When Nina and I got to the lookout point in Alfama, I was not prepared for the sight ahead.
A full moon right above the horizon. The town alit with the glow of a setting winter sun.
And just like that, between one breath and the next, I fell in love with Lisbon.
Because how could you not?
How could you not be enchanted by this port city, with its limestone spires and clay tiled roofs, where sunsets turn alabaster walls into carnation pink? Soulful tunes of Fado music mingle with whiffs of fresh bakery in the air and narrow, serpentine paths of mosaic wind up and down the hills, inviting you to wander and lose yourself in their alleys. And if you do lose your way, fret not. Trek to the top of the hill and you’ll find yourself at the gates of a towering Moorish castle and, at the bottom, the banks of the Tagus River, which sweeps around the bend to meet the Great Atlantic.
Against this backdrop, it’s easy to think of this as an anachronistic spot that’ll be left behind in a fast-changing world. Yet Portugal takes a far more liberal stance than many other “leading nations” on hot topics like same-sex marriage and drug usage, and had implemented legislative changes for these long ago.
This isn’t a place so enamoured by its own past that it can’t see the future; they’ve learned how to honour progress and history in tandem. After all, one does not necessarily come at the exclusion of the other. And if Lisbon, a predominantly Catholic city more ancient than Rome, can figure this out, perhaps the rest of us could too.
All of which is to say, this place is magic.