Fear & Phobia In Lisbon

Trip Start Aug 22, 2012
Trip End Aug 28, 2012

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Where I stayed
Lisbon Destination Hostel

Flag of Portugal  , Estremadura,
Monday, August 27, 2012

This is my last full day in Lisbon. Tomorrow I fly back to Barcelona. So the question was how should I spend the day? First of all, I could barely walk – the hills of Lisbon had taken their toll and had really done a number on my legs, so sightseeing was pretty much out. As much as I would have liked to have seen what all the fuss about Belem was about, I just couldn't face travelling over there. Going to the beach presented the same problem: being at the beach would be great, but even though it wasn’t far away, the prospect of getting there put me off. So, I decided to go to a square and just people-watch.

I had an idea of which square I wanted to go to, Chiado, but before that I felt I should go up Elevador Santa Justa to see what the view was like. Elevador Santa Justa is an enormous lift in the middle of the city with a viewing platform with a panoramic vista of the city. What I didn’t realise was that it is also commonly used as a means of transport to bypass the hills to get to Bairro Alto. If only I’d known before!

I took the lift, after waiting in a queue for some time, but was disappointed to see that where we got off was not at the viewing platform. In order to get to the viewing platform you had to pay to go up some stairs. Now, these 'stairs’ were such a narrow spiral staircase that even a child would have had difficulty fitting in it, let alone a great hulk like me. Besides, there was very little space for my huge feet to fit on the steps. Consequently, given my recent case of vertigo, I suddenly became extremely doubtful about this venture and took some time before making a decision to go up. What swayed it for me was watching pensioners springing spryly up the staircase and I thought to myself, "Well, if they can do it, then so can I!"

Hesitantly, I started to make my way up, and just when I thought I was at the top I realised that I was probably only halfway up the staircase. Once again, just like back at Castelo de S. Jorge, I went dizzy; panicked thoughts of getting physically stuck in the staircase as well as becoming immobile through fear rushed through my head. What to do? I tried to tough it out and continue on my way up, but as it happened, a couple above me had the same problem. The staircase we were on was for going up, there was another one for coming down, but this couple were intent on coming down on this one. I don’t know how panicked they were, but truth be told they were quite rude about me going back down – possibly because they thought I didn’t understand Spanish (always be careful about what you say, you never know who will understand).

Anyway, I needed no further excuse, there was nobody behind me at the time and like a jack rabbit I darted down the stairs for the safety of solid ground. Who knows? Maybe I would have got to the top, but now that I was back where Mother Nature intended me to be, there was no way I was setting foot on those stairs again. I’m sure the view from the top is breathtaking, but I’ll never know.

Instead I spent a very pleasant afternoon at a café in a square just between the lift and the Bairro Alto, where, oddly enough, an exterior bar scene for a film/ad/tv programme was being shot. As I sat there watching what was going on, I tried to sidle over to get myself in the frame – wouldn’t be cool to turn up as an extra in some Portuguese movie? I don’t think I was successful though. I was never asked to move and they never really looked my way, even though they were shooting right across my table at one point.

When lunch time came around, I’d had enough and went over to an Indian restaurant in another corner of the square. I know, I know; with all the wonderful food on offer in Portugal, how could I go for a curry? Sometimes I just can’t resist the temptation. It was a very good curry at a more than reasonable price, the only ‘fly’ in the ointment was that there were some wasps who were intent on sharing it with me (who knew wasps liked curry?). Of course, I have an irrational fear of wasps – well, actually, it’s not that irrational as they have a tendency to sting and not die, so it’s not a last resort for them. And when stung, I have a tendency to swell up like a balloon, if you can imagine that, not to mention the fact that I’m kind of allergic to the pain – so let’s call it a healthy fear of wasps.

I was fighting a losing battle, first one came along that startled me and refused to go away no matter how much I tried to shoo it by doing a passable impression of Mr Bean on crack. Eventually it landed (and got stuck) in one of the pastes for the starters and I managed to drown it in it by placing another jar on top of it – take that! However, karma can be cruel, because no sooner was the euphoria of dealing with the wasp in a ‘dignified’ manner rushing to my head (cue lots of whooping and screaming, “Yeah, baby! Have some of that!”), than four or five came over to see what was going on. At this point, I gave up and abandoned what was left of my meal. I paid up as quickly as I could and looked for another square to loiter in.

Despite these setbacks, I still managed to enjoy a pleasant day, even ending up where I’d planned to: Chiado. Sitting on the terrace of O Brasileiro is like sitting on the terrace of Café Zurich in the Pça Catalunya in Barcelona. It’s expensive, but there’s no better place to watch the world go by... and there are no wasps.
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