Gay and Lisbon
Trip Start May 27, 2011
10Trip End Jun 19, 2011
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One thing about these low-cost carriers is that they never seem to have any sort of flight during the normal hours of the day. After our amazing four hours of sleep we managed to muster, we packed up everything we'd unpacked last night (our toiletries bags), and went downstairs for our transfer back again to Madrid airport. Since the airport is only 10 minutes away, we allowed ourselves an extra half an hour sleep which hopefully makes the difference between slight sanity and sheer exhaustion.
Considering it is summer here and we’re in the Mediterranean countries, this morning was really cold. The Easy Jet experience was a lot more pleasant than the Ryan Air one right from the get-go with much more cheery check-in staff as opposed to the grunt, nod or "yeah?" greeting you get from the latter
Once on board, Easy Jet continued to impress with a much newer looking aeroplane, happier looking staff and SEAT POCKETS! Who would have thought they’d become an on board luxury? It was a relief to see that not every low-cost carrier totally strips everything bare. The flight was only an hour so before we could even close our eyes for a nanna nap, we had already arrived in Europe’s westernmost and sunniest capital (according to the Go Lisbon website anyway).
Portugal is quite an eye-opener, and can’t really be compared to anywhere else we’ve been in Europe. It isn’t that similar to Spain after all, it’s more like Spain-lite. Whilst the cities are less striking and active, it is less crowded and friendlier. It’s like turning up somewhere expecting Argentina, but finding out you’re actually in Uruguay. And the Portuguese language is both similar and dissimilar to Spanish. It’s like learning German beforehand and then realizing everything is written in Dutch.
With my poor Spanish, we managed to ask a taxi driver to take us to our accommodation
Ted cleverly used someone’s unlocked wifi in the hallway to use Skype and call the owners asking where the hell they were! Finally after several attempts, a disheveled looking man opened the door (Kevin the house-boy) and let us in. Despite the initial debacle, the apartment was the best place we’ve stayed in so far, with a big room, big shower and big kitchen (in the first Spanish accommodation you couldn’t even scratch your nose in the shower without elbowing the soap dispenser). In fact we were so excited about finally arriving in Lisbon, we went straight to sleep to try and avoid looking over 40.
After this desperately needed recovery, we decided to discover the city further. We had no idea where to start so we jumped on the local metro (very easy to use) and went to a station that sounded interesting
We then found the nearby pedestrian shopping street Rua Augusta which was beautiful and clearly catered to tourists. But if you stood out from the locals you we’re also targeted by drug pushers! (or so we thought). In the space of one block, Ted was offered marijuana, cocaine and Viagra just because he was carrying a map. We were told later by the owner of our B&B that the cocaine they try to sell is actually sugar, so the marijuana is probably parsley and the Viagra is probably the generic brand of blood pressure tablets.
We went to the local tourist booth which ended up being closed, which was kind of strange because it ended up being closed the other three times we went there too. We did however enjoy just walking around and looking at the architecture and local squares even if we didn’t know what anything was. One thing we did recognize was Portugal’s greatest export to the world. I’m not talking about Carmen Miranda, cork or Vasco da Gama, but rather the Portuguese tarts which are in the shop window of every cake store we found
Since we were relatively clueless about what we were seeing, we decided to buy a sightseeing package which included two open top bus tours, a tram ride through the neighbourhoods and entry fee up the local Santa Justa elevator, designed by an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel. As the day was getting later, we took the local tram ride which ended up being better than we’d expected. Rather than being one of those look at this sight, look at that view type of tours, it took you through the narrow back streets of Lisbon where you could see the locals working and living and see the real city. It was definitely one of the better tours I’ve done, as it showed the real Lisbon. And it was pretty accurate too, as the tram ended up breaking down twice.
The view from Santa Justa was great too and helped highlight how Lisbon is different from Madrid. The city is a lot hillier and feels more open and spacious. Whilst we didn’t know what to expect, we like the city a lot now. We returned to our B & B to find a young bloke named Nick from New York similarly standing outside the apartment building pressing the buzzer trying to get in. Since we now had the access codes we took him inside (since Kevin was again no-where to be found) and let him settle in
Since the five of us had all just met we thought it would be good to go out and have some Portuguese dinner. I went and showered in the huge bathroom, which has a big window conveniently across the laneway from an older woman who sits on her balcony smoking. We all caught the metro into the city and went to Lisbon’s most progressive area to find a place to eat. We went to a local restaurant and half expected the menu to be like some sort of huge Oporto outlet. Well, not quite. Since I couldn’t read the menu, I pointed at something that resembled chicken but when it came to the table, realized that it wasn’t. No-one could really speak both Portuguese and English, so for the first half of the meal I thought it was peacock. A quick check later on Google Translate revealed it was actually partridge.
The meals though were quite similar in a way. Ted had roast beef which came with extra salt. Eric and Nick had smoked salmon which was garnished with salt. And Jos had lamb that was enhanced with a layer of salt
We were then all keen (Nick particularly) to go partying with the Lisbon locals, so we wandered around the area trying to find a venue that would suit us well. After an hour we gave up, as nothing was open, busy or had attractive people. Nick was the eternal optimist and decided to keep looking whilst the rest of us headed back to Saldanha, where our B & B was located. We did find a pub open though where we could enjoy a local beer Super Bock before heading back. Tomorrow we have our two open-bus sightseeing tours, guaranteeing we see every nook and cranny of this friendly city.
We enjoyed a well-deserved sleep-in this morning (possibly the first relaxing thing we've done so far on this holiday) and late breakfast before heading out with Jos and Eric to do some sightseeing
Lisbon today was strangely cold which is odd considering it's already summer here, so being on the open top deck of the bus didn't end up being so smart. The bus left late as we were joined by a whole group of denim-clad Polish bikies and leather clad German tourists.
This tour focused on more of the historical sights of Lisbon although I admit I didn't enjoy it as much as yesterday's tour, mainly because there were whole periods with a lack of commentary, and the English recording spoke with a Russian accent. Most of the buildings were pretty nice, and I was happy to hear that the bull-fights in the Campo Pequeno no longer involves the killing of the bulls. I did feel a special bond to Jeronimo's Monastery as I'm sure it was named after one of my ancestors. One thing that was slightly concerning was how many sights had been lost to earthquakes over the years so I held on tightly to the tour bus railing as we toured around.
We went for lunch at another local restaurant where the food was better than the last one but had a somewhat surly waitress
Ted and I had a lively discussion (argument) about whether or not to call a taxi tomorrow for the airport as Ted believed we could easily hail a cab off the street at 5am. We finally decided to ask the owners to book us one so I could stop worrying about one less thing on this holiday.
This evening, Eric and Jos bought a bottle of red and chorizo which we enjoyed in the living room with a German guy who turned up. I thought this was going to be our dinner before bed since we have to be awake at 4.30am again, but when 10pm rolled around and I was about to hit the hay, they said "Let's go out for dinner now!". As much as I hated to admit it, I'm not the Energiser bunny, so I decided bed sounded more appealing. Ted however decided to be polite and go out, whereas I preferred to be rude and rest :-)
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