Our Trip to Spain & Portugal: Part 2 — Lisbon

Our first night in Lisbon, we were exhausted from jet lag. We checked into the Sheraton (paid for entirely with points — thank you Starwood AMEX; this is why I love you). We promptly booked a dinner reservation with the concierge.

We had a drink and a snack (calamari) in the lobby, then went upstairs and immediately took a long nap. I woke up in a black fog, the concierge on the phone, telling me we had to leave in 30 minutes for dinner.

We ate at a romantic little place on a quiet street.

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Three kinds of salted cod (bacalao), the Portuguese national dish.

Salted Cod (Bacalao) Sampler Plate in Lisbon, Portugal

And we had a great bottle of Portuguese red wine.

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The next day, we stayed in bed, ate breakfast downstairs in the Sheraton lobby (coffee and a Portuguese pastry, Pastel de Nata), and then lounged around all day, sleeping and resting and just generally doing nothing.

That evening, we headed out to another restaurant. Sleep, lounge around, eat, drink, and sleep and then lounge some more. Exactly what I had in mind for this vacation.

Let me tell you something. If you go to Lisbon, especially when it's warm outside, take a cab. We walked, thinking we'd be all healthy, and you know, sightsee, and work up an appetite. Bad idea.

You see, the streets in Lisbon are super confusing. Winding this way and that, and there are no street signs anywhere. And I really think that whoever invented the Stair Master came up with it in Lisbon. They have some hills!

And you have this crappy map from the hotel that you can hardly read because the print is so small and you end up feeling like you're 150 years old because you're panting from the heat and your heart is pounding from the Stair Master hills and you can't read the effing map with the tiny print.

And did I mention that there are no street signs everywhere? (OK, yes, they have street signs, but unless you're a local, they're very hard to follow.)

Here's one of their cable cars, which seem to run only intermittently:

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Bottom line, take a cab. They are cheap in Lisbon. Walk around a museum or a park. Don't walk to try to actually get somewhere.

So anyway, that night, when we trudged up hills and were 30 minutes late to our dinner reservation (because it took forever to walk and we couldn't find it on the map), we were greeted with this:

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Yummy ice cold, sparkling wine. So refreshing! And just what the doctor ordered.

We ate outside, in the cool air. In a little alleyway.

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This was my view looking up from our table.

Here's the menu:

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An interesting tidbit — in Portugal they charge you for everything, including the bread and butter and cheese and olives you have before the meal. They are not free like they are in most countries.

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That said, it's still very inexpensive to eat in Portugal, so you don't really mind paying for these things.

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I got some bread and this delicious farmer's cheese. It was not raw milk cheese — it was pasteurized, but it was very delicious.

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I did love that all the cheese we had in Portugal was local. They were very proud of their regional cheese — and rightly so. It was amazing. At a fraction of the cost of cheese from France or Italy.

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As fabulous as their cheese is, their wine is just as good — or even better. And cheap!

Depending on what city we were in, we paid anywhere from oh I don't know, maybe $7-30 for a bottle of wine in Portugal. Yes, in restaurants.

And the wine was absolutely phenomenal. You'd pay $30-100 for a similar bottle of wine in America. Even with the exchange rate, we still came out way ahead.

Cheap and fabulous wine? I'm in heaven. Can I pack up and move here?

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This is Seth, feeling very relaxed and glad to be drinking wine and eating olives, bread, butter and cheese instead of trudging up those &^@%$#(* hills in the heat.

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Our first course: Grilled Sardines.

O.M.G. These were AMAZING! We ate all of them, heads and tails and all. The bones are small enough, and cooked through, so they just break up in your mouth.

I know, it sounds a little weird, eating fish bones.

Trust me. They were SO delicious. And when in Rome…

Let me tell you my favorite part of the sardines: the heads. When you bit into the heads, you got an explosion of salt. I am wondering if it's because the thyroid gland is contained in the head. Where iodine is stored.

I don't know, who knows? It was so ridiculously good.

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Me, feeling very relaxed, drinking great wine, eating cheese and bread.

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Seth had some kind of mixed seafood dish.

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I had the calves liver with braised cabbage and potato chips.

