35. If everything was as easy as finding a handsome and charming guy in Portugal… I must admit our sample size was small and biased towards waiters in restaurants and random guys on the streets. But who can resist their luscious hair, dark eyes, well-groomed beard, gorgeous smiles, and athletic look? I’ve read somewhere that Lisbon is one of the top 10 cities with the world’s best looking men. I would extend that to Porto as well. For more insight on Portuguese men, check out this article. Too bad we did not get any hot date during our one-week trip. I was too shy to ask for any photo, so please use your imagination or Google.
36. Fado music can be described in one word – emotions. We did not have time to visit any fado house in Lisbon, but got to see some outstanding fado singers at Casa da Música in Porto. Even though I did not understand a single word, I was captivated by the intense emotions displayed by the singers. I guess with Fado, it is less about listening, and more about feeling. Feeling longing for a long-gone lover, feeling nostalgic about the past, feeling hopeful for something you have no control over… The Portuguese have a perfect word for this – saudade – ‘the love that remains’.
37. Portuguese does not sound like Spanish at all. Actually it does not sound like any other Roman languages. It’s difficult to explain, but Portuguese is like a blend of English, Spanish, and Italian, with a giant dollop of French. Very interesting! Even more interesting is the fact that many Portuguese can understand and even speak Spanish, while most Spanish don’t understand Portuguese at all.
38. The deeply entrenched rivalry between Lisbon and Porto is fascinating and amusing at the same time. SL Benfica & Sporting CP from Lisbon are archenemies of FC Porto in Primeira Liga. Lisbon’s Sagres and Porto’s Superbock beers compete head to head in restaurants and bars. Lisbon has their Festa de Santo António to celebrate their patron Saint António, while Porto throws their own street feast Festa da São João for their patron John the Baptist – both are in June. The list is endless.
39. Yet, we met an Uber driver called António, who was born and bred in Lisbon but loves Porto more than his hometown.
40. You can board a train in Lisbon, take a nap, and wake up in Porto.
Oriente Station in Lisbon features a leaf-like canopy that makes the station airy and bright
41. Many houses, churches, stations, and street name plates are covered in pretty azulejos (tin-glazed ceramic tilework). Blue and white designs are the most popular. These tiles are not only decorations but also a part of the buildings.
42. Every street corner has something interesting. Lisbon is very famous for street arts (a fact that I was totally ignorant of and now fully regret). If I have a chance to go back to Lisbon one day, I will surely check out those amazing art works.
43. Even rubbish bins are painted so beautifully.
44. Most houses in old town Lisbon and Porto are painted in warm colors such as yellow, orange, pink, etc., which creates a beautiful contrast against the deep blue sky of early summer and makes every photo look like a postcard.
45. People still hang their laundry outside their balconies.
46. There are many flea markets around Lisbon and Porto where you can find anything under the sun
47. Almost everywhere you go, you’ll see cobblestone pavements. In some large public spaces such as Rossio Square in Lisbon, the cobblestones are laid out in intricate designs, which are a feast to the eyes.
48. You can drop into a random café in old town Lisbon at noon during the weekend and find old men sitting around sipping liqueur as aperitif before their lunch. If you are lucky like us, you’ll come across a really chatty old soul, who will give you some liqueur to taste, tell you his life story while helping the owner clean the tables, show you where to buy a transport card, and stop the right tram for you.
49. Transport cards in Lisbon look like a name card from a creative agency with beautiful designs. You can only see the embedded chip by holding the card up against the sun light.
50. Some Metro stations in Lisbon are so deep underground that you feel like you’re going to the centre of the earth
51. Trains and metros have only 3-4 coaches, while trams have one single coach. So choosing where to stand at stations is a highly strategic decision. Or you’d better have long legs.
52. Tram power lines criss-crossing the blue sky look like spider webs
53. Tram 28 in Lisbon takes you to a viewpoint with the best panoramic view of the city’s old town. The only thing left to do is to sit down, soak in the breath-taking view, and enjoy some reggae music by street artists.
54. There are nearly 2,000 jacaranda trees lining the streets of Lisbon. We were there in May, and some streets were already lit up with the purple blooms. So pretty!!!
55. Most cafes and restaurants are independent stores with their own unique styles. We only saw one Starbucks during the whole trip. Given the omnipresence of big chains like McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, Starbucks, Pizza Huts, etc. all over the world (even in heritage sites such as Siem Reap), it is such a great joy to travel in an European country without seeing those chains.
56. Time Out market in Lisbon is the best place to get a drink and some mouth-watering dishes, and marvel at all the beautiful people Lisbon has to offer. The place is now the top attraction in town, receiving 2 million visitors a year, nearly 4 times the population of Lisbon city.
57. Tagus river is so big that we had a hard time figuring out whether we were looking at that river mouth or the Atlantic Ocean.
58. The mighty Praca do Comercio (Commerce Square) is a reminder of Portugal’s wealth, power and influence in the past. Standing at the square looking out into the Tagus river (or the Atlantic sea? I’m still not quite sure), then passing under its great arch, I could not help imagining fleets of ships flocking in and out of the harbour, loading and unloading spices, silk, porcelain, and treasures from around the world.
59. The Portuguese Parliament is housed in a palace (Palácio de São Bento)
60. You can find two UNESCO World Heritage Sites within a short distance from each other in Belem district of Lisbon
Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos monastery)
Torre de Belém (Belém Tower)
61. Belem has a bridge that looks deceivingly similar to San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge.
62. Portugal is probably one of best under-the-radar romantic destinations. Seeing couples holding hands, hugging and kissing against awesome backgrounds such as Belem Tower (Lisbon) or Dom Luís I Bridge (Porto) was really sweet, but not so much fun for two single ladies. It was like the last drop that spilled the cup, and my travelling companion (for the past 5 years) and I decided to ‘break up’ for a year. Let’s see if it will help change our status.