The Lisbon Verdict
Charming is the only word that I can use to describe the Portuguese who judging by their behaviour in the metro and cafe´s, not to mention their politeness and quick-fire smiles, would put any Madrileño to shame. These natives did certainly more than impress me with their command of often up to three foreign languages, particularly English, Spanish and French.
I was certainly very struck by the multicultural feel to the city which is teeming with Portuguese speaking immigrants from their former colonies. However perhaps it was not so much the international feel as the fact that I perceived the African community to be very much integrated into the city scene with the clientele of bars and cafe´s being an even mix of Africans, Portuguese and Brazilians.
Given it´s maritime location Lisboa boasts a far more hospitable climate to that of Madrid which sits 700 hundred meters higher and 5 hours farther from the closest sea. Therefore coming from our urban furnace it was an absolute joy to stroll around the ancient quarters by day. That said however, you get the shivers very soon after dark with the dramatic drop in temperatures. I was prior warned that these are the late hours when many muggings take place. However at no stage on the dark streets did I feel in anyway unsafe, nor did I see any loiterers lurking in the night shadows.
The traditional music of Portugal is known as Fado (doomed fate). I can only assume that it is a mix of old Persian and flamenco melody. However as I did not like it in any way I have not bothered to research it´s roots. But I guess it is a case of different strokes for different folks as I spoke with various tourists who had come to Lisbon especially for the local song.
No doubt due to my prior ignorance I was very surprised by the difference in physical features between the Spanish and Lisbon people. It must be said that the Spanish girls are by far and away a lot more pretty. Unfortunately however Madrid cannot boast as many Brazilian girls who were a veritable treat to the eye. It is possible however that I have been given the wrong impression with many city dwellers having fled to the beach in late July.
Lisbon is a cheap city. Of that there is no doubt. A coffee will typically cost 50 cents in contrast to the 1.20 euros that you will pay in Madrid. A bottle of beer comes to less than 2 euros and a bowl of soup, 90 cents. I was too lazy to escape the tourist trail and so such prices are impressive for budget travellers like myself. Prices which seemed inconsistent with the general city cost were ice-cream (which is almost impossible to find) and internet which also turned into quite a treasure hunt. My girlfriend is also anxious that I mention that the price of shampoo was bordering on extrotionism !!
I really grew to love the sound of the Portuguese language which has roots as varied as Romance, Slavic and Arabic. I liked sound of the almost Slavic "ssh" which really disguises it´s written similarity to Spanish. Strangely while the Portuguese can understand their Spanish neighbours perfectly well, a Spanish speaker will struggle to comprehend their counterparts. Perhaps on a good day with the help of your converser, you will understand four out of five sentences....but that fifth sentence may as well be Swahili.
I would certainly be happy to have a repeat visit to the city which is caught a good twenty years behind the rest it´s European neighbours. A relaxing city.