I forgot to send this back in November. I was golfing in Portugal, back in 2002.
Not long after 9-11, my buddy Mike and I went golfing in Spain and Portugal. We decided we were not going to let a bunch of terrorists dictate our lives and travel plans. We spent a week in Spain, on the Costa del Sol (Puerto Banus), and a week on the Algarve, with side trips, including Seville and Lisboa. Since then, I have returned to Spain, but not Portugal. Why has it taken so long to return?
First, why is Lisbon called Lisboa by some people, me included? Many think it is just the translation from another language. Why is Christopher Columbus called Cristobal Colon in Spanish, Cristoforo Colombo in Italian, and Christophorus Columbus in Latin? In French, Lisbon is Lisbonne, and in German it is Lissabon. Others say Lisbon’s name was derived from Allis Ubbo, meaning safe harbor in Phoenician. Or maybe they just decided Lisboa sounds better? Different names for places in other languages are called exonyms and seems very common in Europe.
What do Portugal and Japan have in common, besides tempura? The Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach Japan back in the 16th century. And they left a linguistic mark on the Japanese, such as pan, probably came from the Portuguese pao(bread).
Portugal is also the westernmost point (Cape Roca) of Europe. Look on a map! Portugal also has 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites. And it is the largest producer (50% of the world’s supply) of cork, which we need for wine.
Now, for the first time since 2002, I have a great opportunity to return to Portugal. I plan to visit the Lisboa oceanside suburb of Cascais. Why? A dear friend is buying a home in Cascais. Cascais is often called the finest resort town on the Portuguese coastline (better than the Algarve?). And I plan to buy and leave a bicycle there for now and future use.
Historically, Cascais was a sleepy fishing port. But in 1870, King Luis I declared Cascais would be the summer home of Portuguese nobility. Cascais became a sophisticated and refined destination. Today, it is still a charming town with a strong fishing heritage, with 19th century grandeur, and expectations of modern tourism. Fortunately, it has been responsibly developed into a popular resort town.
The historic center still has cobbled streets, a fort, museums, with many bars and restaurants. To the north is the wild and untamed Sierra de Sintra coastline, with surfing beaches and dramatic natural scenery. And Cascais is just a short 30km train ride into Lisboa via the Linha de Cascais” urban railway.
My route to Cascais is rather circuitous. But I did find an outstanding airfare. I leave SFO and land in Istanbul on Turkish Airlines. From there, I will spend a few days in Munich, before flying to Lisboa and Cascais. I love Munich, from my very first visit back in 1971 to the famous Oktoberfest. On the return, I will have an overnight layover in Istanbul, giving me enough time to shop, eat, and spend the night in the city.
Would you like a souvenir from Lisboa? Their most popular souvenir is canned fish! This would be sardines, mackerel, tune or anchovies.
Ginjinha is Lisbon’s most popular drink. It is a sweet liqueur made from soaking Ginja berries in sugar and alcohol. Little shot shops can be spotted almost everywhere. In my culture, we make a sour plum liqueur by soaking the plums in raw sugar and vodka. It is called ume-shu, and perhaps a distant relative?
Can you believe Lisbon has a Market of Female Thieves? Known as “Feira da Ladra” in the Alfama district, the market is a secret, so they say. It is held twice a week near the National Pantheon.
The weather in November is quite pleasant. Most days are sunny, and a bit breezy. Mostly, the people here are so friendly, and the food is both delicious and inexpensive compared to many of its northern European neighbors.