14.10.2011 - 16.10.2011
Lisbon was amazing!! I don't even know where to start or how to describe my love for the city and the country of Portugal. I left on Friday night from Barcelona and landed in Lisbon around 10pm. From the airport, I made my way to my hostel, called Travellers House. I found Travellers House on a website for different hostels and it was rated the number 1 hostel in Portugal in 2010, so I figured that would be the best bet for my first hostel experience. The hostel was located on the main pedestrian street of Lisbon and was really easy to find. When we found the hostel, we walked in and we were given the tour. The people are the hostel were soo incredibly nice. On Saturday morning, one of the workers sat with my friend and I and planned out our entire day with us. I had done some research on places that I wanted to see and he marked the map, with the modes of transportation and gave us insider local tips. The hostel was just what you would imagine a youth hostel in Europe to look like. There was a great big room where there were tons of couches and bean bags, then there was a kitchen and a dining area. We were then taken up to our room. We knew that we were in a six person room, so we were unsure of who the other four people would be. It ended up being four other girls from the United States. The room my friend and I got was awesome. We had our own little room off of the big room where the other girls were staying. There were bunk beds in the room and the bathroom was down the hall. After staying in a hostel I totally understand why people continually go back to different hostels and why the whole "hostel world" traveling thing is so cool.
After setting up our room and unpacking a little bit, we headed downstairs to meet some of the other travellers and see what was going on. It was really cool because people would just come up and talk to you because most of the people were either traveling alone or only had one friend with them, so it was nice to meet and talk to a bunch of different people. Some of the people were going out to a neighborhood called Bairro Alto. Bairro Alto is an area of the city where all the bars are. Literally, all the bars are in this neighborhood. There were tons and tons of people everywhere. In the streets, in the bars, it was crazy. I thought Barcelona was crowded, Lisbon was way more crowded. Bairro Alto has tons of tiny little streets that are really windy. My friend and I found had been told that when in Portugal, we had to get a Caipirinha. It is like a mojito, but Portuguese style. The only problem was we did not know how to say the name of the drink. We found these two girls who knew what we were talking about and we had them order it for us. We began talking to them and asked if they were from Lisbon, their response: kind of, but Africa. hmm? My friend and I were a little confused. Then the bartender began talking and laughing with the girls in Portuguese and the only word I could make out was America and English. Pretty sure we were the brunt of the joke. We sat at that bar for the rest of the night and then made our way back to the hostel. How did we make it back to the hostel? The only directions we were given when we left the hostel of how to get back was to go downhill. There were no other directions, just go downhill. So there I was in a foreign city in Europe, where I don't speak the language, and the only thing I knew were those directions. However, the directions were right and we ended up right at our hostel.
The next day, we woke up pretty early to make sure that we got a full day of touring in. We went downstairs, where two women were cooking breakfast, eggs and toast. We set our route for the day and we were off. The first thing we did was take the trolley up to an area called Graca. We were told to take the trolley at least once during our stay in lisbon. The trolley is a very cool, rustic looking trolley car on tracks that takes you through the winding roads of the old city and is pretty much a roller coaster ride. We took it up to the Graca stop and we were told to walk down through, or in the hostel workers world "get lost," to get to the places we wanted to see. The first thing we did was go to the Feira da Ladra Market, or better known as the market of stolen goods. Everything at the market was definitely stolen. It was a street that was packed with vendors, selling things with nothing of importance. We then wondered around that area trying to find the Castello de São Jorge (Castle of Saint George). We were a little lost, but that is what the guy at the hostel told us to do. We ended up meeting people from England also trying to find the castle and also met some women from New Jersey. Finally, we made it to the castle.
