“Are you looking to shop?” my host asked me with a sly smirk. It was yet another warm, impossibly clear day in Lisbon and, having run through most of my hot spots, I was looking for suggestions.
Letting out a quick chuckle, I shook my head and replied with, “Definitely no. Not really my thing.” (Something that has always been and, I suspect, will always be a general truth for me).
“Ah, well you should go and see the Feira da Ladra then. The giant flea market.”
Confused and thinking that perhaps something got lost in translation, I sheepishly attempted to clarify. “A flea market? Where you shop for people’s secondhand items?”
Seeing my face, her smirk widened. “Yes, but you won’t want anything that’s being sold there. It’s all Gypsies selling mostly junk.”
I still wasn’t quite sure what to expect, though my interest had been sufficiently piqued. Not that I had much else going on for the day, so off I went in the general direction of Lisbon’s Alfama neighborhood in search of a Gipsy market.
Not being familiar with Lisbon’s layout and having only been here a few days so far, I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t find Feira da Ladra. I certainly didn’t want to approach potentially non-english speaking strangers with something along the lines of “Gypsy market?”, so I just figured it was no big deal that I didn’t know exactly where I was going. General direction was good enough for me, and I’m always game for getting good and lost with the hopes of finding something new.
As I rounded a nearby cobblestone corner though, I immediately knew that finding this would not be an issue.
An endless row of stalls lined the both sides of all the streets, which themselves were clogged with people making their way through. Every so often a misguided car, who’s driver surely must have forgotten that it was market day, would attempt to make their way through and just lay on the horn until they could inch forward.
The setup of the stalls within the Feira da Ladra felt completely random. Some were full tented tables with chairs for the owners, while other setups were as basic as a wide sheet of cloth spread out on the ground.
Even more at random was what was actually being sold here. Need a pair of socks?
Check! How about an “authentic” African figure?
Got it! You say you’re meeting your girlfriend’s parents for the first time and didn’t remember until just now that you need a snazzy new outfit?
Yep, they’ve got you covered. Heck, why not pick-up some cheap imitation US Military gear while you’re out and about?
And on, and on, and on this market stretched with seemingly no end in sight. And while I was quickly becoming disinterested with the assortment of items for sale, I probably could have sat for hours on end just observing the numerous and equally random characters that were buzzing around.
Buuuut it was already past lunch time and I was starving from all this walking around. I had read about an amazing roast pork sandwich nearby (more on that in a future post) that I was desperate to try and figured that it was about time to start moving in that general direction.
As I was making my way out though, I noticed that just about all of the salespeople within the marked had bunkered down next to or nearby their stalls for lunch. But rather than a quick and simple sandwich or salad, almost all of the groups had full meals on top of fold-out tables, with real silverware and the requisite bottle of Portuguese wine. Pretty good setup if you ask me…
Seeing all of this just made me even more hungry so, with an empty stomach growling louder by the second, I left Feira da Ladra behind to make my way through the Alfama neighborhood in search of a legendary sandwich.