Monday, July 25, 2016

Lisbon, Portugal!!

Lisbon is one of the prettiest cities I’ve ever stepped foot in. A labyrinth of narrow alleyways with houses doused in colour, sided with tiles and topped with terracotta, this city was built on hills—a lot of them. Wherever you roam, you’re bound to lose a battle to a tall, ancient and uneven staircase. Castles, cathedrals and trams are part of daily life in Alfama, the city’s oldest neighbourhood. Cafés & restaurants line the busier streets, but if go off the beaten path—like, one block over—you’re sure to find a hidden mom-and-pop serving 2-euro vinho verde by the glass. Yellow & red trams snake through Alfama’s ancient streets, stopping at several of the city’s small squares and lookouts. A small hike uphill leads you to an especially spectacular view of Lisbon and the waterfront: the lookout at São Jorge, an old Moorish castle guarded by a flock of surprisingly friendly peacocks. Perhaps odd for an old, touristic part of town, people genuinely live here. You will walk past houses, covered in today’s laundry. Bird cages hang from every window. Old ladies cram onto their small balconies and wave to tourists taking photos. It's a bit magical, and you wonder how you found something so seemingly authentic!

Views from Castleo de São Jorge Photo by Farah Khan @house9design

More from Alfama Photo by Farah Khan @house9design Photo by Farah Khan @house9design Photo by Farah Khan @house9design

The Baixa Neighbourhood is located in central Lisbon. Completely rebuilt after the earthquake of 1755, it's a trendy yet affordable part of town. It's the perfect place to stay if you want to feel like you're in a real city neighbourhood—not too residential, but it's not hotel-central either. Think Le Plateau in Montreal.

Photo by Farah Khan @house9design Photo by Farah Khan @house9design

Fiera da Ladra (Thieves Market). Don't let the name put you off, it's a flea market that happens every Tuesday & Thursday. I bought some old plates & Portuguese table cloths at very reasonable prices, so I'm guessing they call it "Thieves Market" because it's such a steal! Then again, someone tried to sell me five matchboxes for 50 euro, so I guess the thievery cuts both ways. Definitely worth a visit, find it in Santa Clara, behind the church.

Photo by Farah Khan @house9design Photo by Farah Khan @house9design Photo by Farah Khan @house9design

Our friend Aaron Langille, a fantastic chef here in Montreal, told us to make sure we got a meal in at Casa De Pasto, quite possibly the best culinary experience we had in Lisbon besides the 2am Sagres-and-Favaito on the sidewalk with a bunch of 20-somethings! Myself, Farah and my sister Claire went here for lunch and literally ordered everything on left-hand side of the menu, plus a bottle of wine. We asked our lovely waitress to explain vinho verde, and she poured us complimentary glasses as a demo! We ended up full to the gunwales and slightly tipsy, just in time for our next activity—hopping on a tram to Belem for the original nata.

Photo by Farah Khan @house9design

Belem literally means Bethlehem in Portuguese. Jerónimos Monastery & Belem Tower are the main attractions here. I found the Belem Tower wait-time too long and too windy: bring a windbreaker and some patience! Jerónimos Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is absolutely beautiful, so if you have to pick one, choose this. You can also visit Vasco De Gama's tomb next door at the church of Santa Maria. If you get peckish while in the area, you have to go to Patais de Belem. Yes, the line is super-long, but it moves pretty fast, so no, you're not some tourist lining up for Schwartz's like you don't know any better. Locals come here too. We know because, like a couple hipster tourists, we asked.

Photo by Farah Khan @house9design