Portugal vacation (Lisbon) – part 2

Leaving Faro was slightly sad as I enjoyed the company and nightlife: it was so strange because in these few short day, it felt like they were close friends.

Arriving in Lisbon, I was shocked by the amount of hills and steep roads. Even though I had instructions to my next hostel, it seemed to seize a problem. Eventually, after climbing up a steep pathway, I arrived at my destination action, still struggling to find the entrance. However, when I got to reception, I was met by a kind girl, who was friendly and informative.

After dumping my belonging, I started to explore Lisbon to see what it had to offer. Like most of the time when I’m in a new place, I like to throw away the map and wander around on foot. My aim was to get to the market by the castle. Trolling through windy, cobbled streets uphill with the sun blazing, I saw amazing views of the city. After meeting dead ends; getting lost, I found the huge, street market, full of clothes, jewellery, ornaments. Some parts looked like a car boot sale, with people laying items on blankets and tables: some things looked like junk or stolen goods, but there were some lovely jewellery around. Wandering back to the hostel, I came across the magnificent castle, the city centre shops and a small piece of sand by the sea across from a huge square. On the squares edge, there were several shops and facilities including ‘the most luxurious WC in the world’.

When I got back to the hostel, I met a group of accountants, who were away in Lisbon for two days in a middle of a course. They were from many European countries, but all worked for the same company. I attached myself to them for next day.

What a crazy and unpredictable night! Even though I had just met them, we all put money into a pot to buy drinks and food with (I could tell that it was going to be an expensive night as they were not on a budget). First we shared sangria, with talks of getting pizza for dinner as one of the guys needed ‘fats’ to survive a night out. After food, we planned to join the pub crawl which the hostel arranged. This was a massive disappointment! It was €12 – as there were ‘too many people’, we would only go to two bars which included a shot. How ridiculous! To make it worst, the first place was a small, dingy, derelict bar that sold 0.5l beer for €1 (I know this sounds cheap and it is, but there was a place near by which sold 1l beer and sangria for €1.20). As a group, we decided to go our own way. After trying out different bars along a main cobbled road, they had decided that they wanted to go the biggest club in Lisbon, Lux. Arriving in a super cheap taxi, I glared at the queue – it was long. The club had a policy where you had to pay a high entrance fee but they turned into drinks vouchers (which actually is a great idea). One of the guys had brought an endless supply of vodka (a whole 2l bottle, which I didn’t realise you could do) and red bull. Even though the music was not my preferred choice, I danced the night away. In the late hours of the morning (around 6 o’clock) as we were travelling back to the hostel, I decided that the monstrous hill were too much for me so one of the guys, with blood, sweat and tears, carried me on his shoulders back to the hostel (one of the funniest thing). I was so thankful though. Chilling in the hostel with a bottle of port, our stomach started to rumble so a few of us went to a cafe for breakfast before having a few hours kip.

After waking up, I met up with the group from the previous night, got some lunch and strolled to the train station. There were several issues with the train tickets, which was quite amusing, so only 5 of us arrived in Belem. We walked along the harbour to the monastery, where we got an elevator to the top to see glorious views of Belem and the other side of the sea. It was then, that I was abandoned by these funny, kind, generous group as they had a coach to catch. I stayed in Belem, looking around the cathedral, relaxing in the park and enjoying walking along the coast in the beautiful sun.

When I got back to the hostel, I discovered that two groups of high school children (one from holland, one from Spain) were lodging at the hostel. It was not the most pleasant experience – I had gone on holiday to get away from children not be bombarded with them. They were loud, running around the complex, eating all the breakfast without a thought for any other resistent. That evening, I relaxed on the balcony, with a few travellers listening to some of the high school children singing (actually they had pretty good voices).

The next day, Sintra was on the agenda. Sintra was like a fairy tale place: it was one of the most beautiful, prettiest places I have ever been. The weather was slightly overcast (somehow still managed to get sunburnt) with a few drops of rain, which actually was a good thing with the amount of walking I did. Some of the attractions included: the National Palace, Castelo dos Mouros, Palacios da Pena and the extraordinary Quinta da Regalerira. Wandering around the amazing, beautiful gardens, I explored the pitch-black, incredibly formed grottos (caves), jumped on stepping stones through ponds and climbed up spiral stairways through tunnels of a well. Lunch was hard to find, not because there wasn’t anywhere to go, there was, but because Portugal does not cater for vegetarians. They expect everyone to have meat. Even as I order a cheese toastie in a tiny pub in the back streets of Sintra, the guy asked ‘with ham?’. It’s slightly irritating.

That evening when I got back to the hostel, I met two guys who wanted to find some tradition Portuguese music: fado. Wondering around the streets near the castle, we eventually found a few places with food and fado: a women singing depressing Portuguese lyrics accompanied by a 12 string guitar and a Portuguese guitar. I really enjoyed it but couldn’t listen to it all the time. After we went to the ‘love’ bar to have some cocktails, where it had quite a few erotic pictures but also looked glamorous with painted scenes on the ceiling and gold panels. Then deciding to find another bar, two of us raced up and down several cobbled passageway stairs making it into a competition (which I won as the other guy was exhausted).

The following day, I strolled around exploring different churches, the government house, narrow paths and finally lying on the patch of sand that I found the couple of days before. Just before leaving Lisbon, I grabbed some lunch at a little cafe: cheese pastry sandwich and purchased a pastry for the ride.

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Sintra

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Night adventures

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My little patch of sand

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Traditional fado

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