Dieppe, Normandy

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Les falaises

Back in February, I needed to get away. So, off to the beach we went! I’ve been to the Normandy region once before – omg so long ago – but I knew this trip would be different than tagging along as an au pair.

It ended up being the perfect getaway. Let’s get the nitty gritty stuff out of the way.

Transportation

Covoiturage (carpooling)

As one might expect, this option is for chatty people with strong stomachs, zero attachment to driving laws, and slim wallets.

Lodging

Egg Hotel Dieppe

Pros: cheap, a nice view onto historic street, great beach location (just a short walk away)
Cons: too-pleasant robot clerk, no hairdryer included, unsettlingly blank walls.

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All this for less than 10€!

Both mornings this was our breakfast – just look at all that butter! Eaten in a little place next to the Saint Jacques church in the sun.

Stumbled on a little farmer’s market – apples galore and a friendly tutoyer-ing cheese vendor. Neufchâtel is produced in a city bearing the same name that we passed on the way up to Dieppe. I’ve seen that name on cream cheese in the US but it’s not at all the same. It tasted a bit like Camembert. Very salty with a creamy center.

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The Café des Tribunaux, on the main commerce street, was great for relaxing and people-watching. After a morning of getting a salty air facial on the beach, a croque madame was the exact meal I wanted. If you were wondering what the difference between a croque madame and a croque monsieur is, it’s the egg! These afternoon pastries were quite good – passionfruit tart and something noisette I think? I lost the information of this salon de thé but it was a cute 2-story place a short walk away from Café des Tribunaux where you could look down on the street from the window.

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So, when I ordered les neuf amandes avec leur sauce échalotte at Le New Haven I honestly expected to get a plate with nine almonds on it and a yummy shallot sauce to dip them in. I was oh so curious to taste this northern French specialty comprised of such a delicate and unexpected pairing of two ingredients that I love. When the waiter ceremoniously placed a tiny fork on my side of the table, my stomach sunk; I knew what was coming…

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Once I convinced myself to actually pick up one of the shells, wrench out the thing, and drench it in the lovely vinegar-shallot sauce, I did enjoy eating it. They tasted like the sea + the sauce, in a good way. But after about three of them I’d had enough, and my bf happily finished them off.

Small towns are funny. We really enjoyed reading the local news posted on these red displays every day. I’m kicking myself for not getting a picture the first day of the shiver-inducing headline about a local murder case.

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There were plenty of beachfront casinos to choose from. After seeing them on our many walks on the beach I finally forced us to go in. We played some slot machines as was recommended by the very friendly woman who takes your money and gives you a fake and illogically proportioned version to play with. I’ve never been to Vegas so I relied on my Super Nintendo skills to win and then instantly lose 50€. Every day I wake up and the bitterness that floods my being forces me to have an extra sugar in my coffee. No, just kidding, but wow I understand gambling addiction now. I really, really wanted to keep playing to “win it back” – even though I’d never actually won it.

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The architecture was a fascinating and sad mix of beautiful old buildings and either modern reconstructions or the signs of plans to rebuild. I must have been quite impressionnée because I have almost no pictures of buildings despite our many walks around town.

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Other discoveries were the bomb shelters remaining from the war on the tops of the cliffs every couple hundred meters, the boats and lock, and the château on the edge of town. No pics, too captivated! We also noticed that the buses stop running at 7pm (!!!) and learned the hard way that almost every store and restaurant is closed on Monday. Ah, small towns, so quaint! Luckily there were two kebab shops to choose from and we picked a winner with Istanbul Kebab – it was honestly more delicious than most Parisian ones I’ve been to. ❤

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I’m struggling in the research process

I’m writing this to light a fire under my booty and to hold my future self accountable – there is no way I’m going to come on here in a few months and write a post about how I couldn’t finish my Master’s degree.

My research director is atypical of professors at French universities. From what I hear from friends and work and school colleagues of all nationalities, there is usually little to no guidance from one’s research director due to the large volume of students (PhD, Master’s, and License = Bachelor’s) under their direction. My directrice is constantly asking us to turn in bits of work, and she meets with us regularly to discuss our research. It’s always very helpful, but stressful since there is always a deadline. I know that I would leave most of the work until the end if she didn’t do this, but it doesn’t make it any less painful!

