Olá, from Lisboa. I actually enjoy learning and practicing Portuguese with patient locals. After the initial phase of learning the non-intuitive pronunciation, I think I am getting the hang of the language pretty quickly.
Before arriving, I read comparisons made between Lisbon and San Francisco. Aside from the Ponte 25 Abril, hilly/steep terrain of the city, and a cool breeze, to me, Lisbon is nothing like San Francisco. I wonder how locals feel about the comparison. Do they even care?
My first impressions of Lisbon were not great. I thought, and still think, the place is very run down, especially for a Western European capital. There are so many examples of once clearly grand buildings in varying states of neglect and disrepair, which is a bit sad.
I was surprised to see buildings located in the main commercial and tourist area of the city in such poor states.
Building facades are covered with azulejos (tiles), a result of the Moorish influence. This makes for a colourful cityscape.
The pavements are also covered in small tiles. On some pavements, the tiles are uneven, in others, the tiles are polished, smooth, and even. I found out that I fuckin’ hate them when it is wet. I was slipping and sliding and falling as I descended steep slopes, and felt like I was walking up scree (one step up, two steps down) when I walked up tiled slopes. Obviously my inability to have a perfect gait/left foot placement is a factor here, so something to note if I am ever in Lisbon in the winter (rainy) months.
I had/have quite a bit of time for my impressions of the place to be shaped and change. As a fish and seafood lover, the fish/marisco-heavy cuisine suits me well, as do the pastéis de nata – what we called Portuguese egg tarts in Hong Kong. And when you get tired of bacalhau and Portuguese food, there are some other kick-ass cuisines in town, like the Indian and Japanese food.
I can see how someone could like the “grittiness” of the place, and perhaps see its potential and opportunity. I do not know enough about Portuguese politics/economics/business development to know if this potential will be realised.
The enjoyment I derive from a place is never through sights, monuments, etc. etc. It is from engaging with locals, the feel of a place to me. Most Lisboans speak perfect English, but quite a few got a kick out of this Asian girl trying to practice her Portuguese with them. And a few of them have been patient enough to converse with me and correct me. One particularly patient and nice guy said it made him so happy that I was making the effort to learn/converse in Portuguese.
The Lisbon region has some nice sights to see, of which I will write about in future posts.