Impressions: sunny and warm, more conservative than Italy and Spain, sort of a halfway point between Madrid and Tunisia. Too much meat on the menu, a horrible place to be a non-seafood eater (nearly had a comical incident when I thought I was going to order chicken and rice, not knowing "polvo" was octopus), great desserts. Coffee on patios (tea for me), cherry brandy sipped out of plastic cups on the plaza, five million kinds of port, all affordable. Hills, water, mist, tiles, balconies, ceramic cobblestones, songs coming through shuttered windows, hippies, ham sandwiches, hot soup, the flustered hostess at the fado restaurant, music floating across the water at the marina from the Cuban bar as we left to catch our plane.
We didn't actually do much touristy stuff, opting for relaxation and following impulses. This meant Friday evening we were lounging in the Port Wine Institute at 11 PM (after a rather heavy dinner of steak and lamb), trying not to make fools of ourself given that many, many options were available for one Euro a pop. Saturday we slept in as late as we felt like it, hit the Confeitaria Nacional for caffeinated beverages and pastry, then went to the Saturday market in the Alfama. Three hours, one lunch, and a few Christmas presents later, we were finally at the Castle, where we poked around and imagined and I spent rather a long time in the courtyard listening to a lovely guitar player.
That night was our Fado excursion, which I think was less successful than I might have hoped for; we happened upon some sort of ill organized amateur night, which meant I paid too much for a dinner I didn't really enjoy and had very little music to keep me engaged. Every other club seemed to be having the good party, and I was left jealous and frustrated (with the faint bitter flavor of "ripped off" in my mouth). Oh well, at least the company was good and pleasant to be around, and I guess my biggest regret was that nearly every place we walked by was shuttered at midnight. The Alfama just doesn't seem to stay open as late as I might have thought.
Sunday ... gosh, the weather was nice. All I wanted to do was laze around in the sun all day. After we took the Santa Justa elevator (and had a nice cup of tea at the top), we walked around the Barrio Alto, which was shut tight as a drum on a Sunday - no Cervejeria da Trindade, no viewing the ruins of the Carmelite Convent, no visiting any ceramics or book shops. This meant we had a free ticket to say, "Fuggedaboutit!" and run off to the aquarium. (Yay shadowdaddy and his enthusiasm for seizing the day.) We had a pleasant slacker lunch next to the River Tejo in some kind of cafeteria (they said) where he had a nice Portuguese beer and we split an order of soup and Argentinian steak (with rice, beans, and mango). Then we strolled on to the aquarium, where we watched penguins, a giant, scary sun fish (seriously, it was the size of a rowboat), a sea dragon, glow in the dark somethings, Pacific sea otters (aw! homesick!), cuttlefish, little owie jellyfish, a presentation of "behind the scenes" (with fish surgery - not much difference between being valued surgery-worthy citizen and frozen shark dinner as near as I could tell), and piles of other critters doing their thing, including piles of small children sitting in front of the gigantic tank and being very amusing. We finally gave up and headed back to the hotel and then the airport, sorry to leave, but well-relaxed and psyched about having nice 20 year old Tawny and yummy cherry brandy (and cheese! cheese! cheese!) when we got back to London.
Speaking of which, I only got about 7 hours of sleep last night due to the trains not running between Clapham and Putney (huzzah), so I may be staying in tonight and breaking into my treats rather than going to my movie ... or maybe I'll go out anyway!
PS: Nearly finished Connie Willis' Light Raid this weekend - ace!