What better way to get the sense of a city’s soul than to peruse through metric tons of its mostly unremarkable second-hand items, like those for sale at the Fiera de Ladras Flea market in Lisbon’s Alfama district at Campo de Santa Clara. The twice-weekly market seems to envelop an entire neighborhood. Tents and tables blanket a large cluster of adjacent city squares, chocked full of eclectic inanimates once cherished but now largely unappreciated. The gems do exist though, surrounded on all sides by rough, and that’s where the fun of flea markets exists. It hinges on the potent emotion of discovery, and the hope of spotting something that others passed over unknowingly. We spent a couple hours leisurely drifting among the wares and their owners, eager to find a souvenir to rescue from the pile. We settled on a vintage tin of shoe polish with art-deco Portuguese packaging design that evoked simpler times. Perfect snag.
The afternoon found us exploring the district of Alfama. It’s one of the oldest neighborhoods in Lisbon and was originally situated outside of the city walls and therefore filled with poverty and squalor. By now, that reputation has completely disintegrated and the area has become an attraction in and of itself. The ancient district is full of tiny plazas, unexpected viewpoints and endearing shops and cafes ripe for discovering. Its labyrinthine contents are brimming with charm, and we enjoyed getting lost treading its worn cobblestones for a few hours.
Later that evening we experienced one of our most enjoyable nights of the entire trip thanks to some local friends that Max had met during his time living in Amsterdam. As a small group we traversed Lisbon on foot; bar hopping, stopping to enjoy the lively sunset scenes at various Miradoras (public squares with scenic overlooks), ducking into hole-in-the-wall stands to take shots of Ginja together, and enjoying a dinner of ‘illegal’ chinese in an inconspicuous second floor apartment clandestine eatery. Elated from the revelry, we were again reminded how much easier it is to slip into the flow of life in a city with the help and hospitality of a local friend.