Portugal! Worth Every Step…

Nov 22, 2022 | Uncategorized

Flying into Lisbon on a sunny morning expecting to see red tile roofs, I was surprised to see numerous apartment buildings. Like many other Europeans, in Portugal apartment living is a way of life. Even though Lisbon has only a half million residents, it is a busy city nonetheless, graffiti and all. As we had experienced in Athens, “street art” is everywhere, especially along the highways on the sound barriers.

Upon arrival, our first stop was Pastéis de Belém. I had heard a tale of the amazing Pasil. A crisp phyllo dough cup filled with the most delicious custard imaginable for just over a Euro! This is a must-do (and repeat)! The custom is to flex the cup a little to hear the crunch of freshness. Three or four bites of bliss followed. The menu is extensive and quite varied. I suggest sticking with Pastéis (plural). They are the stars of the show!

The old city is another story entirely! Winding cobblestone streets climb up and down seriously steep hills. A probable inspiration for San Francisco, cable cars (a wise choice for pedestrians) scale the sharp pitches under electric power easily. Tiny sidewalks are the rule. Each sidewalk is made from small cubes of white limestone called “calçada Portuguesa” or simply “calçada”. Walking single file is often the only way to go. In plazas and pedestrian zones the cobbles are arranged in beautiful swirling patterns. True old-world craftsmanship is evident everywhere. Many buildings are hundreds of years old, and still in excellent repair.

Restaurants abound in Lisbon, and affordable is the rule. Mediterranean fare is the most common. House wine is usually a safe bet anywhere you go. On a hot summer afternoon, the Vinho Verde or green wine is a slightly effervescent refreshing crisp white and is perfect! 

Our side trip to Obidos was my favorite little town in Portugal. Nothing but red tile roofs! This charming walled village was gifted to Queen Isabel of Portugal in 1282. Feel free to walk around the high stone walls, and large stone steps to take in the views. Be aware, no railings, and no safety net like at home. In Portugal, you are expected to use good judgment. 

The Hotel De Obidos is a traditional upscale European hotel. For under $200/ night, including a delicious breakfast, I thought it was a bargain. The five-pound antique room keys are a real throwback. We were referred to the restaurant Pontinha, which is almost next door to the hotel. Unassuming from the outside, and cozy on the inside, we opted for the private four-top in the back. They offer a tasting menu, with optional wine pairings for each course. Our server was wonderful, and the food & wine superb. If possible, I would have dinner there nightly from now on!

Three takeaways:

  1. Wear very good walking shoes
  2. Visit Pastéis de Belém
  3. Make a side trip to Obidos