Lisbon – First Impressions

“Lisbon is a sad city,” my friend said as we were looking down at the beautiful vista. “It’s because the men used to go out to sea, and the women would wait for them, but often they would not come back.” “So perhaps that’s why they wrote so much music about longing,” I said. “Fado is all about longing.” “I think fado is so melancholy because of the Moorish influence,” my friend’s husband said, though I still think the men lost at sea had something to do with it too.

So far I’m really jet lagged so it’s hard to tell if I’m absorbing the melancholy of the place, or just tired, or a little disheartened by seeing a very beautiful city I love overrun with rather predatory hordes of tourists, noticing that the locals seem fed up with all of us, even the ones like us who are hoping to savor the romance of the place without being a bother to anyone. As a tourism professional this is the question that always gives me pause: Is it possible to travel and to entertain travelers without ruining the charm and magic of beautiful places? Lisbon, to me, requires moments of quiet contemplation, and quiet is hard to come by these days. 16 years ago when I last visited, things felt very different, less crowded, more relaxed, friendlier by far.

Of course, the magic still seeps in. There was a 6am sunrise walk that turned into a simple yet very satisfying sidewalk breakfast of coffee with hot milk and a ham and cheese sandwich on a sweet coconut bun. There was a park with big giant trees from Africa. Y’all know I have a thing for African trees. There was lunch under a grapevine (ok, I’m lying, that experience was loud, crowded, and involved waiting in the sun, but it was satisfying.)

Tomorrow I will hopefully feel more awake and more up for things. For now I’m still a little wobbly. But I’m getting there.

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