Sometimes, for variety, and where we could find it, Paul would order grilled squid, and thank goodness he was willing to work a trade. Again, if you're not a seafood fan, this may not appeal, but within a few miles of where these critters are brought to shore? Fresh, delicious, simply prepared -- hard to beat! And on a hot day, with a cold Sagres, sitting at a table on the street, Lisboans buzzing around you -- perfection!
The old cap-wearing fellow you can see gesticulating in the background over Paul's shoulder seemed to be helping the restaurant owner in some small capacity, as in directing us to sit down, then shuffling in to tell the owner to come out and look after us. He kept shuffling over to tell one more story he'd thought of to the amused and tolerant young man who was there with his girlfriend. Oh, and in case you think the old fellow's garb is indicative of the weather, no, Paul's got it right in the short-sleeved cotton -- it's in the mid-30s!
There had been a festa recently in this neighbourhood, and all the streets were hung with these colourful banners. As you can see, our table was actually set up in the street! Cars would drive gently around us and we had tableside entertainment as a guy double-parked his car just opposite us and proceeded to unload luggage to his home -- not just to the doorway, but going inside and then back out for more and then inside and then . . . he blocked traffic for at least ten minutes, and while cars honked behind, they were generally surprisingly patient, and the double-parker didn't get fussed at all. Indeed, by the time he was done unpacking, someone was vacating a parking spot right in front, and we watched our all-time champion parallel-parking job as he manoeuvred his Volvo into a spot that gave him, honestly -- I have it on video -- less than a foot to spare at either end. We wanted to applaud.
As much as taking the train out to Belem to see the tourist-worthy sites there, we felt we had soaked up important aspects of Portuguese culture savouring our streetside seafood meals. To show you how popular this dish is, check out this very cute Coke commercial, similar to one I watched on Portuguese television. The commercial depicts a romance between sardines and Coke, and shows them begging not to be separated -- it's a combination that I believe many North Americans would raise an eyebrow at, to say the least, on first imagining, and yet it works well -- the salty, smoky sardines complemented by the sharp sweetness of the coke.