Lisboa, Portugal – April 2015
I criminally only spent three days here, but discovered a beautiful city full of history, architecture, and art. And sharks!
My first impression couldn’t have been worse…
I got a hostel a mile from the airport so I wouldn’t have to deal with crossing the city in the middle of the night. Simple? No. First came the three Euro flag drop fee at the airport, then he drove a block and stopped to call someone else to get directions to the hostel while the meter was running. Then he got lost and drove a circle around the neighborhood: He called again. While the meter was running. When we arrived to the hostel the price was a bit over seven Euro for the mile. I gave him a 10 Euro bill and he REFUSED to give me change. He stated that the other three Euro was a government fee. After I took a picture of his license plate we got in a screaming match but he wouldn’t budge. He kept the 10 so I called the police, who said I could only file a complaint in-person at the station. Which would have required another cab ride.
Fortunately, things got much better from there. In the morning I went on a “free” walking tour- a great way to meet similar travellers and get a snapshot of the area, plus the host looked and sounded just like Jeff Rosenstock as a bonus. We mostly stayed in the Baixa (lower) district.
One of my favorite parts of the tour was some of the street art commissioned by the city. The first was of the whispering widows, who whispered to each other from the windows overlooking the streets while looking towards the sea for their missing husbands. The next pieces were dedicated to Fado, a music style unique to Portugal. As the guide explained,”musically and culturally it is similar to the blues in the United States, before whites decided they wanted to steal that too.” There were fado bars and shows all over the city, though I never made it to a show.
Downtown also featured many squares and monuments, several cathedrals, a bay, and even some older buildings that could not be torn down.
The Baixa district was amazingly beautiful, with plenty of friendly people and waterfront views. The hills, waterfront, and colors gave it a very San Francisco-ish vibe.
The trolly might have helped with the San Francisco vibe too.
After the walking tour ended, I wandered downtown for a couple hours to have another look at a couple things and see what else was there. Then I decided to take the metro and get off wherever was busiest. The metro there was amazing… so far as underground trains can be amazing. Very clean, fast, and well-lit, plus the walls had commissioned art and there was free wifi everywhere! The art wasn’t the greatest, but it certainly beat the sterile grey walls and bulletin boards of most cities.
I got off with the crowd and crossed the street into a mall. There was a bookstore on the top floor with an English section, but I abandoned all hope after this shelf took up half of the section.
The two lowest floors were both art exhibits, with one being only paintings and the other being open to any visual form of art. It was a lovely hidden surprise, though the bottom floor gave me flashbacks I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
After having my fill, I saw a map advertising an oceanarium. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my mistake-filled life, it’s to never, EVER pass up a chance to see live sharks.
The area outside the oceanarium was being used to hold Portuguese Idol auditions.
I didn’t have the heart to tell everyone in the lower 95th percentile of physical attractiveness that they didn’t stand a chance.
After this, I took the metro downtown one last time to grab my bag, then to the central station to catch a train to Madrid. But that is another story and shall be told another time.