12 Sep FLT Managers Series, Part 1: Uncovering Portuguese Culture with Thomas
Food Lover Tour shares our passion with food lovers in several cities in Spain and Portugal, and each city has a unique team of foodies who deliver our guests the best experience possible. In this new blog series, we will feature an interview with the managers of each city and get a little more insight into their city and its culture and foodie scene! First up, we are interviewing Thomas in Lisbon as he tells us about the city’s best food and his foodie story.
Thomas Gaston Achille Cock
How can I get it in quickly? My name is Thomas Cock. I come from Brussels where I was a journalist, but was actually born in Congo. I like to travel and discover secret and authentic places. I lived in Montreal where I was a comedian; in Paris, where I was an actor; in San Francisco where I worked for NGOs; and now in Lisbon where I opened a tourism company called Thomas Cock Travel Agency. Meant to be!
Lisbon is: the SF bridge, the Père Lachaise cemetery, the conviviality of Brussels, the kindness of Montreal, and the lights of Congo.
How long have you lived in Lisbon? What drew you to it?
I have lived in Lisbon a bit more than one year. I lived in San Francisco the year just before and wanted to keep the bridge! My parents live in Brazil so I thought it would be convenient to learn Portuguese.
What made me stay? The light. If the hilly narrow streets, the houses covered with azulejos and the Tagus river are the main body of this city, then light is its aura.
What do you love about Lisbon? Which is your favorite neighborhood? What are some of your favorite things to do here?
What I love the most is the fact that when you smile at someone, he or she smiles back. The energy in Lisbon is incredible. Someone told me, “Be careful, this is a city that has everything to offer.” I’m meditating on this sentence every day.
One of my favorite neighborhoods is Mouraria, because it is very genuine and full of diversity. I live in Santos, which is pretty flat and along the river. This neighborhood is very Portuguese, and I like the fact that it has always an eye on the river.
I like to go out and dance on the docks. Music and dance are the twin souls of Lisbon.
What things should visitors in Lisbon see and do during their stay?
They should experience some Fado. You can only hear that here, but let me bring you to the best places! Otherwise, they should go dance, too! Every Sunday, at the Titanic Sur Mer, a dozen Brazilians play samba. People just dance around them. It’s magical.
What is the foodie scene like in Lisbon?
If music is the soul of the city, food is definitely the heart of the Lisboeta. Their food is full of history. It takes you not only from the south to the north of Portugal, but also around the world. The Portuguese were great sailors and spices was one of their quests. You’ll travel back in time with some cunning inventions like Alheira croquettes (a chicken and turkey mix) which were invented in the 15th century. People were being converted to Christianity, so this was to avoid for Jewish people to avoid being uncovered when they had to eat pork. However, there are dozens of other mind-blowing dishes the average tourist has the chance to discover, especially with Food Lover Tour!
What’s your favorite local dish in Lisbon?
Peixinhos da horta (literally small fish from the vegetable garden): green bean tempura. It is also very historical, involving India and Japan, but for that story, you will have to sign up for the tour! I like them with some homemade mayonnaise because I’m Belgian!
What is something about Lisbon that you want people to know?
The people! The Portuguese are very sensitive, open-hearted, and generous people. The culture always goes through people, so if you want to know more, just ask, as they are always glad to chat! In the streets, in a café, from a window… chatting is part of the culture here.
Conversation with my roommate:
Me: I think I’m going to be late.
Her: You’re becoming Portuguese.
Me: Actually, I think I can make it.
Her: Then have a coffee!
This city is undoubtedly beautiful, and Portuguese people are the charm.
With all what is happening in the city, such as gentrification, speculation, and the boom of tourism, let’s learn from our different backgrounds to explore new solutions all together! As a friend said, “The Portuguese discovered the world in the 15th century, you only discover us now.” So let’s talk!