I took a midnight bus from Seville to Lisbon, Loretta and Marco saw me off like I was family. It was mid January 2008 by then. I slept for most of the seven hour journey, arriving in the Portuguese capital an hour after dawn. I was back on British Mean Time. I took a taxi to the Oasis Backpackers, unsure of its destination. Once at the hostel, I crashed for a while, it being early and no staff or bed available. Around breakfast time, a lovely Lithuanian girl woke me and showed me around the small hostel. It was a strange building with three floors and a patio and an outside bar. The reception was on ground level with another half upper level to the patio. The dorms were on the last two floors. There was a tiny lift and stairs. I preferred the latter!
I settled in and got my barrings. I stayed three days, spending one day exploring the city alone and another day with friends I made in the hostel. Dinner was offerd each night for 5 Euros and the quizine was fantastic. I met most people at the outside bar or in the garden by the small fountin. The assortment of round table and chairs next to the bar created a pleasant ambiance. Little happened until around 9.00 PM each night. After that, it got busy. Around midnight a group would hit the town for more action. On my first night I just sat in the garden and met people, sipping lemonaids. This was where I met Lenard and Later Lurdes. Lenard was from California, over for three weeks travelling around Portuegaul. Whereas Lurdes was a lovely Australian girl who had spent much of her life between Australia and Portugaul. She was in art Design and worked one day a week at the hostel. I found her funny and enchanting.
My first full day in the capital city was spent trying unsuccessfully to navigate the small historical city, which is built on seven hills, like Rome. Naturally, I got lost, but I had fun. My first aim was to try and find the river if possible. I walk through the city turning left and right, following the directions I had been given. I attempted to find a square and then follow a hill downwards. I did find the main bus and railway stations. I eventually found a highway which took me out of the city. I followed this for a good hour but with the heat increasing and my journey becoming ever more disinteresting, I turn back and tried to find the city centre.
I climbed several of the hills, entering small back streets quiet and narrow, old and quaint. I heard the local accent, not understanding a word. I passed the occasional cafe or bar – still open as early evening fell. Most places were closing or closed. I managed to get a bread roll and coke in one cafe then continued my exploits. One hill got very steep and I enjoyed myself wandering around in Lisbon’s alley ways. the light eventually began to fade, I haled a taxi and returned to the hostel.
That evening I joined a group of hostellers for a night on the town. A large American girl from Arizona took me on a tour of the back streets and night life. We found some marijuana in one bar and music in another. Then a group of about twenty of us stood in the street with the locals, drinking and smoking, laughing and in some cases singing! I met two young Portuguese lads who began singing yellow Submarine with me, it was most absurd and fun! We ended up in a small night club around 1.00 AM, it was almost empty and the music could only be described as horrendous – at least to my cultured ears! Most of the group left around 2.30 AM and walked back to the hostel, I guiding a Brazilian guy named Giovani who was very drunk. What a conclusion to a fascinating night.
The next afternoon, I met up with Lurdes, Lenard and Giovani for a tour around Lisbon. We walked into the centre, which I had failed to find the day before and I had my picture taken by the large fountin in Rossio Plaza – the sound of the water was delightful. We then wandered on towards the castle, passing the large cathedral along the way. The castle was in the old quarter and was mainly in ruins, the city had been hit by a large earth quake in the mid sixteenth century, thus giving the city its character, plus its hills. We climbed up to the castle, passing several historical districts along the way. I got to touch the old crumbling walls and we walked around the grounds, avoiding the castle itself as it was expensive to enter. On the return journey, we stopped at a picturesque lookout in Alfama district, an old historical area near the castle. We descended the hill by way of several old streets, there were many small, narrow steps which were in poor condition. The houses were close together and backed onto each other. Life would have been hard. We passed a water well at one point that had a statue of a lion’s head, which I thought was cool after touching it. The narrowe streets got vary dark especially where they were covered by intricate archways. We finished with tea in a local cafe that had once been host to a prominent poet of the day in the previous century. The cafe was busy, the food was excellent.