Reading and writing constantly in French is really difficult, but the worst part of all is every bit of progress I make, I realize how much more work I have to do. I guess that’s just how research is. I can’t believe some people do this their whole lives.

I took three lovely days off during our week of vacation last week to go to Dieppe in Normandy. I’m going to write a blog post as soon as I finish the 20 pages I need to turn in this week.

I want to go back here:

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Lovely beach in Dieppe

Instead I am here:

Bibliothèque

Bibliothèque

Yay education!

Mid-Master’s – retrouve-moi au café

I’ve been insanely busy with school, my internship, and my volunteer work on the Board of my choir. Thus, not much time for blogging these days.

Recipes I’ve made lately that I might get around to posting include balsamic-roasted mushrooms with special umami salt as well as brown-butter cookies with pistachios and chocolate, although I wish I had dried cherries or candied orange rind to put in there too.

I’m in crunch mode for my mémoire so I’ve been rotating through cafes, libraries, and my bedroom.

I highly recommend Dose on the rue Mouffetard, even though it’s small. The baristas are so nice (they tutoyer-ed me!) and they have a stamp card (I’m a freak and I actually save up frequent buyer things to get my perks). And obviously good coffee.

And I love Institut Finlandais, right next to my Sorbonne classes. The baristas are very nice and I like how spacious it is. They have nice art exhibits on the giant wall and in the front you can buy cute expensive pillows and such.

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Hello cappuccino.

Back to work!

Entretien

Awhile back, I mentioned that I had a terrible experience during my interview for the 2nd year of my program. For at least a month after, the only emotion I could attach to the memory was anger – at the mean jury, at the frustrating French academic system, and at myself. The more time that passed, the less I cared (it helped that I was accepted into a different Master’s program that I love – distraction). In fact, more than six months later I can only say that it was beneficial to me.

My classmates and I, after repeatedly hassling the program director, were told that our acceptance to the Master 2 in Gestion et administration de la musique would be principally based on a 30-45 minute interview.

I spent several months researching and preparing my thesis proposal for the interview. I discussed the topic with friends and my parents and felt really excited about it. However – and while it’s painful to admit this, I’m hoping if someone else reads this they might avoid making the same mistake – I never practiced presenting it in French. While my level of spoken French has gotten really good, last June I wasn’t at the point where I could improvise academic ideas au pif. The combination of a few different unclear versions of the interview schedule and my anxiety about it caused me to arrive early – like, a few hours early. I just sat in the waiting area and prepared a bit more, thinking it would be no problem. This earned me a slightly grumpy comment from the professor about lunch being soon, but that they would see me anyways.

Beginning the interview with this feeling of having done something horribly wrong made me super nervous. I gave a stuttering, unclear summary of my proposal, and (shockingly) the jury wasn’t impressed. They subjected me to 10 or 15 minutes of questions, punctuated by eye-rolling, incredulous reactions to my feeble attempts to clarify my ideas, and belittling of the professional experiences I used to justify my answers. They asked if I had read something that I had cited in my application. I understand that professors are busy and don’t necessarily read everything, but the condescending tone in which the question was delivered was totally uncalled for. After all that, of course I fell for a trick question about copyright since I was so flustered from the first part!

It was a total disaster. I hated feeling like I’d said all the wrong things. I worked so hard the whole year only to totally blow it in one session. I found this really unfair and it’s where my dissatisfaction with the French academic system lies – why even bother going to class or doing any work if your advancement to the next level depends only on your ability to verbally defend a research proposal that will probably change later anyways? Yes, I am still glad I attended classes and made an effort to study because I get more out of school than just grades. But still…I don’t get why it’s set up that way.

I feel less pissed about this now, because a. I was accepted into a different Master’s program so I was able to continue in graduate school in my field and b. if I hadn’t gotten into any school, it would have been upsetting but I would have moved on. Despite that, the concept of school being a straight-up competition – not competitive, but an actual “concours,” or race – still feels foreign to me. It’s just not how we do it in the US, so I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to that.

At first, I thought the only good thing about the whole thing was that I had just completed the worst interview possible. At least in the future, I told myself, I would automatically be fabulous by default. But with time and reflection, I realized that while oh so painful, I learned some really useful things.

