Kicking off 2016 with a bite from the travel bug, we left Marrakesh and made our way for a quick trip to Portugal’s capital. The rain created a biting chill that had us nuzzling further into our coats. It did nothing to dampen our spirits. With all of two days and two nights to enjoy Lisbon, we were eager to make the most of our time. After dropping off our things at the hotel, we made our way to the Rua das Portas de Santo Antão, A broad street lined with charming restaurants on either side, we were spoiled for choice. The weather conditions had discouraged many a potential diner, evident by the empty interiors of numerous establishments. Promoters stood in front of each eatery, using cheery smiles and tantalising description to try and lure us into their restaurants. We were won over by a charming elderly man who offered us a free bottle of red wine for our patronage. It was the best decision we could’ve made.
The restaurant, whose name escapes my memory, was a cosy set up with vintage family photographs and kitschy knickknacks that gave the place a homey feel. While we enjoyed our complimentary wine and waited on our orders, a talented operatic singer serenaded us. Her voice, mellifluous and haunting, was an absolute joy to experience. When the food arrived, she took a break and was substituted by a young woman with a voice that was just as enchanting. My meal, oven-cooked fish with baby potatoes, had the soft texture of butter. Its flavour palette was invigorated with spices and oven-cooked sliced onion.
Running on an essay deadline, I stayed indoors and worked feverishly while my friends went exploring. Thankfully, I managed to finish the work with time to spare. Meeting up with them in the downtown area, I have never been so grateful for Google Maps. Wandering through winding cobblestone streets, we skipped over the tram lines and made out way to the city’s imposing fortress.
Castelo de São Jorge, offering a 360˚ view of central Lisbon, has history dating back over four hundred years. Arriving at the castle a mere half hour before closing time, I made my feet work as I frantically rushed about, desperate to soak up as much as possible. Divided into two sections from the twelfth and mid-thirteenth century respectively, much of the landmark is restorative work undertaken in the 1920s, made necessary by a devastating earthquake in 1755. My favourite part of the castle was the wide courtyard. Lined against the perimeter of the fortification, the courtyard offered the optimal view of the bustling city below.
Even with the wind and the rain, Lisbon’s food, history, and wonderful locals made the trip worthwhile.