Lisbon – October 14

I sit in our bright kitchen with the window open and a reflection of red terracotta tiles, whitewashed wall, and bright blue sky in my computer screen. Outside the relentless beat of Portuguese pop music provides a pleasant enough soundtrack.

It’s just past noon and the smell of fish has started to pervade the air. Fish is everywhere in the Alfama. This morning I looked out over our narrow street to see the back of a small truck open and flats of glistening fresh fish being unloaded into the tiny fish shop a few meters down the street. Every restaurant chalk board is filled with long lists of fish dishes—sea bass, cod, salmon, sardines, mackerel are just a few that I recognize. There are many many more that I don’t know—in Portuguese or in English.

Unfortunately, neither of us are particularly big fans of fish! The sea bass I had at lunch yesterday was tasty but was filled with so many bones that I was still hungry after I’d finished eating all I could without risking death by choking. I guess I don’t like to work so hard for my food! Perhaps if I can find a fish dinner without bones, I’ll try again.
Now of course we have a gorgeous kitchen with a very efficient gas stove and so I can do more cooking. It’s actually a relief to have some home cooking instead of restaurant meals. Portugal is wonderful but we haven’t had a lot of luck with the cuisine. Most meals have been hearty and filling but not all that tasty. However, the prices are certainly reasonable. We eat most evenings for under 30 euros for two- or three-course meals that always include wine and beer. It’s certainly cheaper than home and definitely more atmospheric!
This morning—our first morning in our new apartment—we awoke to brilliant blue skies and red-tiled roofs glowing in golden light.
After a great breakfast of fried eggs and mushrooms (such a relief after too many baked goods and croissants at hotel breakfasts), we strolled uphill (lots of uphill in the Alfama) through narrow cobbled streets to the Castelo Sao Jorge. Built by the Moors in the 10th Century and then conquered by the Christians in the 12th Century, the castle has an evocative history. Although largely rebuilt in the 1960’s, the castle still feels old. You can imagine the soldiers crashing up and down the towers and pacing the battlements. Take away the high rises and the bridges and the views they saw wouldn’t have been all that much different from what we saw.


The grounds of the castle are lovely—lots of feathery green pine trees, strolling peacocks, and cobbled walkways leading to ramparts and incredible views. The weather today is absolutely perfect—warm and sunny. It’s like a July day at home—not too hot, but certainly not cool. Aside from the rain storms a few days ago in Lisbon, we have been very lucky with the weather on this trip.

Now back at the apartment, Gregg will draw for the afternoon and I’m hanging out with the computer and also doing laundry. The small washing machine does an efficient job; I’m on my second load. Once the machine stops, I can hang the clothes outside the window on conveniently placed clotheslines to join the thousands of clothes flapping in the sun all over the city. It feels rather timeless to lean out a window and hang clothes to dry as women have done for centuries.

Our laundry drying in the Lisbon sun!

Tonight we plan to see some fado at a place in the Bairro Alto, not far from where we stayed for the our first three days in Lisbon.