The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lisbon 2–The treasured city

The following takes place between Days 161-162, May 7-8, 2011

After the quick breeze through of Porto, it was back on the bus for me towards Lisbon. And good timing too as just as the bus was pulling out of the city did the rain start pouring down. I wouldn’t have gotten much done in Porto that day it seems.

The one thing that really was annoying about Porto, which I alluded to previously, is that there is no central bus station. Each bus company runs out of its own office so it’s not exactly user friendly. You don’t get the opportunity to shop around for the best times and/or prices. You basically choose the bus company and take what’s available. Luckily for myself and the two girls I was with, the next bus to Lisbon was leaving in ten minutes so it wasn’t that much of a wait.

Once we arrived in Lisbon it was a pretty easy navigation to find the right subway lines. We said our goodbyes to each other on the subway as they had booked themselves in a different hostel. Once again I was on my own. Myself, I had booked myself back into the hostel I had stayed in my first time around in Lisbon. Easy to find, close to everything, free breakfast. Really can’t go wrong with that.

IMG_6031And then I did something totally unexpected. I actually went out. I went out and explored on a travel day! Mind you, by the time I did go out it was past 6pm, but still! There was a huge park near the hostel, Parque Eduardo VII, which I decided to explore. Nothing fancy, but at least I was out doing something and seeing something I hadn’t seen before.

Surprisingly enough, there was a large, what I can only describe as a book fair going on. Up and down both sides of the multiblock long park were dozens upon dozens of little bookseller kiosks. Thankfully all of them were in Portuguese so I wasn’t tempted to buy any.

No, that’s a lie. I was still tempted. It took the logical side of my brain some time to convince IMG_6036the impulsive side of my brain that buying a book you can’t read is a bit of a waste of money. Money you have a limited amount of. Although even the logical side went quiet for a second when I saw a special Guiness World Records book all about the Benefica futball team. My good friend Kevin would’ve loved that, even if it wasn’t for his team Sporting. Alas, I didn’t buy it. Sorry Kevin! But at least now you have something to put on your Christmas list this year!

The previous time I was in Lisbon, I was unable to try one of the famous Pasteis de Belem that everyone raves about so Day 2 of my second trip to the city was focused on tracking down this egg tart delicacy. Getting to Belem would become my first challenge.

Belem is like a city in itself so it is necessary to take public transit there unless you had your own vehicle. My first mistake was assuming that the charged up transit card would work for the streetcars and buses. Nope. Apparantly the “single journey” or “return journey” is only good for the metro. To use the streetcars and buses, you have to set the card up to be a “24 hour unlimited use” card. So off I went to the nearest subway station to buy a new card as you can’t just add the “24 hour” ticket onto a card already designated for something else. Damn.

IMG_6048Once I got to Belem though, finally, it was easy sailing from there. Finding the famed bakery/restaurant – aptly named “Pasteis de Belem” – was pretty easy. Just follow the crowds. In no time I had purchased a tart and was sitting under a tree near the King’s Palace enjoying it. And the hype is accurate. It is insanely tasty. I admit I had my reservations on the idea of an egg tart being tasty, but it was. My brother would probably buy out the store, he loves eggs that much(at Easter and Christmas, he usually gets a whole plate of Devil’d Eggs all to himself).

With my tummy satisfied, I took to wandering the Belem area, geocaching along the way. I had IMG_6051previously checked my count and saw that it was possible to reach my 300th geocache right there. I had six to find before I could go for my 300th. With my GPS out, I plotted a path that would take me from the palace, to the train station in Belem, through the botanical gardens, up to a church that has been struck by lightning a number of times(talk about bad luck), past the local futball stadium, then down towards the Torre de Belem for my 300th.

It started off great. I found the one at the king’s Palace. The one under the stairs at the train IMG_6086station proved insanely easy for being so well camouflaged. I credit years of finding hides by Saskatchewan geocachers SaskGirl&Novy among others for helping with that. The walk through the botanical gardens to find one there was peaceful and I ended up allowing myself time for a little nap in the Asian portion of the gardens.The church I mentioned above was beautiful. It was also nice to be the only tourist in the area admiring the building.

From there it was a little walk down to a busy street to find a geocache under a streetmap kiosk. Then up past what looked like an Army base, past the futball stadium to a tiny little park to find the last one before I went for the 300th.

And then I stalled. I got to the Torre de Belem and solved all the questions I needed to figure out the coordinates. But as much as I looked, I could not find it. I was heartbroken. 299 finds and I was stalled. I gave up after searching for 40 minutes. Though, all was not lost. I took the opportunity to actually go into the tower and look around as it was still open at that time. IMG_6107

Though, for 10 euros, it’s a bit pricey. Yes it had great views, and the architecture is amazing inside. But it seemed a bit steep of a price for what you got. Oh well. I’m still under budget at least! The tower had five levels, each connected by a single spiral staircase which made going up and down a fun affair with many other tourists also going up and down. I even managed to find the dungeon/jail in the basement. Believe it or not, the ceiling was so low that even I had to duck the entire time down there.

And that’s saying something.

IMG_6123I left the tower quite happy with my decision to come back to Lisbon before moving onwards. I walked along the boardwalk back towards the streetcar station, stopping briefly at the Monument to the Discoveries once again. I knew there was a geocache on this one metal structure but the last time I was here, it was completely surrounded by muggles(non-geocaching folk). This time, it was relatively quiet. I hoisted myself up onto the bench backs, holding onto the metal statue as though to steady myself while taking pictures of the Jeronimo’s Monastery in the background. No one paid any attention to me as my fingers silently felt their way around on the inside of the statue, landing on the geocache attached to the upper corner with a magnet.

Oh, right. Spoiler alert.

I IMG_6134grabbed it, pulled it out, signed the log and decided I needed to take a photo of it, as it was my 300th. I tried getting a photo with me in it as well but it was impossible to see the writing on the paper unless you were right up close. I replaced the cache just as I had retrieved it and took my leave back to the hostel. On the way, once again I stopped at a place near the hostel that I knew a geocache was hidden but hadn’t been able to find. This time I found it with no issues. It wasn’t until I got back to the hostel did I realize that that had been my 100th geocache on this trip.

Thanks Lisbon!!!

1 comment:

  1. The chiro I used to work with went to a conference in Lisbon & came home with the recipe for the famed egg tarts. Every year since she makes them for our office at Christmas. Super yummy!

    Loving reading about your adventures - especially the geocaching parts ;) Yay for 100 finds on your trip!