I need to finish up our Portugal trip (over a month later). Our last destination was Lisbon. I am having a hard time trying to figure out how to write about Lisbon. I feel like we didn’t really succeed in finding its great restaurants or hotels, and we had a case of the Sunday Blues while we were there, knowing it was the end of the trip. Lisbon is also a place I had really built up in my mind (bad idea!!) for years. During my first trip to Europe 13 years ago, I found a book by a Danish author. I remember the book as a beautiful, sad love story, taking place in the “white city,” Lisbon. The love story was as much about a girl as it was about Lisbon, and so, in a way, I was in love with Lisbon before I even met her. And, we all know, love can be deceiving. Anyway, maybe I just need to type away and see what happens. Good luck, reader.
We arrived in Lisbon by train on a gloomy, rainy Sunday. Our hotel was The House, a three-story family home, converted into a bed and breakfast, inside an apartment building. It sounds confusing, and it kind of is. The views are great and the hotel is spotlessly clean, but after one night there, we moved to a more central location. We had picked the wrong room at The House, and were paying 90€ for a room with thin walls that didn’t have an attached bathroom. I have a small bladder, and walking through a common area in the middle of the night to pee is just not something I pay 90€ for. The owner is incredibly kind and accommodating, and I recommend The House, but it’s not the best for a romantic holiday (I feel so cheesy typing those words, ugh).
After a mediocre lunch close to The House and some wandering around, we decided to get on the tram and head to Barrio Alto for dinner. FYI, Lisboa is a ridiculously hilly city, and places that look like they are walking distance on a map may actually not be, once you factor in the elevation gained. If you’re staying at The House, tramming to Barrio Alto is a must (I just turned “tram” into a verb and I like it). We were impressed with all the shopping and fanciness in Barrio Alto, but it was Sunday, and every restaurant we had picked out was closed. Endless hungry wandering led us to resort to an old trick of mine: pick out locals who are dressed nicely and look like they are headed somewhere. Follow them. The Portuguese family we followed “took” us to an Italian restaurant in Barrio Alto. I was so hungry and exhausted that I neglected to remember the name or much of what we ate. Exhaustion didn’t prevent us from needing some gelato, but after creamy dessert heaven, we trammed back to the hotel and called it a night.
The next day, we moved hotels to the Fontana Park Hotel, which is part of Design Hotels. It is a large hotel, but more conveniently located, with friendly staff and cool design features (the second picture is the hallway leading to our room):
The chicken and the spicy piri piri sauce were absolutely incredible, but we left with a bit of a bad feeling about our experience there. Our bill was surprisingly high, and upon reviewing it we discovered we were charged for much more than we expected. The covert was expensive (and gross, we shouldn’t have munched on it, but were too hungry to be reasonable). Our server brought us some fried cod fritters that we didn’t order; we tried them, not expecting to be charged, but they ended up on the bill (again, they were gross and we should have just said “no thank you” but we thought he was being nice). When we ordered our chicken, we asked for no fries and a salad. We were brought fries and a salad and charged for both. These all added up to an expensive lunch. Bonjardim is worth a visit, just say no to all the extras they bring and you will have a cheap, filling, delicious lunch.
That night, we went to Sacramento for dinner. It was recommended by our hotel, and the food was quite good. Not the most memorable meal of our trip, and I don’t believe there was a single Portuguese patron. If you want to experience Portuguese food in an accessible, modern setting, this is a good place. I guess I just prefer restaurants with a little more character.
After dinner, we stepped into A Brasileira for a drink. At the time, we had no idea we were in one of the oldest places in Lisbon, and were merely impressed with the beautiful decor and the fact that TDL’s Portuguese was improving to the point that he didn’t have to use any English or Spanish during his interactions at the bar.