So I concluded my 3 months of being a Londoner and had another month (and a bit) of travels planned to finish of my European escapade with plans for Portugal, Spain, and more of the U.K to wrap things up.
Another travel adventure, this time to Lisbon, Portugal :
I landed just after lunch time and as soon as I stepped off the plane I could feel the heat in the air. It wasn’t scorching, and was only a beautiful 20°C or so, but having come from London for the last 3 months, it was a blessing. The sun warmed my skin and the air smelled fresh and dry. While waiting for my baggage inside the terminal however, I had a nose bleed. I guess the air pressure or warmth affected my sinuses, which I wasn’t expecting as it’s usually the cold that does it.
Moving on from that, I made it to the bus stop and caught the bus to Picoas which was only around the corner from my hostel. As soon as I got on the bus, the driver and a female passenger got into some kind of argument and were shouting at each other in Portuguese (which I don’t speak a word of)! Other passengers looked around uncomfortably and some looked at me, giving me that eyebrow raise that knowingly said “oh gosh isn’t this a bit confronting, and I am definitely judging this woman’s actions” (you all know the look I’m talking about), all the while I had no clue what was being said by the offender in question. I was probably the only English speaking person on the local bus. Things calmed down after a few minutes of shouting and the woman stood defeated with a sour look on her face, and the bus driver started driving.
Once I made it to the street of my hostel, I walked up and down the street two or three times, double checked the street I was on was the one I was supposed to be on, but still had no luck finding it. Defeated, I paid the cost for mobile data for a day in Europe to google the street number of the hostel to figure out where the hell I was going. After that, I walked back down to the hostel and into the tiny almost unsigned door to my hostel that I had indeed past numerous times.
It was now going on 3pm and I was starving! With 3 hours to spare before joining my Topdeck tour, I dropped off my luggage and the receptionist gave me directions to a few local food places. On my way to the Portuguese restaurant I smelled the Nepalese one she had also recommended and ended up serving myself up a huge buffet plate of Nepalese/Indian food.
After rolling out of the restaurant with a full belly, I went wandering locally. I walked down past some beautiful buildings and notices a tremendous juxtaposition of new and old, rich and poor, well kept and deserted places – public spaces, shops, and housing. Stone cobbled streets and mosaic stone footpaths held both beautiful tiled houses and old cement houses of various colours that had seen better days. An old bricked up factory type building had some great street art and traffic police blew their whistles and directed traffic through traffic lights (is that not the point of having traffic lights instead of men)?!
I found a monument and a book fair, and my second nose bleed.
I walked around the book fair and noticed they had author signings and live readings too. It was huge and had food stalls every 20m or so. In the centre of the fair, the Portuguese flag waved proudly at the top of the hill with well kept gardens. I noticed the “Streets ice cream” logo was everywhere on various ice cream vendors carts but had “Ola” written there instead of “Streets”. As I left, I discovered the Central Park and walked up the hill. At the top was a grand building that was totally under construction but also a lot of unkept pieces around. The path was uneven and crumbling in places underfoot as the tree roots were claiming back the earth; the statues were broken and defaced with graffiti; and the central water feature was empty and broken in places. I have since learned that Portugal came into money fairly quickly, with their gold and resources, and they spent up big! Lavish palaces and grand statues were erected with no money left for then upkeep. Again they came into some money when they joined the European Union and again they spent up big, so they are once more left with no money of the upkeep of these places. If you looked wealthy then you were wealthy, despite having no actual wealth. Despite this, Portuguese people are very proud of their country and their people, and they’re happy, friendly, and very welcoming of tourists and immigrants (except with the Spanish, as they have a long history of rivalry between the two countries).
I wandered back to join my tour and met everyone over a welcome drink (mostly jugs of Sangria) at the bar and saw nose bleed #3 come along. We walked to dinner in the rain to an Italian restaurant (of all places) and ate good food and got to know each other, also encountered nose bleed number four (apparently Portugal and my sinus aren’t friends)! A few closing drinks (more sangria for most people) back at the hostel bar rounded out the night for me and I caught some Z’s.
The next morning we rallied the troops and 9 of us who had met, had breakfast and ventured out to explore Lisbon. We walked to the castle on top of the hill (a great leg workout) but of course, we walked around to the back and could not enter it. Never the less we saw the scenic route of the old town of Lisbon and caught some great views. We came across the ruins of what we assume to be an amphitheater called the Vomotron but it had certainly seen better days. Construction equipment and scaffolding was all around it, but no workers, so it may have been deserted. A huge cathedral stood proudly and various art pieces were dotted along the way.
We walked down through the square where we could see great monuments, the beautiful ocean, and get offered hash or cocaine by street dealers who were offended and questioning us as to why we didn’t want it.
We also saw the “San Fran Golden Gate” bridge, or rather, it’s twin sister, that stood under the mountain with the sister monument of the infamous biblical statue with open arms from Sao Paola in Brazil.
We walked along the beach front to reach the markets that are open for ridiculously long hours and packed with people, for a delicious selection of lunch, sangria and dessert choices.
After our tummies were full, we caught the tram #15 to Bellem where there is a shop selling the infamous Portuguese (custard) tarts. We waited in line for the tarts and after buying a number of boxes we all went to the park and sat and ate and laughed and got a little sunburned. The tarts were delicious, although I am gluten free so I only got half the experience (the custard half, with the tart half going to the others in the group/hungry seagulls) yet it was still amazing. Definitely recommend making the trip to Bellem to buy them if you are in Lisbon, and make sure you put a generous amount of icing sugar and cinnamon on each one!
Returning via tram to the city centre, we walked via the market places and looked and shopped and were met with loads of smiles. A maze of subway connections got us back to our hostel and we rounded out the day with another drink (more sangria for the others, a nice baileys for me). 11 of us then caught cabs into the city for dinner but the place we were headed to rudely shut their door in our face telling us they’re full and cannot help us (perhaps the first rude people I’ve come across in Portugal)? Next door there was a Portuguese buffet with a very friendly waiter who looked after us and we ate and laughed and some had a few too many Sangrias!
Bed awaited me after I got back after a long day, and I slept ready for my departure from Lisbon the following morning. Another great city in a beautiful country, ticked off the list. ✔️