After crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a sleepy stupor, we gathered our belongings, cram onto an airport tarmac shuttle and it begins – Lisboa! After many lineups and pursuit of our wayward luggage with a hapless Canadian student in tow, we made our way to the tourist bureau and bought our first bus ticket. We fine tuned our Portuguese to listen for the driver’s call to our stop very near our first resting place. We were extremely proud of our ourselves as we disembarked, ready to check in and refresh.
We marveled at the stone art on the sidewalks. Mosaics abound. These are sidewalks? Sidewalks on a 60 degree angle! Portuguese women are fit! Comfortable, low heeled shoes and nature’s stairmaster combined with hot yoga make for a workout the likes you have never seen. A wrong turn became an uphill challenge, however we did find our casa at CS Vintage Lisboa. Never underestimate the joyful experience of a siesta in air conditioning in crisp cotton sheets after sleep deprivation. We were set up for a delightful evening stroll on Rua Liberdade and our first adventure in Portuguese cuisine.
While still marveling at the sidewalk stones, the palm trees and our first taste of Lisbon life, we were approached by a young man with a flyer in hand advertising an out of the way restaurant. He motioned ‘come’ and we followed him through an alley to a small ‘kitchen’ called Forno Velho-Old Oven. We want to eat as much authentic cuisine while visiting and decided this seems about as authentic as it gets. This is a family kitchen centred around an old brick oven – the heart of every Portuguese home, I imagine. We see awards and food review write ups displayed proudly. Children both helping and playing-everyone proud of their place. We consumed lamb and goat curd, smokey ham and cheese with traditional Portuguese bread – with dinner still to come – tomatoes in fresh green gold olive oil, steak on a stone and cod fish stew. Each bite more delicious and satisfying than the last.
The little boys were running around and getting into trouble. I introduced myself to the young maitre d’s – Raphael and Miguel. Raphael was the sparky troublemaker and their sparkling brown eyes spoke adventure. They were urged to shake our hands and we all laughed a good natured laugh at the two partners in crime. Grandparents of any culture can appreciate adorable children.
This was a proud Portuguese family, working hard and serving graciously. The worn linens will not be replaced anytime soon but their hospitality can never be replaced.
We continued strolling, finding Starbucks (large coffee is always a find in Europe) and taking in our first night on the other side of the Atlantic. We hike home – virtuously feeling that it will account for those delicious calories and we gratefully collapsed to rest for our next day of exploration.