I arrived on the train from Madrid in Lisboa yesterday morning to a city not quite yet awake. So, I went to guess where of all places… Starbucks! It was the only café open early in the morning. I love, love, love that people here don’t actually do anything until after 11am. It helps me feel less guilty then for waking up at 1pm for the first two days of my trip. I enjoyed a latte, then headed off to find my dorm room – or shared room in a hostal, as it was the only accommodations available for the weekend that were less than $400/night. Apparently, Lisbon is the hot spot in Europe since their economy tanked this summer and everyone wants in on the action.
I found several people who speak English so far. I think that the people have had to venture outside of their native tongue because ain’t nobody else speakin’ some Portuguese – it is a dying language that has combined some Spanish, mixed in a Russian accent, and dashed it off with a bit of French. No wonder a Ukrainian can pick up the language in three weeks time, but it takes a Spaniard 8 years to understand the damn thing!
After I got booted off the Internet at Starbucks, I finished my latte and began the search for my hostal. I hopped on an elevateur (as they call it), or the tram, that takes you from the bottom to the top of a really, steep ass hill and costs 3.50 euros a ride. (Since I was lugging my backpack, I decided it was worth the investment.) As I arrived at the top of the ride (which was as much of a disappointment as most carnival rides tend to be), I exited the elevateur and gazed back over the city. The view at that time of morning was stunning, as the mist had not quite cleared from the harbor. I headed in the correct direction, believe it or not, to my hostal. I did pass it however, but was quick to realize this when the street names changed, thus turned around and caught it the second time. I knew it was still early, but thought I would try to check in anyway – no luck though, as they didn’t have the bed ready yet. The whole hostel was undergoing renovations, so there were construction workers everywhere.
Let’s just say the Portuguese do not have the same building codes that we do in the US. For example, they do not care if you are walking around while wires, plumbing, shards of glass or broken bricks lay everywhere. Their theory is that if you get hurt, it was your own damn fault anyway. So, it does not bother them to have scaffolding up on the stairwells at odd angles to reach the corners of the ceiling to fix the pipes, or to smoke while pasting lead paint on the walls. Personally, I found it all to be a minor annoyance, UNTIL I learned that the internet would not work for longer than two seconds at a time before continually booting me off. I learned something about myself today – I am an internet-addict – I finally admit it. No worries, I decided to go have some lunch and tour the city, since I could not check in. Fortunately, I was about to leave my bag in a locker behind the front desk so that I could walk up and down the 100+ hills more freely. I do have to say, today was an excellent glute workout day, indeed!
Since I hadn’t really seen the ocean yet, I decided to make my way down to the port and have a bite to eat near the water. By this time the city had come alive and people were chaotically running about the pedestrian mall to shop for crap they don’t really need (but was cheap so hey, why not buy it then?!). Everything and everyone in Lisbon is for sale – prostitution runs rampant here (worse than Madrid), and everyone wants to sell their mother, so if you love your mother, don’t bring her to Lisbon! People are so poor, they are only a revolution away from squalor, even the dogs beg for money.
I was starving by the time I found a patio with a seat, thus inhaled my empada (different from an empanada, apparently – oops, my bad). I didn’t stay too long at port, as it started to rain, so I went to find a museum to hide in until the storm passed (believe it or not, the weather has been affected here due to Hurricane Katina). No such luck as all of the museums are really nothing more than galleries, which sell the kind of crap that I can’t afford anyway. Thanks to the rain, I also began to notice an intense smell permeating the streets. I thought to myself (in a thick English accent to boot) “The whole fucking city smells like piss!” It didn’t get any better as I climbed my way back up the gargantuan hill to the hostal – it was EVERYWHERE. I couldn’t escape it either, because the bed at the hostal still was not ready (how long does it take to make a bed really?!) All I really wanted was shower, but I went back out across the street and slept in yet another park, since my belly was full and I had just hiked the equivalent of a Fourteener. When I woke, I noticed that the pigeons were eyeing me like I was food, so I made a break for it quickly back to the hostal before they could rip me limb from limb.
Of course, the bed still wasn’t ready, and it was now 2:30pm, but they let me shower in the meantime – halleluiah! I was standing there in the smallest shower stall in Europe, in a shared bathroom, I resolutely determined that I would not stay in this shithole. And when I say shithole, I mean all of Lisbon is a shithole….surrounded by some absolutely stunning architecture. I finished showering, got dressed, was able to get on the internet long enough to ask my mom for a few phone numbers via Skype (since email wasn’t working – pfffffft), then headed out to find the nearest payphone – which turned out to be another Fourteener hike and a half away from the hostal. No matter. I called the number to a bed and breakfast place that had first caught my eye when I was hunting for a place to stay on the internet, but declined due to the location being two hours outside of Lisbon. Luckily, the couple still had a room available – it would cost 60 euros by taxi or 5 by bus. I chose bus. I lugged my ass back to the hostal by 5pm, checked out as fast I could with two 20-somethings working behind the desk checking effing Facebook and talking to their friends, and hoofed back to the subway. I got on a bus leaving for Ericeira (airy-Sarah – I am not kidding) and arrived at the depot by 7:30pm in enough time to see the sunset and smell the beautiful ocean air (thank the LORD).
I searched for a payphone that actually worked, but no luck – so I found a cell phone store, pretended I was interested in a purchase and called Colin – as we were on a first name basis by this time – and he came to pick me – wasn’t that sweet!? Ten minutes later I was greeted by a lovely Englishman who looked like my grandfather and we headed to the B&B, where I got to meet his more lovely partner, Liz, their two dogs, five cats, and four guests (one from Germany, one from Mexico, one from the UK and one from New York – who has a sister in Jacksonville, small world and there will be a test after this). We had to run a couple of errands on the way, he said, and I didn’t care since he was saving my high maintenance ass. This was something I also learned about myself today – I am NOT 25 anymore, and I am more of a princess than I thought I was. We stopped at the pet store for food (which I am guessing happens a couple of times a week) and the market – I played with the kitties that were up for adoption (and told one of them that she could not come with me even though she was put on a 10-score “cute act”).
We arrived at the B&B at around 9pm and I still had not had dinner, but bought some snacks at the market (the 2nd errand he needed to run). I met Liz and the other guests over a glass of wine, then headed upstairs to greet a big beautiful bed in my own room, with my own shower – it was the best thing I had seen all day. I was so overjoyed that it didn’t bother me at all to sit on the floor and eat a loaf of bread and a can of tuna before I fell fast asleep to the sound of the waves, dreaming of the adventures ahead. Now, you tell me – did I make a good decision or what?!
Tomorrow – BEACH!