Traveler's Tales

A Minibar Christmas in Lisbon

by Allison Hatfield

LISBON, Portugal – Well, it wasn't. A minibar Christmas, I mean. But it almost was.

I couldn't believe it when I woke up at 11 a.m. Stunning, considering I'd gone to bed at 12:30 a.m. But there it was, 11 a.m. And it was maybe 1 p.m. before I decided to move about.

Christmas was a rainy one in Lisbon. Gray and windy. So I decided to stay in bed for a little longer, given that everything was supposedly closed and I was lazy. I ordered a movie (Skeleton Key) on pay-per-view and made a cup of tea. By 3:30, I was famished and not sure exactly how I'd deal with it. I inspected the minibar.

Now, don't be sad for me. Christmas. Minibar. Rain. Alone in a hotel room. Sure, there's a moment that I wished I had a lover, another where I wished I was with my family more than anything. But it was fleeting, and mostly I relished the aloneness, if not the hunger. I had an invite to Christmas day lunch at a famous chef's in Lisbon (charmed life, shut up, no way, what a dear man), but as I'd been in his company for two nights in a row, I decided against it. I'd also been asked to drinks with a group of my boss's friends (DO NOT KISS HUGO UNDER PENALTY OF LAW, she said). But really, I wanted to be alone.

I set out in the drizzle and find that, indeed, nothing is open. Seriously. Not a cup of coffee to be found in this town. Nothing. Hungrier. And hungrier. I ride the famed Lisbon elevator and meander down to the commerical square to Europe's tallest Christmas tree. And popcorn. I eat some popcorn and am glad.

On my way back, I find an Italian restaurant open. So I go in. Order a bottle of wine (why not a whole bottle? It's 16 euros or about 18 dollars, not even the cost of two glass in NYC), a caprese salad, and spinach ravioli. I talk to a couple from Boston and listen while an old guy from Chicago goes on and on about hating the United States. I eat. Drink. Order coffee (American, please. How humiliating, but yes.) and some of the best tiramisu on earth.

Walking back to my hotel in the rain, I see a homeless guy masturbating. The same homeless guy who yesterday I would have bet a euro was having sex under his blanket. Well, why not masturbate? It's free. And it's Christmas. Small pleasures.

So I am back at the hotel. Belly full of wine and pasta. Heart full of love. 


Allison stayed at 
Hotel Dom Carlos Liberty
Rua Alexandre Herculano, 13
1150-005 Lisboa 

The famous chef who charmed her is Michael Guerrieri. His restaurant is
Rua da Artilharia 1, 16
1250-036 Lisbon, Portugal


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