Atmosphere. Friendly locals. Charm. I only spent one night in Lisbon, but it was love at first sight. A visual wonderland, from the intricately patterned cobblestone, to the azulejos (tiles) that cover walls of churches, palaces, park seats, ordinary houses, fountains and railway stations.
Home to explorers Magellan and Vasco de Gama, and the Jesus statue who towers over the city. A mile and a half bridge built by the same company as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Working, vintage trolleys from the 1920’s. What I really loved, though, was the spirit of survival and rebirth Lisbon exudes because of its history.
On November 1st, 1755, All Saint’s Day, when most of the population was at church, the great Lisbon earthquake struck, leaving 30,000 dead and 2/3 of the city levelled. Candles quivered as far away as Ireland. After the quake, fires raged throughout the city, and a massive tidal wave hit the harbour. The was levelled to its core, and though it would take years to rebuild, Lisbon managed to rise back up from the ashes.
After roaming cobblestone streets of the Baixa district, we stopped at a quaint little cafe for a bolinho de bacalhau (cod fritter) and a glass of vinho verde. The locals at the next table were enamoured with my six month old daughter, eventually asking to hold her. I passed her over. She proceeded to be passed around the next few tables, as well as the waitstaff. She even went back to the kitchen to meet the chefs. I would have never thought I’d be comfortable with my baby disappearing with strangers, but Lisbonites were some of the most endearing and friendly people I’ve met in my travels. Even with a population of just under three million, Lisbon has the charm of a small town. But don’t take my word for it. Go, and let yourself fall in love.