Thursday morning, as I had finished all of my classes for the week, I woke up and went “Hey, I think it’d be cool to visit Portugal.” So I got up and got packed quickly and was just about to press submit on booking my ticket, then WEEEEOOOOWWWEOOOOOOOWEEEOOOOO. I was literally on the “Confirm”/”Submit” page and someone pulled the freakin’ fire alarm. It was 10am and 35 degrees outside. Fire doesn’t exist at temperatures that low – it’s a scientific impossibility. But had this been a sign? Had forces conspired to tell me that this wasn’t a good idea? Just kidding.
The Queen Mary security staff took roll outside, and about 85% of the people were not present. Not sure what the point of taking roll is when only 15% of people are there. Anyway, I go back upstairs (now pressed for time) and book a one-way ticket to Lisbon and just leave immediately and take the train to Heathrow and bye bye London. I didn’t really know where I was going or what I was doing until the airport. I actually held up the agent who was checking our passport against our boarding passes because I was just finishing the booking of my hostel reservation while in line. I was standing up with my arm supporting and propping up the screen while the other hand used the mouse pad. I was kicking my coat and backpack on the ground below me to keep up with the line moving. They got really dirty. I finished booking in the last 30 seconds that I had access to internet before boarding the plane.
Upon arrival, I didn’t have money, a working phone, internet, or any idea where I was going to reach that hostel that I had just booked. But the airport had a phone shop and ATM so I figured it out.
I walked around nighttime Lisbon my first night – some of it was really cool but there were also some dark alleys and people whispering at you in the shadows. In high school, I’d be self-conscious that my shoes were so squeaky since everyone would know when you got up from your seat and would look up. Here, squeaky shoes posed a whole different issue in that in a silent city corridor, everyone can hear you coming and it’s kind of dangerous. Gotta deal with that somehow…
This was my first time ever staying in a hostel with strangers. And they promptly snored and kept me up most of the night. Why didn’t I just get my own room? You would enjoy it more, they said. This was the way to get to know people, they said. Well I know now the numeric frequency at which they snore so I guess I know them really well. I wasn’t sure which was worse – when their snoring matched up and was doubly loud, or when they alternated and happened twice as frequently. I also forgot earplugs, so yeah. 4.5 hours of sleep later, it’s time for day 1.
[Update at the end of my trip: Every single one of the 4 roommates I had in my stay here were sick. Choosing between a hostel or hotel is like putting a value on your health.
Instead of narrating what I did/saw, I’m just going to post pictures under headers and add notes where applicable.
Walking through Central Lisbon – Baija, Barrio Alto, and Chiado
Cascais felt a lot like Avalon for my friends who are reading this from back home. It was a ghost town though, as it is a beach destination in January. The picture at the beginning of the post was from Cascais.
Day 2 (Sintra)
I visited a slew of palaces and castles in the hills.
Quinta de Regaleira
The nice stone pathway over the creek led to a dark cavern. It was too dark to see much in the cave, but there was a distinct fork in the road. I didn’t have the flashlight app on my phone, so I was picking the direction blindly. I knew at least one of them led to a pathway that would take me under the waterfall. I chose the cave on the right. I chose wrong. I take a step and my leg goes straight into the pond and I am 100% soaked up to the knee and it would remain that way the entire day and every time I stepped it would squish. It was like one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books and I chose wrong.
Castelo dos Mouros
Palacio Nacional de Pena
It looked like a Disneyland set.
Walking through Central Lisbon – Alfama
Sporting Lisbon vs Academica (Premeira Liga)
Soccer chants sounds exactly the same in every stadium, no matter the language. It’s just ambient noise. The whistling instead of booing made my head hurt. The announcer at one point yelled “Sporting” and the crowd replied “Booo” and then he said “Academica” (the away team) and the crowd replied “Yay.” I’m guessing that they were actually saying Portuguese words that rhymed with “boo” and “yay” but it still sounded really funny and confused me.
Again, this was my first time in a hostel. It’s interesting that you get to know the people around you without even trying. Coordination didn’t even need to take place. After going on a walking tour with 30 people from hostels in the first day, I headed out each of the subsequent days on my own. I ran into people I recognized from the tour or hostel in Belem (Day 1) and Sintra (Day 2) and proceeded to spend the remainder of each day with them. I’m not sure if that will continue to happen. It seems as though Portugal has a really small amount of tourists this time of year (in the low thousands on Friday) so you are bound to run into the same people no matter where you are in the city. Even if I had not run into them, I’m sure you could have met a few other English-speaking people and just hang out. It’s not like you’re really alone, since there’s always people in the same situation to spend time with.
It was really nice that Portugal was so beautiful (and warm), yet there were so few tourists or commuters or anyone. It was just so tranquil. It had a village feel, even though the metro population is about 3 million. I feel as though a trip to Barcelona or Rome or Athens could never be as good as this.
The hostel wifi password was “idontknow” which is funny. Third Base.
Hamburgers in Lisbon don’t come with buns. There is a pastry shop on almost every corner – it’s the equivalent of coffee places in the US.
I feel further away from Princeton than I have since before I started freshman year. I left campus in December, then went home, then went abroad to England, then travelled to Lisbon. I’m three places removed from school. It’s just a bit surreal.
For those of you who are wondering how I have the time to write such extended blog posts, when you have iffy internet access in hostels and airplanes, you find a lot more time on your hands.
- 4634 – Words written on this blog so far (The longest paper that I have ever written is 4,293 words)
- 4 – Football matches (Crystal Palace, West Ham, Tottenham, Sporting Lisbon)
- 3 – Essential items forgotten at least once on trip (Earplugs, Razor, Eye mask)
- 2 – Countries (UK, Portugal)