Tourism for weirdos: Lisbon LOLs

It’d been a long, cold, lonely winter, and we were in desperate need of some sunshine; if at all possible, sunshine that wouldn’t break the bank. After putting our collective heads together for approximately 17 seconds, we came up with the capital of Portugal, Lisbon.

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All photography my own. Apologies in advance…

So it’s me, D and L, two more of my Eurovision crew, and you’d best believe the four-day trip will be punctuated by blasts of obscure Euro tunes both past and present. Sorry-not-sorry. (side note: just two months to go till this year’s contest!)

We arrive mid-afternoon, and decide to treat ourselves to a taxi to our apartment. Note 1: CRAZY cheap. Portugal is VERY good value for money. Note 2: as you may recall, I have been learning Portuguese. This trip proves I need to work harder. Note 3: that said, I really don’t think my efforts merited quite such derision from our cab driver…

But let’s cheer ourselves up, because the sun’s out! And our apartment is insanely cool. Here’s the view from the roof terrace:

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We’re doing it on an AirBnB-type deal, and what a deal. Β£14 a night. Currency converters suggest that works out at about $20, and it’s gorgeous. We’re met by the owner’s mother, who’s lovely and sweet and has suggestions for stuff to see that the natives would recommend, not to mention restaurants and shops to try out. She’s also the first of many Portuguese people to tell us how depressed their country is, economically at least – she tells us we’re lucky to come from a rich nation, and says she believes it’ll take Portugal at least 30 years to get back on its feet. We also noticed a lot of posters for political parties taking pot-shots at what they see as German dominance of European finance; clearly, the Portuguese left is hoping to copy the success of the Greek left in this autumn’s elections.

(One of the others to repeat this sentiment is a 24-year-old bearded and lumberjack-shirted hipster we meet working in a sardine shop. He tells us he’s not happy working there, and wishes he could use his doctorate, but that there’s no call for it in Portugal. The subject of his PhD? Non-Cartesian time in the documentary format.)

Here’s the only downside to the apartment: it’s at the top of seven flights of stairs. And if you want to get to the roof terrace, you have to climb this piece of art and design:

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I saw the creepy doll at the top and thought of you guys

Lisbon’s so lovely though. Many of the buildings have tiled facades – here’s a selection:

 photo Phototastic-24_03_2015_2f880de1-dd3c-4752-91db-e5d62970f7b1_zpsgjpqm2zk.jpgTalking of tiles, pretty much every pavement is tiled. This makes things very, very slippery, and whilst it’s very amusing to watch other people stacking it, it’s less funny when it happens to you. I wasn’t quite prepared for how hilly Lisbon is – it makes San Francisco look like the Netherlands – but all those spin classes were worth it, as my thighs of steel power me through.

Side note: remember my dad, Papa Gnidrah, and his one pair of trousers in Glasgow? This trip is marked by Eurotraveller L and her one coat and one pair of shoes. Her coat is the thickest, wooliest overcoat on the market, and her shoes are the tiniest, thinnest of ballet flats. Neither is appropriate…

We spend our first evening wandering, getting to know the place, basking in not needing hats, scarves and gloves to go outside (except for Eurotraveller L and her massive coat) Prosecco may also have been taken, at the glorious Mercado da Ribeiro, which I highly recommend.

 photo lisbon 03_zpsbizeidhm.jpgNext day, we set off in pursuit of one of Lisbon’s famous trams. If you take route 28, you can see all the sights you might see on a pricey bus tour, but for just €2.85. They can get pretty busy, but it’s worth it. Our driver played fast and loose with public safety, until she spotted some Scandinavian tourists with what she deemed bags that were ripe for pickpocketing. Then she stopped the tram and started screaming at them: “YOU WILL BE ROBBED! THERE ARE ROBBERS! THEY ARE NOT PORTUGUESE, BUT THEY ARE ROBBERS!”

We visit Lisbon’s castle, which unsurprisingly is at the top of another big hill. Everyone is in a great mood, wandering around the castle with wine in hand. We laugh and laugh at what would happen to you if you tried to wander around the Tower of London with wine in your hands. (Do NOT try this)

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We come back down, we eat some cake at the rather delightful Confeitaria Nacional, which has been around since 1829. I’ve pictured the coffee cake, but the other one you must must try is the traditional pastel de nata, which is a kind of egg custard with a flaky pastry case.

