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  • Writer's pictureJeff Monday

Portuguese Adventures

Lisbon, Portugal at dusk

Oh Portugal.

It's been a little over a month since I returned from my Portuguese adventure and I still can't stop thinking about it. So many beautiful places and people. The food! The wine! The music! And, of course, so many ridiculous stories to tell.

I landed in Lisbon and got over to my apartment in Barrio Alto. Enthusiastically lost, tired and hungry, I had a couple hours to kill before I could get the keys so I wandered around, heavy duffel bag and backpack in tow. It was a beautiful day, 25-26 C (around 80 degrees F) and yet there I was hauling my stuff up and down those steep hills. Found a nice little sidewalk cafe and plopped down. Being freshly arrived and ready for adventures, I figured I'd jump right in and eat the local specialty, i.e. cod.

So, ordered a drink, ordered my food and leaned back to relax and take in the view. A few minutes later, the waiter dropped a dish down and...well, I'm not sure if it was because I had been up for almost 24 hours and was tired or my Portuguese isn't the greatest or maybe my Midwestern accent got in the way, but for whatever reason, I had apparently not ordered cod. Instead, sitting in front of me was the purple-est octopus I'd ever seen. It was if someone had sliced off half of Zoiberg's face and arranged it neatly between a salad and some potatoes.

Well, I wanted an adventure.

Barrio Alto, Lisbon at night

Turns out, it wasn't that bad. The suckers got stuck in my teeth though.

Later on, after dropping my stuff off, taking a shower and generally freshening up, I headed out to experience the sights and sounds. Immediately, I could see that Lisbon was a city of the night. As the sun went down, doors were flung open, tables were moved into the street and the air gradually filled with the sounds of Fado and Euro pop. The cobblestone streets and alleys there have a wine bar/tapas/mercado every other door, each the size of an American juice bar yet each hold more history than you can even imagine. At least until you've had three or four Aperols and talk to a local.

In the days that followed, I went to castles,

Pena Palace at Sintra

the coast,

Cabo da Roca

visited the Oceanario,

Oceanario de Lisboa

and hung out on beaches.

Praia de Carcavelos

I took a train to Porto and immediately fell in love with that city. Clinging to the steep banks of the Douro River, Porto is known for its wine, of course, but also the most ridiculous sandwich I have ever had: The Francesinha.

Porto, Lisbon

Remember when you were a kid and you were getting old enough to make your own lunch? And then there was that first time you didn't have any older brothers or sisters or parents around so you just went bonkers and put everything you could between two slices of bread? The Francesinha is like that.

The order may vary a bit but basically you start with a thick slice of bread. Not that it's going to help for anything but still. Then a layer of ham and cheese 'cause that's how you start any good sandwich. OK, next...let's add a layer of steak. Now, Don't go for the ground beef. That's lame. I'm talking a thin slice of sirloin. Now, how about we take some sausage, slice them length-wise and add that. Perfect! OK, another layer of ham and cheese and another slice of bread. Now let's fry and egg and put that on top. With more cheese.

And douse the whole thing in a beer gravy.

Now we got a sandwich!

Jardins do Palacio de Cristal

Anyway, thankfully there's a billion steep hills to climb up and down to burn off the calories. And if you have leftovers, you could probably give them to the peacocks begging in the park. Just be wary of the two-nosed dog guarding the stone maze.

But that's a story for another time.

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