How Frank fell for Lisbon

© Joao Pedro Marnoto for The New York Times

It always amazes me to read someone’s account of their discovery of Lisbon. I have always had trouble describing the city to those who have never visited it, as the report never fails to sound dull, missing the point, somehow. This New York Times chronicle, however, nails it exactly:

In Lisbon it occurred to me that maybe our favorite places are simply those in which our expectations are routinely exceeded, happenstance cuts in our favor, and it doesn’t matter which fork in the road we take. It leads somewhere we’re happy to be.

Lisbon isn’t a city you visit with a “program” or a “circuit” of things to do. Of course, as a selling point on a travel brochure, this isn’t much of an argument, but that is precisely what makes it so compelling to us, who live here:

…in that moment I realize what — more than the tiles, trams or water — endears Lisbon to me. It has a humility that is rare on a storied continent with so much reason and readiness to boast.

There’s nothing immediate about this city. She won’t care about you at first, but will let herself be discovered, all her perfect flaws, and will finally let you sit down with her, cuddling in silence, admiring the sunset over the Tejo, enjoying one last dinner, as the rumble of the party downtown starts to slowly, imperceptibly but inevitably make her loins sing and swing.

I wasn’t told to approach it on bended knee. I could instead stumble upon it, tumble into it and let it lift me up.


#Frank Bruni#Joao Pedro Marnoto#Lisbon#New York Times


  1. Slobodan Manic - September 15, 2012 @ 16:03


    It’s not just Lisboa, it’s entire Portugal that’s like that for me. I spent a month in Oporto last summer plus several days in Lisboa, then went back to Oporto and a few other cities this year and am now planning permanent move there.

    When friends ask me what exactly it was about Portugal that made me fall for it, it’s usually difficult to explain. It could easily be one of many amazing places Portugal has to offer, but for me it’s more about the overall feel I have while I’m there. I was calling it not being pretentious with so many reasons to actually be that way, but humility could be an even better way to put it, definitely shorter 🙂

    I hope I’ll join you guys there soon!

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