Sunday, June 12, 2011


Our flight for Portugal left from Madrid around 11:30pm. I grabbed the seat with essentially unlimited leg room and fell asleep while Jack (my 6'4" roommate) sat one row in front of me with significantly less.

We landed around 12am local time and went to grab a taxi. This is where I realized the value of speaking the native language of the country you are in. There is no doubt portuguese and spanish are similar languages but it turns out that doesn't help you understand portuguese at all. It sounds like a russian speaking spanish with a lisp on the "s". The only phrase I was able to pick up the entire weekend was "Obrigado" (thanks). I said it ALL the time, even when it didn't necessarily apply.

So we get in our taxi and ask the driver if he speaks english. Of course he doesn't. That would be too easy. Spanish? Nope. So Jake pulls out his itinerary and points to the address of our hostel. The taxi driver takes a long look at it, tries to hide his confusion, and we drive off. Driving in portugal is a free-for-all. No blinkers, no speed limits. The driver was weaving in and out of traffic, stopping, and speeding up constantly. Eventually he stops at a light and I assume asked another taxi driver if he knew where it was we were trying to go. We speed off again and eventually he drops us off near our hostel but tells us he can't go any farther because you can't drive on the streets or whatever.

The streets were completely packed with people. Apparently we decided to visit Lisbon during "national lisbon day" or something. They have a party for Saint Anthony (The patron saint of Lisbon). So everyone is just out in the streets drinking and having a good time. After asking a lot of people a lot of directions we finally get to our Hostel.

We stayed in the Lisbon Old Town Hostel. Having never stayed in a hostel before I had some ideas in my head of what I expected and they turned out to be completely false. We stayed in a 10 person room, everyone we met was talkative and very nice. The beds were comfortable and I slept great.

Friday we got up around 8am and really had no idea what we were going to do. A picture is worth a thousand words so heres a couple pages to keep you busy.

The first thing we found was the city elevator. Its exactly what it sounds like. An elevator that gives you a pretty decent view of the city.

The main attraction for the day was the castle of San Jorge. This thing was at the top of the hill and we got lost on our way up there. On the way up we met this girl from Holland who had separated from her group, and was also looking for the castle. We ended up hanging out with her for the whole day mostly discussing American stereotypes. She was surprised that we weren't fat. We also gave her a new stereotype: Americans have to get to the top of everything. She commented about how we were never satisfied until we reached the highest tower in the castle or the top point of whatever land mark we were at. Something I'd never noticed before, but also dead accurate.

Quick side note: Everything written before right now was written right after I actually went to Portugal. Everything after this point is being written right now a few weeks after Portugal. My memory is a little foggy and I've been busy doing European things (wearing speedos). Also, if there is a worse way to put pictures in a blog post, I'd like to see it. Because of this there will only be links to pictures and not actual pictures.

Back to "the story"... At this point its like 2pm, only thing I've eaten so far was a piece of bread. I'm cranky, hot, and hungry enough to eat anything. We stumble upon an 11 euro all you can eat buffet. Jokes on them, I ate all of it, I probably had four or five plates. Amazing food, most of it Portuguese, no idea what any of it is called, sorry.

After this we went to this place. Its been a few weeks so I don't remember what its called. All I can tell you is the picture doesn't do it justice for how tall it is. We took an elevator to the 7th floor and then walked up many flights of stairs until we reached the top. Looking at the top from the bottom people's heads look like birds, literally. I was a little scared when I was on top.

Then we tried to go to this castle. It closed at 6:30 pm and we got there at 6:35 so all you get is this picture.

Before we headed back we picked up some pasteis. This is a native pastry to Lisbon. We bought it from "Pasteis de Belem" apparently the world renown place to buy this pastry. The line wrapped around the block and took about 15 minutes before we could order. While in line I was talking to a cop who said they sell about 40,000 a day, 50,000 on a busy day. They were a euro each and so I bought two. Good stuff.

We weren't really sure how to get home but we didn't want to wait for the train again so we just hopped on this random tram and hoped for the best. It worked out perfectly and we made it home safe and sound.

For dinner we went to a Fado Restaurant. Fado is a Portuguese genre of music where they basically just sing poetry. The poetry is typically sad and the singers dress in all black and you eat dinner while they sing. I didn't understand a word they said but it was extremely moving. Food was good too, all seafood, I ordered the salmon. Lisbon is close to the coast so everything is really fresh.

The next day we took a 45 minute train ride to Sintra, Portugal. There was a castle and a cathedral with a really awesome view. Neither of these pictures do either of these places justice. Sintra is right on the coast, and the castle is on the very top of a hill over looking the town with a great view of the ocean. Unfortunately I didn't capture this view in picture form but it is one of my favorite places from the trip, you could see for miles, the cathedral was the same way.

After this we took a bus to Cabo da Roca. This is the western most point of Europe. Extremely tall cliffs overlooking the Atlantic ocean. Again, a really cool view, that picture does it a little bit of justice.

There you have it folks, my trip to Portugal. Hopefully I'll get Barcelona up tomorrow.

Jacobito, if you're reading this, thanks for letting me steal your pictures.

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