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Secret Gardens, Random Cafés, and My Portuguese Slumlord

Updated: Apr 8

Life in the Beco (photo by author)

In week 29, I had some random fun times and some not so fun times sponsored by My Portuguese Slumlord.

Diogo. The “Unfortunate” Looking Heavy Pour Proprietor

Constantly on the lookout for great, local spots, I learned of a new café from friends that I wanted to check out. They told lively stories of the owner, Diogo, and how he liked for them to come in and drink wine as I am sure those times could become very profitable for him. Reviews on Diogo’s looks were mixed with one of my friends saying he was unfortunate looking and one saying he was a rather handsome man. 

One day when I was in the neighborhood I decided it was time to see this spot for myself. When I arrived, I immediately spotted Diogo. I would definitely be in the camp of those thinking Diogo was a good looking man. He has a bit of a mischievous smile and seemed to enjoy interacting with the customers and staff. I immediately liked him.

Outside of Diogo, another big draw of this place are the bar and barstools installed in the window facing the street, allowing a prime people watching opportunity. They face the main street and a side street that ends right at the café. There are plenty of pedestrians and traffic jams to watch as one enjoys a drink or a meal.

As I settled into a prime window seat and waited for the tea I ordered, I texted my friend Ava who lives across the street. She came over to join me but said she was only having a coffee as it was to be an early night for her. I was supposed to meet friends later so she would hang out with me until then. 

After we finished our tea and coffee, I still had not heard from my friends so we decided one drink would not hurt. When my friends were a no-show, we just kept chatting, drinking, and enjoying some of the best people watching in the city. Diogo was an enabler as he encouraged us to order a bottle of wine saying he would keep what we didn’t drink behind the bar until we returned, hopefully tomorrow.

Diogo is a dangerous little man. You don’t imagine yourself having a crazy night at his nondescript café and the next thing you know your friend is telling him to bring a bottle. Don’t worry! Diogo says he will keep it behind the bar so we don’t have to finish it. 

After much merriment and empty wine bottles, I realized I better roll back towards the Alfama. It was such a random fun evening. I have since become a regular of Diogo’s but avoid having him stash bottles behind the bar for me. :-).

My Portuguese Slumlord: Loud Noise At Night (video by author

My Portuguese Slumlord

Life on the beco is lovely as ever with the exception of one thing. In an attempt to top the plague of bugs My Portuguese Slumlord recently released on the building, some loud noise now goes off randomly during the night. It erupts from the bowels of the building, waking you up at odd times. It sounds like something ramping up in volume, reaching a crescendo and then holding there for a while until suddenly stopping.

Whatever is making the noise, it’s probably wired to my meter. This would give the diabolical little slumlord the bonus of being able to annoy me all night while running up my electric bill, the size of which already indicates that I’m paying for the entire building’s electricity. 

To add to the fun, during the day and most of the night, the chain-smoking new resident who moved in below me, smokes right outside his door. I like to keep the windows open while I work so his smoke fills my apartment, causing me to wonder how much exposure will lead to complications from secondhand smoke. 

In bonus fun, I’ve gone and knocked on his door, but he refuses to open it, yelling at me to go away and calling me offensive names. He won’t come any further out than his door, blocking the view into the apartment. My friends think he’s growing pot or running a meth lab. They said to let them know when I’ll be out of town again and they will come check it (empty it) out…

I’m taking suggestions on possible deterrents. Currently, I have a recommendation to put plants in my window that require frequent watering. Maybe I’ll get fake ones so I can water them several times a day without causing any harm to the plants but maximum annoyance below.

Fun Times in the Secret Garden (photo by author)

The Secret Garden

Mid-week it was time to hike up the hill to Graça to find the Secret Garden. Our new friend Ines, who entertained us so beautifully as we ate our smuggled corn at Ricky’s cookout, was playing a gig there. I am one of the few people who does not see the joy in Graça, a nondescript neighborhood a bit off the beaten path. The views are phenomenal but in Lisbon a good view is a dime a dozen. However, to hear her sing, I was ready to make the trek. 

The easiest way to get there from where I ended my afternoon was Tram 28. When I first arrived, I loved the idea of Tram 28 being one of my local means of transport. Now those little tram bells trigger a hostile reaction brought on by gawking tourists always filling one of my only forms of transportation.

Instead of fighting the tourists, I caught a bus and got off at the top of the hill and walked down. Finding the Secret Garden was not simple which made it all the more appealing. After descending some tricky steps, I reached what looked like the entrance to someone’s actual garden. At first, I headed back upstairs but finding no good alternatives for what might be the entrance, I decided to try the backyard entrance. Success! 

A guy greeted me, took my name and pointed in the direction of our table. There was a little bar that served fresh fruit juices, coffee, tea, wine and beers. I bought a glass of wine and headed toward our table. Ines had reserved us a spot in front of the stage. It was set amongst a beautiful garden, as the name gives away, full of lush trees, plants and flowers. 

She was singing and playing her guitar with random artists joining her at times. It felt magical, like we were hovering above the city in the clouds. Slowly, our table filled with new and old friends. I made two lovely new friends that live on the other side of the river. We exchanged contact info and I hope to meet up with them soon and explore their neighborhood. 

It was the perfect antidote to the evening symphony sponsored by My Portuguese Slumlord.

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