By: Kathleen Cheong, Images by: Nico Marchand
My breath was taken away the moment we drove away from the Aeroporto de Lisboa and into the city of Lisbon. The beautifully detailed tiles on the surrounding buildings, the artsy (and slippery!) sidewalks and the sense of history drew me right in. My boyfriend, four year old son Jacob and I had arrived in Portugal! We were so excited for this trip. Yes, I had my concerns during the direct flight from Montreal – wondering how my son would adjust to the five hour time difference, hoping it would be easy to get around during our vacation and praying that I wouldn’t lose him in a foreign city, above all! All of those concerns quickly disappeared upon arrival at the two bedroom Airbnb rental, where we settled in for a nap before embarking on our first day in Portugal.
Our apartment, located in the residential neighborhood of Alto do Pina, was about a five minute walk to the subway station and a twenty minute subway ride into downtown Lisbon. We picked up twenty-four hour Viva Viagem cards, sold in automated machines in the subway stations, to wander around (allowing us travel on all of the Carris buses, metros, trams and funiculars across the city). We discovered ginjinha at the Praça do Comércio, a portuguese liqueur made of sour cherries and alcohol, that you can drink as a shooter in a traditional glass or in a dark chocolate shooter glass with a sour cherry.
Praça do Comércio, a palatial square destroyed by the 1755 earthquake, was completely rebuilt in the 19th century and remains a hubbub for commercial, governmental and touristic purposes. The architecture of the buildings that surround the square was exquisite and Baroque in style. Adjacent to the square, I was delighted to find an outdoor market selling handmade items including beautiful pottery, scarves and children’s toys (a hit with Jacob of course!).
We walked around the surrounding streets, observing many restaurants with alfresco dining and specialty stores that we don’t have in North America. My four year old, pushed happily in a stroller, admired the statues and trams passing by. Lisbon in August was hot during the day, without a cloud in the sky, and comfortable at night with a slight breeze. We grabbed dinner at Nosolo Italia, a restaurant in the Praça do Comércio. It was extremely family-friendly and Jacob happily slurped up his spaghetti. It was just the beginning of a great two week Portuguese adventure!