Lisbon vs. San Francisco: Are the Comparisons True?
If you’ve heard someone talk about Lisbon, you’ve probably heard them compare it to San Francisco. But, is it true? Could Lisbon, founded in 1255, really have that much in common with San Francisco, founded hundreds of years later?
In short, yes. Lisbon and San Francisco do have some striking similarities:
1) The cable cars
2) They were both built atop seven hills
3) They’re both situated on the water
4) They both have an orange suspension bridge
6) An affinity for colorful apartment buildings
7) Cool street art
But between the two, I left my heart in San Francisco.
Have you been to both SF and Lisbon? What do you think about the comparisons?
Memorable vs. Mediocre Meals While Traveling
Though Lisbon itself wasn’t my favorite, I did have a great dining experience there that I won’t forget soon.
It came the day after a mediocre meal accompanied by pretty terrible service. Now trust me, I understand that not everywhere else in the world has a tipping culture like my home country, (thanks for that lesson, Spain!) but tips aside, nothing excuses being downright rude. *steps off soapbox*
I was determined to not just settle for a place out of hunger and waning patience. So, I applied a little theory I have developed as the result of despising eating at tourist traps.
- Never eat at restaurants that are in central plazas. You’re asking for high prices and low quality.
- Never eat at a restaurant that has its menu translated into several different languages. If that doesn’t say “Tourist Restaurant” I don’t know what does.
- Never eat at restaurants that have their waiters outside begging for you to come in. If they need the business that badly, obviously the food can’t be too good.
So what did I look for that lead me to find this restaurant where above-mentioned awesome dining experience was had? I went to the trendy Barrio Alto, known for its nightlife and chic boutiques. Here, away from the touristic center, good Portuguese food had to be found. (I initially came with a recommendation to eat at Restaurante 560, a dining establishment in the neighborhood, but it was closed-down!)
I had in mind what I was looking for. I wanted to dine al fresco, away from a busy street that took a little exploring to get to, and find a menu that would finally let me sample some authentic Portuguese cuisine.
What did I find?
The lovely Floresta da Cidade (located here: Travessa Poco da Cidade)—a French-Portuguese fusion restaurant with a menu that married the fresh seafood of Portugal with hearty, buttery sauces and cheeses of France. Mmm!
Here’s their interpretation of a croque monsieur that was recommend by my waiter:
and an octupus rice stew:
and dessert, toucinho do ceu, made of almond and eggs:
From the generous portions of this French twist on Portuguese comfort food, to crisp, sparkling white wine that was reminiscent of a favorite (Basque txakoli) to the excellent service that turned around my earlier bad experiences in Lisbon, I highly recommend Floresta da Cidade in Barrio Alto.
What’s a memorable dining experience you’ve had? How do you avoid tourist traps?
Lisbon: Not What I Expected
I look at visiting new cities as one may look at going on a blind date. Some cities you connect with and want to see again, while others leave little to be desired. Unfortunately for me, Lisbon, Portugal was the latter.
I usually never completely write off places and vow to never return, but honestly, I’d be hard-pressed to find a reason to return to Lisbon. It wasn’t horrible, and there wasn’t one particular bad experience that left a sour taste in my mouth, it was more like a series of small disappointments.
I’m not going to go into details, but it was far too many encounters with terrible service and rude people (and one instance of excellent service I’ll tell you about later), underwhelming Portugese food, and a fairly dirty, run-down city.
But, I’m not going to dwell on the bad stuff.
Instead, I’m going to say what I liked about Lisbon, because I understand everyone experiences things different and I definitely don’t want to prevent you from visiting Lisbon just because it wasn’t my cup of tea.
Just as much as my encounters with the locals made any chance for loving Lisbon impossible, there’s always just as many nice people to balance things out. From the sweet old couple who gave me directions in their patient Portuguese, while I replied in Spanish, to an awesome waiter who hand-picked my meal, the people I met both made my day, and pissed me off all in one fell swoop!
The (Small) Resemblance to San Francisco
From the trams zipping around the city, to the slightly-less-impressive Golden Gate lookalike, there were little reminders of San Francisco around Lisbon. I can dig that.
The whole cupcake craze just hasn’t hit Spain as hard as in other places. The major cities may have a shop or two, but since I’m not in Barcelona or Madrid too terribly often, I turned to my friend Google to see if Lisbon had cupcakes, since I was visiting. I found this most adorable cupcake shop that reminds you of a continuous giant tea party. I may or may not have tried Red Velvet, Coconut AND Strawberry Cheesecake in one weekend. They were to die for!
Thanks to the advice of fans over on my Facebook Page, I was able to narrow down the best neighborhoods to spend my time in Lisbon. Barrio Alto and Chiado was where I spent most of my time, dining at little hole-in-the-wall establishments, wandering through the parks and plazas and snapping away with my camera.
I’ve been to my fair share of European capital cities, and Lisbon, I’m sorry, but you’re just not my type.