Despite the fact that bars named "Fado" in America are of Irish theme, the musical genre of "Fado" stems from Portugal, its roots tracing back to the early 1800s. What's up with that Irish crap? No clue, but get it out of your head. Bars and cafes in the Bairro Alto neighborhood of Lisbon hold Fado shows night in and night out (A Tasca do Chico, shown in the photo above, is a great place to start). The inspiration for the music comes from loss and despair, but the vibe from the crowd is pleasantly uplifting. Because the music is slow and emotional, the performers alternate a few songs with 15-minute intermissions all night long, meaning you only give them a few moments of attention at a time. This leaves you with the opportunity to tend to another important matter -- making friends amongst the community-style seating.
"Pastel de Nata"
Pastel de Nata is an egg-based Portuguese pastry, typically "bite-sized" and filled with custard. You can find them at any pasteleria in Lisbon, so don't let too much time pass before you try one. You'll want as many days as possible to feast on these things. We had to limit ourselves to one (or two) a day.
Ginjinha is the local liqueur, and it has nothing to do with gin. It's made from the ginja berry, which is a fancy name for a type of sour cherry, and a whole lot of sugar. Like the Pastel de Nata, ginjinha can be found all over Lisbon and is enjoyed by locals in shot form during a night out.
Assuming you haven't filled up on Pastel de Nata and you're going out to eat in Portugal, be sure you're eating from the sea, as most of the local specialties come out of the Atlantic Ocean. "Cataplana" is a traditional seafood dish commonly found in the southern Algarve region but widely available in Lisbon. Think seafood stew consisting of whitefish and clams with a spicy sauce. Dorada, or bream, is one of the more popular fish (shown above), grilled with salt and served whole and split open.
Okay, so Lisbon isn't officially San Fran's Euro cousin, but a quick look at the photos will show that the cities are strikingly similar thanks to the rolling hills and elevation change, the burnt-orange bridge, the nearby body of water (a river in Lisbon's case), the old-school trolley cars and the densely populated neighborhoods. Lisbon is about half the size of San Fran (825K as compared to 474K) and the two cities have over 5,000 miles between them, but from the right vista at the right time of day, they don't seem so far apart.
Not a bad first date, right? Next, we'll look at the different neighborhoods of Lisbon and what you can expect to find in each of them. Stay tuned!
[Photos: Ryan Dearth for Jaunted/Will McGough for Jaunted/Wiki]