the bartenders did. He wrote two places at the back of my Colina card: Cantinho das Gaveas and Floresta da Cidade. We found the first where we sampled another wonderful piece of salmon, the most supple ricotta cheese, and the freshest potato chips ever fried. And yes, potato and white rice go well together.
I’m not sure when Pat had time to research cupcakes, but he never disappoints. A Bairro Alto shop – Tease: Lisbon’s Rock n Roll Bakery (self-named), had a definite chocolate stint. There were three, yes three, red velvet cupcake varieties. One with raspberry topping, one with strawberry topping, a third with I’m not sure what topping. Excuse us, but we had been awake and walking the streets since 9AM. At 11:30PM, we just did not have clear heads. But we do know that I had a chocolate cupcake with toffee cream and cream cheese frosting. Pat had the Oreo cupcake with chocolate cake and cream cheese Oreo frosting – topped with an Oreo cookie. To be quite honest, everyone else in the place had a drink in hand. I think we would have been better served with a drink ourselves. The cupcakes were big on sweet and low on sabor. At least the wait staff and the decor were fun.
Friday morning, Pat fought his jetlag to scour internet sites for some Portuguese treats. When I woke up at the crack of 2PM, he led me out of the hotel into the 95 degree Fahrenheit streets of Lisboa.
First stop – Restaurante Tofa o Trevo in Baixa-Chiado. Pat said that Anthony Bourdain said something about the great pork sandwich so I dove in. For 1,90 euro, it came out piping hot in white paper in 3 minutes. The pork was a sliver, the bread thick and soft, nothing on the actual bread. It was delicious. It makes no sense. I should have had sauce, a thicker piece of meat. Hmmm, whatever.
Since Pat doesn’t eat pork and their fish only came fried, we went next door to A Padaria Portuguesa where we surveyed delectable baked treats. After Pat scarfed a chicken sandwich, we took a few delights on the road for a long day’s walk. It seems that Pastel de Belem is called Pastel de Nata everywhere but in the town of Belem where it was first made. We will have to visit Belem on our next trip because two locals and a guide book said we had to taste the pasteles directly from the source. The Pastel de Nata tasted like a vanilla egg custard with a flaky buttery crust. Not too eggy, not too creamy. Yum. We can’t wait for the “real” thing. The Pao de Deus was truly bread of the Gods. The Portuguese take brioche and soak it in some kind of coconut cream concoction. I do not know why but glad they do. They made a coconut lover out of Pat.
After a 4PM breakfast, it only seemed appropriate to … keep eating. Pat walked me around the corner to … Santini. We are officially Santini Lovers loving every moment of the two engagements we’d shared that Friday.
Then I took some coconut off of Pat’s ice cream and gave my ice cream a hat. Lovely!
Do you see the way the ice cream swirls together? Part of the novelty of Santini is the way the ice cream scoopers artistically scoop two, three, four scoops together for people. To look at everyone’s ice cream is a visual carnival. Some people like green and dark brown, red and orange, yellow and beige. So pretty. Our scooper was charged and proud of his work. He selected flavors for us both making a lover out of Pat of coconut (now a second time) and now raspberry. This is Pat’s concoction, in a cup. He doesn’t like his calories in cone, not a perspective that I share, but it’s OK to have differences.
We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening walking walking and walking. We sat off the pier near Praca do Comercio and ate our Pao de Deus. Considered our number 1 travel hotspot and independently decided that Portugal is number 1. We walked from the Praca to Alfama to Castle de Sao Jorge. What a gorgeous walk. At some point we walked the wrong way right into Graca de Vinho – a small wine and cheese shop in Graca. After peering at the Castle through gates, we had another simple Portuguese meal in Bairro Alto. The Portuguese like a slow meal. We actually rushed our waiters because …
Yes, we went back to Santini. We just made it. Considering the line was down the street, and they eventually had to send a scooper to the end of the line to close it, we were one of many people with the same idea. For blocks around, you can see people with Santini cups and cones. The perfect marketing for what has become our #1 treat … as of today.
And that was how we ended a glorious trip in Lisbon.