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Published: October 10th 2018
Exhausted, but satisfied with my layover adventure in Lisbon. Flights from EWR arrive at 5:45am to LIS, so I opted for the 10 hour layover, which gave me plenty of time to explore the city before getting back on the Barcelona bound plane.
Compared to my previous experience flying TAP Air Portugal, the first leg of the flight fell a bit short. The stewardess in charge of my row was having a really hard day and it was clear (in her defense, she got tripped by someone’s mess in the aisle before the plane even took off). Though I had an aisle seat, it was right next to the slamming lavatory door and the stewardess station. Smells of microwaved food and excrement alternated from the frequented room beside me, and sleeping was out of the question between the noise, elbows knocking into me, and the bright light above my seat. I not only time-traveled into the future, but I also skipped an entire night of sleep, and it’s catching up now. I’m literally typing with my eyes closed and checking every once in a while.
Arriving to a place halfway across the world and feeling
right at home is such a grounding feeling. During my trip to Portugal in April, I spent about 11 hours in the airport as I greeted each retreat member that arrived, so I knew exactly where I wanted to get my first abetenado and pasteis de nata. I knew exactly how to get on the Metro and already envisioned where I’d spend my day. For these reasons, and more, a foreign place felt comfortable and familiar.
Sunrise in Lisbon is at 7:40am. Instead of journeying to the Sun Gate in Alfama, I opted to catch the waking day from the water near the Oriente Subway station. It’s roughly 10 minutes from the arrivals section of LIS. Figured my mom would appreciate me avoiding a 40 minute journey to the Sun Gate in the pre-dawn dark. I was rewarded with a private showing of a vibrantly pink sky punctured by a fire orange sun. My only company was a few folks pausing on their walk to work and a man blowing snot rockets and singing fado music into his phone.
After the city woke, I jumped back on the Metro and took it all the
sunrise at Oriente
Vasco de Gama bridge
way south to the Cais do Sodre neighborhood of Lisbon. It’s such an efficient subway system with each ride costing 1.45 Euro regardless of how many transfers you make. Mixed in with the throngs of business commuters, I meandered aimlessly – watching ferries against the backdrop of Lisbon’s red Golden Gate Bridge (Ponte de 25 de Abril), reading graffiti on benches, and picking up pigeon feathers for my braided hair.
Without any real goals for the day, I decided I would take the main artery of the city from South to North and catch the Metro back to the airport from Alameda (outside of the AirBnB I rented for our retreat group in April). The zipper on my boot had broken in the Newark airport so I set myself the stand-in mission of finding a new pair of boots with knife pockets (though I’m really partial to the thrift store pair I have).
Heading North on Rue de Alecrim, I made my way to the viewpoint at Bairro Alto, Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara. It’s one of my favorite areas of the city because it gives a sweeping view of the Castle, bridge,
and brightly painted houses below it. The famous Tramcar 28, Elavador da Gloria runs up and down the steep alley covered in graffiti and street art. If you go, skip the trolley ride, but do walk up and down the alley. It’s rough, but you can reward the effort with a pastry…again. In the evening, Jardim de Sao Pedro de Alcantara resembles a Beer Garden with small shops and vendors serving port, wine, beer, charcuterie, and more pastries than you can imagine. Fortunately, the shops were closed. Experiencing Bairro Alto during the daytime is another world compared to it’s transformation when the sun goes down. The small alleys become hawking grounds for bars, restaurants, trinket shops, and bachelor parties from across the European Union. I’m out of the party game, but it’s definitely the spot to be for a night out mixed with some Portuguese culture (like listening to melancholy fado music while drinking superb wine from the curb).
Rerouting East by a few blocks, I headed toward the plaza, Praca Dom Pedro IV, passed Elevador da Santa Justa, which is nestled and nearly forgotten between and H&M and a souvenir store. I used the public restroom
in the small mall in this Chiado area (when it opened – because it was still not even 09:00), and browsed through Portuguese books at Livraria Bertrand.
Continuing North, I stopped for lunch at a café aside the big plaza at Martim Moniz before maintain my Northern route along the main road, Rua de Palma. Keeping my stand-in goal in mind, I popped into every tiny store that sold shoes and found nothing comparable to my beloveds. An Italian man and I also tried out tiny guitars in an “everything” shop, but both decided they weren’t worth the 13 Euro after neither of us could keep them in tune.
Near the Areeiro subway station (which has been closed for-like-ever), I found Vegan Eats Café for “lunch”. I say it this way because my mother never would have approved of the chocolate and peanut cake I washed down with organic coffee as lunch, but I’m an adult. In April, I visited this place (the entrance is on Rua Cavaleiro de Oliveira) and wouldn’t be lying if I said I planned this Lisbon layover just to visit again. It’s run by the sweetest Portuguese woman who
Rua da Palma
proudly cooks and displays the foods of the day. There’s always a collection of vegan quiches and cakes, and a few menu items as well. All her coffee is organic and tea purchases benefit a foundation that helps cats in Lisbon. My lunch, including a donation, cost 2.75 Euro, and the poetry I wrote on my placemat is now hanging somewhere near the bookshelf inside. If you go to Lisbon, please visit Vegan Eats Café, especially if you feel like you need a hug.
Finally, I passed Parque da Fonte Luminosa, which is right next to the Alameda Metro stop. I skipped the busy Pasteleria Pao de Acucar and found a smaller shop to buy 2 miniature pasteis de nata and a bolo de chocolate for my journey and then hopped on the short subway ride directly to the Lisbon airport.
All this before 13:30! Three hours early for my flight, I figured I would get some computer work done (see the beginning paragraph of this post), but I feel asleep sitting up and the internet wasn’t working. Had more carbs for dinner, eventually got wifi, and sleepwalked my way onto my delayed flight.
It was a great day and a worthy stopover en route from Newark to Barcelona. Sitting in my hostel in Barcelona, I’m missing the warm, sunny skies of Lisbon as it’s forecasted to rain for the week here. I’m grateful for the cozy capsule bed I passed out in, my friendly roomies, the stellar wifi that keeps me connected, and being across the world on Day 1 of this phase of my epic adventure of life.
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