It was love at first hashtag search between Restaurante Ponto Final and me.
Having just booked a recent trip with a long layover, I sat up in bed one evening searching Instagram on my iPhone for images of Lisbon, Portugal. This is commonly how vacation planning begins for me. After booking airlines tickets, I look for the best travel experiences using both professional and general population suggestions shared on websites and social media. My social media hashtag hits of #Lisbon and #Portugal proved fruitful. While I didn’t know much about the southern European nation that borders Spain, Instagram’s “top posts” and “most recent” images of the country total more than 16M shares of urban, seaside, architectural, tree-hugging, historical, and beachfront views and vistas to enjoy. That’s a lot of clicking. After what felt like hours into my #portugal search, I had a clear understanding of what to expect during my visit from an intimate perspective. Most interesting about discovering a place through public images on social media is the personalized experience — you’re virtually there with someone, a regular person who’s doing what you’ll likely do, too.
Many of those “regular” people posting images of their personalized experiences in Portugal seemed super excited about one particular destination: #pontofinal. Photos of this charming, riverfront restaurant promised a quaint, unique visit with spectacular views and fresh-from-the-sea delicacies. Most diners captioned images of the sunset at the Almada restaurant that juts out into the Tagus River like a peninsula with words like “beautiful,” “unforgettable,” and “lovely.”
My travelista and foodie heart fell deeply in love. Click. Click. Click. I looked at images of #PontoFinal all night long.
Still, as I added the restaurant to my list of Portugal must-sees, I reasoned with myself that there was no way all of those images and accompanying captions were correct. While I’ve come to believe the internet/social media doesn’t lie when it comes to travel and dining suggestions, I know for sure one must adjust expectations in all things in life. One woman’s “unforgettable” is often my “ehhh … what’s next?” Thus, I was excited about visiting Restaurante Ponto Final from those initial searches (I absolutely had to get there), but I was ready to be a little less than overwhelmed.
After throwing back a few shots of ginja at A Ginjinha near our temporary home in Rossio Square, East Texas Bama and I set out on a journey that would negate my misgivings and prove once and for all my initial theory: the internet doesn’t lie when it comes to travel and dining suggestions.
Love at first hashtag search between Restaurante Ponto Final and me turned to love at first sight.
As Restaurante Ponto Final isn’t actually in Lisbon, we had to cross the bridge over the Tagus (the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula) to reach Almada. While many travelers prefer to catch the ferry between Lisbon and Almada, we were pressed for time to catch the Restaurante Ponto Final sunset and opted instead to enjoy an Uber ride.
Upon arrival in Almada, we realized that Restaurante Ponto Final isn’t accessible by automobile. It’s tucked beneath a huge cliff that makes a maze of tiny streets and trails winding down to the riverfront. Our Uber driver took us down as close to the bottom as he could and basically said, “Good luck.” Thanks to a maps app and some good instincts, we arrived at Jardim Boca do Vento, a romantic swath of a park that kisses the Tagus with huge rocks in stark contrast with the greenest grass. Not completely sure we were on the right path, we risked the sunset and stopped for a few pictures while chatting with sun-gazing locals who’d stretched out on the grass like it was their own front lawn.
Someone pointed us to another walking path that led around a jagged rock angle. Before it was the Elevador Panorâmico da Boca do Vento, which is apparently the best way to visit Restaurante Ponto Final, an outdoor elevator that scales the side of the cliff, taking diners from the top to the bottom with the restaurant just steps away. We did use the elevator after dinner and were told there was a fee for the elevator operator, but we weren’t asked to pay.
After walking around the bottom of the cliff, we arrived magically, it seemed, at Restaurante Ponto Final.
My eyes runneth over with a vision of yellow. My first sights of Restaurante Ponto Final were the bright yellow tables hanging out on the old dock stretching into the rolling waters that run beneath the bridge and toward the sun. I sighed and reached for my husband’s arm. “We are here!” I likely said. I knew the place too well. I’d looked at so many pictures, from so many angles, it was like seeing something again. It wasn’t my first visit, but then again, it was. Because now I was there. I was in the pictures I once fawned over.
Diners in the yellow chairs seemed to wave at us, welcoming East Texas Bama and me to join the club. I wondered where we would sit. The preferred tables out on the dock were occupied. Closer to the front of the restaurant, the main dining area that provided a view of the water but not the bridge and sunset, was mostly full.
A waiter appeared. “Table for two?” he asked. My date confirmed and we were led to a waiting area beside the water. I grabbed East Texas Bama’s arm again with a new message: “I have to sit out on the water. And I need to be there before the sun sets!” (wifely orders verbatim). I am certain I used my whiny, toddler voice, too. I needed my former Vanderbilt football team captain husband to seal this deal — something he’s good at. If I want it, he’ll tackle everyone in the room until I get it. When traveling the world for a specific experience, one must have that experience. Nothing else will do. My experience that evening at Restaurante Ponto Final was to dine on the dock at one of those yellow tables at sunset. Done Deal.
He nodded. I excused myself to the restroom and said a little prayer that when I returned, I’d have my experience.
My team captain followed through, of course. I returned to a table right beside the water. He was sitting there grinning at me. “You did it!” I said and snapped a picture. I posted it to Instagram (see below). Caption: “When @easttexasbama is collecting international bae points. Watching the sun set at #restaurantepontofinal on the #riotejo in #almada #portugal … He did that. Dreams do come true. #okzaddy#stallworthinfinityhoneymoon#stallworthinfinity #honeymoon #lisbon#blackmentravel #blacklove#cocoatravelersintl #lisbon”
Then, just like that, the sun began to set. Wine was on the table. More ginja. More ginja. More ginja. Grins and giggles with my husband. Restaurante Ponto Final was magical.
The food was as promised: delicious from the sea and land. We tried a bit of everything, but best were those sardines for which Portugal is known. They were served as an appetizer (careful not to take all appetizers placed on your table in Portugal — you will be charged even if you didn’t order). A slight sautee with bread and wine, it was salty, oily, and filling.
As we ate, the tables around us began to turn over. Some regulars watched the river while enjoying a smoke. There was a birthday party. Friends drank and sang to the birthday girl as the shimmer of the moon danced on the water around us. Night arrived and our bellies were full. We sat back and agreed that if we lived in Lisbon, this would be our sweet spot. Restaurante Ponto Final is made for good times, great food, and wonderous scenery.
The waiter called a taxi for us. As we were on our way out, East Texas Bama pulled me close and asked if I got what I wanted. Yes, I did.
–written by calaya michelle stallworth. For more photos from my travels, follow me on Instagram @blackwritergonerogue.
See photos below.