I don’t think I have ever heard anyone ever utter a negative word about the Portugese. Within one hour of being in Portugal I understood why.
The Portugese are the most effusive, warm-hearted, humble and generous people we have met thus far in our travels. We found ourselves spilling out of the bus into the main square with glee, watching the mummas congregating for a bit of local gossip with their bebês in tow. Immediately we felt like we were in a country who had their arms wide open. We were about to find this to quite literally be true as we were swept into an encompassing embrace by our lovely host Susana. Before we could steady ourselves we had a fresh portugese tart in hand, and we were ushered down the narrow cobblestoned lanes of Alfama to meet the neighbourhood locals. Susana enthusiastically introduced us to the baker, her best friend, the owner of the local cafeteria, and anyone else she met along the way! Suffice to say, we felt like we were part of the furniture in no time. I don’t think I have been on any trip since where I have found myself walking back to accommodation waving to all the locals like we have shared a long and deep history.
Welcome to Portugal!Whilst I did not have high expectations for Lisbon, I was genuinely charmed by the clanging trams, narrow cobblestoned streets, grand town squares, quirky shops and blooming jacaranda trees. I was taken in by the red rooftops of Alfama, colourful streamers strung from windows, unique sense of pride and culture, and even the swooping gulls and friendly neighbourhood cats. I was also delighted to be back in a dress (London a distant memory) and I couldn’t help skipping and spinning with glee and I felt the warm air dance across my skin.
Joel became fixated on a pursuit of the portugese tart. As always, Joel’s pursuits (cough, coffee) can become a bit obsessive, and this was no exception. Therefore, upon local advice, we were on the next bus to Belem armed to conquer. Honestly, the Tower of Belem and Padrão dos Descobrimentos (monument to the discoveries) were only a backdrop to the main feature: consult picture of said tarts.
With Joel now purring like one of the alley cats, I was free to pursue my own pleasures. One thing I was determined to experience was Fado, a music genre of mournful tunes and lyrics, readily practiced amongst the restaurants of Alfama. We settled into a cosy nook of a typically portugese restaurant, and waited for the spectacle to begin. And oh was it worth it! A suitably rotund mumma opened her mouth and started wailing like she had nothing left in the world but the clothes she was standing in. Joel and I were transfixed, which was just as well because it was considered impolite to continue your conversation whilst somebody’s soul was spilling out of their mouth with an intense amount of decibels to back it up! I have to confess there were times we got the giggles and had to struggle with our willpower to keep a poker face. This was not helped by the jug of sangria or the turkish lady at our table who equally dissolved into fits of giggles, and with whom we decided was worthy to share in our sangria.
Our time seemed to fly by in a whirlwind of festivities, rickety trams and stunning vistas from Portas do Sol over the quaint area of Alfama. It was there where we experienced a true appreciation for the street art and vibrancy of portugal with colour abounding the streets and a sense of joy pervading every little cafe and open air street barbecue. Nights were just as charming and we spent hours hand in hand exploring little alleyways and ruined castles. We finished our stay with a short train out to the seaside town of Cascais which was impossibly cute and served to further our emerging tans in preparation for our next stop (and blog): The Algarve.