After a morning of working in the flat yesterday (and a week spent largely therein), I decided that I couldn’t stand to go to the gym yet again, and would far rather use my energy exploring the city. So I recruited Gabe to my cause after he got back from his flight test, and off we went on an adventure. I’ve had a few requests for more pictures, so I will let them speak for themselves, but the highlights of our 3.5 hour ramble were these:

We started off walking through the uber-trendy Barrio Alto (“High Neighborhood”) area that’s just uphill (there’s that deceptive phrase again!) from our flat. The place doesn’t really wake up until midnight, but there was plenty to be seen during mid-day as well: lots of cool little stores, art galleries, restaurants that were deserted now but obviously would be packed in about 12 hours’ time, and of course drug dealers pushing hash. What a mix.

We continued on to the large, ornate Parliament building, where we stopped for a cafe and a pastel de nata — all for the sake of comparison to last week’s pasteis de Belem experience, of course. You’ll see a picture of Gabe in the midst of conducting our very official taste test, the upshot of which was that while the Belem version was indeed far superior, that was mostly because it was served fresh and warm. This regular version however was still gooey custardy goodness, and definitely passed the test. We might have to try a few more just to make sure though…!

Next we walked on through the winding streets and neighborhoods of Lapa and Estrela, which are home to a lot of embassies, according to the guidebooks. We eventually came to the Basilica de Estrela, a massive white beast that you can just see from the top of our own hill. As we crossed the street to the nearby Jardin de Estrela, Gabe said, “And there’s a big white rabbit running by.” I looked at him oddly, convinced his cold was making him hallucinate, but sure enough, as soon as we went into the garden, we saw a street play being put on for a bunch of kids wearing identical red smocks.

And yes, there was a rabbit. Thank goodness. No hallucinations, unless they were shared.

Looking at the map, I noticed that there was a graveyard just across the street from the Jardin, so of course that’s where we had to go next. There we saw some amazing graves and headstones, including some really long Portuguese names (they like adding surnames here!) and a cross with a star of David on it, which you don’t see every day.

Last but definitely not least, just as we were getting close to home, we stumbled into a fabulous little shop that sold nothing but antique tiles. There were at least two adjacent storefronts filled with stacks and stacks of old tiles, some dating as far back as the 15th or 16th century. As Gabe pointed out, those tiles are older than our country! And they were just sitting there, out in plain sight, for anyone to see or handle. Amazing. The store also had other antique decorations, including old doors, whole scenes composed only of tiles, furniture, the whole deal. It was incredible. I hope to go back after we finally make it to the tile museum, which we now have a renewed resolve to visit.

So that led us to the end of our ramble. We came home for a while, and Gabe napped while I had a great Skype conversation with a good friend from home. We were planning to go out for dinner, but made ourselves wait until what we thought would be the more acceptable dinner hour of 8:30 (with of course a few snacks to tide us over beforehand.)

We returned to Barrio Alto in search of a restaurant, and it was already far more populated than it had been at noon. Even so, there were still mostly tourists about, and things were clearly just starting to wake up: the bars and clubs we walked by were empty, and the restaurants only had foreigners in them.

By the time we settled on a restaurant (one called “Bota Alto”, or “High Boot,” chosen mostly because I was at the time wearing high boots), it was about 9 PM. The place was full, but we quickly discovered that there were only one or maybe two tables that were actually speaking Portuguese. The rest were German, French, maybe some Brits, but tourists all.

As we ate what turned out to be an excellent dinner, we noticed a definite changing of the guard. There was a lull around 9:30, when the tourists were done eating and most of the tables were empty. By 10, they had started filling up again, and this time, our fellow diners were all speaking Portuguese. This provided us with no end of amusement and wonder, especially as we saw the kitchen dishing up huge plates of beef with sauce, large chunky fries, and veggies — all of this to be eaten at 10 PM, no doubt with much sangria to accompany it, followed by coffee and dessert, which would take them until at least midnight to finish. Which of course is perfect timing for going out to the clubs.

But for us, 10:30 PM was perfect timing to go home. As we did so, we continued to marvel at the people just starting their evenings, and had to laugh at ourselves — we were so proud to go out at a “decent” dinner time, when in reality we still ate at an only slightly less scandalously early hour than before.

We have a long ways to go until we are true Lisboetas — at least in terms of night life!

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more about “Barrio Alto, Lapa, & Estrela“, posted with vodpod
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