Hello from Portugal! I am currently sitting in my hotel in a small town called Obidos. I just got in from Lisbon after having the most amazing adventure there. Lisbon is one of those cities I can totally see myself going back to. It has everything from amazing food, gorgeous little districts, and the nicest people I have ever met.
I flew in Thursday morning and instantly had my first trip mishap. The airline had lost my luggage. After waiting an hour to get it all sorted out, I finally headed to the center of Lisbon to start my adventure. I stayed in an Airbnb near Rossio Square which is at the center of everything. I stayed with an awesome host named David who is a Swiss expat who moved to Lisbon after quitting his job at an embassy. He now works as a tour guide and a acroyoga teacher. He was probably one of the best hosts I could have as he showed me around the city and told me interesting facts for free! He also took me to his favorite local food places which were cheap and tasty!
I did a lot of sightseeing in my 3 days there. The whole city has so much to see and it was all walkable from where I was staying. The only difficulty was that it was 100+ degrees everyday and it was extremely hilly. Lisbon is actually built on 7 hills. It reminded me a lot of SF in that way but with more colors. The second day I was there was especially hard since it was hot 105 degrees F, so I ended up stopping every chance I got just to cool down. It seriously makes you appreciate the comforts of AC and flat ground. lol
While in Lisbon, I learned that Portuguese cuisine has mainly two things: seafood and potatoes. Literally. Every dish I had had some sort of grilled fish and roasted potatoes. Sardines in particular are a big thing in Lisbon and maybe in Portugal? You see them everywhere from restaurants to bars to food vendors on the street. I loved that Portuguese cuisine uses very simple ingredients. The fish is usually grilled with just salt. The potatoes are prepared in a similar fashion. This approach to cooking taught me a lot about how the quality of ingredients vast outweighs the quantity. I know this seems like a simple concept but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve over complicated a dish by adding a ton of ingredients.
The two food places that easily stuck out to me was a tapas bar in the Bairro Alto district called Alto de Bairro (go figure right?) and this restaurant in Sintra called Apeadeiro. Bairro Alto is known for its night life and of course food. People say that this district during the day compared to what it looks like at night is literally day and night. It’s very quiet during the day, but it comes to life at night with restaurants opening up and clientele at local bars spilling out into the streets. I was wandering nearby after a long day of sightseeing and I wanted to go to a place to eat before heading back to my Airbnb. I saw this place had great reviews on Yelp and decided to check it out. It is an extremely small place with only 5 tables. Don’t let this fool you though the food here is top notch. I had two tapas and a drink. The dishes I had were sardines on toast and fried shrimp. I was so blown away by the fried shrimp. In fact, I was so impressed I asked the waiter if I could have the recipe. Unfortunately, I couldn’t understand him very well but I got that it was cooked in olive oil with some garlic, white wine, and finished with cilantro. What a simple dish that is packed with flavor!!!
The other restaurant that blew me away was Apeadeiro in Sintra. Sintra is a small town near Lisbon that is known for its pretty castles. It is super easy to get to as it is only a 40 minute train ride away. After a full morning of hiking up to all the castles in the city, I was ready for some food. I came across this place near the main shopping street and decided why not. I ordered the Monkfish rice which is a seafood stew with a variety of seafood served over rice. This dish was off the chain. I have to talk about this Monkfish! I had never had this fish before and I seriously don’t know what I was waiting for! It was flavorful, just salty enough, and tender. The saltiness went really well with the sweetness of the stew. This stew is definitely made for more than one though; I had a hard time even getting through half of it.
I had such a blast in Lisbon and Sintra, and I’m super excited to see what the rest of Portugal has to offer me. My next stops are in Obidos and Porto. Stay tuned for recaps on both cities!