We love travelling, cities and our blogging friends! So it makes sense that we would search for the best possible way to combine our three favourite things!
In a new series here on UrbanDuniya, we’re inviting our fellow bloggers to tell us about their favourite cities in the world! For our inaugural Urban Legends post, Ashray and Zara from Backpack ME are telling us about Lisbon!
Ashray and Zara (aka A&Z) are a couple from India and Portugal. Back in 2011 they quit their jobs in Dubai to travel around the world. Now they want to inspire everyone to travel, no matter where they come from. Backpack ME is all about a multicultural perspective on travel: http://www.bkpk.me.
What is your favourite city in the world, and why?
It’s so difficult to name just one favorite city… but we do love Lisbon!
When did you first visit the city, and what was your experience like?
Zara lived in Lisbon during many years and Ashray visited for the first time back in 2011, just when we started traveling full-time. It’s always interesting when you put two people together and one knows a lot about a place and the other one comes in with a fresh perspective. We ended up seeing and doing things most tourists probably won’t. But at the same time, we also ended up going around like tourists, which is something you rarely do when you live in a city for so long.
What is your idea of a perfect day in this city?
A perfect day in Lisbon takes place is Spring or Autumn, when the weather is mild and invites you to be outdoors. The morning starts with a walk by the Tagus River, appreciating the view all the way to the South Bank. A mid morning snack has to be featured in this “perfect day”, because when you are in Portugal, there’s always space for coffee and pastries.
The walk takes us to the areas of Baixa and Chiado, where the morning buzz of working people make us feel good about visiting, but not having to be an active part of the hustle and bustle. We take it easy, strolling around and doing some people watching. And, just like that, lunch time arrives quickly!
Because this is an ideal day, we do a long lazy lunch with petiscos. These are small servings of food, just like tapas in Spain, that allow us to sample more than one dish. We indulge in Octopus Salad, Peixinhos da Horta (deep fried battered green beans), Bolinhos de Bacalhau (cod fish fritters), Ameijoas a Bulhao Pato (clams in a buttery white wine sauce), a selection of cheeses and local bread. All these savories go down so well with a glass of Portuguese red wine! Chocolate Mousse is definitely on the table for dessert.
And because the day is not just about eating (even though in Portugal you could keep yourself well entertained doing just that!), we are off to burning some calories walking up and down the cobblestone alleys in the traditional neighborhoods, such as Alfama. In Lisbon, the best plan really is to not have a plan. We don’t come to our beloved Lisboa to see specific things (even though there are plenty of museums and landmarks). What we really appreciate in this city, are the narrow streets that take you up to magnificent view-points and picturesque corners.
When the night comes down, we meet up with friends in one of Alfama’s al fresco restaurants. The menu is simple and features mostly fresh fish, grilled on charcoal outdoors. With a side of boiled potatoes drenched in olive oil and grilled green peppers salad, we’re happy to delight ourselves with some sardines and squid. Lisbon tastes like the sea, and we really enjoy that!
The night ends in one of the low-key Fado houses… far away from the touristic areas. We go to the hood of Alcantara and enjoy some typical live music from Lisbon. Just a singer and two Portuguese guitar players perform some of the most heart-felt and melancholic music this country has ever known.
A perfect day in Lisbon is all about indulging your senses: with the beautiful views, the deliciously aromatic food, and the sounds of the city, of the river flow and Fado music.
What’s your favourite place to eat in this city, and what dish is your favourite?
Our favorite thing to eat in Lisbon is grilled fish. Nothing beats a fresh and simple sea bass sprinkled with salt and pepper. Cooked in charcoal until the skin is fairly crispy but the inside is tender and fleshy. And like any good food in Portugal, with a generous drench of the finest of virgin olive oils. Grilled fish in Lisbon is very common and it is not necessarily expensive. You do not have to go to a fancy restaurant to enjoy it, because regular working class places serve it too. This is why we do not have a favorite place to enjoy this type of food, because it’s pretty much great all over the city. If you have around 10 euros, you can treat yourself quite reasonable around here. Add some Portuguese wine, like Monte Mayor from the Alentejo region, and let’s call it a party!
If this city was a person, what would he/she be like?
If Lisbon was a person, she’d be the typical shy girl who opens up slowly. Somehow mysterious. She dresses up with vintage clothes but accessorizes with modern touches. As you get to know her, you understand that she is deep and interesting. She has a lot to show you, because she takes the time to absorb her surroundings and share them with you. She takes things easy and loves mixing tradition and a certain old world charm with a contemporary outlook towards life. Over all, she is unique and fun.
Do you know have any insiders tips for visitors to this city?
We have recently published an article about how to travel in Lisbon on a budget, including tips for those who want to get acquainted with the capital of Portugal without breaking their travel budget.
Still, our best tip is not to plan too much when in Lisbon. Let the magic of the streets take you by surprise!
Is there anything you don’t like about this city? (be honest!)
We understand that Lisbon is often misjudged at the first sight. Many areas are humble and, in some of them, unfortunately, the old buildings are not well maintained. We have heard some visitors complain that this gives the city a “shady” feel – while others actually like this and believe this gives Lisbon a raw and down-to-earth feel. In any case, we think that a better preservation job could and should be done in certain areas, because it’s a shame that, in some cases, constructions with such beautiful architecture are rotting away. Fortunately, there has been improvement on this front, and we hope they keep it up that way!
If you could sum up this city in a word, what would it be?
Don’t forget to catch Ashray and Zara on social media;
Many thanks to Ashray and Zara for this awesome piece!