Practically speaking, I know exactly what I need to do to prepare myself for this kind of situation – think through my thoughts and ideas, write them down, then practice them in front of someone else and ask for feedback. (The same basic principle is true in performing, and I should have known better!) Because it was all so clear in my head, I thought I was so well prepared. Luckily, a few weeks later I had a second chance in my interview for my current degree. I did a practice interview with a nice co-worker of mine, and had a great interview, the kind that turns into a conversation that moves beyond the standard questions.

After these two experiences, I know concretely how to prepare myself in the future, which is really valuable.

Despite my grievances with the French system and the whole process, I see the value in having gone through it. I know what to expect for my thesis defense and for future job interviews if I stay here longer. I take classes from all three of the jury members this year, so it was good for me to just get over myself and move on – plus they might not even remember my interview since they have so many students (at least that’s what I tell myself – and recently one of the professors called me Delphine a bunch of times in class so I think I’m right!). And if I do end up back in the US, I think any interview will feel like a love-fest compared to what I’ve been through here! Always looking on the bright side…

Have you ever had a similar experience? Have any advice?

London

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St. Pancras station in London – in my head it’s “pancreas”

I’m going to squish this all in one post because we squished this all in one weekend!

I fell in LOVE with London. Maybe it was the sunshine that weekend, or the fact that I was with my best friend, or the fact that it’s been on my travel wish list for so long, but I was instantly smitten! Everywhere we went was charming, different, and interesting. The buses were crazy! The people were so nice! There was good coffee with or without ice cubes everywhere! Clotted cream in the train station! The SHOPPING!

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Tried to capture what I think is Westminster Abbey in the background?

OMG I just can’t even handle it. Paris has so many amazing things, but none of the above. And I don’t realize until I get out how much it sucks sometimes. 😉 I definitely have a love-hate relationship with Paris after three years here. The housing situation, things being randomly closed, shitty weather…I will now mention some things I love about Paris to make myself feel better, since I won’t be going back to California until Christmas. The fig tart I had recently…champagne for the smallest of occasions…tiny windy streets…my friends…French, the language…cigarette smoke…duck…the buildings…the museums I love…dogs…ok I feel better now.

Back to London!

Here are some of our discoveries:

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GAH!

Diwana | Not only is every cuisine represented in London, but odd sub-categories like Indian Vegetarian buffet exist in the restaurant scene. YES. I didn’t love every dish but it being a buffet who cares. Plus it was only £6.95! It was packed with businesspeople on their lunch break – always a good sign.

Diwana Restaurant – 121 Drummond Street / London NW1 2HL / Euston

Pizza_Pilgrims

Yes.

Pizza Pilgrims | This would go number 4 on my list of best pizzas (1. Una Pizza Napolitana in SF 2. any homemade pizza 3. Zachary’s in Oakland) – it was just a solid, wood-fired oven pizza with great sauce and cheese. Mmm I’m drooling just remembering and I think it’s been almost two months. Long wait, but they’ll serve you cocktails while you wait outside – brilliant! We went to the Soho location but there is another one in Carnaby.

Pizza Pilgrims – 11 Dean Street / Soho W1D 3RP

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Drink Shop & Do | I love doing ridiculous things like going somewhere for cake and coffee for breakfast and then going somewhere for tea after. Ottilia does too. This is why we are friends. This was yet another amazing little treasure that Ot spotted from the bus – not only do they serve brunch and lunch and good coffee, they have a whole counter full of homemade, beautiful cakes (frosting is considered optional in Paris – not cool), all the furniture and decorations are vintage and for sale, and they have art classes. When we were there, a bride and her bridesmaids were having tea and making crafts. !!!

Drink Shop & Do – 9 Caledonian Road / King’s Cross, London / N1 9DX
020 7278 4335

Tea-time

Tea Rooms | I was obsessed with having a true English-style tea and though Ottilia’s mom is from London so she grew up having tea all the time she was down. We found this place online and it was lovely. We were served copious amounts of little sandwiches, scones, and cakes, and we got TWO full pots of tea! And I learned the hard way that a thin layer of clotted cream is best. (And my friend Amelia has since told me that she puts the jam on first, then puts the cream and lets it sort of melt down, which sounds amazing.) This neighborhood was also full of lovely stores full of high-quality things I didn’t even know I wanted, like really nice gold scissors, and cute cheeky greeting cards.

