Beach Boy

Trip Start Aug 22, 2012
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Trip End Aug 28, 2012


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Where I stayed
Lisbon Destination Hostel

Flag of Portugal  , Estremadura,
Thursday, August 23, 2012

This was my first full day in Lisbon. What to do? Should I go check out the Castelo de Sao Jorge, Bairro Alto, the endless Prašas (squares) or just roam the streets? What? What? Clearly the possibilities were endless, so I went to the other extreme. When in doubt, go to the beach.

At the hostel I signed up for their 'Beach Tour', which basically meant going to one beach, but what a beach it was. We went to Costa da Caparica, which according to my guidebook is a tacky resort. This may indeed be true, however we were taken to a beach which was a few kilometres from the town centre. Oddly, a tram runs (irregularly) from the town centre which services the various beaches around the town, so a car is not strictly necessary to get to the better beaches, always assuming that you know where you’re going.

We set up at a beach bar that had bean bags, proper wooden chairs, tables, as well as the obligatory sun loungers and, probably most importantly, umbrellas. The beach bar was called Jamming and played chill out music all day at just the right volume level that it wasn’t intrusive, but it had a full sound. Not only was the volume good, but the choice of music was also excellent, so much so that I didn’t put my iPod on once during the entire day – for me, that is quite a feat. Being on holiday, I was expecting to pay premium prices for refreshments, but generally everything there was relatively inexpensive, although €5 for a mojito seemed a little excessive. Nevertheless, I definitely give this bar the thumbs up.

Once I realised the sea I would be bathing in was the Atlantic Ocean, I was expecting the worst. I naturally assumed it would be freezing. Remember I’d just come from the Mediterranean where the water is quite warm, so I wasn’t really surprised, when I finally mustered up the courage to go in the water, to find that the water was indeed quite cold, although, to be frank, not much colder than the Costa Brava at the beginning of the summer. So there I was at a beach that seemed to stretch out forever, chilling on a bean bag at a beach bar, sipping a mojito, thinking to myself, it really doesn’t get much better than this.

Five hours later, it was time to move on. On the way back to the hostel we made a detour via the Cristo Rei (Christ The King), which is the large Christ figure overlooking Lisbon not unlike the Christ the Redeemer overlooking Rio de Janeiro. Hardly surprising as a priest visiting Rio was so inspired by their statue that on his return to Portugal, he proposed that Lisbon should erect their own. The main difference being that it was subsidised by the state so the meaning of the statue is not just religious, but also of peace, in particular as a testament to Portuguese neutrality during the Second World War.

However, not only is there a copy of the Brazilian statue in Lisbon, but there’s also an almost exact copy (Ponte 25 de Abril) of the Golden Gate Bridge right next to it. It’s definitely impressive, but just as the Cristo Rei is smaller than it’s equivalent in Rio, so the Ponte 25 de Abril is smaller (much smaller) than it’s American equivalent.

After the day’s trip it was back to the hostel for a rest before going to find dinner. Rossio is in Baixa (basically at sea level), but all the supposedly good restaurants and nightlife are in Bairro Alto, which, as the name suggests, is really high. Our guide for the day told us that there was a quick way up to Bairro Alto, just go up some stairs behind the station... just! It’s all well and good if you’re relatively fit, but my days of being relatively fit have long since given up the ghost of even trying to pretend that I can walk on flat ground without wheezing. Halfway up, I was gasping for air, I would have called for an ambulance, if not for the fact that a) it would have been pointless as it would have been unable to get up there, b) I can’t speak Portuguese and c) I couldn’t actually speak.

Eventually I made it to the top and found somewhere to eat. Taking some advice, I went into a dive of a bar and ate very well (and cheaply). Sepia, potatoes and salad, preceded by vegetable soup (they do love their soup here). That was a fine rounding off to the day, that is until it was time to go home. I decided to take a different route home to the way that I had come. I had a rough idea where I needed to go: downhill and heading towards 10 o’clock (as in the direction of a clock). How hard could it be? Famous last words, anyone?

Of course, I got hopelessly lost, going both downhill and uphill, bearing left but sometimes being forced to go to my right... at night. But like a true man, I refused to get a map out or to ask anyone the way; I just gritted my teeth and kept walking. I don’t know how long it took, but I finally made it back to Rossio, tired and a little proud that I’d managed to make it back in the dark.

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that, after a day at the beach followed by walking halfway up (what seemed like) Everest and then taking the long route back down, I was absolutely knackered. Looking on the bright side, however, despite an entire day at the beach and then my expedition afterwards....not once did I break into a sweat.
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