After dropping our stuff off at the hostel, half of our group walked around for a little while in order to explore the city. Our first stop was the Elevator de Santa Justa. This historic elevator, build in 1902 inside a Gothic wrought-iron tower, once served as transportation to Barrio Alto, a central neighborhood, but now takes tourists (us) up 45 meters
. Once we got up there, we enjoyed majestic views of the entire city, taking in the brisk air while pondering the appearance of white houses with reddish-orange rooftops that extended for miles. Conveniently, we could also see the water and some of the port city of Lisbon.
Upon descending in the elevator, the group and I traversed some more streets en route to the Castelo de Sao Jorge (St. George Castle). The castle, originally constructed during the 5th century by Visigoths, was later dominated by the Moors and finally by the royal family of Portugal. Today it stands as a series of stone walls with breathtaking views of Lisbon. After a strenuous 'hike' up some hills, we encountered some of these stone walls and magnificent views. The higher up we went, the prettier it got. We all took some pictures and enjoyed the crisp air amidst the 75 degree F weather. Finally, I was rocking some shorts and sandals and it felt extremely refreshing because, personally, I hate wearing Jeans all day in 60+ degree weather in Europe. I guess I hate how the Madrillenos are so fashion forward and wear jeans until it's certified summer time. But that's neither here nor there. The castle was awesome overall with a doubt. We descended this mountain and enjoyed a nice sit-down session at a rooftop bar for a brief period time. We returned to our hostel in order to great Nolan.
We relaxed for a little while and got ready to grab some dinner and go out
. We grabbed a few beers at the hostel bar, and made our way out to dinner in Barrio Alto not too longer after. Surprisingly, all 9 of us managed to get an outside table together at a decent restaurant. We each ordered some food as shared both red and 'green' wine, which is just like a very fruity white wine, more or less. I ordered the Pork, Portuguese style with home fries/ potatoes. I thought it was just delightful. Following dinner, we all began walking to some bars in Barrio Alto, sort of just winging it while walking through the incessantly crowded streets. As I now like to say, "it was asshole-to-bellybutton" all over the place. Nevertheless, we were enjoying ourselves, and hailed down some cabs to take us to the big club in Lisbon called Dock's Club. The club wasn't very crowded when we got there, but it got hopping after a while. Upstairs, they had a rooftop deck with a sort of trampoline-esque (ish) structure that proved to be fun for all those who went on it. I met some Spanish people as well who I, of course, tried to mingle with because I love speaking Spanish just for the hell of it. We stayed a little longer at the club, but it was definitely a pretty cool night. I would have to admit the language barrier overall was a little tough to cross. Portuguese is VERY different than Spanish. We could understand it if we read it, but listening and speaking was practically impossible. Thus, mingling with the locals who didn't speak any (or hardly any) English was too much of a challenge.
The next day we all woke up and cooked up our different game plans
. One plan consisted of walking around the city some more while the other was the beach. I obviously chose the beach. We wanted to venture out to a town called "Cascais", which was a cute little beach town about 30 minutes away via train. Easier said than done for me of course. As the girls and I were buying tickets, I was a little behind in essence. The girls headed toward the train that was set to leave in the next 30 seconds. I didn't get my ticket in time, and the girls, perhaps selfishly, left me behind. However, I knew I was resourceful and independent and would just take the next train. I did so accordingly, but there was a little bit of a problem. Instead of getting off at said town "Cascais", I got off at a ridiculously similar sounding town of "Caxais", which was about 20 minutes prior to the other correct town. I mean, Come on!!!! Not realizing it at the time, I saw a beach and thought I would find the girls there. After trudging around frustrated for 30 minutes, I asked some one where I was and I was pissed I messed up. However, I persevered, found a train station, and made my way to the right place and found the girls shortly after I got there. I then enjoyed the beach for several hours, taking in the sun as I love to do as always. We hit up the small beach, which was right next to a longer one right down the street.
Later that evening, I met up with the other half of the crew where we embarked on a "Go-Kart" Audio guided GPS Tour for about an hour and a half
. We essentially drove around in these little yellow dune buggy, 2 person vehicles checking out all the sites of the north end of Lisbon with an audio tour with a Portuguese woman's voice. We couldn't believe that this company simply let us take out these little demon cars into the semi-busy streets of the city. Regardless, it was an exhilarating experience, often getting lost many a time and having to push our car back and forth when we got stuck since the Reverse option literally didn't exist. After fooling around for an hour and half, often driving recklessly, we tried to find our way with the GPS they gave us. It was very difficult, and one point, we almost went on a highway but avoided that immediately. Finally, after about 20 or so minutes of confusion, we made it back to the start, having had an up-and-down (but mostly up) go kart experience.
We got back to the hostel and got ready to go out once again. We tried to coordinate dinner and Fado which is the famous music/narrative experience in Lisbon, but only some of us did that, not including me. We went to a dinner where an appetizer cost us more than 3 of our dinners last night, and the rest of the food wasn't that good either. After dinner, we walked around Barrio Alto some more and went into a few bars. It seemed all the same as the night before, perhaps with more people. After bar hopping around, most of us had already called it a night, and headed for the hostel
. Fortunately, for Jon and I, we had a 4:00 pm flight and didn't have to wake up early. The next day we got up and looked for some Botanical Gardens, but came up empty. We sat in a small park and read and relaxed for a while till we headed back to the hostel and then towards the airport. We got back to Madrid around 7:00 pm, only to be greeted by the entire family, as it was Mother's Day in Spain. I had no idea it was this day, but Jon and I bought a card today (just one day after). Overall though, I thought Lisbon was a magnificent city, highlighted by an old school feel with deliciously warm weather and an invigorating nightlife area an and eclectic culture. Perhaps I will return one day. Albeit a big group, I think we all had fun celebrating Amanda's birthday. Pictures will tell.
I know stand with 4 weeks and 3 days left in my semester. My Lord has it flown. I will embrace every minute of the next 34 days or so to the fullest, there is no doubt about that. Just gotta keep on keepin' on.
So I realize it has been a long time since I have written and I apologize. I got a little lazy the past week or so and there wasn't too much to write about it. However, I just returned from a trip to Lisbon, Portugal, a truly magnificent city. My friends and I set out on this journey in order to celebrate the birthday of my good friend Amanda Glanz. We were rolling deep: 8 of us from Madrid and 1 kid named Nolan in London, a good friend of mine from Wash U. And we were all staying in the same hostel, which was just exquisite. It was sort of elegant in an excellent location but with a fun atmosphere and an international crowd (that we didn't bother to mingle with).