Tea Rooms – 155 Stoke Newington Church St / London N16 0UH

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Marks & Spencer | We do have this in Paris, but they don't carry everything that they do in the London ones. We discovered CANNED VODKA AND GIN AND TONICS. Genius, practical, and delicious.

The Tate Modern | I only had time for one museum, but I quite enjoyed this one. I was interested in the paying exhibit but decided to spend my leftover pounds on a Topshop dress instead – priorities. 🙂 The free parts were great! I happened upon a photography series in California and I recognized a photo of an AC Transit bus. Funny to stumble across that in London. I also loved this sculpture – not just because of the glitter and bright color (but mostly). I especially like it because the glitter is composed of crystals that formed naturally from an application of copper sulfate powder. As the description reads, the artist “uses chemical or mineral processes to explore ideas of growth and change and the tensions between the industrial and the organic.” While I sometimes don’t appreciate when you need an explanation to understand art, this time it helped me understand the piece and enjoy it more!

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by Roger Hiorns

General awesome-ness and happiness | Ok so I might have unrealistic tourist take on London, but there was so much cool stuff everywhere! Like Paris (and of course many other cities) there are beautiful parks integrated into the city that we kept stumbling upon. The flowers and plants were just as stunning as in the Jardin de Luxembourg or Versailles. There was free tight-rope walking in a grassy area with a very nice guy offering to help you mount and dismount. We also enjoyed Queen Mary’s Rose Garden as a way to walk off the Indian food on our first day. Walking through Soho, we happened upon a Birchbox event – I paid £3 for several samples and discovered a new favorite lip balm, and the money went to charity. All of the people we encountered were so nice, apologizing if we had to wait at restaurants. I just LOVED it and I’m so so so stoked to go back!

A bientôt

A bientôt

Grotesque shoes

I mentioned that during the rainstorm in Barcelona, Ottilia and I stopped into a Grotesque boutique and after trying on a few pairs I fell upon these. They were instantly super comfortable and totally fit my style. We all agreed that I had to have them – they seemed to be made just for me! In short, I fell in love. 🙂 I love me some shoes.

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My new booties!

I love wearing heels, but not when they hurt – who does?  I admit that comfort level and high prices are not necessarily correlated, as I’ve had some heels from Payless and Target that were super comfy.  Sometimes though, it’s worth it to splurge.  I just do that whole cost-per-wear calculation and I feel much better about spending a lot.

If a heel has a good, sturdy sole and a real leather or suede upper, it’s more likely to be comfortable and last longer. I took a gamble on this brand since I had never heard of them or owned a pair before, but after a month or so of testing, I can assure you that Grotesque shoes are worth the investment!

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Shoes w/outfit

The soles are very stiff and sturdy so my feet were a little bit tender the first few times I wore them. But with the help of rough Paris streets and kilometers of metro tunnels I’ve been slowly molding them to my feet. The other slight ding I’m giving them is the suede laces – they become unlaced so easily, and it’s something I hated about my Sperry’s when I had them. Tying a knot before tying a bow has worked to keep them from coming untied, so it’s not the end of the world.

It looks like you can order online, although the prices are much higher and the options fewer than in-store in Barcelona. But, if you live in Barcelona, Munich, or Oporto, I highly recommend you pop in! Or, as it says on the website, you can write in for other “salespoints” – cute word! Happy shopping!

Grotesque Shoes
C/Elisabets 20 local 1
08001 Barcelona
Spain

La REcyclerie

Iiiiii am so happy that this unique place exists! I have some of my classes as well as my stage (=internship) at Porte de Clignancourt, a mention of which usually doesn’t elicit sighs of jealousy from my friends. Ok, so it’s not Saint Germain. However, real people live and work in this area, and there are some hidden treasures next to the Macdo, KFC and un-classy stores selling imitation shoes and suitcases – beautiful music performed by conservatory/Sorbonne students for affordable prices at one of the campuses of Paris-Sorbonne University (this is where I study and work, shameless marketing plug alert), an antique market every weekend, stores like this with cheap vintage clothes just waiting to be dug up, and now, La REcyclerie!