When I ordered it, the waiter said, “This is what the locals eat. The old people who have been living in this neighborhood forever.” Of course, then I had to have it.

I always order the liver if I think it's going to be good, and I was not wrong on this occasion.

I think I ended up eating liver or other organ meats 6 times on this 2-week vacation. I had foie gras three times, plus this calves liver, plus I had menudo in Spain.

Organ meats are just so much easier to find on European menus. We Americans are such wusses with our love for boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

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These were some French people sitting across from us. Smoking in between every course. (How do the French stay so healthy eating so many carbs and smoking and drinking like sailors? That is a whole ‘nother post.)

We did not run into a lot of Americans in Lisbon. Mostly French and British people.

Did we have dessert? Yes, I think so, but I don't remember. And I don't seem to have a photo. Maybe we didn't.

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We walked back to the hotel and sat in the lobby in their plush chairs in air conditioning and drank Port and ate potato chips and peanuts. Not like we needed any more food.

Stay tuned for my next post as we travel to The Algarve, Porgutal, the southern coast rife with beaches, sunshine and seafood.

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Ann Marie Michaels

I have 25 years of experience in digital and online media & marketing. I started my career in Silicon Valley and Los Angeles, working at some of the world’s top ad agencies. In 2007, after my first child was born, I started this little food blog which I grew to over 250K monthly unique website visitors and over 350K social media followers. For nearly 15 years, I've helped my audience of mostly moms and women 25-65 cook for their families and live a healthier lifestyle.

 The year after I started the blog, I founded a blog network in the health & wellness space called Village Green Network. I started the company on my coffee table and bootstrapped the business to over $1.3 million in annual revenue within 5 years. During that time, I helped a number of our bloggers become six figure earners. After being censored on almost every social media platform for telling the After being censored on almost every social media platform from Facebook and Instagram to Pinterest and Twitter, and being deplatformed on Google, I am now deployed as a digital soldier, writing almost exclusively about politics on my blog Cheeseslave.com. Because who can think about food when we are fighting the second revolutionary war and third world war? Don't worry, there will be more recipes one day. After the war is over.

19 thoughts on “Our Trip to Spain & Portugal: Part 2 — Lisbon

  1. Oh, I so know what you mean about trying to WALK your way to somewhere in an unfamiliar place. You end up trudging for miles it seems.

    Lovely food, glad you enjoyed it.

  2. please dont miss vila lisa in mexilhoeira grande between lagos and portimão, although they have had to cover the original dirt floor with stone, vila and lisa have kept the place authentic. there you dont even have to order, just enjoy their ten or twelve course meal which ends with ox tail consomme before the sweets explosion…
    also by the sea side, and near the full or new moon, ask for sagres perceves the most delicious sea ‘tasting’ food you will ever taste
    or in vila do bispo go to coelho if my memory doenst betray me, you lign up from noon until they open the door, sit everyone and proceed to lock the door until everyone has ended their meal. simple basic portuguese food where the nutrients and their tastes, and very little else, hold the spot light! enjoy!

  3. I visited Portugal and Lisbon 22 years ago when studying in Granada, Spain,. On a whim four friends and I rented a car and drove there over night, where we spent four fun days. It was great and I would love to go back. I still have pottery I purchased from roadside stands. That is the benefit of driving a car!

  4. Those sardines look awesome! My kids ate canned sardines for breakfast yesterday. I know, not the same. All of the food looks great. I love the USA but we are way to paranoid about everything, smoking, drinking, saturated fat, sunshine, and yet we don’t mind consuming chlorine and fluorine in our water, high fructose corn syrup, corn in everything, gmo’s, over the counter medications, etc., etc.! Maybe the so called “French Paradox” is not a paradox afterall, in fact we are the paradox, look at how we actually survive despite all of the above daily assaults (granted not very well). Anyway, love the post and the pictures, thanks!

  5. Wonderful! Sounds a lot like Prague– cheap food, confusing streets, and they charge for bread!

    Great photo of you, AnnMarie. You look very de-stressed!

