Lisbon - A Windy Beginning

Tourists wait for trams in Lisbon's yellow painted, white columned historic district.

One year later and I still haven't shared anything about the second leg of my 2013 Spring trip to Europe. I spent the first five days in Venice, then four days in Lisbon. Both cities were beautiful, full of history, and well worth visiting. But if you ask me which city I would return to first? Lisbon, no question.

Venice is like a historical Disneyland for adults. Just about every restaurant and every attraction on the island caters to tourists. While perfect on paper (and in pictures,) the weather in a sunny Venice trended toward hot and humid. So the shift in climate to the breezy hills of Lisbon was more than welcome. And it wasn't just the weather. While Lisbon certainly gets its fair share of tourists (especially in Belem) there's a vibrant, lived-in feeling to the city that Venice lacks.

Tram 28 makes its way through the Chiado neighborhood in Lisbon, Portugal.

In the past I've been crazy lucky when it came to the logistics of travel. The essentials of lodging and flying all went remarkably smooth for my three previous cross-Atlantic journeys. All of that luck caught up to me last April, during this trip. In Venice my luggage was temporarily lost. I thought I might have to last the week on what I'd packed in my carry on  (luckily, plenty of underwear but not enough shirts.) Then in Lisbon, I was minutes from giving up and spending the night in a pitch black stairwell. Sure there were moments (hours) of extreme stress, but you know what? Everything turned out fine.

My first taste of Pasteis de Nata, or Portuguese Egg pastry, a delicacy sold at just about every cafe in Lisbon.
A sunny day in hilly Lisbon, Portugal.
Cafe con leche pairs beautifully with Portuguese, Pasteis de Nata.

In fact, after a good night's sleep in a comfy (full size!) bed with a big walk out window onto the bustling Chiado neighborhood, I was downright peppy. A late breakfast of traditional Portuguese egg pastry, aka Pasteis de Nata, and Cafe Con Leche later, and I was ready to take on Lisbon. The brisk wind off the water combined with Lisbon's hilly nature got my blood moving. Soon I was exploring the city's historical areas by foot and tram.

I bought a two day Lisboa Card in the central Tourism office, then stopped for some photos along the river edge before hopping on the famous Tram 28. The hop on, hop off tram creaks and stutters through Lisbon's hilly old town. First a ride through the Alfama neighborhood, jumping off to take in the views at several lookouts, or Miradors, along the way.

The red roofs of Lisbon and the River Tagus viewed from one of Lisbon's miradors.
Lisbon can be a grittily beautiful city, messy graffiti frames a lovely view of red roofs and historic buildings.

My memories of Lisbon aren't so much of what I did, they're all sense memory and feelings. Cool winds and glimpses of sun through fast moving clouds. White washed churches and red roofs. The taste of sugary egg custards shedding layers of buttery pastry with each bite. The heavy thunk and screech of Tram 28 skidding past lemon yellow and blue tiled storefronts, a whiff of ozone left in its wake. Four days wasn't enough.

Aged wooden doors surrounded by Lisbon's typical blue Azulejos, or tiles.
The interior of one of Lisbon's icon tram cars, note the 'Beware of pickpockets' sign.
Tram lines swoop down towards the shore of Lisbon's River Tagus.
White church, yellow building, a commonly beautiful sight in Lisbon.


  1. "My memories of Lisbon aren't so much of what I did, they're all sense memory and feelings." You totally put that into a sentence for me!

    1. That's so nice to hear! I'm so glad I visited Venice, it was beautiful. But honestly, I felt like I could breath again when I woke up in Lisbon, Venice was just so overwhelming!


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