April 2nd to 5th
02.04.2013 - 05.04.2013 16 °C
The train out of Lagos was a little dodgy and I was particularly watchful of my suitcase. The bad economical state of Portugal could definitely be seen in the people on the train. There was a really drunk guy who kept wandering up and down the train and trying to speak to me in Portugese which was really pleasant. Luckily that train was only an hour and then we changed to a better one. Also managed to save on the first ticket as the guy couldn't get the full ticket for us!
We arrived in Lisbon at about 9pm I think it was and headed to our hostel. On the map it seemed really close from the train station but we had decided to catch the tram. The lady at the tram stop said lucky we didn't try as apparently it is actually a fair distance and at the top of a massive hill. When we got up there we definitely agreed, doubt I would have made it! What is with the Portugese and building all their cities on massive hills! But annoyingly the tram apparently didn't run after 9pm so we ended up having to catch the bus, which we just missed as we discovered this. In the end we didn't get to the hostel until about quarter to 11. What made this worse was that I had read something on the train that implied that I may need a visa if I wanted to keep travelling in Europe, so you know, slight freak out, so I was wanting to talk to Dad but all we were just standing waiting forever at a bus stop!
Talking about the visa, the theme of Lisbon was definitely Embassies! I spent half of my time in the city trying to see embassies about visas. I went to the Australian one on Thursday and she was very disapproving and said that I needed a visa and basically said I was an idiot but wouldn't give me any more information about it all, just saying I needed to go speak to the embassy of the country I wanted to apply for. Then on the Friday we went to the German embassy and had to wait ages as there was a queue. After much asking a question, and then sitting and waiting while they looked for an answer, they said I could apply for a six week extension from Germany and I needed to call immigration in the town I would apply in and do an interview. Of course they were closed by this point as they close at 12 and are an hour in front. Thursday night I actually just booked the cheapest plane out on Friday afternoon to the UK so I had a bit more time to sort it, as I had about 3 days left without a visa.
But back to Lisbon. Turns out the two guys who we were sharing the room with were late night people, and one of them snored really, really badly, and another (or possibly the same one) talking in his sleep. As a result I did not get much sleep at all any of the nights. Not really my best experience. I don't know if it influenced by all of this but, to be honest, Lisbon wasn't really my favourite place in Portugal. Nice enough, but every other town beat it really, although Carmen said she didn't like Faro so much but I did.
Our first real day there we headed out to a small town called Sintra. This is quite near the coast and about an hour or so train ride out of Lisbon. Lots of castles. We visited a place called Quinta de Regaleira. It was like a fairy tale. There was even an underground labyrinth which meant walking through pitch black caves and attempting to feel your way along the walls. Loads and loads of fun. And also slightly scary. There were towers everywhere where we could obviously pretend to be royalty and Rapunzel, with my long blond hair. I mean everyone over the age of 10 does that and all.
After going back to our childhood in that castle we headed up to the moorish castle on the top of this hill. This was slightly regretted at first as there were many, many stairs and after the last week with too many hilly towns, and our bike ride, our legs were over it. But it was absolutely worth it as the views were brilliant. And the fact we were wandering around a moorish castle was definitely nothing to scoff at. Although they were building an museum or info centre or something in the middle of it which seemed to me very out of place with the feel of the place. But hey, what do I know.
The next couple of days were spent int Lisbon itself. We wandered round the town, parks, and Alfama, went to the Castelo de São Jorge, which again gave good views but was nothing exciting in itself. We also visited, and climbed the dome of, the Church of Santa Engrácia (now the National Pantheon), which was a nice, not too overly decorated, church and gave some great harbour views. This was also the day I went to the Australian embassy to get very little useful visa info from them. As a result I booked a flight dtraight out for the Friday to the UK so I could sort it out without stressing about using up my schengen time, for the tiny price of €180! Although that may be my fault as I don't trust easyjet so flew Tap, portugals main airline, instead. Turns out I really shouldn't have any trouble but that is a story for another post!
After I saw the embassy I was supposed to phone Carmen but after calling my dad to hear his opinion, I discovered a lack of credit on my phone. So I ran around visiting hoteks and trying to find a payphone. I did find one but all that succeeded in doing was stealing my money. In the end, I decided to head back to the embassy in the hope that Carmen remembered where it was. She did and was sitting waiting for me, so I basically wasted my time and money but hey.
Heading across to Belém I went to the Jerónimos Monastery which was really lovely and had a fairly indepth history section (maybe too indepth as I got quite bored of it after a while) but it seemed much of it was blocked off to tourists so in terms of the monastery itself you say only the refectory and the cathedral really.
The famous pastries of Belém obviosuly come from this area, they are like a small custard tart, and were quite nice. By this point were over it all though and headed back to the hostel to get another sleepless night due to our snoring room buddy. This is exactly why I hate hostels!
That night we did head out into town, more to see what it was like than actually dance as we were way too tired for anything requiring effort. Lisbon seems like a pretty good place to go out actually, people were spread in bars, clubs, and even jn the street. There was only a small night area butmit was definitely buzzing as they say! We were so cool that we went into a lolly shop. It was pretty cool actually as you chose a pill bottle size (the theme of the shop was that the sweets were 'medicine') and filled it with all you could fit. However we realised after that neither of us actually liked lollies that much and we should have got much more chocolate and much less lolly. Me being unable to waste food I ended up eating most of them on my way to the airport the next day.
The next day we went firstly to the German embassy, as dad and I figured that if I needed to get a visa I should go for German. We spent ages there, there were several people waiting. The funny thing was that the receptionist thought my passport was brilkiant, apparently it was the first Australian passport she had ever seen and she wanted to look at all the pictures. Getting the information also took a while as the guy kept on getting us to wait while he checked things. In the end he decided I could get a 6 week extension at an immigration office in Germany. Again this was not quite right, but another story, another day.
That afternoon I wanted to head to a shopping area I had heard about. Unfortunately the map we had was useless, we had got fairly lost with it already on previous days, and weended up walking around a botanical garden the wrong way so it took us about 20mins to get there when the other way would have only taken us about 2 minutes. In the end there were very few shops on this street, but there was a Max and Co. where I got an awesome pair of boots!
It was then time for me to head to the airport, so goodbye to Carmen which was sad as we really did have loads of fun. Stupid uni, it took both Alicia and Carmen away from me! I mean, who needs a degree and all!
There was a slight drama with getting to the airport as the lady at the hostel said it took an hour so I left 3 hours, but it took two. This would have been fine if I hadn't got to the check in and had the lady say I had to get my credit card checked, I think because I booked it so last minute, and so after I found the place and did that they sent me to another check in desk who said no, you were meant to go to the first one. Luckily the lady there was nice though and said I could check in with her and said my luggage through the bulky items area, which sent it through faster. At this point it was 5 minnutes to boarding so I ran through security. Stupidly I hadn't sorted out my liquids but the info guy was like, nah don't bother with anything but the perfume. So I showed my perfume to the security guy and he decided it would be a real joke to go on about it being a gift for him and what would he say to his friends and family when he came home with a womans' perfume! I was like real funny dude, but I am in a rush here! He just kept going on and on about it. When I had run to my gate pretty much, it ended up that we were delayed half an hour, so it didn't even matter. We even started boarding and all got into the bus (you get bussed to the plane), only to have to get off again as we had to wait for passengers from another delayed plane to get there.