It’s vitally important that I listen to my inner voice.
That quiet consciousness saying things like:
- “Don’t pick up that anvil; it’s too heavy.”
- “You really should stop drinking. Like, now.”
- “Swatting at that wasp will only make it angry.”
In Lisbon, my inner voice was working overtime, alerting me to the fact that this was not the place for me.Don’t get me wrong. It’s beautiful and charming and full of history. But I simply didn’t fit in. I was often reminded (and starkly aware) that I was either too old—or too young—for this city. Or perhaps both. Here’s why.
Lisbon is a melting pot of cultures. People easily slip from Portuguese to Spanish to French to English in the same conversation. People of all kinds abound. And, while there is an ever-present coating of conservative Catholicism, the place feels firmly rooted in progressive humanism. All of the things I love and value, right?!
Except most of those people are sexy and loud and mostly topless most of the time.
A younger, Panama-City-Beach-for-spring-break Mike would have loved this town. But I have firmly embraced my middle-aged self. And, frankly, I get a bit offended when the table of German twenty-somethings next to us decide to undress in the middle of lunch.
When I’m eating a sandwich, I really don’t need to see nipples.
But then there is the other side of the coin. I’m also too young for Lisbon. Generations of those rambunctious young people seem to skip the middle years and move immediately from lithe and sexy to elderly and sophisticated.
There were tons of senior citizens, smoking thin cigarettes like they were in the talkies, dressed sharply and eclectically, owning the room or the park bench and not giving a damn about anything.
People like this grand dame in whom Angela swears she found her spirit animal. “I can’t wait to be her!” she whispered as the lady took a seat next to us in the cafe.
I found a similar connection when I saw an elderly gentleman rise from his park bench, stride across the green with purpose, pluck a flower from the hedge, and hand it to a pretty lady before walking away without saying a word to her.
Poetic and beautiful and strange, this place.
But, alas, not for me. At least not yet.
Lisbon may be for you, however, no matter your age. So here are some of the things we did find most enjoyable.
The city is quite walkable with twisting, narrow streets full of sound and electricity. We sampled several tiny cafes serving a fusion of cuisines, with our favorite being the Roots Tapas Bar, a Portuguese-Asian-Reggae joint literally next door to our Airbnb.
If you’re into jogging, biking, or rollerblading, then this is the city for you, with nearly four miles of flat and occasionally shaded boardwalk running along the Tagus River. It passes through several small parks and sports a variety of bars and restaurants along the way.
We hiked all four miles one very hot day, beginning in the city center and ending at the UNESCO world heritage site of Belém Tower. Although the site was closed for the day by the time we arrived, we still enjoyed the view and appreciated the significance of the structure.
Do you love Lisbon? Tell us what we should see and do on our next visit that will help us love it more, too.