August in Lisbon. Once again, I am out of sync. The Locals have left Lisbon for seaside, and only us silly tourists remain. Summer heat and panting tourists. That’s what I love.
The weather, though, has been surprisingly nice. Highs of 28C (82F), with a constant breeze. I can’t speak for modern buildings, but the apartment I have rented was built with A/C in mind: open the front and rear apartment windows, and the wind gushes through. The cross-breeze actually has enough force to slam doors if they aren’t blocked open. I could get used to this.
The biggest problem I have with Lisbon is the hills. Constantly walking up and down the “seven hills” (São Jorge, São Vicente, São Roque, Santo André, Santa Catarina, and Chagas e Sant’Ana) is hard on the ol’ Achilles Tendons. These are the kind of hills where trollies must give way to funiculars and escalators. And then there is the eighth hill. Yep, they say 7, but there are 8! They forgot to mention Graça; naturally the tallest of the 8. Eight hills do give plenty of views and probably contribute to the breezes.
Life in Lisbon is peaceful. Drivers stop for anyone wanting to cross the road. Honking of horns is rare. Wine is very good and a good value for money. You can expect a generous pour. Portugues beer is good, whether Sagres and Super Bock, or any one of a surprising number of local craft beers. And, don’t forget that sweet, fortified wine by the name of Port. So good, I’m surprised it’s not illegal.
Food in Lisbon revolves around the sea. Portugal sits on the Atlantic, so seafood makes sense. Until you consider Bacalhau (dried and salted Cod), which is the national favorite. There’s a saying that you can prepare Bacalhau in 365 different ways. One recipe for each day of the year! Sure, but it is not local… What? Nope. In olden days, they would trade for it, or even send ships over to Canada to fish for it. I understand that dried and salted Cod stores well, and that it was cheap, so I get how it quickly became a staple. Today, it still stores well. Cheap? Not so much.
The big downside to life in Portugal, is the economy. Housing prices have doubled in the last few years, while wages have remained low. The government wants to keep wealthy foreigners from driving up housing prices, which makes some sense. They are also talking about shutting down all the Airbnb-type rentals, to make them available to locals. Also makes some sense, unless you’re a local renting out your apartment. The one thing government isn’t talking much about is raising wages. Sound familiar?
I am giving Portugal a thumbs up, even before I visit the north of the country. Stand by for more…