It's called Lisboa here

Trip Start Sep 08, 2009
1
4
35
Trip End Nov 24, 2009


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Where I stayed
Hotel Residencial Joćo XXI

Flag of Portugal  , Estremadura,
Monday, September 14, 2009

Well we made it to Lisbon, Portugal! We had an overnight train and that is always tiring. It's basically like sleeping all night in an airplane seat (upright) but with the lights on and the chance of your stuff getting stolen. Oh, and I must mention how gross the bathrooms were- it was like a bathroom from a deserted rest stop in the wilderness- completely disgusting. Plus the doors didn't lock. I accidentally walked in on two people when I was trying to use the bathroom. Then when I finally got in one, I turned around and went right back out and held it for 9 hours until we got to the train station in Lisbon. I'm normally not tooooo picky when it comes to bathrooms but this one was unacceptable. And I don't know what was with the lights being on the whole ride- that didn't happen last year when we took an overnight train. Anyways, other than all that we actually slept most of the time and it wasn't too bad. It was nice to get off the train in the morning though and stretch our legs.
We took a metro to our cheap Portuguese hotel and left our backpacks in the storage closet while we roamed around all day. We saw more sites yesterday than I ever imagined we would in one day- especially a day after a night on a train. We drank Red Bull then hopped on a metro to the downtown area where we took a tram to the Belem District (an area by the sea that has a bunch of historical sites). We started out at Jeronimos Monastery, seeing an ancient Egyptian museum then going into the cloister. It was really cool- sort of like a massive courtyard with two levels of balcony circling it. All ancient (but recently restored). We then went inside the cathedral and saw Vasco de Gama's tomb. That was awesome. This whole city is somewhat devoted to Portuguese and Spanish explorers. Especially the Belem district of town where we were.
After leaving the Monastery (which was free before 2pm on Sunday!) we rushed over to the Coaches Museum before 2 so we could get in free there too. The coaches museum was awesome! It is home to dozens of royal coaches from previous kings, queen, and noble persons from hundreds of years ago. All the coaches were completely decked out in fancy designs, carvings, material, gold, etc, etc. My favorite was what I call the Cinderella coach. It was one of the biggest ones and completely reminded me of Cinderella (I will upload a picture of it).We had a great time wandering around this museum.
After this we walked across a couple streets to the water, where there was a long board walk with two key sites. One was a massive statue built in the Portuguese Age of Exploration. It was built in order to be the first thing the sailors/explorers saw when they returned home from a voyage. It is like a greeting back into their home. We got to go to the top of the statue for only a euro (with our "student" discount) and got the coolest view of Lisbon from up there. We could see all around us- the water with the land on the other side, the sister to the Golden Gate Bridge, the harbor, the Jeronimos Monastery, the big sports arena, the Belem Tower (where we were going to go next), and all the ships in sight. It was amazing. Definitely one of my favorite parts of the day.
Oh, and I need to mention the bridge. There is a massive bridge connecting the main part of Lisbon to land on the other side and it is almost identical to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. It was the same engineers who designed this bridge as did the GGB in San Fran.
We then took a walk down the boardwalk to the Belem Tower. This ancient tower was used as a place for Portuguese people to keep an eye out on ships coming into their waters. They would have guards there watching all the time, through lookout towers on the top. They had canons that would come out of the holes in the sides of the Tower to be used in the case of a potential foreign attack. We got in to the Tower for free (again, our awesome "student" ID cards) and got to explore the entire thing- from the dungeon where prisoners were kept (it was too low to stand up straight) to the top of the crazy, small, winding stair case to look out over the water. It definitely felt like we were in the "olden days."
After we came out of the Tower, it was nearing the end of the day and we were both getting tired and hungry. We hadn't had a normal meal all day- we'd just been eating granola bars and these amazing Belgian waffle snacks we got at Lidl (remember those from last year Diane?, haha). So as we were heading back to the tram station we just had to stop at one more museum- this time a modern art museum. It was also free entry so we roamed around for a while, seeing an art-deco exhibit, an evolution of graphic arts exhibit, and a photography exhibit. Then we hopped back on the tram to get to the metro station, to get back to the neighborhood our hotel is in. We had noticed earlier in the day that every business was closed when we came out of our hotel in the morning, but thought that may have had something to do with the fact that it was a Sunday. When we came back, all the businesses were closed- including any sort of restaurant/food place. So we had no idea where we were going to eat. We went back to the hotel and asked the receptionist where there was to eat around here and she said there was only ONE place open (in this entire neighborhood!) It was right around the corner so we walked in and it was full Portuguese people watching a futbol (soccer) game. There were no tables open so we sat at the bar, got served beer and Coca Cola by the Portuguese bartender and ordered food. I chose a Portuguese hamburger and Andre picked something random off the menu (since we couldn't read a thing)! He ended up with a steak and fries and I ended up with literally a meat patty with an egg and a little bit of cheese on top, with a side of fries. It actually ended up being pretty good. Andre said it was the best meal he's had since we've been on this trip. I would say it's pretty far up there on my list too. Except for the ketchup situation. I don't remember this from last year but apparently ketchup in Europe is sweeter than in America. I sort of got used to it by the time I was at the end of my fries but I was still missing good old fashioned American ketchup.
We left the bar, went back to the hotel, took the best showers ever and went to bed. (We hadn't showered in a while at this point because of being in a train overnight the night before). And we'd been wearing the same clothes since the morning we left Madrid to go to Toledo. So we were uber grubby at this point. It's nice to be clean now.
You'll notice that in our pictures from our first day in Lisbon that we're wearing the same clothes as the day before and we look pretty greasy.
So far, I like Portugal better than Spain. But after this short trip in Portugal, we are heading back to Spain so I'll keep you updated if my decision changes. I think Andre likes Portugal better too, but hopefully he'll write a blog entry soon and tell you himself.
Right now we just finished breakfast and are taking the morning slow since we had such a full day yesterday. We are going to figure out what we are going to do today right now.
All for now!
-Michelle
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