I slept terribly that first night in Lisbon so much so I was worried I would waste the following day feeling dreary. Taking myself and my 'sleep hangover' to the hostel's kitchen area I had toast with the jam sachets provided. Feeling a little anti-social I sat myself down on a bean bag in the lounge to try and plan my day.
"If you don't go to Belem them I would say you are missing out significantly" my flatmate had said, most people had said it to be honest. I had been told getting to Belem wasn't too difficult as it wasn't far and the transportation systems in Lisbon are good. I thought I would just go for a random stroll first, a little reconnaisance before my main mission.
"Right!" I thought , "time to get lost in Lisbon".
So off I trundled with the full intent of getting lost for an hour or so. I wandered toward the distant sea line down hilly streets, over the many cobbled pavements passing a plethora of cafes while being passed by many quaint trams that to me added an extra elegance to the area.
Pastries are pretty significant in Portugal and they do them well. High quality pastie heaven it is but you probably won't get on so well if you are vegan or likely vegetarian, they seem to love their pork and certainly their seafood.
I found myself at a vast square with a ginormous archway and an impressive statue looking incredibly noble, owning the middle of said square. Nearby sea waves gently lapped against the sloped waters edge, to my left was a huge ferry which I had to snap close-up with my camera before I realised I was taking shots into a naval base although a military guard that clocked me doing this didn't seem to mind!
There was so much city arcing up into the distance behind me and blurred landscape promised further adventure if you crossed a huge bridge across the gentil waters, it was all just so beautiful and vast.
I decided to head back to the hostel, try and get some sleep for an hour to clear my head then I would go to Belem. It was a bit tricky using the SatNav but I found myself in my room within around 30 minutes, I was starting to feel hot!
My attempts of sleep without air conditioning in the hostel were futile and I decided to get up after one of the staff, a young lady, came to clean the room windows. Luckily my near naked form (I still had boxers on since it was a shared room) was hidden up on the top bunk so neither of us suffered any major embarrassment, but I still felt I should leave.
After having a chat with my brother, now living in a small city outside of Lisbon, on my mobile I knew I needed to catch the 15e tram to Belem from 'Praca do comercio' - commercial square. Using my iphone I arrived there within 10 minutes and realised it was the same square I had found on my previous stroll, it was kind of dissapointing but also made the place feel more familiar.
The timetable for the tram was confusing, but it basically meant there was going to be a tram 11 minutes past the hour so I waited , then wandered the nearby streets then waited back at the stop some more.
Road crossings are a mild pain in Lisbon , they work sure but they don't acknowledge you pressed the crossing button, it is such a small thing that really stuck out for me!
As I hid in the tiny shade offered by the bus/tram stop a young lady came and inspected the 15e timetable.
A tram then pulled up.
"Do you know if this is the tram for Belem?" I asked in English thinking it pointless to attempt Portuguese.
"I am hoping so , I am going there too " she said with good english and a slight accent.
'Good' I thought, I can watch when she gets off the tram.
I got on the tram and sat near her with the aim not to pay her too much attention as it would have surely seemed creepy.
After a couple stops everyone suddenly got off the tram, the driver came by addressed me as senor then said something like 'finito'.
I leapt off the tram thinking this was more than just a bit of a pain as we hadn't travelled far but far enough to be an inconvenience.
Standing by the same lady heading to Belem I said something along the lines of
"Great, that was unexpected".
She was on her mobile so for that reason I assumed she was telling friends she was running late and definitely a local. I clocked another tram in front of us was also a number 15 , I pointed made some noise like "oohhh that one", we both jumped on hoping it was the right decision.
The streets became a little less appealing as we continued onto where I hoped would be the place called Belem. Old grand buildings that had sucuumb to financial neglect and graffitti became common and several ominous police stations helped make up the neighbourhood.
I checked out my sat nav and it looked like we were heading in the right direction.
After about 15 to 20 minutes or so quite a few people got off including the Belem lady so I also disembarked, the sat nav suggested it was Ok to do so. As I walked up the street I started to realise it must be correct as not far from me was a glorious palace and serene plush gardens with the tranquility of cemeteries and the magnificence of old royalty.
I didn't really know where to start so just walked around slowly trying to take in the many sights. I noticed the woman from the tram was also walking around the same area, I had thought she was a local but figured now she was also a tourist.
While filling my water bottle from a public fountain she came over smiling and said
"Yes I think this is Belem"
We talked a little, she didn't seem to understand me so well so we both trailed away, best not to try and make friends if someone wants to spend time alone I figured. I then saw a building over near the waters edge (yes we were by the water still) so decided it was next.
I had to walk under a busy freeway using a really tall tunnel, excessively tall with lighting spaced a little too far to pass health and safety in England. Small detail like that hits you in a foreign place when you are used to our regimented civil engineering.
The building I got too was stunning , I mean really stunning. It was like a huge stone block with a giant sword etched above the big doorway , tall enough for big statues of soldiers/explorers to bunch up either side of this gorgeous structure and look small, from a distance you could see it was actually the shape of a ships sail.
I had bumped into the woman from the tram again but this time we started talking more, it was a little strange at first because we were of course strangers but we had that common link of tourism and were both impressed by the building.
She had asked if I was local and laughed when I told her I was English, I guess she has been as correct at guessing my nationality as I had been hers.
"I am Russian", I wasn't really expecting it because I had for some reason assumed she was local or Spanish. I had been a few kilometers off!
We talked more, walking to the next beautiful building, originally a 15th cenury prison with steps dissappearing into the tidal water that was crossed via a new looking wooden bridge, not often you see a pretty jail?
We aimed to see more sites, discussed more sites to visit, sat down near the water chatting , found out more about each other including that she liked singing and could sing quite a few english songs, well, including suprisingly real2real 'I like to move it'! :)
We headed back to the center intending to do more but ended up just strolling around the sea front, the Praca do comercio and the large lively streets nearby parting company around midnight. It had been so nice to meet her especially as it was so unexpected. I walked back to my hostel after walking to her hotel, thinking about her with a pleasant and genuine happiness.
Back at my hostel I freshened up having been out for the day before heading out again to search for some nearby food, sadly a subway style sandwich shop was the only thing nearby offering savoury food so I got a quick tuna sandwich, I figured the following morning before leaving Lisbon I could grab some Portuguese patries of some sort.
I returned to the hostel, stayed up for an hour or so drinking wine with my Norwegian room mate in the incredibly relaxing lounge area, then headed off to try and get sleep after a very contented day looking forward to the next day when I would see my brother and visit the city of Evora.
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