Last week we made a visit to one of our favorite cities, Lisbon. We had spent two months there in 2017 to determine if we preferred it to Nice as our expat destination choice, and it had been a tough choice. However, once we’d decided on Nice, we knew we’d want to return to Lisbon, and to see more of Portugal, on a visitor basis.
I’d like to make it an annual event. For one thing, the Portuguese are sweet. Don’t take their reserve and meekness for disinterest. Smile, and they’ll smile back. Ask for help and they’ll give you a chunk of their time. Make a weak joke in poor Portuguese, and they’ll join in. OK, I won’t generalize as we did encounter a couple of choice assholes, but you can’t fail to notice how chill the locals are compared to the French.
We didn’t do everything we’d planned, but we did see some old friends and make spot visits to some of our favorite places, like the riverfront, the Principe Real park we love and the perfect neighborhood, Campo de Ourique. There’s a pastry shop/luncheonette/cafe that makes a walnut cake I dream about and we did squeeze that in between a couple of appointments. We had to pick up some cans of sardine spread too.
Perhaps the coronavirus epidemic’s dent in tourism was the reason Lisbon seemed quieter than usual. There was a noticeable lack of large tourist crowds where you usually expect to experience them. The city felt like it had returned to itself.
Although Portugal is rapidly changing, and the simple, old ways are giving way to global youth culture, it still offers up a squinty view of what was. Glimpses of this world in twilight appear in between the new trendy shops and cafes, modern apartment houses and the once-unthinkably pricey restaurants. Being a natural nostalgic, I’m drawn to the tiny old bars where a coffee costs less than one euro and the woman behind the counter is in a constant repartee with the regulars as they enter, sip and bid “Bom dia.” This world won’t be around for much longer. Which makes a return visit soon a necessity.