Yesterday we explored the quaint, picturesque (and of course touristy) part of town. To no one’s surprise, we both fell in love with it almost right away, and decided that yes, this is where we want to live.

The noise and bustle of the city is still there, but mixed in with tiny, steep streets and ancient candy-colored streetcars; sorbet-flavored buildings covered in graffiti, posters, and intricate tilework; tourists speaking all kinds of languages mixed with Lisboetas living their daily lives in the shadows of Moorish architecture and Christian religion; sun-drenched patios surrounded by exuberant bougainvilleas… and don’t forget the incredible vistas, hard-won rewards after long, puffing uphill climbs. Everywhere you look feels like a postcard — kind of like living in California. No wonder we felt right at home.

We were on our feet from 1:30 PM til about 9 last night, during which we:

  • Looked at two apartments, one at the lower end of our price range and one at the higher end, just to establish our expectations and parameters. Decided one was too small, but in a good area, while the other was too big and in a not-so-good area. Where is Goldilocks when you need her?
  • Walked through the castle grounds, but didn’t pay to go inside, figuring that visitors will give us an excuse to do so soon enough.
  • Drank a glass of iced green tea with cinnamon while sitting on a hilltop balcony overlooking the river front (which looked like nothing more than a warmer version of San Francisco, with the suspension bridge in the distance).
  • Listened to street musicians making beautiful music on another hilltop point overlooking the city. Oh, a place where the street musicians are actually worth hearing! What a concept!
  • Saw a little old lady, one eye white with cataracts and the other squeezed shut, poking her head out of the top half of a door in a tiny, pedestrian-only street… with kids careening their bikes down the same steep hills we were puffing to climb.
  • Rode a bright yellow street car down the same streets it took us an hour to climb, squeezed into ancient seats along with other tourists and people on their commute home from work.
  • Ate dinner in a tiny restaurant with sullen staff just off the main tourist district that served unexpectedly delicious food: a simple mixed salad and soup for me, and a gorgeous grilled salmon with rice, fries, and tomato salad for Gabe. And of course, a half-liter jug of white wine to quench our thirst after a long day.

It reminds me more and more of Cuba, with its mix of sun and sensuous leisure combined with bustle and noise, its raw soul and rhythm, people dancing and making music on the street, and despite the warmth and openness of the people, the constant lingering feeling of being an outsider looking in. It is truly a town of many facets and contradictions, and I look forward to exploring more of them today as we continue our hunt for the apartment that’s Just Right.

Pictures are below, including some outside the first house we looked at, which turned out to be Too Small:

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more about “House hunting day 1“, posted with vodpod