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STYLE

Right: Colorful buildings in Medieval Lisbon.

A river runs

through it Captivated by Lisbon and its people, Sarah Funk sets a course to become a local

M

uch of Lisbon’s history has taken place within sight of the Tagus River: the return of the caravelles, with ships full of Brazilian gold and spices; the departure of the royal court as Napoleon’s armies advanced on the city; the tsunami that swept crumbling buildings into the sea immediately following the 1755 earthquake. And then there was me, wondering where to start exploring as I stared into the deep blue river. The truth is that there is so much to do in Lisbon that I was only able to scratch the surface in one month. Day after day, I hiked the steep streets paved with slippery cobblestones and lined with purple flowering trees. Lisbon’s colorful buildings enchanted me with the blue and white azulejos (tiles) adorning everything from palaces to shop fronts and fountains. To escape the hot summer days, I’d head to local cafes to enjoy Portugal’s famous pastries, pasteis de nata – crispy little tarts filled with egg custard – washing them down with a cha (tea), a beverage the Portuguese are said to have introduced to England. To learn about the local culinary scene, I took a class and “mastered” the art of cooking bacalhau à brás – flaked cod mixed with crispy fried potatoes, parsley, and whisked eggs and topped with black olives. My love affair with local cuisine was further enhanced during a three-hour food tour, during which I boldly tried fish egg sacks – not my favorite – and, to my surprise, bought two cans of Portuguese grilled sardines then ate an entire bowl of mussels (a dish I wouldn’t touch anywhere else). The

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“Instead of talking about the hardships of life, they sing about them.” seafood was packed with flavor. It became clear why Lisbon is the best place in Europe to enjoy fish and shellfish. Lisbonetas are kind people. Although they live in the south of Europe, they don’t have the passionate temperament found in their Mediterranean neighbors. Instead, they are calm, showing a uniquely Portuguese emotion called saudade – roughly translated as a yearning for something no longer at hand. Instead of talking about the hardships of life, they sing about them. Fado is an elegantly melancholic music that deals with life’s great mysteries and passion – love, jealousy, death, and betrayal. The month seemed to fly by, and soon I found myself back at the Tagus river; this time with a greater understanding of the Lisboa culture and history. Instead of staring into the water from afar, I hopped aboard a boat and set sail, as the caravelles did hundreds of years ago. I was no longer that wide-eyed girl wondering where to begin; I’d set course to become a local – a Lisboeta. Sarah left her Hell’s Kitchen home in January to travel the world, living in a different country for a month every month. To follow her adventures, visit sarahfunky.com.

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