Day Two’s big event was our food and wine tour, spread among the hills of Lisbon (and I mean hills—Lisbon makes the topography of Seattle look like the Bonneville Salt Flats). Our guide was a vivacious young woman named Daniela Varela, who in addition to being a tour guide turned out to be a singer in two local bands, and was the representative of Portugal in the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest. My use of the word vivacious here is not an attempt to be sexist. A performer at heart, she gave our group so much more than the typical guide, including knowledge of history, culture, food, and much more…and a little singing too.
A good tour guide will, of course, show you the sites you want and expect to see, but the best of them will also give you tips for avoiding the tourist traps and instead experiencing the places the local prefer. Daniela didn’t disappoint there, either. At the end of the tour she offered her own personal references for places to go, shop, and dine in the city, all far from the madding crowd.
Did I say madding? Yeah, even in December, Lisbon is teeming with tourists, along the Avenida da Liberdade and the pedestrian shopping mall, everyone negotiating the ancient cobblestone streets and sidewalks, which are also more uneven than the ankle-twisting concrete we have to deal with in Seattle.
Foot discomfort aside, the tour was a blast. Maybe that’s because every stop along the way included alcohol. We started with vinho verde (green wine), which is not so green in color as it is in age. Next stop brought forth the ginjinha, a cherry-based liqueur that includes actual cherries soaked in what is essentially white lightning. ¡Chute no traseiro! Add red wine, white wine, and traditional porto, and let’s just say you’ve got a happy group. It also helped to have fun people along. With us on this trip are my two sisters, Lisa and Carol, and their husbands, Brian and Mike. Joining us on the tour were a couple from Canberra, Australia, and two young women from Santa Cruz. All four of them proved to be in the holiday/food/wine spirit.
So far, so fun.