Cooler weather and tasty pastry

Trip Start May 23, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Portugal  , Estremadura,
Friday, July 25, 2008

Mood: sleepy

Monday was a pretty boring day, just running around trying to organise things. Went to the embassy twice, once in the morning to pick up my passport, and again in the avo to pick up my emergency credit card. I also got my new travellers cheques and then went shopping and bought a new camera and some other bits and pieces. I enjoyed my shopping excursion till it hit about 300 euros and then I decided that was enough and went back to the hostel and opened everything like it was Christmas in July.

My new camera is wicked, it's a Sony cyber shot W150, the upgrade of what I had before. It has this cool function called 'smile capture' where you can press the button to take the photo but it wont actually take it until it detects the subject smiles. Very cool. It also automatically focuses on faces and does all these other cool things. It also has a wider lens so I can fit more in, which is so handy cause every time I went to take a photo with my old camera I had to walk back 50m to get everything in the shot. At least something good came from having my bag stolen.

I went out and ate at the awesome cheap restaurant down the road again with some people that night, I splashed out and got the roast lamb and it was sen-sational. We had to wait till after 10pm for a table though! We spent the evening watching the hookers work their trees/light poles/bus stops, and counting how many got picked up and how long until they got back. After spending 5 days in the area there are some that get quite familiar, they tend to wear the same clothes every night etc and you start to secretly hope that they get some action, its clear that they make very little money as they can be standing around for hours before they are picked up by a guy, and usually its just around the corner to a shifty hotel for 15 mins and then they are back working their spot again. It must be a pretty sad life.

Tuesday was a day of nothing, I waited in a long line to buy my bus ticket then hung out at the hostel just chatting to people in the bar until I left to catch my bus.

Well I have made it safely to Lisbon, it was quite a boring adventure actually, sitting on the bus from 10pm till 6.30am. I decided to take the overnight bus as it costed the same amount as the day trips but it meant I wouldn't have to pay for accommodation for one night and on such a tight budget that means YAY for me. I didn't realise that Portugal is actually 1 hour behind Spain and the city was dead when I got there. So different to 7am in Melbourne. It was like a ghost town.

My hostel was relatively easy to get to, its on a hill a few backstreets away from a train station, quite close to the city centre. Usually you cannot check in till after 2pm but the guy was lovely and as he had a bed free he let me have a sleep as I was exhausted. I ended up sleeping till lunchtime and then had a shower and some breakfast. Its one of my favourite places that I have stayed so far, for one its quite small so you feel like your in a house, not a hostel. It takes up half of the 3rd floor of a residential building. There are maybe 15 - 20beds, in a number of rooms. I'm sleeping in a 6 bed dorm and my room has the best view out of everyone's, overlooking the city right down to the ocean. The hostel has a very boutique feel, which suit's the rest of Lisbon to a T as it is very art deco and some of the architecture and décor of the buildings in this area are stunning. The facades of the houses are painted bright colours or covered in patterns of tiles. It almost looks like they have covered the front of their apartments in wallpaper. The inside of the hostel is gorgeous, each room has a base of white but then also a colour, for example we have one wall painted blue. The beds and all the linen and curtains are white, so it looks very fresh and clean. And OMG OMG OMG they provide you with DOONAS!!!! Not shitty blankets, actual fluffy warm cuddly doonas! I haven't seen a doona since I left home 2 months ago.

There is a great kitchen here as well as a common room with big comfy couches, fluffy rugs, cable TV and DVDs available for everyone to watch. This place is so cool that it even has a chandelier hanging from the roof. The décor and the staff here make you feel like your staying in someone's home, and its nice to be able to just veg out and chat to people and take a breather.

So after I had my shower I spoke to the hostess for a while, and she gave me some ideas on where to go and what to see in Lisbon. I started by catching a train downtown and walked around the square Praca do Comercio - which displays in its centre one of the Portuguese kings sitting on a horse. There is also a huge archway that leads into the Bourke st of the city. As you wander up the street, you pass artists, restaurants, street beggars, retail therapy, and buskers. At the top of the street it opens into a big square with a fountain and just to the right of it is another square where all the skateboarders hang out and where I caught a bus up to the Castelo De Sao Jorge, a beautiful Moorish castle built on  hill overlooking the city and the port. I didn't have enough money with me to go inside but I wandered down through the labyrinth of alleyways till I found a lookout and sat there eating an ice-cream for a while and admiring the view. Then I wandered back down into the city and cruised around before getting back onto a train, stopping off to get some groceries for dinner (I spent 28 euros... not good! But its so exciting to have a credit card!!!!! Haha.) and then went back to the hostel to cook up a feast.

I decided to lash out and make a reasonably healthy meal. I cooked a couple of fresh fish fillets and then made a salad with some lettuce, tomato, mozzarella and Caesar dressing. For dessert I had 2 tubs of yogurt and some grapes. And a nutella sandwich.

