April 15, 2011

Lisbon. October, 2009

Sometimes my friends laugh at me for all the preparation I do in advance of a trip. So what? Part of the pleasure for me is the anticipation, the researching of places I’d like to see, meals I’d like to find. Before I visit a new country, I like to learn what its food is like, to pick up a little bit of the language, to read about sites, hotels, restaurants. I scour Chowhound, TripAdvisor, Let’s Go, Lonely Planet and more. And I check in with friends of friends who are chefs, cookbook authors and recent visitors. How else would I have learned about the Residêncial Alcobia on a quiet block near Lisbon’s Praça de Figueira. Or that Room #501 offers this lovely view of the Castello, glorious each morning at sunrise, gentle and bathed in pastels at sunset. (They also have an excellent breakfast buffet that we enjoyed after early-morning runs along routes I’d mapped out based on other runners’ web recommendations.) How else would I have been alerted to doce de cenoura com laranja, a local carrot jam that made excellent gifts for two of my most food-savvy friends? Or the excellent frango (spit-roasted chicken) at Bonjardim, or the bounteous seafood dinners across the river in Cacilhas? And how else would I have had a wonderful, if limited, conversation with two sisters who were selling their treasures at the Feira da ladra, Lisbon’s famed flea market? “Getting there is half the fun” as the Cunard Line used to say of travel on its transatlantic steamships. And for me, a lot of “getting there” is the prep.

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