All over Lisbon you see colorful homes with laundry hanging from every open window. Red roofs radiate against the overcast sky and provide a striking contrast to the blue water of the Tejo river. The way the buildings stand tall against the hill make it difficult not to compare Lisbon to our old home, in San Francisco. The street cars and bright red suspension bridge in the background only further echo the resemblance.
The local people are kind, laid back and diverse - in a homogenous sort of way. There isn’t a distinct look about them, but it’s clear everyone is European. They walk slow and observantly. They talk with their hands. They yell from window to window and laugh with a cigarette between their teeth. Among them are an equal number of tourists - many European and American. They spill onto the streets dodging trams, tuk-tuks, cars and more people.
It’s what makes Lisbon easy, like San Francisco. A good city to cut your teeth on if you haven’t traveled much. It feels cultural without being overwhelming and has a certain allure that is agreeable to many.
For our first night in town we walked from our temporary home in Alfama to the Bairro Alto district. The streets are easy to navigate there as they were rebuilt in a grid after the major earthquake of 1755. Another peculiar similarity to San Francisco. Bairro Alto is a more cosmopolitan district – the walls a smooth baby blue instead of the crumbling pink you see in Alfama. A DJ played in the square while people sipped on cheap gin cocktails from a street cart. We got in line, but decided a cozy corner was more our speed for the evening. Mini Bar around the corner looked perfect. Set inside an old movie theater, the theme was adopted quite elegantly throughout. Act 1 - cocktails in the lounge. Act 2 – deciding on the tasting menu because we were already tipsy and overwhelmed with the options. Act 3 – minds blown after 3 hours, 8 courses and a bottle of wine. The final scene – trying to figure out how exactly we were going to get home.
In the time we had spent indulging ourselves, the streets had emptied completely. Only a few lovers remained, sitting on the many steps that decorate the city hills. We couldn't spot a taxi anywhere and decided instead to walk the mile or so home. Even when dark and deserted, the city always felt comfortable and safe.
It is, however, quieter in Lisbon than we are used to. And so I often forget there is a romance that exists in the absence of sound. An exchange without words that seems to move between people with more fervor, more passion. The other senses compensating instead. Inhabited by the moment, we stopped to kiss under a street light. The the only melody I heard was Todd’s breath in sync against mine.
It is likely I am being a hopeless romantic, one day into a trip with my new fiancé, but it was a déjà vu moment. The setting all too familiar. The feelings all the same. Falling in love with the same amazing man atop this beautiful city. Just on the other side of the ocean.