Happy New Year from Lisbon, a place that feels strangely familiar. Of course, being in Europe, with strong Latin influences and similarly built on seven hills, an immediate comparison can be made to Rome. Just as at one time it was true that “all roads lead to Rome”, Lisbon was central to waterway travel and an age of exploration during the 15th & 16th centuries that must have felt like it was the center of the universe.
Yet, if we draw parallels to modern cities, San Francisco emerges as a compelling comparison. Both cities are defined by their hilly topography, offering stunning vistas (or “miradouros” in Portuguese) from various vantage points. This terrain has been shaped significantly by seismic activity. Lisbon's history, notably marked by the devastating 1755 earthquake, mirrors San Francisco's experience with the 1906 earthquake, both leading to major urban redevelopment.
Their climates are remarkably similar, characterized by mild, wet winters and dry summers, typical of a Mediterranean climate. This has a direct influence on their culinary scenes, where fresh seafood, locally-grown produce, and a preference for simple, flavor-rich cooking are common.
Architecturally, the 25 de Abril Bridge in Lisbon is often compared to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Interestingly, both bridges share a similar color and structural design, although they were not designed by the same architect. The similarity, however, has become a notable point of connection. Additionally, both cities are known for their historic tram systems – Lisbon's trams and San Francisco's cable cars are iconic symbols and popular with tourists.
Culturally, both Lisbon and San Francisco are recognized for their diversity and progressive attitudes. This is reflected in their vibrant arts scenes, inclusive communities, and environmental initiatives. Their coastal locations, with Lisbon facing the Atlantic and San Francisco the Pacific, also play a significant role in their identities, influencing everything from trade to tourism.
A favorite experience in Lisbon is watching the sunset over the Atlantic. The city’s western orientation offers spectacular views as the sun dips below the horizon, with the ocean acting as a mirror and casting a glow that feels reminiscent of the sunsets over the Pacific in San Francisco. It's a reminder of a place I’ve called home almost half a world away.