As promised previously, here is the start to the saga of our incredible trip to Portugal. The picture above of the lovely azulejo mural in Restaurante O Piteu gives you a small taste of what a great day it was. Our lunch there was wonderful, but lots happened before we got there!
We had arranged to meet Nina Clara Tiesler, our hostess, at a little cafe called Parreinrinha de Sao Vicente, so upon arriving in Lisbon airport, we made our way through customs and got a taxi, showing the driver the address and hoping he wouldn’t try to pull any funny business. Well, he took us where we asked him to go, but when we paid for our 11 Euro fare with a 20 Euro bill, he only gave 2 Euros in change, thinking we wouldn’t notice. Unfortunately, this was not the last time a taxi driver tried to rip us off – a rare negative in a trip that was overwhelmingly wonderful. Anyway, we did notice what was happening, we argued with him, he gave in and gave us the proper change, lecturing us in Portuguese the whole time.
We found a seat in the cafe, luggage in tow, and waited for Nina. Therese ordered a coffee. Nina came after a couple of minutes and before leaving the cafe, got us a couple of rolls – the cafe has fresh bread baked on the premises that is dirt cheap – 4 rolls cost just a little more than a Euro.
From there we walked just around the corner to the apartment building and got into the tiny elevator with our luggage, and there we were, in the Rosa Residence, our first vacation apartment rented through Airbnb. From the first moment, we were tremendously impressed both with Nina and with the apartment.
I thought that after giving us the lay of the land, Nina would hand us the keys and we would be on our own, but this was not what was in store for us. Over the next couple of hours, Nina gave us a tour of the neighborhood, making sure we had everything we needed! She showed us where some local restaurants we should visit were – Dragao de Alfama, a place for Fado, and Gato Pardo, a nice little bistro where we stopped and had some iced teas.
Then we walked to where her car was, and she drove us a short distance to Rua da Graca, to show us where the markets were and also load up some cards for the public transportation (the Viva Viagem that everyone in Lisbon uses) so we could take the tram and buses and funiculars. Nina had some cards from previous visitors that had a little bit of money still on them, but not enough to keep us going for long. The shop where we got our cards filled up, Pastelaria Estrela da Graca, was a delightful pastry shop, with some pure white delectable meringues in the window, so we resolved to come back later in the week to get some desserts!
With full metro cards in hand, Nina then walked down Rua da Graca with us to point out the butcher shops and fishmonger and produce store and the Pingo Doce supermarket where we could get everything if the other smaller stores were closed. We were excited: the prospect of buying groceries and cooking in our apartment was thrilling.
Before leaving us, Nina dropped us off at the wonderful local restaurant, O Piteu. She later told us that when her in-laws, who are restaurateurs in their own right, come to visit, they always eat at O Piteu. We could tell that it was a quality restaurant. I brought out my phrase letting them know about my dairy allergy, and our waiter responded in English, letting me know it would be no problem. He gave us a real sense of professionalism, calling the restaurant “my restaurant”. And he took care of us very well. Therese had fish, and I had grilled pork loin, and the two of us shared a pot of rice with vegetables. We each had a small bottle of wine – not the wisest decision, drinking wine after an international flight and no sleep, but you know, we might have been going on fumes by then, but we were having such a great time that we didn’t care.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t take our leftover wine with us! because it was very good (our first taste of wine from the Alentejo region). But we were able to take our leftover rice with us – it formed the base for our dinner back at the apartment that night. I already told you about our adventure getting groceries and cooking for the first time in our Alfama apartment. It was just as much fun as I imagined it would be.
And I can’t say enough about how welcome Nina made us feel. I’m sure I will have lots to say about her and the apartment as I continue the story of our journey. She made herself available to us during our stay, and answered many questions, and just helped us immeasurably. I don’t know if all Airbnb apartment owners are as helpful as Nina was, but having her as our first hostess set the bar very high for our expectations of our future Airbnb experiences!