Finding Gina: a Portugal mystery

May 19, 2016

We didn’t see the sun on our trip. Never saw a day like this.

Show me an arrow pointing somewhere mysterious and I’m going to follow it. I’m a curious girl. Despite what they say happened to the cat.

Lisbon is a lovely walking city, with charming cobblestone sidewalks (watch your step!) and enough hills to give you a little workout. It was our second night in Portugal and we were hungry. We set out on the Avenida da Liberdade to find a place to eat. Although the avenue was crawling with high-end retail, there were far fewer places to eat and of course, it’s always a crap shoot when you’re in a strange city. Still, the weather was clear and we were up for a little exercise.

PortugalThe practice of posting menus outside so potential diners can see what’s on offer (and prices) is common in Lisbon, too, and kept us moving along, until we saw a huge sign indicating the way to Gina’s Restaurante.

We figured that a sign like that could only lead to something interesting, so I led us in the indicated direction.

Where we found another another sign.  Hmm. Would curiosity kill the cat?

PortugalAnd another.

PortugalThey were urban trail markers, so we just followed. These are only a few of the signposts along the way.

PortugalAnd then, well…and then:

Gina artAnd then, it led us to this huge yellow … parking lot. It was creepily deserted. Not a car. Not a piece of litter. Not a human being. Nothing but a gigantic yellow lot (this is only part of it) bordered by hundreds of feet of eerie street art. A whole lot of street art.


The paintings went on and on. I had the feeling that I could step right past the curtains into a strange world, if I wanted; the art had that mysterious sense to it.

What was this place? And why was that parking lot painted bright yellow? And why were was it deserted?

PortugalMore signs appeared.

Until, finally, we found Gina’s Restaurante.


Here’s Gina!

It was anticlimactic, although the strangest experience I had in Portugal.

Like most Europeans, the Portuguese eat late. It wasn’t much after 7pm so the place was empty, save for staff. The posted menu was disappointing. I was fascinated by this place, though, and wondered what it was all about: the signs, the yellow parking lot, the massive street art. There’s a story there, I’m sure. I’d love to know it, but I probably never will.

But I could see that my friend was pretty creeped out by the site, so we left.

I looked it up later and found it had food typical to Portugal and good diner reviews, after all, although almost everyone commented on what a good value it was.  Which to me is almost always a bad sign. And there were some really horrible reviews.  A few reviewers commented on the weird location but no one really got into how very weird it was. There’s a story there, I’m sure. I just don’t know what it is. And probably never will.

If you know it? Let me know. Thank you!  Oh, and the cat?
LisbonI saw him on site. Still alive. And very nonchalant.

Now, tell us, have you ever followed signs to someplace strange?

25 comments on “Finding Gina: a Portugal mystery
  1. Barbara says:

    But now you must return, when the sun is shining and you speak a little Portugese (wouldn’t you love to speak that language??) and uncover the mystery. Even if only to discover the meaning of the yellow parking lot.

  2. Candy says:

    Maybe one of these days I will visit this beautiful place

  3. Lauren says:

    That is kind of a funny story.. I would have followed the signs too and def would have eaten there after all that! 😉

  4. GAry says:

    That parking lot is something straight out of a Stephen King novel! Creepy!

  5. Portugal is so short-list. I know you had terrible weather, what a disappointment. While you were there, I was lucky enough to be house sitting at a beach house, ostensibly to write my book, and Mother Nature apparently wanted that for me too. Never saw the sun once in 3 weeks!!! But mysterious adventures are always fun, even if you never find the ending…then you can go back or make it up!

  6. Gunjan says:

    Wonderful pictures. Your post makes me want to go to this beautiful place.

  7. deanna says:

    Wow, that is interesting. I wonder what the big yellow lot was for? I would love to know how the food at Gina’s is. I love hole in the wall places, even if they are creepy! 🙂

  8. alison says:

    We are so similar because I would have wanted to know all about the restaurant with so many signs pointing to it. That is such an interesting strategy to advertise! You need to put it on your bucket list to go back and eat there so we can know how it tastes really and not just in reviews!

  9. Barbara says:

    I think you should spin a fabulous short story from this! Let your imagination run wild.Wouldn’t that be a fun exercise??

  10. Andrea says:

    All that effort – but it definitely paid off (and ps – the cat is adorable!)

  11. Liz Mays says:

    What a mysterious adventure you had! I’m not sure whether I’d have eaten there either. Really interesting!

  12. candy says:

    Yellow parking lots should be started here in the states.

  13. Our family visited Portugal in the early 70’s. Your first picture with the red roofs and shot of the ocean is what I remember from that trip. Strange outing you had to get dinner!

  14. Anna Palmer says:

    That yellow parking lot is worth the trip. You know how much I love street art!

  15. Follow the yellow brick road lol I would love to go to Portugal one day

  16. we went two years ago and now i feel everyone is going! beautiful city and delicious food! i’d go back in a heartbeat

  17. ananda says:

    i always wanted to got visit Portugal, because of the music, the tiles, and architecture i saw in photos… the graffiti would scare me a little also!

  18. Roxy says:

    What a fun little adventure! Even though the restaurant was a little anti-climatic, I love all the art work you saw along the way. I really think it should be common practice to post the menu outside…it makes life so much easier!

  19. Donna Parker says:

    Signs can be misleading, but that cat would never steer anyone wrong lol Maybe… 😉 Popped over again, this time from Elena’s #BlogShareLearn Love the street art. 🙂

  20. Jacqui Odell says:

    I was born in portugal, but haven’t been back since I was one. I would love to visit sometime.

  21. Wow.. Wonderful pictures!! I always wanted to visit Portugal and that yellow parking lot is worth the trip!!

  22. I have. When we first moved here to SC we found an old covered bridge and as we were leaving another sign asked if we wanted to see another an pointed the way. On and on it went and we spent the whole afternoon following each sign. It was lovely.

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