If you are Brazilian, I imagine that visiting Portugal is akin to an adopted child meeting its biological mother. This was my experience as a pseudo-Brazilian. Suddenly, a whole lot of things made sense. The architecture, for instance. Deja-vu!
There was nothing I did not like about Lisbon except for the apartment in which we were staying. Ghastly. As it rained for four days straight and there was no central heating, it was like camping inside a refrigerator, the walls dripping with humidity. The Ikea bed with a trough in the middle sent me shuffling to the icebox of a living room early each morning; I could have sworn there was a pea wedged under the foam pad. My intention, when booking the apartment, was to teach my children how to travel on the cheap. They survived just fine but, alas, this princess missed warmth, comfort, and fully functioning circuit breakers. Who schooled whom?
San Franciso, Rome, Bahia, and Rio all rolled into one is Lisbon. It made me realize how orderly and almost sterile Madrid is by comparison. One of four PIGS, the citizens of Lisbon were cheerful despite their dire economic situation. Our waitress at the Hard Rock Cafe was actually Brazilian, from the Flamboyant section of Campinas. Everyone spoke English. There is enough in Lisbon to keep one busy for at least a week: museums, churchs, sights, shopping, eating, day trips.
As great as all these things are, however, it is the little things that make a trip memorable.
Portugal is home to Real Madrid player and playboy Cristiano Ronaldo. I first heard of him sitting in a chair in Vagner’s salon in Campinas, Brazil in 2006. A fellow customer told me she thought he was a stone cold fox. He was all of 21 years old. I looked him up in my kids’ World Cup sticker book and was not impressed.
Now, of course, I am. Aside from his public spanking in last week’s game against Barcelona, he is due his accolades. He is hot. And Thing 2 wants to look like a blonde version of him. Plus, he needed a hair cut. To that end, we sought out a Portuguese barber.
Down the hill from our lodgings was a little shop. When we walked in one fellow was cutting an elderly gentleman’s hair and another shaggy-haired man was sitting on the bench reading a newspaper. We assumed we would have to wait in line. But no, the man reading the paper jumped up and motioned Thing 2 to the hair chair. Could he do a Cristiano Ronaldo? No problem!
The gentleman proceeded to drape Thing 2 with a cloth apron, pulling the drawstring tight around his neck. Then he took a shaving brush and daubed T2’s hair all over with water. At this point I had my doubts, but in for a penny, in for a pound. Out came the electric clipper, the likes of which T2’s scalp has not seen since he shaved his head for a BB gun a few years ago. A mohawkish V was left in the back. Then out came the scissors, whickering away.
The haircut took quite awhile, during which I noted that the barber’s name was “Orlindo” and his companion barber’s was “Ramiro”. The tile under Orlindo’s chair had also been worn away in a semi-circular path, a black swath cut into the red floor. Other men from the neighborhood, some nattily dressed, stopped by to put their names in the queue.
As the elderly man sitting in Ramiro’s chair left the shop, he leaned over T2 and smiling, told him that next time, he was going to get the Cristiano Ronaldo. Missing a tooth or two, his smile was no worse the wear. And that is what I loved about Lisbon: cheerful people during a dreary time, old men with a sense of humor, and a child who likes to live on the edge of a razor.
1) Cafe de Sao Bento for lunch or dinner. T2 said, “This is the best steak I’ve ever eaten in my life.” He is 14, but true that. At least in Europe.
2) Pasteis de Belem. Go early to get your breakfast custard cups, baked using a 500 year old recipe. Eating in the enormous dining rooms or carry out and sit on a bench in the park. They also have gorgeous croissants and muffins. Starbucks is next door for take out coffee but with PdB next door, it is a travesty to eat the SB food.
3) Don’t pluck olives off trees and pop them in your mouth. Wait ’til they’re cured. Duh.
4) Haircut = 10,50 euros. Barbearia Dois Irmaos,Travessa da Gloria, 24, Tel 21-346-0086.