I went out with a couple of girls from my room last night to this tiny little bar where we had been told that they would play traditional Portuguese music called Faro. We bought a jug of sangria to share and waited for the music to begin. When they started they turned down all the lights and then there was a guitarist and an old man singing. It was really relaxing music, sort of like Spanish guitar but softer, and a couple of different people sang the old guy and then a lady. We couldn't understand a word but it was nice. And the bar was completely fully packed, it was clearly incredibly popular. The crowd went nuts after every song, clapping and cheering. From what I have seen, the Portuguese are very very proud people, with everything that they do.

Today (Thursday) I had a good sleep in an then took my time getting ready before heading out to try and find a bank to cash in some of my travellers cheque as I am almost out of cash and I cant withdraw anything off my credit card as its not a proper card and has restrictions on what I can and cant do. I ended up going on a wild goose chase, the name of the bank that amex list as being a fee-free cashier doesn't seem to exist, I went to 2 different locations before trying a random bank, being told that there is only one bank that deals with amex and going there, only to be told that you have to be a client of the bank to be able to cash them, so I gave up and caught the train to the bus station to buy my ticket to Lagos for tomorrow, then going downtown to catch a tram to an area called Belem, about 20 mins from the centre of Lisbon out on the coast. This area is surrounded by parkland, and features a huge Monastery, a small port, and lots of areas to chill out and relax. I wandered through the central area which features a small garden and big fountain, where I sat and consumed my sandwich that I had made this morning with the left over lettuce, Caesar dressing, tomato and mozzarella. It was a little soggy from the tomato but I'm not judgemental when im hungry.

I also took a stroll along the port and past the aquarium, a couple of museums and then back to the monastery where I sat in the huge cathedral for a while and enjoyed the peace and coolness. The weather here has actually been quite mild, it was only in the mid to high 20's today, a big jump from the 40 degrees that it still was when my bus left Madrid at 10pm a couple of  nights before. Where I am sitting now in the common room it is quite cool, the window is open and letting the breeze blow through, im almost tempted to put one of the stupid jackets that I have been lugging around on. Almost tempted.

After I bored of the monastery I wandered over to the commercial area of the town, and visited the most famous pastry shop in all of Lisbon - Pasteis de Belem. These guys have been around since the 1830's and are famous for their egg-custard tart things, they are amazingly delicious and there was a line out the door of people waiting to get their dirty little mouths around some of these things. I may have gone a little overboard and spent a lot of money in that store but let me say that if you go to Portugal, you must try these things as they are so incredibly scrumptious that I will definitely be back to eat some more.

On my way back to town on the tram I had a random old guy sit next to me and try and speak Portuguese, until I gave him my normal confused 'im a stupid tourist' look and he started speaking to me in English. He was a funny old duffer, he decided to take it upon himself to be my personal tour guide for the whole ride home, pointing out different buildings and sight and trying to tell me all about the history of Portugal. I don't know if I believed everything he said, but he told me about how a large chunk of Japan speaks Portuguese, how they have conquered a lot of the world, and that they discovered Australia centuries before captain cook etc. I just nodded and smiled. I don't know my history well enough to question anything. He apparently speaks Portuguese, English, Italian, Arabic, Spanish, and some other random languages that I cant remember, and called himself well travelled, although he has never been to Australia - its too far for him. Thanks. He seemed to be a wealth of knowledge about almost anything that you wanted to know.

So after I blew my daily budget on pastry, I headed back to the hostel to try and form some kind of dinner - it ended up being a glass of milk and a couple of episodes of Dexter in the common room. I haven't moved off the couch for about 3 hours now and that's how long its take me to write this blog as I keep getting distracted by this new concept of watching tv, something I really haven't done in 2 months and although its nice, im starting to get over it already. Its been really nice to be somewhere homely. The staff here are the friendliest that I have come across in all my travels so far, they make you feel like you have always been part of their family and always call you by your first name. Its so nice!

Yesterday was the 2 month mark and it felt like just last week that I was finishing off my first month... the time is just flying by. At the rate that im going I think that I still have about 5 and a half months ahead of me, which doesn't seem like long considering how fast everything is flying by. In no time im going to be back home and battling with the real world again. Kinda scary. Im not ready to start thinking about home!

Meanwhile tomorrow is my 4 hour bus trip to Lagos, which is in the south of Portugal, famous for its beautiful beaches, surfing and watersports, partying and relaxing. I have left myself 6 days here as I need some time to really relax and unwind before I jump head on into my crazy Moroccan culture tour in a week and a bit. Tonight im going to enjoy my last night with a doona and have hopefully a delightful sleep before my next adventure.

Well better go because an episode of Nip/Tick has just begun and i cant miss this.
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