This Easter, I visited Lisbon for the first time. I was there to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of one of my best friends, so was expecting a week of willy straws, boozing before midday and a lot of giggles. I wasn’t disappointed – we bade farewell to Sian’s single life in style. But something else happened; something wonderful, strange and completely unexpected. I fell in love. Real love. The head over heels, crazy, ‘put a ring on it’ kind of love that the patron saint of hen weekends, Queen Bey herself, would probably sing about.
I fell in love with Lisbon.
It was unexpected because until Lisbon was announced as the destination for Sian’s hen do, I’d never even considered visiting. Never. It wasn’t that I hadn’t wanted to, I’d just never thought of it in the same way as other European cities. Cities like Paris, Rome and Berlin dominate the to-do lists of many travellers, presenting their virtues like incontrovertible evidence in a trial. But Lisbon? What was Lisbon offering? I knew it was Portugal’s capital, but not much more. Maybe it hadn’t shouted as loud about its must-see merits as its gobby neighbours. Or maybe I just hadn’t listened when it tried.
Whatever the reason, Lisbon’s residence in the shadows of its gargantuan European counterparts made the city’s welcome all the more special. Because where the pull of a city is often based on specific attractions: phallic wrought iron towers, symbolic walls, crumbling amphitheatres; the real joy of Lisbon was simpler than that. It was just being in Lisbon.
It was passing yellow trams creaking up the city’s steep cobbles.
Enjoying an al fresco bica, on a miradouro infused with the sweet citrus scents of blossoming orange trees.
Stumbling upon a local ‘library’ overlooked by faded façades adorned with azujelos.
Watching the rooftops ripple in terracotta waves from a sun-drenched terrace.
Quenching a heat-induced thirst with the floral effervescence of a Vinho Verde.
Savouring the satisfying snap of a spoon breaking into a Gratin de Queijo.
Relishing the wind’s warm whisper at Praça do Comércio’s waterfront.
Letting the brushstrokes of street artists act as a tour guide.
Watching the Castelo de São Jorge twinkle under a navy cloak.
That’s the joy of Lisbon.
A wise man once said that ‘the best things come from nowhere’. He must have been talking about Lisbon.