Thursday 24 July 2014

Lisbon: Mid-life Relection

“I need to take a trip,” I said to my husband. 

“Great. Where are we going?” he asked.

“I’m going by myself,” I said.


“Because I’m having a mid-life crisis.”

I’m not sure if it’s a crisis or a re-evaluation, but whatever it is, I’m in the thick of it. Deep, thought-provoking questions fill my mind. I must figure it out. On my own. But where to go? Sitting on a mountain top in the lotus position seems appropriate, but that’s not my style. I’m more of a sip-cafes-and-people-watch kind of gal.

Cosmopolitan Lisbon is my go-to place for my mid-life reflection. It’s modern, yet filled with history, Moorish architecture and enough tourist sites, entertainment, restaurants and pastry shops to keep you coming back year after year.

For my personal journey, I want no time restrictions on anything I do. So I choose to rent an apartment. With many long-term rental accommodations available throughout the city, it is easy to find one meeting my requirements. I shop for groceries, cook what I want to and eat when I want to. It provides the simplicity I crave.

Made it myself

Lisbon is nostalgic and filled with history. Here, you can delve as deep as you like, or not at all. I choose to meet it halfway. Although I do visit a few of the major attractions (Castle St. George, Jeronimo’s Monastery), my travels are filled with simple pleasures—the things one requires when contemplating life’s next chapter.

Lisbon’s seven hills and cobblestoned, pedestrian-only avenues are filled with excellent restaurants and cafés. When I meander along the web of alleyways, savouring the aroma of grilled fish, fried pork cutlets, sausages and meats, I am taken back to a time when my mother did the cooking and I had few responsibilities. It is a time so long ago now, I can barely remember the feeling. I need a drink.

There were a few of these

I head over to A Ginjinha (Largo de Sao Domingos). This hole-in-the-wall joint serves nothing but cherry liqueur. Where time has quickly passed me by, here it stands still, and is pretty much as it has been since its establishment in 1840. My liqueur is briskly handed to me in a waxy Dixie cup. I take it and walk around the square until I find a short concrete pillar with a rather pointy top to sit on. I am not at all comfortable, but who cares? I’m in Lisbon and the deep orange ball in the sky is warming my face. As I sip my ginjinha I am reminded of teenage hijinks and under-age drinking. We all did it.

Some of these (Ginjinha)
For a truly local cultural immersion, I take in an evening of Fado in Alfama, the place where Portugal’s national music was born. Fado is soulful and filled with saudades, that most passionate of all Portuguese words, speaking of deep yearning and longing for lost loves and a time long gone. The music takes me away and the tears fall. I’m feeling very Portuguese.

Fado via

Lisbon’s coffee and pastry culture makes for the perfect environment to ponder life, and I have no hesitation in embracing it. In Alfama, I stop by Nata at the foot of St. George’s Castle, for one of the best custard tarts in the city. It’s a creamy, velvety indulgence served warm with a sprinkling of cinnamon. This is not the time to count calories. I have two. I sit outside, where I partake in my favourite sport, people-watching, while contemplating what’s next in my life plan.

And lots of these

I haven’t quite figured it out, aside from my returning to Lisbon.


  1. Ah, mid-life crisis. I may be having one, too!

    (But I couldn't help but be distracted by your ginjinha in a Dixie cup. That just seems wrong to me!)

  2. Hi, Maria: Great post. I like the way in which you explored Lisbon while trying to figure things out - Fado, wine, city, walking, beach, food, pastries, coffee. All awesome. Returning to Lisbon is a good idea - hope I can do that soon. PS: Is the photo of the wine at the beach in Nazaré?