At least once a year, I try to take a big break. I work pretty hard, as a lot of people and business owners do. When one works for themselves, they forget to take days off and can easily end up working 10+ hours a day, seven days a week. So when I say I work hard, I try to make sure to balance it with “do nothing hard.” This usually involves me leaving the country for a month or so and submerging myself in a new culture. Last year I went to Spain, which left me incredibly refreshed, and this year I went to Portugal, which left me incredibly artistically inspired. Portugal still has this innocence about it — it feels like tourism hasn’t totally knocked it over. The people are so friendly, the prices are right, the art is around every corner, the buildings are ancient and the food is amazing. My girlfriend was there for a four-month artist residency. When I went to visit her, I was automatically thrown into the locals-only vibe. Knowing the best little spots to eat, galleries to visit, music to go see. Everything is so walkable, it made me realize how much time I spend in my car in Los Angeles. I went to the music venue ZBD (Rua da Barroca no 59, Lisboa; +351 213 430 205) a couple of times to see the most interesting curation of music and performance. This seems to be the most popular place in Lisbon for really good sound curation and all things music related. I loved going to the film festivals that seemed to be happening often. There is the cinema theatre called Cinemateca (R. Barata Salgueiro 39, Lisboa; +351 21 359 6200) that has an incredible library of some of the most valued films in Herstory.
The food, yes the best part. Almost every day I wanted to go to Café Boa Vida (Rua do Poço dos Negros 119, Lisboa). It’s this tiny spot run by a husband and wife who aren’t much older than I am, but want the simple and quiet life. They don’t even stay open on the weekends, which would be their busiest time, because they want to enjoy their time, too. They make their own ferments and nut butters, and source everything from their friends who run farms. The coffee was insane and the bread with canned fish and tons of olive oil was my staple. They make their coconut yogurt parfaits covered in fruit and homemade peanut butter which is heaven. And there is a preschool playground located directly behind them, so. three times a day you can hear kids playing in the back, screaming their little heads off while they play pirates or football or whatever it is that baby kids do. It was so sweet! Though it was loud, I hardly heard it because it was so adorable. By the end of my trip I was a regular to them. Once I even forgot my wallet, and the owner told me not to worry about it because he knew I would be back the next day and could pay then. And he was right, I went back the next morning.
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My other favorite place to eat was Água no Bico (Rua das Gaivotas 8, Lisbon; +351 910 111 470). It’s run by a queer man who cooked these incredible dishes that were either still finishing or just finished as they opened. There were so many vegan, paleo and gluten-free options, but done in the traditional Portuguese way. He made this raw cacao tart that comes with an espresso that I am still dreaming about.
Around the corner from this place was the oldest tea shop called Companhia Portugueza do Cha (105 Rua Do Poço dos Negros, Lisbon; +351 21 395 1614). I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was — it was like I entered a store from the 1600s. Teas from all over the world in large tins stacked like a library. The old man who worked there almost looked like a tea leaf. You knew he lived and breathed it. I left with so many unique teas. One of my favorite was a Rooibos that had Bergamot petals in it.
And just to circle back to Spain. I stayed at Casa Bonay (Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 700, Barcelona; +34 935 45 80 50), which was by far my most favorite hotel I’ve stayed at in a long time. The rooms, the lounge, the food, the wine, the furniture are all very carefully curated. Collaborations with artists filled the walls, and music that I loved rang through the air.