Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Lisbon ~ Findings ~ Initial Report

We needed to escape Paris for awhile and Lisbon called to us.  We'd never been there before and didn't really know what to expect.  So off we went to spend the month of March in a place we knew nothing about to experience things we had no way of preparing for.

Lisbon ~ Food
... with a huge steak there's no room for the veggies...
Steak price?  2.50Euro.  No joke.
Having spent the month of March, what we feel about Lisbon is probably best expressed by way of contrasts.  Paris against Lisbon.  Lisbon against Paris.  So here goes...

Lisbon ~ Drink
Organic porto... the same one Jude found in the US...
Weather -
Paris - Wet, cold, gray for winter months.  It snowed the day after we left.  It's been cold and wet the entire month.

Lisbon - Arrived to 60+F, clear, warm, sun.  Most of our days have been clear and warm, with only the occasional rainy day.

Lisbon ~ Tiger Prawn (before consumption)
Shrimp for lunch - just one - a Tiger Shrimp! - it filled the plate
People -
Paris - Reserved, conservative, and it takes time to get to know someone.  But once you've gained their trust, your friendship is nearly unshakable.

Lisbon - While it's far too early to know how people will be over the long haul, our initial contact with the locals has been wonderful.  Lisboans seem to be warm, open hearted, and quick to smile and talk.  Many people we've talked to seem to feel the French are snobbish and are difficult tourists to please.

Lisbon ~ Frangasqueira Nacional
The white was on sale for 1.89Euro
Restaurants -
Paris - Bistros are shutting down at a frightening rate.  The restos that are left tend to cater to tourists and leaves us with the strong impression that tourists can all too quickly be over-charged and served poor quality food since they won't complain and won't be back after their vacation is over.

Cafe - 2.50Euro
Entrecote pour deux - 60Euro (no sides)
Hamburger - 15Euro
Glass of red wine - 5-10Euro, depending
Mid-day formule - around 15Euro with soft drink (typically no wine)
Indian food - you have to go to the Gare du Nord area to find anything decent and you can spend 45Euro for two people for 2 dosa, wine, and desserts
Take-out BBQ - Ya, right.  No way, Jose.

Lisbon - The restaurants here cater to tourists, too.  But the wait staff are friendly (see "People" above) and the food is great.

Cafe - 0.60Euro
Entrecote pour deux - 29Euro with THREE beautiful sides (pumpkin/sweet mix, potato, fries, salad)
Hamburger - 6Euro
Glass of red wine - 1.50 to 3.30Euro, depending
Mid-day formule - around 8Euro with wine
Indian food - Oh man! Shrimp entree, salads, curried shrimp plate, wines, beers, desserts 30Euro
Take-out BBQ - Whole chicken 8Euro.  Rack of ribs + half a chicken 9Euro.  Sides are cheap, too.

Lisbon ~ Small Things
... from the farmers market - great bread,
sweet potatoes, chorizo sausage, and
two un-marked bottles of fizzy "green" wine...

Markets - 
Paris -
Faux filet pour deux - 15Euro - enough for dinner with leftovers for lunch
Chicken - 11 to 15Euro, depending - enough for two dinners and one lunch
Salmon - 15Euro - enough for two dinners
Lettuce - 1.10Euro each
Potatochips - 3Euro for a medium sized bag of Tyrell's

Organic red wine - 8 to The Moon Euros for table wine
Commercial white wine - 8 to The Moon Euros, depending
Commercial red wine - 8 to The Moon Euros, depending
Organic Porto - forget it, I've tried to find the bio stuff and it's seemingly impossible

For serious drunks - 1Euro/litre in the south of France, 1.5Euro/litre in Tours, 3Euro/litre in Paris - BYOB

Faux filet pour deux - 5Euro - two LARGE cuts with enough for 2 dinners
Chicken - 2.84 to 3.17Euro, depending - enough for two dinners and one lunch
Salmon - 5.03Euro for two HUGE steaks - enough for two dinners and one lunch
Potatochips - 0.99Euro - locally grown potatoes in LARGE bags - evil-good!
Lettuce - 0.50Euro each

Organic red wine - 4 to around15Euros for table wine
Commercial white wine - 1.89 to around 12 Euros, depending - ...and if you're at the Principe Real farmers market on the first Saturday of the month, there are folks who will happily sell you "green" wine in un-marked brown wine bottles for 2.50Euro - evil-good! with it's tart taste and light effervescence... or just go to a wine shop and see if the white Promessas on sale for 1.89Euro...
Commercial red wine - 2.89 to around 20 Euros, depending... the red Promessas is 2.89Euro - evil-good!
Organic Porto - 12.95Euro at the local Bio shop

For serious drunks - It's hard to beat the 1.89Euro Promessas white or the 2.50Euro "green" fizzy stuff from the Saturday Farmers Market.  However, it wouldn't surprise me if the Lisboans had their own well someplace hidden away where you could fill your own bottles for free.

Portugal looks like it's the "low cost region" of the EU.  No wonder the Germans and French reps in the EU have placed strict limits on how much Portugal can ship into the rest of Europe.  The EU is scared to death that prices would collapse and French/German farmers would starve from selling nothing.  The EU appears to have taken the American tactic of paying Portuguese producers _not_ to produce, just to keep their products off the market and the keep prices artificially high.  True story.  Such is the effect of the Deutschmark, er, I mean Euro, on the nature of "business" here in Europe.

Lisbon ~ Cake
... seen through a patisserie window...
Paris - Well, it is the capital of the French world, after all, so what language do you think is spoken here?  Parisians don't like to make mistakes.  The school marmes made sure everyone learns their place in the pecking order of culture and society.  So unless a language can be mastered perfectly, forget it.  English?  Out.  German?  Out.  Italian?  No way. OK.  In circumstances of extreme duress we'll speak some English.  But don't push your luck. 

Lisbon -   Surprise! Portuguese is definitely spoken here.  So is nearly perfect English spoken by much of the local population.  In the markets people start speaking English the moment they realize we're struggling with the Portuguese. Interestingly, when we sometimes/many-times forget which language to speak it turns out a great many Lisboans speak beautiful French, too.  I bought a hat and spoke only French with the kind sales-lady.  The bums on the streets beg in French to us.  On the other hand, we've had more than a few Americans who've tried to speak Portuguese with us.  No one is shy about speaking just about any language.

Lisbon ~ Dessert (porto + cake)
... goodness in two small packages - one dessert and one glass of porto -
a perfect way to end any meal...

Reality Check -

If Lisbon is so fabulous, why aren't we moving here?  Here are a few good reasons.  

To start with, this would not be an easy city to grow old in.  There are hills steep enough to make you weep.  Second, the sidewalks are narrow and slick.  The stone used to make the sidewalks are highly polished and, therefore, slippery beyond belief.  We're just one fall away from a broken hip.

Thirdly, the summers here can be hot.  With global climate change Lisbon is bound to only get hotter.  You couldn't live here during the summer without an air conditioner or an apartment up in Bretaigne.

Lastly, our friends are in Paris.  It's impossible to leave them.  As we've become friends with Parisians we've come to appreciate the depth and breadth of the experience.  We would have to restart our lives again.  It would be a long process to form friendships in yet another country.  Jude and I just aren't ready to go down that road.  No, not at this age.

For the shoulder seasons, however, Lisbon is just the ticket to happiness, health, warmth and sunshine.  I'm sure we'll be back.

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