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We gatecrashed a posh hotel bar to drink port on their roof terrace, and we ate in a cute little traditional restaurant where we were the only English speakers, which was wonderful. Eurotraveller D got a fish that appeared to be eating its own tail, and the man on the door told us he once met Tommy Steele, but don’t let that put you off.

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You can just see the Moorish castle at the top of this photo

Next day we took a daytrip out of town to the World Heritage Site of Sintra. I’ve seen this place described as being like Disneyland for adults, but that’s not quite the right vibe. It’s on the top of another massive hill (I’d go as far as to say, mountain), for starters. There’ve been settlements at Sintra for over 800 years, and it’d be impossible to see it all in one day (OR IN BALLET FLATS) but we decided to take a look at the main town, then go up to the Palace of Pena, a 19th century castle that was inhabited by Portuguese royals till 1910, when the country became a republic.

The weather was a bit rubbish, so you can’t quite get a sense of the vibrancy of the buildings’ colours. There were a lot of Scouts running around with sticks, putting us adults to shame with their health and fitness. There were also some of the surliest shop assistants I’ve ever met, but as everyone else was so nice, we’ll forgive them.

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Look at it! That’s the Palace of Pena. And this is just the outside! Inside was even more garish and wonderful! It’s your classic ‘Royals with scads of money and no one to say “um, guys…”‘ palace. Our trip wasn’t even spoiled by a loud argument between a group of American tourists over whether Natalie Imbruglia is Canadian or Australian, replete with tinny mp3 version played over their mobile phones, just to add to the atmosphere. For the record: they went with Canadian. For the record: they were wrong.

We ate pizza for dinner in a restaurant called ‘La Puttana’. It was very, very good.

Our final day dawned sunny, and we spent it eating more pasteis de nata, and climbing more hills. We happened upon the Portuguese parliament, which was peculiarly unguarded – just two smirking guards with what I can only hope were fake guns. We also visited the Basilica of Estrela, which we should have taken very seriously, but could not, given the similarly-named wannabe Eurovision contestant Alvaro Estrela and his slutty song, Bedroom.

All in all, what a wonderful introduction to Portugal. We didn’t push ourselves to see every single thing in Lisbon, as we were hoping to relax as well as sight-see. But there was so much to do, we could easily have filled several weeks. I highly recommend a trip, as it’s very welcoming, and very reasonably priced. And it’s warm!

(In the light of the awful awful plane crash this morning, it seemed kind of trite to write lightheartedly about my travels, especially given I flew not even 24 hours ago in the same region. I hope you understand that no disrespect is intended.)

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About gnidrah

Television, books, music, sports, cooking. I only get paid for one of them. (Update: two of them!)
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25 Responses to Tourism for weirdos: Lisbon LOLs

  1. Oh man, this looks/sounds wonderful. I really envy you Brits and your relative closeness to other countries. The only one I can easily visit in Canada, and visiting Canada as an American is kind of like visiting your friend who has a nicer house in a better neighborhood–enjoyable, sure, but you’re still in the same town.

    The plane crash is just terrible, and while know flying is still, statistically speaking, incredibly safe, all these recent crashes are NOT helping my burgeoning fear of it. I loved to fly when I was younger, but on the last few trips I’ve made, I’ve been very uneasy.

    • gnidrah says:

      Oh, we are VERY lucky to have this on our doorsteps. Very lucky.

      And I hear you on the planes. I can’t say I enjoy it, I just have to focus on everything and anything other than the one thing your brain sort of keeps trying to drag you towards thinking about. I just hope that no one suffered too much in this instance (or any instance)

  2. Casey says:

    Fantastic travelogue! I now have a new life’s goal: to eat pastel de nata.

  3. FRQ says:

    Those pics of the city are great. It makes me want to traverse the streets of Lisbon in a wool coat and knitted beanie while smoking a pipe.

  4. flanny says:

    My favorite thing about Gnidrah is how I have to google a lot of stuff. (For example, Tommy Steele.) But I did NOT have to google Natalie Imbruglia! Everyone knows she’s French!

    JK, my favorite thing about Gnid is that she loves 1D.

