Travel: Lisbon, Portugal

If nothing else, London has given me a new found appreciation for sunny places. Two weeks before Christmas, my best friend and I flew to Lisbon. Only a short plane ride away, we landed in sunny Lisbon to blue skies, beaches and relatively warmer temperatures. Gladly taking our coats off, we soaked up the sun and everything else Lisbon had to offer. Before we proceed, let me tell you that we didn’t visit any museums or art galleries or historical monuments. We did make history in the number of desserts we had per day though.

WHERE WE WENT

Lisbon, Estoril and Cascais were the three places we visited. Flights were relatively cheap and we stayed at the Marriott which was a 10 minute (steep) walk from the metro station. It was then about 10 – 12 minutes away from the city center where the restaurants, shopping centers and waterfronts are. For Estoril and Cascais, we took the train from Baixa Chiado for about 35 minutes. The tickets for the metro were purchased from the hotel and the ones for the nearby towns (Estoril, Cascais) were bought from the train station. Because all the main areas are connected in a linear fashion, most places are within walking distance, usually straight up and down a few slopes. If you intend to walk around, I suggest buying the daily metro pass (about 1.50 euros per day). Comfortable shoes are essential because the pebbled, uneven streets are quite the workout. In hindsight, that was a blessing if you, like us, intend to be on the three-desserts-a-day diet.

WHAT WE ATE

Down to business, at last. Lisbon, Cascais and Estoril have wonderful places to offer but the menus must be inspected carefully. The local cuisine is strong in seafood and if you’re a fan, then you can order with reckless abandon. I’m not a fish girl (curiously, I can eat any/all seafood except fish) but even so, there’s plenty to eat.

  1. Pastel De Nata

The Portuguese egg tart is *the* local celebrity. It’s essentially a fragrant egg custard wrapped and baked in flaky filo pastry. Everywhere we went, this item decidedly made its way to our table. Many guides suggested the best one to be had was in Belem (another train ride away, unfortunately we didn’t make it there) but the best one we ever had was in Manteigaria. Here’s what I liked best about the dessert in all – it is simplistic, not overly so and completely uncluttered and unfazed by modern flavors. There are no variations or complicated versions. It completely mirrors the locals – raw, unfiltered and completely content. We also had it at plenty of other places but the ones worth mentioning are Garretts in Estoril and Confetaria Nacional (among other desserts there).

  1. Gelato

What I love about globalisation is that you can find the best, most authentic version of something completely out of it’s birth place. I had the best gelato at Santini’s – an institution in it’s own right. It’s been there since 1829 and it is always crowded because it is open in a few select months of the year. They also have an outlet in Mercado di Riberia but the one in the central district is worth a visit.

  1. Mercado Riberia

This was the food court of our dreams. It is filled end-to-end with the finest chefs that Lisbon has, dotted with communal tables, sangria and gin stalls. It was the one of the more expensive meals we had here but it was definitely worth it. My most memorable meal was the slow cooked egg with truffle mash, pancetta and asparagus.

4. Coconut Brioche and Coffee

I’m not sure if statistics comply but I found the Portuguese to be the most content people of all. The pastelarias are continually dotted with locals sometimes sipping coffee but almost always eating something sweet. How can you be stressed out when you have coconut brioche dangerously within reach? I never caught the traditional name for it but it’s essentially a round bun filled with sweet coconut flakes and some egg custard. DREAMY. I recommend pairing it with a milky coffee and some people watching.

5. Farturas

Portuguese doughnuts are somehow even more indulgent than regular doughnuts. Deep fried, obviously but generously filled with Nutella, eggy custard, caramel or white chocolate. It’s better in Cascais with a side of salty sea air and picturesque view.

WHAT WE BOUGHT

1. Viva

Everywhere we go, we invariably think of furnishing our already bursting-at-the-seams London flat with homeware. Viva has some incredibly cute colorful homeware that is practical but pretty. It’s also super cheap! Bonus.

2. Local Street Art

Because Lisboa was bursting with talent in terms of art and music, walking down the streets almost makes it feel like a movie set with background music. We bought a small art piece from a local street artist as a souvenir – the best kind of gift, if you ask me. The busy city squares almost always had some kind of musical performers who played beautifully.

3. Fado music on vinyl

We happened to catch a flea market in Baia Xiado. We didn’t know if it was a regular occurrence but ever since I was gifted a record player for my birthday, I’ve been on the lookout for authentic artists. Catch my favorite here.

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