I next travelled down the coast to Lagos at the end of the country. I arrived in mid afternoon after a three hour bus journey. I took a taxi not knowing the Rising Cock hostel’s location. I was greeted by a large man who I took to be American and the owner. He made me welcome and showed me round the hostel, which resembled a building site! It was winter and the tourist season was quiet, a good time to undertake repairments and renovations. The large guys name was Selmo, he introduce me to a young American named Will from the East coast. I joined them on the veranda, the day was cool with scattered sunshine. I told them about my adventures and settled in. will offered to show me the lie of the land, having only just started working there. He was on an internship as part of his University degree. A likeable young guy in his early twenties. Selmo own the hostel and ran it with his Portuguese parents. They were most charming. We just called them Mumma and Poppa. Breakfast which was included, consisted of lemon tea, which I am informed cures any hang over and creps – as many as you want. It was a fantastic place with a beautiful, relaxed ambiance. I bet it is crazy in summer, what with the scenic coast attracting backpackers and tourists! The Rising Cock Hostel costs 25 Euros for a dorm bed in the summer, but I was only charged 10 Euros because of the renovations and the lack of heat. I was not complaining!I spent two night which turned into four because of the people I met. Will and I went for a long coastal walk on my first morning, climbing up on top of the cliffs and getting out into the sun and wind. We walked along several rough trails going through thick grass and shrubs at one point. I could hear the wind and the sea and it was delicious and tranquil. We walked along some of the beach on the return route. I even got to touch a statue of São Gonçalo de Lagos, the town’s founder. I spent a day relaxing in the hostel lounge, listening to videos and/or music on Selmos amazing all-inclusive system. He ran the video, DVD and stereo through the computer, it was a cool system.
Each evening began with hot chicken wings and chips for dinner, followed by a trip to one of the many bars. One such establishment was called the Three Munkys. This was a ripper of a bar that played heavy rock music with a pool table in the back. The hostel members had swelled to quite a phalanx by now, mostly consisting of Aussies. I chatted with them as they drank beer and played pool. We even had a group of delightful young American girls on one evening. They were great fun and I got kissed by two and had my hand stroked by a third!!!
I met Chris from England on my second day and he agreed to take me with a couple of his friends to the small town of Sagres, Portugaul’s most South-Westerly point. Chris and Alistair, a surfing bum from Australia packed their boards in between the seats and along with a young sixteen year old local girl named Ana, we hit the open road for an hour’s drive to the tip. It was a beautiful day, hot sunshine and hardly a breath of wind. We wizzed along with the radio blasting and the windows down, I cracking jokes and swaring frequently. Alistair was a character and I liked him immediately. Chris likewise was a cool guy. Once in Sagres, we went to the light house to see if we could get onto the cliff top to hear the waves crashing against the coast, but sadly it was closed. So we headed to a cafe for lunch then the beach to let the boys serf. I lay on the sand and developed my tan. It was relaxing and very blistful. We eventually returned to Lagos.
On my second night in the Three Munkys, I met one of the barman, a charismatic guy named Jimmy from Belgium. He sounded more like an American and noone could guess his nationality. He tried to get everyone drunk by putting more alcohol in their glasses. I stated I was an alcoholic and just enjoyed myself without beer. He liked that and liked me even more when he saw me head banging to the rock music. Once the bar closed, he invited me for coffee in another bar and then we went back to his place for the night. We ended up crashing around 5.00 AM with a movie on the VCR. I had to share his bed since there was nowhere else to sleep! He was a cool, funny man and a laugh. The next day, we went to the beach together along with two Aussie girl who were also staying at the Rising Cock. The sun was hot so we just lay on the sand relaxing. I found a large rock that had been eroded into a kind of cave by the sea, it was amazing and offerd some shade from the blazing heat. Just to think, it was 28 or 30 degrees celsius and only late January!
After four delicious days in Lagos, enjoying the beaches, bars, people and relaxed atmosphere of the tiny town I decided to return to Spain and continue my journey towards Gibraltar and beyond. Alistair new a Swedish guy who had a car and they offerd me a lift since they were heading the same way. Therefore, we agreed to split the petrol and headed to Cadiz at the bottom of Spain.