Mondays are never fun, but it doesn't hurt that I'm still coming off the high of a pretty outstanding weekend of birthday celebrations in Lisbon. Yay, Portugal! A couple highlights for when I'm old(er) and gray(er) and will have long forgotten....
Friday morning I landed in Lisbon - losing my Portuguese virginity in the process - and since my boyfriend wasn't arriving until late in the evening, I had the day to myself to play. So I took one of the fun trams along the coast to the region of Belem, admiring the Tower of Belem, Jeronimos Monastery, and, yes, helping myself to a few traditional custard tarts at Pastéis de Belem. Beautiful monuments and yummy snacks - what wasn't to love about this neighborhood?
Unfortunately, it then started to rain, so I hopped a bus to the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, which not only kept me dry, but also allowed me to fold down another page in my 1,000 Places to See Before You Die book, thereby giving me the usual shiver of excitement. I'm not a huge art museum fan, but this was a good one, and hey, once I was done, the rain had stopped!
So then I set about finding dinner and landed on one of the many tourist trap-y places in downtown that happened to offer Fado music as entertainment. Now, I'll grant you that the food wasn't superb. That octopus dish had so much garlic in it, it was more like they'd served me giant cloves of garlic seasoned with a touch of octopus. But the music? Hauntingly beautiful. And sitting on a terrace in mid-November listening to a sweet old Portuguese woman belting out dramatic, sad songs with gusto? Was pretty awesome.
Then I made it back to the hotel and set up camp to wait for my boyfriend to arrive ....
... Which he did, just after midnight, meaning YAY, BIRTHDAY TIME!!! Because he's fantastic, he showed up with fancy chocolates and champagne, and we kicked things off to a great start.
Saturday - BIRTHDAY!
Much, much later that same morning, I woke up and headed out to the gorgeously sunny terrace at our hotel. It was like my birthday wish had been granted: We had rain on Friday and Sunday, but for my actual Saturday birthday ... S-U-N-N-Y and warm. Wow. Our hotel was amazing - the only one within the grounds of São Jorge Castle: the charmingly boutique-y Solar do Castelo. I wouldn't be too surprised if we return there someday, because we both loved it.
And it doesn't hurt that our first stop after leaving the hotel was the castle itself, two seconds from our front door. Now the castle itself is great, but the real kicker is the sweeping view over Lisbon, including the 25 de Abril Bridge, a freakishly-similar clone to the Golden Gate Bridge. Seriously, I kept doing double-takes and thinking I was back in San Francisco. You know, except for the giant statue of Jesus Christ in the background. But other than that.
After we'd visited the castle, we headed down into the city, and rode up the Santa Justa elevator for more great views.
Then I bought new slippers. (Details are important.)
Then we headed over for lunch - on the recommendation of my lovely Portuguese friend Kika, we ended up at Cervejaria Ramiro, which has a line out the door for a good reason: Best. Seafood. In Lisbon. Those king tiger prawns were the size of my face! Oh, but it was delicious.
Following that, we kind of wandered around, in and out of a few shops, over to sit by the water and watch the ships go by, and stopping at a sunny café for a decadent brownie, which doubled as my birthday cake.
We capped off the day with dinner at the romantic Restaurante Tagide, which, incidentally, also has a stupendous view. And at one point, the entire restaurant burst into the Portuguese lyrics of "Happy Birthday to You" - not for me, but I enjoyed it vicariously! And then my boyfriend let slip that it was my birthday too, so I got a free dessert and a candle to wish on! (Shhh, it's a secret!)
All in all, I'd say 35 kicked off with one of my very best birthdays ever!
And the weekend wasn't quite over. We woke up Sunday morning, enjoyed another breakfast, and walked down the steep, steep hill to the train station, so we could catch a train to Sintra. Stubbornly, despite the fog and rain. I just had to see the Pena Palace. And now I've seen just enough to know that I should go back when it's actually sunny.
But still! It was a fun train ride out, we figured out the Portuguese public transport system and everything, and honestly - days like this aren't about everything being perfect; they're just about enjoying, being in the moment, and creating memories.
And now I've got lots more Happy Moments to remember, all lumped into one, beautiful, Portuguese weekend. Thank you, Lisbon.