Lesson learned from Lisboa trip: When traveling to an unknown city, it makes your life marginally easier if you arrive before sundown. The street signs are easier to see, the drunk people less abundant, and getting lost in a creepy neighborhood is significantly less scary.
After Madrid, I decided to hop a bus to Lisboa, a trip that took most of the day. Luckily I had an 800-page novel to read; cheers for public libraries in Galicia. The bus hauled me across Castilla La Mancha and Extremadura, which from my experience seem to consist mainly of cow pastures and scrubby trees.
I arrived in Lisboa several hours after the sunset, which made finding my bed for the night a little tricky. You see, I didn’t have a map of the city, I was supposed to meet up with a couchsurfer but he never did answer the phone, and I didn’t have any clue how to get to the hostel that I wanted to find (add the fact that I wasn’t even sure that the hostel had a bed for me). However, I grabbed a Metro pass and hopped a train into the city center, deciding to make it up as I went along. Cue several hours of meandering around downtown Lisboa, drinking coffee, trying to call my would-be host for the night, and getting annoying offers of help from stupid Portuguese guys. I’d say the best part happened when I decided to find my back-up hostel at about 9:30 pm and wandered up the hill (there’s 7 of them in Lisboa) in search of it. I promptly got myself lost in a series of streets that looked to be from the middle ages (and smelled like it to).
Eventually I gave up, found a taxi (after hiking out of the sketch part of town) and got my butt to the hostel before 11 pm. Luckily they had a bed, as well as a free welcome-to-the-mansion drink. I crashed, not caring that my room had 11 other beds in it.
My first full day in Lisboa I headed out with the intention of seeing the giant castle that I’d spotted while lost the previous night. On the way, I was distracted by the massive amount of New Year’s sales in all the stores. I think it took me 2 hours to travel a block, what with all the distractions. Once I made it through the shopping district, I found a ton of fog rolling in from the river, freezing my butt off. I was then promptly distracted by gorgeous old cathedrals and the abundance of streetcars. But I eventually made it up the hill to the Castle and promptly was amazed by the view of the entire city.
That night, I hung around the hostel-mansion, not feeling too good and meeting some cool Germans who (surprise, surprise) were drinking a ton of beer. But the next day, I wandered down to Belem, a lovely little area on the coast. By far the best part was the PASTRIES!! They’ve been making them for the last 150 years and taste of deliciousness.