Yesterday I spent the day “fannying around” with my new English friend, Chris. We’d met a few days prior at the hostel, but when I sat at the same table as him during breakfast I asked what his plans were for the day, implying (not very discretely) that I had none, but wanted to get out of the hostel. He said he wasn’t sure – he may go to Cascais, or Sintra, or take the trolley and just “fanny around.” FANNY AROUND! I kid you not, he used this phrase in actual conversation and I almost spit out my coffee. I spent the remainder of the day trying to keep my drink in my mouth as he continued to crack me up with his hilarious (and VERY English) phrases and dry humor.
After breakfast and showering, we met around 10:30 and opted to grab a coffee in the main square of the Baxia while we waited for the first trolley to arrive. Unfortunately, because of an accident, the trolley was delayed so after waiting for about an hour (which wasn’t unpleasant at all), we decided to head over to the market for some food and wine. Chris had been there the day before and said how nice it was, so expectations were high. It did not disappoint. On Tuesdays and Saturdays half of the market is lined with vendors selling fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, etc. Although this portion was not open, the rest was and it was “quite nice,” as Chris would say. The other section of Time Out Market was lined with the most perfect little restaurants, offering all kinds of delicious food and drinks. Unlike a similar market you might see in the US, where people would be noshing on sandwiches, pizza and pop, these stalls were serving up fresh seafood, gourmet tasting plates, and glasses of wine. In other words: it’s Heaven.
We did a loop and then landed on a seafood place where we ordered bread, octopus salad (it was AMAZING), shrimp in a garlic butter sauce and two glasses of wine. Next we moved down the line to another stall and ordered a mixed plate of cheese, prosciutto and – you guessed it – more wine. Afterwards we were ready to just sit back and take in the city on the trolley. The ride – which included info about the city and its history – was relaxing, but it was a bit expensive (19 Euros) so it’s not necessarily something I would do again, but it was nice for a few hours with the windows down.
We then went our separate ways for naps and showers. Since arriving in Lisbon I’ve heard many people mention Fado – a type of music that is specific and unique to Portugal. Sung in Fado houses throughout the city, the music is described as being melancholy, nostalgic and nearly always about love (as most great music is). Fado is so important to Portuguese culture that UNESCO granted it World Heritage status as part of the country’s intangible culture heritage. Because of all this hype I was determined to experience what all the fuss was about. After gathering some recommendations, we headed out to Alfama in search of Fado on the street of Rua dos Remedios.
The establishment we ended up in was small and very hot inside as it was crowded wall-to-wall with people dining and awaiting the music. We were seated at the end of a communal table next to an English couple. Chris chatted them up and the three of them agreed that had they been seated at a communal table with strangers in England there would be a “bloody uproar.” Not that they were upset – I think they quite enjoyed it. But I agreed that communal tables were not seen as ideal in America either, but in Portugal it seemed quaint. We arrived a bit late, right before the music began (at 9pm), so we had to wait to order food and drinks. The Fado singer – an older Portuguese man with a rather intimidating presence – hushed the crowded as the two young guitars players tuned and he closed his eyes relevantly.
And right there, in the middle of the tiny restaurant, he belted out the melodramatic music I’d heard so much about – and realized why. He was clearly passionate about his craft and his delivery, perfect baritone voice and the whole magic of it all so wonderful that by the end of the night my face hurt from smiling. After more music, dinner, and two bottles of wine, we stumbled down the slippery stone streets of Alfama, back to the hostel for beers with an English, an Irish and a Scottish guy. Which sounds like the start of a joke. It was a perfect day.
Here’s a great example of Fado music (best enjoyed with wine):