Much as we enjoy watching our little man learn to physically navigate the world, the most interesting development, which has crystallized over many months, is how he already has figured out to modulate his behavior when he interacts with us. It almost feels as if he has developed a hierarchy of love, instinctually knowing how to tug at our heart strings to maximize the TLC we shower upon him.
Alfama is a colorful maze of crooked streets that extends down the slope from the old castle all the way to the Tejo River below. There is no better way to catch a glimpse of Lisbon’s soul than by spending an evening in this, Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood, listening to fado.
Crossing the Tejo River and heading east from Lisbon, one enters the province of Alentejo — a sleepy land of whitewashed villages, rolling vineyards, and traditional farming with a focus on cork manufacture and a multitude of pork products. In warmer months, it would make for a great road trip destination for anyone interested in wine, good food, and local culture. As our Portugal vacation took place in January, we simply paid a visit to Évora, Alentejo’s capital city.
The first time D visited Portugal was a dozen years ago on a weekend trip from Spain organized by his study abroad program. He remembered enjoying the visit without being able to recall any details other than that he spent an afternoon in Sintra seeing palaces. With its UNESCO World Heritage status, an overabundance of ancient regal buildings, and easy access to mountains and nature hikes, Sintra is an easy and rewarding day trip for anyone seeking to escape the hustle and bustle of Lisbon.
“We meet the places we wind up loving much the way we meet the people we fall for: on purpose and accidentally; at precisely the right moment and exactly the wrong time; in the highest of spirits and the lowest of moods,” wrote Frank Bruni about Lisbon for the NY Times. As he quickly discovered, Lisbon is easy to fall for, whether one intends to or not.
Ever since watching Banksy’s documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, we’ve tried to keep our eyes peeled for some of the pioneer urban artists whose surreptitious stencils, tags, and paste-ups add vibrancy to sometimes drab city neighborhoods. We still have not come upon any of Space Invader’s tile work or the once ubiquitous Obey posters — the brainchild of Shepard Fairey, who prior to creating the Obama Hope design dedicated himself to plastering innumerable city walls the world over with posters of André the Giant. Though the names of the artists who have applied their skills to Lisbon’s walls are less well known, the city is the most graffiti-friendly metropolis we have ever visited, and some of the artwork is nothing short of brilliant.
After experiencing the nightmare of dealing with a jet-lagged baby, we resolved not to travel across time zones until it was time for us to leave Moldova. So when S’s parents suggested taking a winter trip together, there was no question as to who would have to cross the Atlantic. We considered various destinations, but given the difficulty of flying out of Chisinau, and the fact that we wanted to escape Moldova’s sub-zero temperatures for somewhere both warm and close, our choices were rather limited. We settled on Lisbon because it was about as close to a midway point between Moldova and Maine as we could find and, more importantly, because it is one of Europe’s pleasantest cities to visit in winter.