Where has this pretty little city been hiding and how did it never cross my mind to experience lush lisbon life sooner?
But before i uncover all the magic of my portuguese adventure, i’d like to share a wonderful quote, which i came across earlier this week… let’s just call it a little prologue to set the scene.
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”
This got me thinking – about the choices we make, the chances we take, luck and the like, and what part all this has to play in determining our path… (sh*t just got deep). No prizes for guessing i haven’t gotten to the bottom of it all yet – i’ll leave that in the hands of our great philosophers – but when i saw this quote, a small piece of the puzzle fell into place. What am i getting at? I guess i’m trying to say that luck might not just be about being in the right place at the right time, it’s also about being open to and ready for new opportunities, or having a knack for creating and noticing them.
So after a crazy few months of unexpected twists and turns, when we were presented with a small window of opportunity to get away from it all and reboot, the wanderlust kicked in and we jumped at the chance for a last-minute getaway. Call it luck or coincidence, but it just so happened that the night before we set off, portugal secured their first ever major tournament by winning euro 2016 with an extra-time goal. In other words – for all you non-footy fans out there – our timing couldn’t have been better to experience portugal for the first time. As you can imagine, the atmosphere was amazing from the moment we touched down. We just missed out on the day’s earlier celebrations but the effervescent spirit was still omnipresent, you could feel nothing but good vibes. We booked the trip at the very last minute so at the time – prologue aside – the coinciding of the euro win honestly felt like the pure, impromptu kind of luck that only happens every so often, as if the universe is giving you a cheeky smile and a wink, saying “go on girl, this one’s on me“.
The first evening in a new city is always the best part – you still have butterflies conjured up from excitement and anticipation, feeling as if you’ve magically conquered and discovered a new area of the universe that’s yours for the taking – then you fall asleep knowing that tomorrow, the adventure really begins. Our first night in lisbon consisted of a dreamy stroll along the colourful, cobbled streets of the santa maria maior neighbourhood, the perfect area for a taste of old-town exploration and an even tastier jug of sangria. That’s another thing about luck – apparently it’s all about creating self-fulfilling prophesies through positive expectations – so i like to think it’s my zest for quest that guarantees each new adventure comes with a bit of charm :)
Now, where to start when you only have five days in a new city and so much to see?! I know what you’re thinking… photo opportunity with a defensive tower from the sixteenth century that looks a little bit like a boot, right? Great minds think alike.
The boot, *ahem*, i mean the architectural gem that is the belém tower is at its prettiest in the early morning or late afternoon when you can absorb the beauty of its moorish, renaissance and gothic elements without too many distractions.
Another of lisbon’s historical highlights is the magnificent castelo de são jorge. I’ve always had a secret obsession with castles, perhaps because of my love of history (i was a historian at university, don’t you know?) or maybe i’m just a princess at heart, i’m not sure. But as far as castles go, this one certainly did not disappoint. I could have walked around its towering, ancient walls and absorbed the breath-taking views of lisbon forever… unfortunately though, it was a very hot day and i’d been a little unwise in my choice of clothing. Bonus fashion tip: avoid wearing black to conquer a castle in the height of summer if you can help it.
The view from the castle’s esplanade takes in alfama, baixa and bairro alto on the hill opposite. While this is undeniably a beautiful sight to see, nothing beats wandering around these neighbourhoods first-hand, trickling through their gorgeous, cobbled pavements, admiring the shabby exteriors splashed with vivaciously vivid colour and amazing street art. Not forgetting the iconic, yellow tram that permeates throughout the city ever so preciously. I’ll let the pictures do the talking here…
Next is a little something on which to feast your appetite. Lisbon is bursting with restaurants, bars and cafés thanks to the delicious food it has to offer and its stunning backdrop. The choices are endless but i thought i’d share my top three highlights. Firstly, on our expedition to conquer castelo de são jorge, directly before the uphill to graça to be precise, we stumbled across oprego – a funky little tapas bar, complete with trendy tunes to get you in the holiday vibe and the juiciest chicken & pineapple salad ever (so good in fact, that we went back on our last day for another). The perfect spot for a quick bite to eat, a beverage and a chill-out during the day.
Next on the list is the beautiful salsa rosa bistro. My boyfriend is so good at finding little hidden gems like this, so i have to give him credit for this one. Modest as it might look from the outside, the food (a hybrid of brazilian, mediterranean and portuguese), cosy atmosphere, delightful service and incredible value for money at this family-run restaurant are out of this world. We enjoyed a mouth-watering three course meal and bottle of wine for such a decent price it was insane. The waitress was so lovely and sweet too, which instantly makes everything all the more wonderful. I’m not usually one for taking pictures of my food as i’m far too impatient and excited to get cracking (you know the girl being held back by everyone else at the table to stop her gobbling up every last crumb before the waiter has even asked if anyone wants pepper? That’s me) but i made an exception this time. Check out the deliciously innovative mint pudding & chocolate crumble i had for desert. #MintChocGoals
Last on the list is the alluring lisbon winery in the bairro alto neighbourhood. What a charming way to experience the array of wine portgual has to offer while time idly drifts away. We went for the ‘premium tasting’ (when in rome) treating us to a variety of delicious portuguese wines, cheeses and meat, complimented by our wonderful host who shared his thirst and knowledge for everything on offer.
So what started out as a serendipitous escape turned out to be a discovery of what i can honestly say is now one of my favourite cities. I feel like i’ve only captured a fraction of what this amazing city has to offer, but i hope it’s enough to give you a little taster. I’m sure we have the euro cup victory to thank to some extent for the infectious atmosphere, but even putting that aside, lisbon is a city full of laid-back charm, lovely people, delectable cuisine and style; while each and every corner bursts with character, its history manifests itself with magnificence.
I hope luck finds its way of taking me back to lisbon one day so i can explore this gorgeous city all over again. Then again… we make our own luck, right? ;)
p.s. If you’d like to see more lisbon pics from my trip, head to my instagram page (it’s already been a couple of weeks since i’ve been back and i still can’t stop posting!)