    • gnidrah says:

      Not even one cheap piece of 1D tat for me to photograph for you guys. Get with it, Portugal! (also, sorry, I was *this* close to linking to Tommy Steele, but then I got lazy. Won’t happen again)

  5. facetaco says:

    I’ve been to Lisbon so many times that it was incorporated into my fake name! Here are some fun facts about Lisbon:
    -They let you smoke everywhere. Even in the mall!
    -Their movies have a hard cut-off for intermission. I don’t know at what point they put it, but there is an intermission after some pre-determined time into a movie, even if someone is in the middle of a sentence and there are only 20 minutes of the movie left.
    -There is a strip club inside of an old, rusted airplane in the middle of a field. They supposedly will not let you in if you’re wearing white shoes, but it seems more likely that they just hate Americans, because come on.
    -There is a place near the docks that serves a FANTASTIC steak with a cheese and Jack Daniels sauce on it. I don’t know what it’s called, though. Sorry about that.
    -La Puttana translates to “The Whore.” This is not a Portugal fact, but it IS a pretty fantastic name for a restaurant.

    • gnidrah says:

      I noticed the smoking, but I also noticed quite a lot of e-cigarettes, so I wonder if maybe there could be a slight shift… (hopefully?!) I forgot to mention a cracking ‘four-cheese and bacon’ hamburger I had, and if you imagine that we did not know that ‘la puttana’ means ‘whore’ you would be very, very mistaken πŸ˜‰

      • facetaco says:

        E-cigarettes were still many years off when I was there. And that was also years before I quit, so it was quite nice for me. I imagine I would hate it now.

        Also, I forgot to mention, if you ever go back, go to the mall. There’s a small amusement park thing on the roof, with go-karts and a ball you can sit in and it shoots you up so you can see out to the whole city. And also get dizzy.

  6. Commentatrix says:

    Haha the robbers are never natives to the countries they rob people in! Fact.

  7. Commentatrix says:

    My England-based American friend told me when I visit her to hide the fact that I am Romanian because my people have made a pretty bad name for themselves across Europe, which is fine because my American accent is pretty on point as long as I’m not drinking. Besides, don’t all Americans just sound funny to you guys anyway? πŸ˜‰

    • gnidrah says:

      I hope that’s not true – I am sure some people have had bad experiences, and sure, some Romanians are criminals, same as some Brits are, and some Americans, and some everyones, but the Romanians I’ve met have been lovely!

      I think Americans all sound like film stars πŸ™‚

      • Commentatrix says:

        Yeah, totally, it’s just amusing to me to learn of the various prejudices people have. (“Amusing” only because I’ve still benefited from white privilege for most of my life as an immigrant; xenophobia and racism are definitely not amusing.)

        • flanny says:

          I always like to ask people about their rival high schools. One of my now best friends and I went to rival high schools and it’s funny to compare what we thought of each other.

        • gnidrah says:

          Oh, I agree. I get the Greek side of things, and it’s been uncomfortably fascinating to see how that stereotyping has changed in the past five-ten years – from friendly plate-smashers (ha ha… never seen that done in my life) to lazy, sponging fools.

  8. Sota says:

    I love everything about this post (except the creepy doll) and am super jealous of your adventure. Bring me along next time? I promise to bring the appropriate coat/shoes/number of pants!

    • gnidrah says:

      Thank you, and of course you can come! But I warn you, I’m starting to think I should go through the luggage of everyone I am planning to travel with…

  9. martinmegz says:

    This looks like such a delightful trip and a great recap. I want to be there so badly right now. On a side note, my friend’s brother met a woman on Tindr and she took him on a free trip to Portugal for two weeks! What kind of life is that?

    • gnidrah says:

      Thank you, and me too! Plus, that’s very nice (where do we find these people on tinder please?!)

  10. summerestherson says:

    Ah, Lisbon! I got to spend one day there several years ago and was SO bummed I didn’t get to stay longer. The city is GORGEOUS! Just pretty colors and terraces everywhere. Here’s another fun fact to add to facetaco’s list: The bridge that you can see in the background of Gnid’s first picture is the 25 of April Bridge and it is supposedly modeled after the Golden Gate Bridge! (At least that’s what I was told.)

    Speaking of criminals and robbers, we were told to watch out for pickpockets AND drug dealers. And supposedly several people from my ship (this is when I was working on cruises) were offered various drugs by random people on the street.

    One of my fave pics from that trip:

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