There are no fat Lisbonites

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


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Where I stayed
Lisbon Destination Hostel
What I did

Flag of Portugal  , Lisbon,
Friday, August 24, 2012

There was no getting away from it. I'd taken it easy since arriving in Lisbon, but on this, my third day, I had no choice but to take to the streets and explore the city. At some point, I intended to visit the Castelo de Sao Jorge, which is the highest point in Lisbon, which considering it’s all hills is no mean feat. However, being my usual procrastinating self, I felt that I should really have
a look at what was around in the area before hiking up the mountain.

I knew the hostel was somewhere near the river, but I still hadn’t seen it properly. Of course, I’d crossed it the day before on the 25 de Abril bridge, but that never really gives you a true appreciation of a river. Therefore that was to be my first stop: River Tagus. As I made my way imagine my shock when I suddenly realised that I’d seen some of the sights before like the Elevador de Sta Justa (a lift in the middle of the city!) and the Baixa Chiado. I’d unknowingly come across these places the previous night while lost in the city.

After my initial surprise, I continued down to the main square next to the river, Praça do Comércio, which affords you of a view of the Ponte 25 de Abril and Cristo Rei. In the square a common theme was becoming apparent. There seem to be countless squares and they all have huge monuments in them, all very reminiscent of fascist dictatorships. It’s been almost years since Portuguese was a dictatorship, but the remnants seem to thrive, at least to my untrained eye.

More disturbing than that, however, was the fact that my dry streak was finally over. It had been a short walk to the square, but I was already sweating profusely. This was not a good sign. So I took a short break to cool off a little, before heading up to Castelo de S. Jorge. The castle is at the highest point in Lisbon, there was no way I was ever going to walk up to it, so swallowing my pride, I whipped out my map in public (you have no idea how much that pained me!) and tried to find a way to get there via public transport. Fortunately there is a bus that goes there, so I headed off to yet another square with yet another monument to catch it.

Entry to the castle was €7.50, but it was well worth it. If you can see the castle from just about anywhere in central Lisbon, well, obviously you’ll see all of Lisbon from the castle. It was almost like a park, I spent almost 4 hours there just taking in the views (and did I mention the cool breeze up there? It was wonderful). My only problem with it was that you have access to climb up to the ramparts. About halfway up the stairs, I was suddenly struck with vertigo. I decided to press on as it was easier to go up than to go back down. Once I was at the top, however, I went weak-kneed. I felt very unsure of myself and I thought I was going to be sick. I had to go back
down, but, of course, as it’s a stone castle, the steps are not the best and when you’ve suddenly lost all confidence, it becomes a real problem to negotiate the stairs. The sight of me hugging the wall and tentatively making my way down like an old granny, while old grannies were whizzing past me must have been amusing for anyone lucky enough to see me – but I was terrified!

Other than that it was a very pleasant afternoon, which I’d recommend to anyone. Having taken the bus up, I walked back down to the centre. I felt I could handle that. What I didn’t factor in was that it can be just as difficult (if not as tiring) to walk downhill as it is to walk uphill. Especially given the gradient involved. By the time I got to the bottom I was shattered. So what I really didn’t need was to be talked into a pub crawl in Bairro Alto that night, yet that is what exactly happened.

Barely had I come down from the castle than I (and some people I met at the hostel) went up the other side of the mountain to Bairro Alto. By the time we arrived I was a mess. It was awful; I looked as if I’d just stepped out of a shower, but didn’t smell as sweet. It was not a good look,
considering it was party night. In Bairro Alto, the party is in the street, not in the bars. The streets are lined with bars, but they are basically pit stops. You go in get your drink and then
go straight back outside to party. It’s like a festa mayor in Spain, but every weekend. The bars close at 3:00am, people move on to clubs that stay open until 7:00am and if they’ve got the stamina, they go to an after hours club, which is usually open until midday. I used to think that Barcelona was the party capital of Europe, but I will have to cede that crown to Lisbon. 

Partying in Bairro Alto involves a lot of walking up (and sometimes down) very steep streets. In
addition, going anywhere else presents a huge challenge that even Sir Edmund Hillary might have baulked at. So, unsurprisingly, considering all the hills in Lisbon, it’s very hard to find someone who lives here that is fat. In fact, it is incredibly easy to spot all the tourists; we are the ones who are overweight and wheezing wherever we go.

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