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Published: April 24th 2010
SDC13087 Friday, April 16
We took the morning bus from Lagos to Lisbon (that's "Lisboa" in Bortugesh). It was still rainy with some stray droplets coming down. Within four hours we went from the very southern-most shore of Portugal to the central region (and capital!). We left our luggage at the train station and then set out to explore the city for the day! That night we were taking a train to Madrid, so we had about 10 hours to kill. We took the metro into what seemed to be a nice area. As we strolled, we got more and more into the historic core of Lisbon, which was so cute! The streets and narrow, winding, and cobbled. And there are yellow trams everywhere that run up and down the hilly roads. The houses were pained white with painted tile accents and citrus trees. And the ocean was almost always visible (as Lisbon is on the water).
We strolled past a shop where they sell only different varieties of sardine paste (they're really big on that in Spain and Portugal). And then we found a nice place for lunch where we could try baccalau--a Portuguese specialty! Baccalau literally
Sardine paste shop
just refers to salted cod, but apparently there are over 100 ways to prepare this special dish! At the restaurant, we ate it shredded and mixed with shredded potatoes--YUM! We also had bread, fresh cheese, and coffee for just 8,50 euro! Even if Portugal wasn't absolutely beautiful, I would still love it because it's so cheap!
We visited the Cathedral, which (like other churches in Spain and Portugal) was done in impeccably white stone. We continued to stroll around. We had a map, but we didn't look at it; we just let ourselves get lost. We walked up a big hill and came to a look out point where we could see the whole city below. We could also see a castle-looking thing in the distance. We decided to go there.
After lots of walking, we reached the base (where there were wild peacocks on the street) and paid the fee to go in. It started raining. The castle is called the Castelo de Sao Jorge, and it has origins dating from 200 BC. In the medieval period, it was actually the palace of the Portuguese king! We walked the ramparts and took in more amazing views of
the city, which were intensified when a full rainbow broke across the skyline. Wow!
Before too long we realized that we needed to get back to the bus station to collect our luggage before they closed. I knew there wasn't enough time to take the metro, so I hailed a taxi and we told him we needed to get there quick. And man did he do his job! Our cabbie zoomed and wove around traffic like I've never seen, taking us through the business district (which we hadn't gotten to visit, so that was cool). He got us there within 10 minutes and I stumbled out of the cab. Cyntia gasped and said "He has 955,000 kilometers on his car!" That's 600,000 miles. Cyntia took a pictures of the odometer and we said "Obrigado! Adiosh!" to the cabbie as he sped away.
The drama of the night didn't start until we got to the train station. After much poking around we found the ticket office. While C. and I had bought and picked up our tickets in France, PJ had purchased his ticket online while we were in Spain. He had the reference code to pick up the
ticket at the station. BUT the people at the station said they couldn't do anything with his reference code. They told us to go to a cyber cafe and print out the ticket. Our train was leaving in about 40 minutes, and I was getting stressed out. I led us down to the first level where there was a cyber cafe. The lady told us sorry, but that they were closing. I literally made little prayer hands and said "Please! He has to print his ticket!" She still said no, but that there was another cyber cafe in the underground mall. So we ran over there. Because, you see, if PJ couldn't get his ticket we were all going to be in a big pile of excrement.
At the 2nd cafe, my pulse was pounding in my head. PJ found the reservation in his email and printed the attachment. However, it wasn't the actual ticket, just the receipt! With time running out I said, "Well, I think this is the best we can do. This receipt proves that PJ bought the ticket, and it even shows the seat that he reserved, so I guess we give it a try."
We raced to the track just in time to get on the train. Then we took our seats and anxiously waited for the ticket person to come. When he finally does come, he looks at PJ's printed piece of paper and isn't sure what to do. He's speaking English to PJ, so I go over (because I'm the diplomatic one, and I speak English better than PJ). I explain the situation: how in France when you buy the ticket from SNCF you can retrieve it at the station, how we didn't know that wasn't possible in Portugal, how we didn't know what to do, how the receipt still shows all of the same information as the ticket, yadda yadda yadda...The train employee was polite (and went to ask his boss and the situation) but PJ STILL had to buy the ticket AGAIN. I could tell he was mad. The ticket guy said that since he didn't have an actual ticket he had to pay the seat again and try and get reimbursed later.
With that drama (sort of) resolved, all we had to do was sleep for the next eight hours as the train made it's way to
Madrid. However, they never turned the overhead lights off, so I didn't really sleep much. It was a lovely day that ended in a hectic evening and a sleepless night.
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