Lisbon, milko and blue skies

When the UK weather is bleak, cold and wet, thoughts turn to past holidays in warmer climes. Sorting through photographs reminds us that the sun does still shine! Everyone has favourite places and I recall a magical time in Portugal, and dream once more of blue skies…

Lisbon Tram by Roger Hyland
Lisbon Tram by Roger Hyland

Our week in Lisbon is nearly at an end. During the past six days we have visited museums, galleries, churches and monasteries. We have travelled on the distinctive yellow and white trams that adorn the tourist postcards. We have taken the train from Cais do Sodre station to Estoril, and experienced child-like excitement and delight at discovering that you step off the train and almost immediately find yourself on a golden sandy beach. Despite the fact that I do not sunbathe, I found myself lying beneath a thatched parasol, spread out on a huge towel and spent the rest of the day there. We slept, swam, read, swam again. Bliss.

Today, we decide to deviate from the beaten track and tourist guide and discover a tiny lush green village square and a pretty pond populated by a variety of colourful ducks and geese. We sit outside in the garden cafe and order coffee. So far, despite using the instructions in my phrase book I have been unable to get a white coffee. It always arrives at the table black. I try again, my pronunciation poor. My partner ignores the phrasebook and says loudly and confidently “Milko.” I tease him. There is no such word. But the waitress brings him white coffee. I am speechless.

Despite the increasing heat, we stick to our plan to visit the Castelo de Sao Jorge, the city’s medieval fortress which crowns the very steep hill where Lisbon’s original settlers lived. The panoramic views of the city from the esplanade, which follow the castle’s western perimeter, are astounding. We take picture after picture, recognising and pointing at the paths we have explored.

“We walked there earlier. And there.” The castle is amazing. But it is on the way back down the hill that we find what turns out to be the jewel in the crown of our time in Lisbon.

Park in Lisbon by Roger Hyland
Park in Lisbon by Roger Hyland

We have paused to draw breath and notice a few tourists wandering off over a rooftop to take pictures. Hungry for more spectacular views, we follow – and stumble upon a secret hideaway. It’s an open-air rooftop bar, hidden from the main path. There are comfy, saggy sofas and chairs and chillout music playing in the background while people sprawl and relax, sipping ice cold beer.

I don’t normally drink alcohol but we relax on the sofas and order two tall glasses of local brew. We lie back, watching the planes fly overhead as the sun sets. We are inspired and make plans to open our own bar when we return home – but how could we recreate this in the UK? Plenty of sunlight would be an essential ingredient, which is here in abundance. It makes you feel good. It helps create this laid back atmosphere. Our bar will be called Blue Skies. It’s a lovely dream to share. And a wonderful place to share it.


About the author:

Jane had her first short story published in a UK Pony magazine when she was 14. Since then she has written many books and stories for children and teenagers, and published work has been translated into nine languages. A passionate cat lover, Jane is donating all author royalties from her e-book Coming Home to the charity Cats Protection. (See the trailer here.)

Amazon author page: