Today and interview with Andreia White Tavares. Spotter for our Lisbon cityblog!
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m often mistaken for a tourist in my home city. No, being blonde doesn’t fit the typical picture of a “local” here. Besides, being Portuguese/American and with many international friends, I have the terrible habit of unconsciously switching between Portuguese and English (even in mid-sentence!), which I suppose doesn’t help matters. But the duality is kind of fun, almost like going incognito…
I’ve lived in the Lisbon area for most of my life, with the exception of 8 years abroad, split evenly between London and New York. Lisbon doesn’t have the wow factor of either of those cities, and people sometimes ask me why I came back. I chose to return because this is “home”, although I admit there have been times I’ve questioned the decision myself…and then I go and fall in love with Lisbon all over again and I just know.
I am both a homemaker and a travel junkie; so whilst I love having my apartment and “nesting”, I need at least one good, long trip a year. Usually, the farther away, the better, so I’ve spent time in places like Buenos Aires, Nairobi and Bangkok, but still haven’t been to Paris. Go figure.
I’m passionate about photography and love how it’s helped me see the most mundane things in a different light. I recently exhibited in Lisbon with some friends for the first time and had a blast, so that’s definitely a project to be repeated.
How do you like being a Spotter?
I love being a Spotter! Most notably, it’s encouraged me to talk to people I might not have before. I now regularly strike up a conversation with restaurateurs, cooks, shopkeepers, and ask them questions about their business, their vision. I’ve experienced my city in a whole new way. More discerning, more objective, but also from a more human perspective.
Before writing about the chestnut seller, for instance, I chatted to him for at least a half hour, whereas before I would have gotten my chestnuts, paid, and left. Besides being a very sweet man, I learned that he loved what he did, that he’d been at it for a very long time, and listened to some hopelessly romantic stories of how several couples had first met while waiting in line for his chestnuts (and had come back to tell him so!).
One of the Lisbon’s selling points is that it strikes the perfect balance between new and old. So true! One moment you find yourself at an avant-garde art exhibit and another sitting at an age-old café being waited on by staff who’ve been there for almost as long. The most exciting thing about life is that it’s all about contrasts, and Lisbon matches that to a tee.
Do: Walk. For all of Lisbon’s hills, this is still a city that, is best seen on foot. Besides, there are some streets so narrow and sinuous that you wont get there any other way. And for that matter wear good shoes – cobblestones and heels are not a good match (trust me).
Do: Keep your eyes open for the unexpected. This past summer, for instance, there was a lot going on outdoors, some scheduled, some improvised, like an evening of tango alfresco in Alfama or listening to musicians jam on a guitar and a sax on the steps of the Carmo church in Chiado.
Do: Well, actually “do nothing.” By that I mean, at times, you should take the time to just stop and observe. So plunk your bottom down at a sidewalk café, sip a “bica”, and just people-watch.
What is the most popular neighborhood to live in Lisbon at this moment?
It’s a toss-up. Chiado is most popular during daytime and evening – always teeming with people and packed with cool restaurants, shopping, theatres and museums. But Bairro Alto makes for some good competition – located “next door” (literally across the street) where bars and restaurants turn this old neighborhood into a street party at night. They’re not all that Lisbon has to offer, by any means, but they’re a good start!
Can you describe a perfect day in your city?
A perfect day would start with sleeping in (forgive me but I’m a leo; we like our snoozes). After a late start, I’d head to the river for brunch at À Margem to soak up the sunshine and fresh air, followed by a walk along the river there.
After that I might head to Chiado where I’d spend the afternoon, ahem, window shopping and walk over to Noobai for an afternoon snack.
Dinner at Taberna Ideal or Petiscaria Ideal would be spot on, followed by a couple of hours of caipirinha-fuelled Choro dancing at Lusitano Clube.
Check out all Andreia White Taveres’ articles and the other interviews with our Spotters.