Castelo de São Jorge
A view of Lisbon by a young American in Madrid who crossed the western border for the first time.
–By Abigail Weinberg
Photos: William DeLay & A. Weinberg
My first time in Lisbon, the city struck me as a European San Francisco: steep hills, colorful buildings, trolley cars, and the ocean ever-present on the western horizon — not to mention the orange Ponte 25 de Abril (25th of April Bridge), the spitting image of the Golden Gate.
My boyfriend and I spent 48 hours in Lisbon in search of food and sights. We got our fix of seafood at Cervejaria Ramiro at Avenida Almirante Reis 1. I’m no food critic, but we feasted on fresh shrimp, crab, prawns and Manchego cheese for around 80 euros, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to get a taste of Lisbon at a decent price.
Portugal is known for its cod, or “bacalhau.” I hail from Massachusetts, so, naturally, Cape Cod is my favorite place in the world, and this fish has a special place in my heart. I tried my cod as Bacalhau à Brás: shredded cod with onions, potatoes and scrambled eggs. There are innumerable ways to cook cod, but I was certainly satisfied with the one I chose.
As for sights, the most impressive was Castelo de São Jorge, a medieval fortification built by the Moors and subsequently captured by the Christians during the Second Crusade. As the legend goes, Martim Moniz sacrificed himself in 1147 by wedging his body between the closing castle doors so that the Christians could make their way in and complete the siege of the castle. The building itself is a testament to the Moors’ architectural skills, and its location at the top of a hill affords a spectacular view of the city.
The area around the Praça do Comércio was rebuilt in the 18th century following an earthquake and tsunami that destroyed the part of the city closest to the Tagus River. The district, called “Baixa Pombalina,” was designed by Eugénio dos Santos and has a spaced-out, modern feel. This was the most touristic area I visited, but the crowds of people were by no means overwhelming. Due to the heavy tourism, nearly everyone in Lisbon speaks perfect English, so there was no need for me to try to communicate in Spanish or to pantomime.
My short time in Lisbon left me wanting more. I didn’t have time to visit the Belém district or the famed castle in Sintra, but there’s always next time!
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