'Tabanca' is a Trinidadian creole expression that describes the sad feeling that one may have after a breakup or separation. We have also come to use this word to describe a sad feeling of longing for many other things. It is common to hear someone having a Carnival tabanca, which means that the person is missing Carnival celebrations, and yes judging from this blog post title, I am currently having a very bad case of Summer Tabanca.
I spent some much-needed downtime in Europe this Summer, frolicking on beaches, getting super tanned, exploring major cities, and relaxing in the countryside. The weather was perfect, the vibes nice, and meeting up with friends and family while there made so much of it feel like home. And now, Summer is over, and as I reset and get back to the “reality” of figuring out my life after Shanghai, I can’t help but long for more carefree times, like the three weeks spent exploring Lisbon, living la Vida local.
If you’re a lover of travel and living in different cities, you may have noticed that Lisbon has most recently been on the radar as an ideal place for living a happy, comfortable, and more laid-back life. As a Lisbon lover, I have been intrigued by the possibility of living there, and this past Summer, the Mr. and I slowed down and enjoyed all that the city had to offer for three weeks. We walked for hours every day, exploring the hilly streets, shops, cafes, and restaurants. We spent time with friends who live there and others, who like us were visiting, and made short trips to nearby cities and towns like Comporta and Sines- because that’s what life in Lisbon is like!
So, what did we discover during our Lisboa life test run?
1. Cost of Living
Lisbon has been growing in popularity making it less affordable than it was in the past, but it is still considered to be relatively cheaper than other European cities and America. If you are privileged enough to work remotely (Look up a D7 visa, for non-EU citizens), getting an outside paycheck, while living in Lisbon can take you far.
Lisbon has perfect weather for this island girl, and this is another reason why it is a city worth living in! Expats have been flocking to Portugal as it boasts of having over 300 days of sunshine each year, with hot Summers, and short comfortable Winters.
3. Rivers & Beaches
Imagine living in an affordable capital city in Europe, with great weather, a walkable riverfront, and access to beaches along its coastline! This is a reality while living in Lisbon and areas on the outskirts like Cascais, and Sintra. The Tagus River can be accessed from various parts of the city and can even be viewed from Lisbon’s hilly streets. Along the city’s riverside are cafes, shops, benches, bike paths, and historic buildings. Hop on a train and get to the nearest beach in 15 minutes or go a bit further for more bays.
4. Getting Around
Lisbon is a hilly and walkable city, which makes it a perfect place to easily explore at your own pace and get in a workout at the same time! We walked to many different parts of Lisbon and enjoyed every step along the way. If you do not love walking, it is also easy to hop on a tram, electric scooter (with the Uber app), or bicycle. Taking an Uber is also very affordable in Lisbon and the airport is in the city. Renting a car is also affordable and comes in handy if one would like to visit nearby places like Comporta.
Manicured, but wild, trendy, but authentic. That's how I would describe this village that has been growing in popularity over the years. Seen as a respite from Lisbon life, many locals and expats flock to Comporta for coastal beach breeze and vibes during the Summer. We decided to continue our la Vida local tour in Comporta, which felt somewhat like a rustic version of the Hamptons.
About an hour and twenty minutes drive away from Lisbon, this is the place where you pack a suitcase full of your beach town chic outfits, and get ready to slow down, indulge, and relax. We spent a week in Comporta village at a simple and comfortable Airbnb, which was within walking distance from the beach. Our days were filled with chic beach town vibes as we admired the beautiful, whitewashed houses, coastlines, and beaches. We enjoyed beach club-hopping daily and discovered restaurants, cafes, local designer markets, and boutiques. I must admit that I much preferred the shopping and brand selection in Comporta compared to Lisbon!
6. Beauty Everywhere
Back in Lisbon, one is surrounded by storybook beauty and the city feels like a blue-skied, unhurried urban paradise. The colorful and tiled houses, bougainvillea laden walls, cobbled streets, graffiti-covered trams, street art, parks and gardens, historical buildings, and breathtaking views of the Tagus River from many hilly angles of Lisbon leave one speechless, joyful, and grateful to just be there in every stepping moment.
Let Lisbon tabanca reign.
Lisbon is a very safe city and I felt comfortable enough as a woman to walk through the streets at night. It's also a lively place, which means that there were also many other people outside. Of course, like in any place, one must still practice vigilance in general, and it also helped a lot that it was easy to communicate with locals in English!
The food scene in Lisbon is something to deep dive into while there. The selection of cuisine and the quality of restaurants continue to expand as Lisbon becomes more popular as a tourist destination and expat hub. We love eating as much as we love walking, and discovered many fantastic restaurants and cafes daily. We made sure to check out the tiny, no frills local restaurants that served amazing seafood as well as other noteworthy spots like, Geografia, Java, Lupita Pizza, Picanha, Vino Vero, Chapito, Heim Café, Buna Café, Fauna and Flora and Faz Frio.
Lisbon encompasses a multicultural atmosphere that makes it easier for tourists and expats to easily get around and integrate. It is a terrific place to experience different foods, languages, and traditions, which include fado music. Lisbon is the birthplace of this melancholic genre and one can hear live fado performances from many bars and restaurants from evening to nighttime along the Lisbon's cobbled streets.
Amália Rodrigues is one of the most famous singers who introduced fado to the world, and her legacy continues to live on in her music. While in Lisbon, we attended an intimate fado concert at The House of Amália Rodrigues and gained a greater appreciation for many of her songs that we listen to at home. The House Museum Amália Rodrigues is open to the public as it was her wish to share her life history with others in a very intimate way.
10. Traveling Around
Portugal is a beautiful country, and while in Lisbon, we explored towns like Sines that are a bit further down the the coast. Portugal's location also, makes it a perfect place to embark on journeys to other European countries as well as many countries in Africa. I've already mapped out a plan to make a road trip from Lisbon to Morocco for next time!
It’s always great to think of the fun times during the rough patches as it gives me more to look forward to and work towards. I can’t wait to shake off the tabanca and run towards the next life adventure!
So what do you think? Does Lisbon sound like a place you'd want to visit, or live?
You can see more of our time in Lisbon, in detail on my Instagram highlights @baglady_basics and read more about Lisbon in a previous blog post!
Until Next Time,