  6. So much fun!!! I’m a self proclaimed wuss…so glad you enjoyed it though.

    When I lived in France 20 years ago, what I remember is that the French ate in moderation. They might have 1 slice of baguette instead of the whole loaf, etc. It just didn’t seem like they ate the quantities that Americans did.

    Can’t wait to read more.

    1. I would love to see your thoughts in a post, too. I suspect that smoking is probably no worse than all the chemicals and things in our foods, which the French get fewer of. I read somewhere that the combo of smoking and PUFAs is the biggest problem; not sure if that’s true, but it makes sense. While I am not planning to take it up, it is worth noting that the French woman who lived to over 120 years old smoked. It’s definitely not a certain killer or anything.

  7. Very cool! Yes, the organ meats. Ahem. We actually could have had tripe (and liver) numerous times on our trip to Italy, but I just couldn’t do it. I haven’t even managed to eat liver yet, much less tripe. And in Florence, we went to the Central Market where I got some great pics of the tripe all laid out in the butcher’s counter, and I’m pretty sure I will never be able to try it after seeing it like that, lol ;-).

    And yes, the smoking! I think we’ve gotten so used to not having to smell cigarettes over here that it took a little getting used to while we were over there. Most of the time, it wasn’t a huge deal, but our last night in Venice we were having this awesome dinner but had to deal with an entire family (all Italian) smoking constantly during our entire meal, and it got to be a bit much by the end.

    And the salted cod-I’ve seen it used frequently in my Italian cookbooks but have never actually tried it, so I was excited to see it on a menu in Rome and of course had to order it! It was good, just tasted like fried fish. I never did see sardines listed, but when we went to the coast (the Cinque Terre) I was all proud of myself for trying the fresh anchovies (I’m not the most adventurous eater, so this was a big step for me). They were okay, maybe not my favorite thing, but we got the salted kind which were a little strong-tasting. They were better eaten with some bread I thought.

    And yes, we paid for bread everywhere we went which they bring automatically whether you want it or not. But, we didn’t have to tip, so we just looked at it as essentially paying for bread instead of a service charge.

    When we were in Venice, we met the sweetest couple from Barcelona who were telling us all about why we should come visit Spain. I can see many more trips to various parts of Europe in our future, so much to see!

  8. Lovely photos.

    I live in France, and have no idea how they have a reputation for being healthy. Skinny, yes but nowhere near healthy. France is the world’s largest consumer of medication, after all! My friends here may be tiny but they’re always ill while I stay curvy and in good health. I wouldn’t trade their bodies for mine.

  9. And another thing about the French (I don’t mean to attack a whole country but I don’t want people idolising a culture that eats so badly!)…it’s a myth that they eat lots of butter, cheese, cream, etc.

    Many households are as obsessed with margarine & low-fat cheese as Americans. I often get told off by my french in-laws for buying real butter, ham with the fat on, etc. People eat foie gras at Christmas or for special meals but many eat diet foods, vegetable oils and lots of sugary pastries the rest of the time.

    1. That is a recent trend.

      Most French people I know (I have French friends who were born there, and still live there) still have no qualms about eating croissants, full-fat cheese, creme brulee etc.

        1. Yes, good quality croissants contain a lot of butter. The average corner boulangerie, however uses margarine in their croissants & other pastries (I asked: it was to cater to customers’ “healthy eating goals”). Unfortunately, you’re right. This is a modern trend & looks like it’s not going to go away.

          1. I personally go out of my way to avoid croissants made with margarine. I’m very picky about my pâtisseries! (I have been known to walk a mile in freezing rain to go to a specific pâtisserie.)

            This is what David Lebovitz has to say about it:

            Whatever pâtisserie you visit, be sure to only ingest a true croissant au beurre, which has that unmistakable smell of deeply-toasted, caramelized-crunchy French beurre. Stay away from croissants ordinaires, which are made with margarine and are, oddly enough, usually crescent-shaped, but to the extreme.

            Source: https://www.davidlebovitz.com/2007/02/the-best-croiss/

  10. I cannot believe how great you look, the change in your entire presentation is very fascinating. You look like you are in your mid twenties, its really quite amazing! Congratulations on your health, you look fabulous!

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