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Largo Do Carmo

Where the kiosk plays all Bob Marley albums, one after another. Customers get big, juicy cocktails served with a soft smack on their tables. All in the rhythm of the reggae. They feel like being somewhere exotic, with palm leaves waving and music playing sweet songs of freedom. When I close my eyes, I can almost touch the ocean with the tip of my toe. But no closed eye can hide the fact that it's a popular beach for tourists. I hear English and German and realise I'm still in the touristic heart of Lisbon. I find myself almost becoming one of them. But not really. Because I'm not. I'm a traveller, exploring and discovering the world one place and face at a time.

This place is different. I've been here before. I remember how a lovely free-city-tour guide told me about this square last year. He pointed at the seats and parasols, smiling. These are all tourist attractions, we don't go there. I liked that. We. As if I'm a local too. Then he told me about a place where all the locals went, a restaurant nearby, hidden in an alley on one side of the square. Super Mario.

That one was easy to remember. I don't remember much from the rest of the tour because I was checking my watch to meet a friend. I politely told the guide I had to run, and that I liked his tour a lot. So much I gave him a banana. You know these free city tours, they run on donations. If you enjoyed it, you give a coin or a note to thank the guide. I don't like the idea of stuffing money in someone's hand, especially if this person is a guy who I wouldn't mind seeing again. So I gave him a banana with my number written on it. I told him to call or text me, that I would be happy to take him out for drinks or lunch. If this idea would give him the creeps, he could still eat the banana.

That night he texted me. If I wanted to go have lunch at Super Mario's the next day? I met him at Largo Do Carmo at noon. He took me to his favourite place and I immediately understood why the restaurant is called Super Mario. The owner is an exact copy of the game hero. It's a family business, that's clear. With dad (Mister Mario) serving you one fine dish after another, mom in the kitchen and son behind the bar. I let the guide do the ordering, as I don't speak even a slight hint of portuguese. He knew the Super Mario family, because they recognized him as soon as he walked in.

Trays of bread with olive oil were brought to our table, and plates of fresh fish and salad and rice. The bottle of wine loosened up our tongues and we talked about everything. Things got blurry so I don't remember exactly what we talked about but it was fun and by the time espressos and creme brulees were being ordered, I lost my heart to Lisbon with its hidden Super Marios and tour guides.

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