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Upon entry of La REcyclerie

Where to begin? There are so many great things happening in this place. It is located right inside the old, abandoned train station that was part of la petite ceinture (basically the pre-Métro – great photos here). It is a restaurant, bar, cafe, event space, all with a no-waste, green ethos. And yes, I see the irony in my writing a blog post on my Macbook Air about an association whose philosophy is centered around low-tech things, but hey…the new generation gets their information online, so I’m providing it. They have frequent workshops – DIY eco-beauty products, and events where you can use their tools for free to give new life to broken furniture and things. I love the spirit behind that.

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Lamb brochettes

The inside is spacious and light-filled with plenty of seating options. The canteen-style food is based on regional themes that change weekly. The week I ate there was Moroccan week, and it was good! It’s definitely the best option for lunch in the quartier – I must say that I’ve had my fill of CROUS food.

I’ve also popped in just to study and write – the espresso is good and I love that they have sirop à l’eau for just 1€. And because the space is so big, there are no glares from the servers, and did I mention there is free wifi?

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La terrasse

Ok so I saved the best for last: you can also go outside to a long, narrow terrasse right next to the old tracks, which faces a community garden and is right under the chicken coop! It’s so nice to be in a space like this instead of directly on the street like most cafes.

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Looking back at the cafe from the terrasse

A friend had her birthday here a few weeks ago.  Though there were many people there that night, it didn’t feel packed like every other bar here.  There is so much space for everyone to spread out!  No sweating and shouting to be heard on a Friday night?!

La REcyclerie
2 rue Belliard
75018 Paris

Barcelona / The dog is hot

Ottilia found this place online while searching for vegetarian places to eat. It was a great find!

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The menu – I got Piñadog

They offer several hot dog topping combinations, as well as either a vegetarian or a meat dog. I think there were gluten-free buns as well. I loved the topping choices – they were really crazy and delicious flavor combinations – but the best part was the ten or so bottles of sauce on the counter so you could add even more elements to create a flavor explosion! ☺

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Yup, those are fried potatoes

After I finished mine, I really, really wanted another, but somehow managed to resist. This was a good choice, since a few minutes later my stomach registered what I’d eaten and was definitely full.

The neighborhood was nice to visit, and as you might have read in my first post about Barcelona, we tried to go back the next day because we loved it so much, but it was closed. Cheap and delicious, as is apparently my motto. 😉

The dog is hot
Raval
C/ Joaquin Costa n°47

Barcelona / Gaudi House Museum – Cafe Bonbon

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Cloudy but nice view from Park Güell

After Lisbon, we only had two full days in Barcelona. Both days, the weather report said it would be stormy and rainy, but the first day it was just a bit overcast. We spent that day checking out Park Güell – there is a nice uphill walks, views of the city, weird musicians, and the Gaudi House Museum. Gaudi lived there from 1906-1925, a prolific work period for him. I appreciate that he (or his family I suppose) left the house to the city of Barcelona after his death so that the public could have a view into one of his living spaces, especially since there is a public park surrounding it.

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Cafe bonbon!

On the way to this park, we randomly stopped off at a cute little cafe, where we discovered a new coffee drink – cafe bonbon! It’s an easy recipe: in a small glass, make a thick layer of sweetened condensed milk, add an espresso shot and pour steamed milk to the brim, finishing with a dollop of foam. One day I will have an espresso machine chez moi; until then, I make it using normal drip coffee and it’s still delicious. Based on some random coffee definition pages on the internet, it seems like cafe bonbon is traditionally just the condensed milk and espresso, so I guess Maigot Cafe embellished the recipe a little bit, a good thing in my opinion!

Because of the false alarm regarding the storm on our first day, we decided to go out dancing that night and recuperate on the beach the next day. Only half of that plan worked – I’ll write about the dancing in another post. However, the beach plan was FOILED the next day by a torrential downpour. Wearing our shorts and sandals, beach bags in tow, we were headed back to the hot dog place we’d eaten at the day before (post to come), and of course it started to pour rain right when we reached a wide open plaza with nothing to run under. Eventually we got to a little street with overhangs, and when we made it to the hot dog place it was closed.

