My second impression of Lisbon is that it is a great place to go off one’s diet. And I’m not just thinking about the luscious custard tarts for which the city (the country?) is known . . . although they have to be pretty much at the top of my list, along with at the sides of my hips.
Being fundamentally lazy tourists, I decided, while still in Salem, that it would be a good idea to book a couple of walking tours for our time in Lisbon. Going on a walking tour eliminates the need to do any homework or lug about any guidebook You just follow along and listen . . . and eat . . . and drink. And, in Michael’s case, admire the guide.
It turns out that Portugal has lots to offer in the way of wines, cheese, cured meats, seafood, etc. We began our tour at a tasca (pronounced tash-ka) right off of Rossio Square (I won’t pretend to know how to describe it’s pronuciation) with a generous sampling of “green” wine from the Douro region and fried cod cakes. The vinho verde is a very young, sparkling wine, served chilled, and is delicious. The cod cakes, made with the ubiquitous dried cod, were creamy and yummy.
From wine and cod cakes we wandered off until we found ourselves in another shop, seated around a big table (there were 12 of us) sampling white wine, cheese and portuguese chorizo. Then on to another establishment for red wine and more nibbles. We stumbled on and were taken to an authentic Portuguese mini-market. Authentic meaning full of hand crafted Portuguese foodstuffs and mini-market meaning it was a tiny hole-in-the-wall type of place. Port was served along with a special sheep’s milk cheese and a menbrillo-like substance but not made with quince).
Not having consumed quite enough alcohol yet, we found ourselves outside a ginjinha shop, apparently the original purveyors of ginja, the sour cherry brandy beloved of the Portuguese. Dani bought a large bottle, brought it out into the square along with little plastic cups and we stood around sipping (slurping, swilling . . . you pick the term) ginja and learning about the church that stood nearby. We also learned that in Portugal the legal age for drinking in 16 for beer, wine, and ginja and 18 for everything else. Why so young? Because there isn’t an alcohol abuse problem among the young.
Our final stop was at a lively restaurant for more, yes, you guessed it, wine, meats, cheeses and bread. All in all a great way to spend 4 hours of our first day in Portugal