Finding Home in Lisbon’s Old World Charm - International Living

As we assessed the arrangement of local delicacies spread across the table, my partner Branko and I locked eyes while the same goofy grin spread across both of our faces.

In front of us lay a selection of savory starters designed to sit “tapas-style” atop crusty warm bread. In Lisbon they call them petiscos. There was thinly sliced presunto ham and pickled lupin beans called tremoços, bursting with flavors of fresh garlic and thyme. Their intensity is an exciting contrast to the dark marinated olives, soaked in peppery olive oil so thick you could almost spread it like butter. Both sat in delicate ceramic bowls next to buttery mackerel fillets, spiced perfectly with piri piri peppers, copious amounts of sea salt, and dripping with the same delicious oil.

It all paired perfectly with the bottle of red wine served fresh from the vineyard. The waiter told us in perfect English that the wine would go well with the fresh grilled octopus they had on special today.

The most astonishing part of all this is that everything cost less than what you’d pay for a single glass of wine back home in Chicago.

It would have been perfect all on its own, but the quiet lapping of the salty waves and bursting colors of the warm sunset beside us pushed the experience over the top.

After months traveling through Southeast Asia where we searched for a home base, the smooth Iberian cuisine and friendly Western faces were comfortably familiar.

So as we sat there drinking the first glass of decent red wine we’d had in months, we shared a knowing glance across the table. Without a word we made the mutual decision. This is it. We’d finally found our home.

Almost three years later, the magic of this fairytale city still hasn’t worn off.

We first decided to visit Lisbon because several of our expat friends from Thailand were settling in there. “Chiang Mai 2.0” is what they called it.

We were attracted to the seaside city because of the quaint, Old World vibe, copious expat residency options, and the 300 days of sun each year. While we found all of that, what we truly stayed for was the friendly community, rich artistic culture, beautiful park cafés, and relaxed lifestyle. It’s like living in a village with all the conveniences of a big city.

Plus, since we work closely with U.S.-based clients, the easy time zone difference and travel access to both the States and the rest of Europe is extremely convenient.

This leaves us plenty of time to meet up with our friends in Jardim de Estrela, our favorite of many parks filled with ancient trees and flowers from around the world.

The little park kiosks serve wine, coffee, and delicious local dishes. Most are nestled next to lively fountain ponds filled with ducks, turtles, and huge English geese—all surrounded by towering fig trees and flowering bushes.

These family-friendly parks are a green oasis in the city, and many times we simply spread a blanket on the grass and enjoy a bottle of fresh vinho verde (bubbly young wine).

When we’re not lounging in the parks with a glass of wine and good friends, we love to hop a train to one of the picturesque beaches surrounding Lisbon city—many less than 25 minutes away!

Perhaps our favorite part of life in Lisbon is the abundant variety of convenient day-trips at our disposal.

We often rent a car for less than $23 a day and drive to the lively seaside town of Cascais, explore the fairytale castles of Sintra in the mountains, or head north to the breathtaking scenery in the wine country of the Douro valley where we enjoy some of the best Ports and red table wines in the world!

The best part? The Lisbon lifestyle just keeps getting better and better.

While the city maintains its Old World vibe and relaxed atmosphere, each month we find new conveniences popping up, like delivery services, car-sharing, and user-friendly online portals for banking and residency management.

Lisbon certainly ticks a lot of boxes, to say the least—and after years of traveling, we have quite a checklist.

So while we’ll continue to travel and explore this beautiful globe, when we fly back in to Lisbon each time, it feels great to say we’re home.

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