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18 May

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Arrived in Lisbon

May 18, 2016 | By |

Arrived in Lisbon. It’s 5am and I’m wide awake. The sky hasn’t quite begun to lighten up. It’s a quiet and windy night. As I’m standing on the balcony a single cab quietly drives by. The neighbors are drying dresses and blankets off the balcony. I wonder why I can’t smell the sea. (Only later would I realize that it was the Tagus River that I saw, just before it leads into the open sea. It is so wide there that I mistook it for the sea.)

**

First days are for wandering, so wander I did. M and I are in town to work, but work remotely: Different rules apply. We require desks and reliable wifi and coffee supplies, the things the nomadic knowledge worker needs. Where and how to best source those we haven’t yet sorted out. Most likely a mix of home office, coffee shops, coworking spaces and friends’ desks. Third places all around, and a context that allows to go with the flow, maybe even requires it.

Lisbon market
The (excellent) food court at Lisbon’s market halls.

Fabrica Coffee Rosters is a definite keeper, their cold brews have been helping me kickstart the day since we arrived. A massive market hall food court (run, bizarrely, by Time Out magazine) is great for dinners. Cafés to write in are widely available. Our balcony overlooks the city, we can see the see and Bairro Alto while working in the shade.

**

Our neighborhood may not have a name: It’s residential, cute, lively in a non-touristy way. Sandwiched kind of between and a bit to the north of Bairro Alto and Alfama it doesn’t show up in any guide books – it seems like it might be called Estefania, but we can’t be sure. Sitting squat between not two but three hospitals it feels like we’re in the safest place you could possible be in case of an emergency. Why there are three hospitals so closely together will forever be a mystery to me. There’s also a gelato place; I haven’t been but it looks great.

**

The first day I compiled a whole bunch of shops I wanted to scout out for Dearsouvenir. I started the tour on day 2 with Baixa & Chiado, two neighborhoods smack in the center, full of shops and throngs of tourists; in my mind both of them blend together as I don’t yet have an understanding of where neighborhoods start and end.

It made for a nice stroll in the afternoon sun. Two things struck me as odd, though.

First, many of the shops seem to have moved or closed: One, by a famous Portuguese fashion designer, had been replaced by a New Balance store. There’s this beautiful, very old store front, all creaky old dark wood and glass, it screams traditional architecture, and it’s full with New Balance’s take on athleisure. Others were boarded up or dusty and under renovation: Just the regular turnover? The shop’s moved? Or the lasting impact of the economic crisis which hit Portugal especially hard?

Second, Google Maps data was often a block off, even smack in the city. There it shows me the house number on this block while really it’s on that one over there. It’s not something we’re really used to these days, is it? On rural roads I wasn’t too surprised to experience this, but in Lisbon itself I was a little shocked. Is it possible that Google just bought very mediocre map data for all of Portugal and never mapped out the country themselves?

**

Looking for a good flow through the day – spots to write at, take calls from, etc. – led us to LX Factory, a re-developed former industrial site that’s not, for lack of a better word, a creative-industrial site.

And what a gorgeous place it is. The local coworking space seemed a bit crammed and busy when we swung by, but the cafés and local designer shops are just lovely. Make sure to stop by Wish Café for a filter coffee and a muffin.