Exploring the Alfama

Posted by Nicolas Moreau on

May 26th

Our drive to Lisbon was rather eventless thanks to 'Nanda's'reliablility and at our caution to stay out of the way of the extremely fast drivers that would sometimes appear in your rearview mirror. The two and a half hour drive felt pretty short. We spent the whole time talking and reliving last night's events.

from marfa made it to the alfama

Jess makes it to the Alfama

We arrived in Lisbon and made route for the Museo de Fado where we were set to meet a boy named Isake who would give us the keys to our Airbnb in the Alfama neighborhood. Arriving at the museum, on the edge of the Alfama we were both already in love with the place and couldn't wait to explore. We posted up outside the museum waiting for the boy. Shortly after being told I could not sit on the railing, I saw a man get up from on of the cafés and walk towards us. It became very clear that our 'boy' was a 'man' as he crossed the street to greet us. After introducing ourselves, Isake showed us to our apartment. It was a short walk and was part of a tourist attraction / monument. In the the Alfama, apartments are rather small and a lot of people don't have washers and even less have dryers. In the neighborhood there used to be 'lavatorias' where the locals would gather and wash their clothes. Today there is only one still running and on a weekday you can observe three older Portugese women washing peoples' clothes by hand while listening to Fado and other Portugese tunes. Our Airbnb happened to be right next to it, on the ground level (actually a little below ground), with windows giving on the lavatorias. It was really cool. Isake showed us the details of the small apartment. The wifi in the apartment was a portable device we could take inside and out, however it worked really poorly inside. Because of that we never tried outside but looking back I bet it worked well. Once Isake gave us the keys and we settled in we decided to go explore. 

Walking up the narrow street we were already in love with the beauty of this neighborhood. With no destination in mind we just meandered the maze of the Alfama. The beautiful Moorish architecture of the winding streets is punctuated by narrow cobble stone streets filled with 'tascas', cafés and Fado. While there are a lot of tourists wandering the streets there is still an abundance of locals smoking cigarettes, talking to their neighbors, enjoying an espresso or hanging their clothes from the lines that come out of the windows and criss-cross the streets. To me the beauty of the Alfama is watching the way of life amongst the beautiful surrounding. We walked for a while until we realized we were hungry and in a need of a drink. We stumbled upon a neat little café named Arte Final Petisqueira located behind the Casa dos Biscos,  a literary foundation dedicated to Jose Saramago's life & work.

the streets of the alfama

The winding cobble stone streets of the Alfama.

arte final

Arte Final

The cafe had just opened as it was only 4pm and we were the only patrons. The speakers of the café treated us to some David Bowie and the owner would sometimes switch records by pulling out a new LP by the coffee machine. Jess and I both loved the atmosphere. The place was neatly decorated. There was a bookshelf by the window full of design books and Portugese literature. The walls were decorated by interesting  artwork. The owner was really nice and he explained to us a little bit about the neighborhood and Lisbon. We ordered some sardines and tuna with wine and beer to wash it down. After that we ordered Ginza, the local cherry liquor. It was tasty and sweet although it's the kind of drink you just have with dessert or once in while.

Leaving Arte Final, we kept climbing the streets of the Alfama, still in awe of it's beauty. Soon we saw the famous Tram 28 and decided to ride it the next day. Picture a San Francisco tram with a yellow paint job, whizzing by on cobble stone streets in a 1,200 year old neighborhood. It's quite the sight. Speaking of sights, we were at Miradouro das Portas do Sol which offered a breathtaking view of Lisbon. It was now sunset and we had a drink while observing the amazing views. A bracelet seller came to talk to us and loved the fact that I spoke French. Mamadou was from Senegal and told me I needed to bring Jess to Senegal. After chatting for a bit he swiftly put two bracelets on our wrists and asked for money. I didn't mind because he really wasn't pushy.

tram 28 in Lisbon

Tram 28

miradouro das portas do sol lisbon

The view!

Our drinks now finished, we meandered back to the bottom of the hill to our apartment. We Facetimed with Tessa for an hour and then looked in the local magazine to find a place to eat. Having decided on a place, we hopped in a cab on our way to Barrio Alto, which wasn't where the restaurant was. However, we stumbled upon a Portugese burger joint that also was in the magazine. This turned out to be a wise choice given the night of drinking that was about to start.

streets of the Alfama

Our way back down to the apartment.

We made our way to Park Bar, a bar that was recommended by our friends Etienne and Hortense for the view and the unique location. The bar sits above a parking deck. Yes, a parking deck. Imagine you get off at the top floor of the parking deck, you keep walking up and lo and behold there's a bar on the top of the deck. We weren't the only ones looking for the place as a line was forming out of the elevator of a the parking structure. The view up there is stunning. We had a beer and a glass of wine before deciding to move on to Tequila shots. After a couple of Patrons, we were in the mood for dancing. We made our way onto the packed dance floor and had a blast. At one point, we tried to leave but the DJ started playing 'DNA' and we had to go back. Now ready to party some more we took the elevator back down and struck up a conversation with two guys from England named James and Sebastian. Walking in the same direction, we decided to hit up one of the many bars in Barrio Alto. Where we ended up I have no idea but what I do recall is live music, people smoking indoors and cheap booze (a shot of gasoline tequila was €1.5). Around 4am, we decided to part ways with James and Sebastian with promises to do it again the next night. We hitched a cab back to our 'bat cave' and went went to bed. 

Jess showing off some product in Lisbon

Have you been to Lisbon? Please share your story with us!



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