Castello de São Jorge was a castle and a military fortress. The castle part was soo cool. It looked like a sand castle mold. Perfectly cut out squares from the top, a little moat surrounding it. It was very very cool. We were able to walk all around the castle, up on the outside and in all the towers. I felt like I was in the army trying to protect the city. The views from the top of the castle were amazing. It was set on the highest point of the city, so looking down at the city that leads right to the river was really cool (expect for the fact that it was a little hazy, which was unfortunate). After the castle we wandered down to an area called Alfama. We passed the National Palace and then found the Lisbon Cathedral. We went in the Cathedral, which was pretty cool, but looked like any other European church. After all the walking, we were ready to head back to the Rua de Augusta, where the hostel was, and where there were tons of cool little shops. We really wanted to find gelato ( as per always) so we found this little place. In Europe all the gelato shops have windows facing the street where you order and then usually have a different entrance to get inside. We were looking at the flavors and they were all pretty weird, pear, rice pudding, and we noticed there were no chocolate flavors. My friend and I were saying "what kind of gelato place is this with no chocolate" so we decided to keep walking. Little did we know, but when we passed the door entrance to the store, there was an entire freezer devoted simply to the chocolate flavors. I guess we judged too quickly. I got 70% chocolate and a chocolate/coconut mix. YUM! We walked down to the Praca do Comércio to eat our gelato. Placa do Comércio was soooo coool. It is a giant square set right at the end of the Rua de Augusta (street where the hostel was and the largest pedestrian street in Lisbon) and overlooks the river. It is surrounded on three sides by huge, bright yellow buildings. The one directly across from the river has a giant arc which you can see the Rua de Augusta through. In the middle of the square there is a statue, which is an aqua color. The pictures from the square are awesome because of the huge contrast in colors. Near one of the buildings there was a flea market. I bought two scarves. I have never seen scarves like the ones that I got there, and they were so cheap! We then walked up and down the Rua de Augusta and finally back to the hostel.
For dinner, my friend and I asked the hostel where they would recommend we go. One of the guys told us to go to Casa do Alentejo. He said he wished someone had brought him there his first time in Lisbon. It was right near the hostel, which was very convenient. We had to walk through hoards of other restaurants, with the hosts following you and asking you to sit down and shoving the menu in your face. We finally found the place, and it was definitely one that I never would have found/chosen in a million years. On the outside it just has blue neon lights and a tiny tiny door to go through. Once you get inside however, it is a refurbished Bohemian Palace. Not to shabby. We ordered our dinner. We got scrambled eggs and sausage, and a traditional Portuguese dish called migas. Migas is "fried bread mixed with water," and pork, needless to say, we weren't really sure what we getting ourselves into, but in the end it was really good! We then went back to the hostel where we signed up for a bar crawl! My very first bar crawl!! We had a guide and he took us to five different bars in Bairro Alto, and then to a portuguese club down by the river. We went with one other boy person from the US, two germans (one girl, one boy), one boy from the Netherlands and one boy from Scotland. It was really, really fun!
On Sunday we went to a neighborhood called Belém. We had to take the tram there, which was a process in and of itself because of the amounts of people on the tram, but we eventually made it. The first thing we did was go to Jerónimos Monastery. It was this huge white monastery and church. We went into the Monastery first and went into the court yard. There were tons of arches and a fountain in the middle. It was really gorgeous. We then went into the church part, where we saw Vasco de Gama's tomb!!!! I did not know he was buried there, and that was really cool. The church itself was also really nice, with the high arches and stained glass windows. We then walked around down to the monument of discovery, which was attributed to all the explorers. Our last stop in Belém was the Pastéis de Belém. Everywhere I looked, online, in my travel books, the hostel, said that this was NOT a place to miss, and how right they were. Pastéis de Belém is a pastry shop in the center of Belém. The place was packed and I understand why. They have world famous pastries called Pastéis de Nata, or if you just say Pastéis de Belém, that works too. The shop makes over 7000 a day, along with the massive amount of other things they sell. Pastéis de Belém are these little, almost half cupcake type things. The middle is filled with a creamy custard and the outside is kind of the consistency of a croissant, but fried and crispy. My friend and I each ordered two, maybe we should have each ordered four, they were that good. They came out warm, and were absolutely delicious!
It was finally time for our trip to Lisbon to be over, which was very unfortunate. But the end of the trip proved to not be that easy. My friend and I had bought tickets for the last aerobus leaving the BCN airport to get to the center of Barcelona on the Friday before we left. Our flight was supposed to get in at 12:35am and the last bus leaves at 1:05am. My friend and I got off the plane at 1:00am. We sprinted through the airport at 1 in the morning to catch this bus. People probably thought that we were crazy because there were no more flights taking off and we were just running to the exit. We made it to the bus at 1:05 exactly. When we saw the bus we high fived, and everyone on the bus started laughing at us. We were the last two on the bus and it left probably 20 seconds after we sat down. Lucky, Lucky.
My trip to Lisbon was amazing and I loved the country of Portugal. I hope I can make it back some day and stay longer than 48 hours.