9.8.17

Lisbon, Portugal: The Alfama District

Lisbon: florid, effervescent, lovely. I recognized going in, Lisbon was a dangerous place. Dangerous for how much I knew I would adore it, how enchanting it's narrow city streets would be, how placid the city's personality. I wasn't wrong; I can say with certainty that Lisbon is one of my favorite European cities (and who is surprised? No one, I'm sure). We stayed in a sweet AirBNB in the Alfama District, the oldest part of the city. Our quaint apartment gave us ample access to the winding alleys, cobbled streets, cafes, and restaurants the area is known for.
If this photo of a sweet old lady feeding pigeons from her window doesn't embody the feeling of Alfama, I don't know what does. Everyone we encountered was friendly and helpful (a travel cliche, I know, but in this case true). We walked our entire stay in Lisbon, taking brief rides on the famous trams. The overall feeling of the area was unhurried; even the busiest street corners were relatively quiet, and we never experienced the loudness of cars honking or people shouting. As noted, Alfama is the oldest neighborhood of Lisbon; in 1755 one of the largest earthquakes in the world hit Lisbon (estimated magnitude of 9.0), and nearly the entire city was destroyed. Alfama, however, sits north on a hill, and remained intact through the disaster. This means that district is still dotted with architecture pre-dating 1755, which is pretty amazing. 
One of my favorite experiences was our first night in the city; I was exhausted from traveling, and Phil was enthusiastic about exploring the area. We compromised by wandering around the neighborhood for a few hours before choosing a cafe to eat an early dinner. As it turned out, the cafe selected was a venue for Fado, which is a traditional type of Portuguese ballad played with a 12-string guitar (listen to a sample here). The cafe was small, and it was early in the evening, so we were one of only two occupied tables. We got a private concert with two (very talented) guitarists and two (very talented) singers for nearly two hours. It was the perfect introduction to Portugal and the best way to start our trip (and end a long day). 
As you explore Alfama, you'll catch glimpses of the Tagus river, hand-painted mosaics and ceramics, and plenty of colorfully-painted homes. If you plan on visiting Lisbon, I highly recommend staying in Alfama; you won't regret experiencing its character first-hand. 

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