We landed in Lisbon around 21:00 with too many heavy suitcases–still trying to rid ourselves of the pasty taste of the burnt burgers from our stopover in Luton (UK, supposedly). Both of our suitcases were designated heavy and even required an additional fee to bring them with us. In hindsight, the six pairs of shoes (Nike runners, Lacoste tennis shoes, Air Jordans, Loake Woodstock two-tone Oxfords, Heritage Red Wing Moccasin-style boots, and Lucchese cowboy boots) weren’t completely necessary. What exactly are my plans in Lisbon that would require such a well stocked inventory? Well, I hate having improper footwear for any given situation and, if I’m honest, I technically brought eight pairs of shoes. That is of course if you count slippers (Laurentian Chief moccasins), which I don’t.
Our landlord, Aníbal (pronounced like Hannibal but without the H), told us to call him when we arrived. He would pick us up and check us in to our apartment. How convenient! However, both our phones were dead and the only available charger was between two men holding signs and waiting to pick up their respective clients. After some impromptu sign-language, doing my best Moses-At-The-Red-Sea impression, I was socket deep in electric charge and I called our new landlord on WhatsApp. Aníbal was noticeably excited by our arrival. He was beaming with energy on the other end of the line (does that phrase work anymore?). When he arrived, we packed our bags into his Hyundai hatchback and it was only a few moments of silence before he asked, “You don’t want to go to the apartment right away, do you?”
Aníbal drove us downtown and told us about the great earthquake of 1755. “This was all covered with water. All the way from the river.” He also tried to explain some of the intricacies of portuguese nobility. I couldn’t quite follow it, but I’ll report back later if I figure it out. We parked next to a square. At first I thought Lisbon had a robust civil servant program, but in reality there are no streetside parking attendants. The curbside-man was simply drunk or crazy (both) and looking for compensation for his unsolicited help. Aníbal waved him off with a few words in portuguese, “These are not the tourists you’re looking for.”
We followed him up an elevator in a building on the corner of the square.
Our Rooftop Welcome To Lisbon
Topo is a rooftop bar with a view of Castelo de São Jorge (The Castle of Saint George), one of the main landmarks in the seven hills of Lisbon. It’s a Moorish castle the was re-Christianized during the Christian Reconquista, freed from Moorish rule in 1147. We all stood there, Aníbal, Björg and me, looking over the city in silence, watching people in the square congregate around a small outside bar. There was a football match on and everyone cheered and hissed in unison–except for the unregistered parking attendant who continued his mission for gratuity.
“You know the more I travel and see the world, the more I love Portugal. I’m proud of my country,” said Aníbal as we pulled away from the square and began the journey to Costa Da Caparica, the beach community 15 minutes out of Lisbon (~€20 cab ride) just across the Tagus river. “That area was under Muslim control before it was recaptured. The whole area is still very multicultural. Lisbon used to be very Catholic, extremely Catholic actually. Now it’s not like that. It’s like everywhere else. It’s modern. My stepson is at a debate about freedom of speech and Charlie Hebdo. Portugal, I guess you could say, is very happy and fulfilled. We’re left-wing and recovering nicely from the crash. Our unemployment rate is one of the lowest it’s been in a long time.”
Exit Aníbal And Hello New Home
Aníbal pulled up on the curb in front of the apartment building. He showed us the door-code (Signum Crucis) to buzz ourselves in and led us up the elevator to the fifth floor. We clunked down our suitcases and sat on the couch. Aníbal stayed a little longer to keep us entertained and give us some sightseeing tips. His wife called him (third time that night) and he made his exit after a few more jokes and restaurant recommendations.
There was a welcome letter with all the details Aníbal had attempted to share with us. At the top it read:
(Welcome to SUNSET – Where the Sun Sets)