Monday, May 20, 2013

Portugal Part 1: Lisbon and Friends

I arrived at my hostel at 11pm, and I was completely exhausted. I hadn't really slept in 2 nights, and couldn't sleep on the plane either, and I was extra exhausted because of the whole running a half marathon thing the day before. I had been dreaming about getting to a bed the whole 10 hour journey, and was already changed and lying under my covers. I started talking to a couple other people in my room, and somebody asked if anyone was going to this I Hate Mondays party that  a lot of the hostels advertise. I didn't think I would even make it out the door, but then this British guy named Dan gave me a beer and I didn't have a choice but to go. It ended up being a great decision. It was Dan, me, and another American girl who had arrived at the same time as me named Rebekah. We got to the club at 1:30 and were the first ones there, but it was fine because we had time to get some drinks and just talk and get to know each other before everything really started. Things finally started getting going around 2:30am, and we had a great time dancing ridiculously and making faces at each other. I got along really well with these two and we had a fantastic night! We left at 5am and were some of the first people to go. Welcome to Portugal.

I woke up to a delicious breakfast at the hostel. They had good müsli, which Gritta doesn't even buy anymore, and they made you banana and apple pancakes. I hung around a little with Dan and Rebekah, because she was leaving that morning, and finally got out of there at 10:30. I made my way down the main avenue and walked to the cathedral. From there I walked up the hill to the castelo. I got the student price even though they scolded me for not having my student card... There were some pretty good views of the city up there, and in one of the towers they had a periscope. It was really interesting to see all around the city, and having the guy explaining it was like taking a tour without having to go anywhere!
I walked back down the hill through the Alfama neighborhood, which is a maze of very narrow streets and cafes and kids running around. There was also a huge flea market going on, which was fun to walk around. I made my way through some of the other neighborhoods: the Baixa, with the main squares, the Bairro Alto, where most of the night life is, but there were also some nice churches I went into, and the Chiado, where all the nice buildings and houses are. I made my way back to the Parque Eduardo VII, which was right by my hostel. It goes up a hill so there was a pretty good view of the city at the top!
church in the Bairro Alto
Parque Eduardo VII
I made my way back to the hostel and went out to dinner and walked around with Dan and a Lithuanian guy from our room. We talked about watching a movie, because we were all tired, but then we just got in our beds and were too lazy to do anything about it. It was a great day!

I woke up early, so I decided I might as well get up and run. I went to the park and ran up and down on a little path up the hill next to the main part a few times. Then I showered and ate, and waited for the people I had made friends with to get up. I wasn't in a hurry so we hung around a bit. I found out a girl from Ireland was going to the same place as me that night! The guy who slept on the bottom bunk on my bunk bed, Radesh, was actually studying abroad from UT, and he was also planning on going to the same place. I didn't see him in the morning though. Eventually I had to say goodbye, and walked to the train station.
looking down on Sintra
castle of the moors
I rode to Sintra, which is about a 30 minute train ride. I checked into my hostel, and then got ready to walk/hike up the hills to the Castle of the Moors and Pena Palace. They were kind of expensive, but it was worth it! The walk was really nice too. I'm not really sure how long it took, but it was straight up hill. I walked around the park that surrounds the palace too, and by the time I got back I had been walking up and down hills for over 6 hours, and had run into Radesh 3 times! I talked to the people in my room a bit, but then I made it an early night.
Pena Palace

sintra looking up at the castle

I walked to the other part of Sintra from where I was staying, and looked in the market but didn't get anything. I came back and ate, and was planning on going to the National Palace, but after talking to a Finish girl, I decided to go to the Quinta da Regaleira instead.

Quinta da Regaleira
It was an estate built by an Italian, and the gardens were really cool. They were up against the side of the hill, and there were lots of fountains and towers and caves and an underground labyrinth with secret lakes. The main building was pretty cool too.

Quinta da Regaleira
I came back to the hostel, checked out, and walked to the bus station to go to Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of continental Europe. It was about a 30 minute drive, through lots of winding roads. The bus driver slammed on the brakes a lot and I got a little car sick, so I was really glad to get there. I had about an hour until the next bus came to look around. It was really windy, and it was my first look at the cliff lined coast in Portugal! It was a detour, but definitely worth doing. The bus drive was very scenic as well.

Cabo da Roca

Cabo da Roca
I took the next bus the rest of the way to Cascais, which is a beach town just west of Lisbon. I sat on the beach a while, then walked through the pedestrian area of the town. I ate ice cream of course. Then I made my way back to the train station to get back to Lisbon. I had to stay in a different hostel because the one I had been in was full, but I chose one just a couple blocks away. Little did I know it was straight up a steep hill! But I made it, then I got settled, showered, and found food. I went to bed somewhat early again because I was exhausted! It's also hard to get to know people when you know you're leaving in the morning.

I was awake early, so I took the chance to walk through some areas of the city I hadn't seen. Then I came back, ate, packed up and checked out. I took the metro to the main bus center, thinking I was probably going to miss the 10:30 bus I wanted to catch to Lagos. But I made it with 2 minutes to spare! And there was free wifi on the bus, so I just messaged Kate the whole time! Stayed tuned for Part 2: Lagos.

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