So instead of going to the beach, we wandered around the area near the hot dog place and did some shopping. I discovered a new line of shoes that I loved and I ended up buying a pair. When I was young I used to love buying random things like shot glasses and spoons from places I traveled to, but now I like to buy clothes and shoes. Then I actually get use out of the items and think of my trips every time I wear them!

It was a total bummer that we couldn’t get to the beach, as we had only gone there one time in Lisbon. But we made the best of it and still had a lovely trip.

Gaudi House Museum
in Park Guëll

Maigot Cafe
Calle Mare De Deu Del Coll, 71
08023 Barcelona, Spain

Food + Drink in Lisbon

Note to self: never listen to French people when discussing the cuisines of other countries. Everyone I spoke to before going to Portugal told me the food was bland, that it was a meat-centric cuisine and that they were incapable of cooking it nicely. This made me worried for Ottilia (vegetarian). But we were surprised and delighted by the number of vegetarian restaurants we saw while strolling around. Sometimes it felt like we were in San Francisco, not Portugal! Many places seemed to be very French-influenced or otherwise global.

While exploring one day, we took note of one place, Planeta Bio, that looked nicer, and returned there on our last night in Lisbon. At 8pm, we were the only diners! (Later on, we walked by and noticed that it was packed and there was now a wait. It’s such a late-night city!) There were only 4 options on the menu, and you chose small or big and 2 or 3 dishes. That’s it.

Planeta Bio

Planeta Bio

Between the two of us we tried everything! There was moussaka, leek lasagna, leek gratin, and seitan korma. It came with a delicious, fresh salad and a choice of couscous or brown rice. Our only complaint was that it was not spicy enough. I suppose we could have asked for some sauce or something…anyways, it’s so nice to get healthy food like this while on vacation!

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One day we did a walking tour to learn a little bit about Lisbon, and afterwards we strolled around the winding cobblestone streets in the older part of town. I saw a sign for 1€ wine so of course I had to stop. We ended up stopping for a small glass of the green wine typical of Portugal and fell in love with the charming, cave-like bar. The woman who worked there was so nice, and there were plenty of lovely local liqueurs, sardines, honey, etc. that would make great gifts.

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Yummy things to buy

ceiling of Enoteca Chafariz do Vinho

The ceiling

Another unique experience was checking out Enoteca Chafariz do Vinho, a nice little wine bar in a converted well-head/fountain space. It was a calm and romantic space, with sort of slow service but very nice people working. I have so much respect for waiters who have to walk up and down stairs, especially with tall bottles and delicate glasses! Anyways, I just really wanted to try some porto and they had several different types. We also got a chocolate mousse to share – it was more of a pot de crème or pudding than a mousse, but whatever the name it was chocolate-y and rich. Come here for very nice wine and a relaxing, chill ambiance – if I went back I would love to do the tasting menu!

wine bar in Lisbon

Looking down from the upper level

Switching gears to a more simple dining experience – we went to the modern area near the airport on the recommendation of someone from our hostel. This area was updated for the Expo ’98 and it looks quite different from all the cobblestone streets and tiled buildings found elsewhere in Lisbon. We rode the Telecabine and had a fun time checking out the view of the water, and when we got hungry we found an unassuming little restaurant that ended up being a great find!

Good views in Lisbon

View of the modern side of Lisbon from the skycrawler

roast chicken at waterfront Lisbon restaurant

Rice, fries, and a little salad were included with more than one meal we had – a strange but oddly satisfying trend in Lisbon

Unlike most other places we’d been to, not much English was spoken but we got by with hand gestures and saying a mix of Spanish and French words. Ottilia’s omelette was 4€ and my roast chicken was fabulous. Nearby diners were eating lots of different fish dishes that looked good for someone who loves seafood. I would 100% eat there again! I can’t find the name of the restaurant, but from some sleuthing on Google maps I believe the address is 103 on the street parallel to Rua Bojador and the waterfront, right around the corner from the north entrance of the Telecabine.

yummy portuguese restaurant

Planeta Bio
R. Francisco Sanches 39,
1170-141 Lisboa, Portugal

O Cantinho da Rute
R. Sao Miguel, 79
Lisboa, Portugal

Enoteca Chafariz do Vinho
Praça da Alegria
1250-000 Lisboa, Portugal

Other Lisbon posts:

Hostel
Cheese shop