Yesterday, when I told you about a rock ‘n’ roll jeep tour that takes you along Portugal’s south and west coasts near Sagres, I mentioned that the area was undiscovered by tourists from the States. And I stand by that. While I certainly wasn’t the first Americano to grace its shoreline, the reaction from the locals upon discovering where I was from told the whole story. They were, without question, not used to meeting Americans. The English, yes. The Spanish, for sure. Germans, totally. But not Americans.
And I’m not just talking about some remote village in the middle of nowhere — the same has been true thus far of my stay in Lisbon. I suppose the main reason is pretty obvious. Lisbon just doesn’t sound as sexy as Paris or Rome, two cities that Americans are all over on their first European jaunts. And since a very small percentage of Americans even travel to Europe once let alone twice, Portugal (as well as other European countries) becomes this “second-tier” destination that Americans never get around to visiting.
Which, on some level, makes sense. I have no problem with France or Italy — I certainly understand why they attract tourists. But I’m not sure people realize that Lisbon, which reminds us a hell of a lot of San Francisco in terms of its topography, is the closest major city in Europe to the East Coast of the States. Go ahead and check out the map. We fly right over it on our way to Barcelona, Rome, and Athens. Flights from New York City to Lisbon are under 8 hours, and those from Boston are even shorter.