The nice weather is a good excuse to party in Lisbon. The food is good, the ladies are slender in the wind, and the men with somber mood need a drink or two. Austerity measures or not, it is imperative to stay merry until dawn, or to talk it through a night of revelry in the forever young streets of Lisboa.
The Zona Ribeirinha (waterfront), better known as Docas de Alcântara, provides harmless entertainment and lots of fun. The docks are lined up with bawdy restaurants, cafés and discos. We've never eaten there and never will because the food is priced for tourists, and isn't the good local stuff we like. But it's worth having some drinks by the water after supper and before going to night clubs. One thing about going out Lisbon style - after eating supper at a restaurant (until about 11 pm or so), then going for a drink in a nice place (until 12:30 am or so), you will still be nearly first to get to the nightclub. Things get warming up about 1 am, get nice and fullish about 2 am, and are somehow cruising about 3 am, maybe later. This is good because when you leave at 6 am or 7 am you can catch a nice warm pastry in the coffee shop which has just opened for breakfast. We don't need to taxi home, we can just take the metro straight to work and help pay back Portuguese sovereign debt after a good night of relaxation!
Fado and Saudade
Fado is part of the Portuguese soul, fado tells life as it unfolds. It may sound a cliché, but be warned, it is not. Influenced by Latin American and African ties, fado was born sometime at the beginning of the 1800. Fado is sung life and fate as the lights are low and the audience and the performers share an understanding of music and poetry.
Fado can be popular or exclusive, sung for rich merchant princes or poor toiling farmers. Fado is melancholy. Even if you don't understand the words, you understand the meaning. Being away from home, from loved ones, waiting for better days. For a few fleeting instants, you feel something different before you got back to the daily reality of austerity measures.
You can hear fado done up, in special fado houses which are first rate and highly expensive restaurants, or go to some smaller, cheaper places where the fado is sometimes of dubious quality and where you get a mix of good and not-so-good singers. These smaller fado houses are also little restaurants, but you don't go there for the food. The food is better and cheaper at the usual restaurants next doors. Go have a big fat tuna steak at the usual corner restaurant, then go to the fado house for a bottle of wine, some bread and olives while listening to fado.
Head out for Bairro Alto and gritty Alfama. Roam the streets and maybe you will come across hidden treasures, nondescript fado houses, unknown singers with golden voices. Some lights, some voices and music, take a seat if you like. We don't bother booking seats for fado. Let fado and serendipity book you. Try Rua Sao Miguel, maybe around number 20, You would walk past this casa do fado without giving a second glance. Located opposite Sao Miguel's church, the small establishment remains unchanged and traditional, yet truly modern in its identity. You need a heart and a brain to be a good fado performer. The star singer of the evening is an enigmatic Lady who has consistently dazzled audiences of Lisboans. Where is she from wonders Pedrito...
A word from Pedrito and chum about etiquette: when the music starts the chitchat stops and the cell phones are off. The fadistas (fado singers) are singing to you, sharing songs of sorrow, and they are not in the business of doing background music.
Beaches - From Lisbon to Cascais
Within a half hour commuter train ride from central Lisbon (Cais de Soudre), lie the beaches of Estoril and Cascais. This world famous strip of beaches is popular with Lisboans and royalties. Here you will see the casino, and the bare all ladies and lords. The train (Linha de Cascais) drops you right off at the beach at Estoril.
Three hundred meters right on the promenade is Jonas Bar, a great Brazilian restaurant and café. It's been around a while but their website is still mainly in Portuguese and still mainly under construction. Chill out here, have a freshly squeezed juice (or a pitcher of beer) while listening to some samba tunes. The fare is good and simple, finger foods, pasties and burgers if you have an appetite. It's a relaxing view on the beach and you may want to watch the sunset as the bar closes at 8 pm.
Move on leisurely towards Cascais for a swim at the beach. We recommend the beaches of Cascais because they still have the European Blue Flag label for environmental quality. Estoril lost its label years ago, probably too busy with Formula one to bother with water quality. Estoril is still a bit too crowded for Pedrito's taste. It's at times a tasteless meat market.
Later in the afternoon, leisurely drift from Praia de Cascais to the town itself for some Frango no Churrasco (roast chicken). There are plenty of sidewalk restaurants to choose from on the main road leading to the little fishing harbour. Check out the Gnarfgnarf Lisbon Eat pages on tips to hearty Portuguese cuisine. It's close to heaven as you enjoy with your fingers chicken with a bit of lemon, and a drink with a view on a beautiful sea. The colours are real, you're not dreaming. Welcome to Portugal!