If I had to pick a city that I looked forward to the most on this trip, it would be Lisbon. From what I read about it, it's beautiful, affordable and emanates a kind of ethereal magic that makes you want to stay forever. So I planned to spend an entire week here, allowing myself ample time to get seduced by the charms of the old winding streets and the Portuguese sunshine.
Boarded the high-speed intercity train for Lisbon. 15 euros, or S$30, for the two hour journey. Arrived and walked about 2km to a nearby station, passing by city landmarks along the way, to board the suburban train service to Oeiras, where my couchsurfing host Nuno lives.
Met Nuno at Oeiras station and he drove me to his house to put down my bags. Really cool guy, but more on him later. Went back to the city again on the train and explored the city centre for a bit.
Lisbon’s very, very tough to explore. There are so many streets and lanes that even the map doesn’t label all of them. Add to the fact that this city is built on seven hills – yes, sounds romantic and dreamy, but really, you can’t tell that its 7 hills at all, its just one huge metropolis with lots of steep streets and worst of all, its so confusing that you never know if you’re on the right one.
I must admit that Lisbon’s not what I expected. I guess my expectations for Lisbon was for the kind of city that Porto is. Not overly big, with a compact downtown and set against a dramatic natural backdrop of hills and a river. Pretty disappointed to find that Lisbon seemed filled with expensive restaurants, and a sprawling urban core that wasn’t really attractive at all, and lots of not-very-nice concrete buildings and towers around. Yes, there are nice historic buildings in the old part of town, but they don’t seem to have any unique architectural style, and look like buildings from any other generic Western European city, with grandoise government buildings, churches and plenty of museums, some bordering on obscure subjects. Filled with tourists too, I must add.
Didn’t eat anything proper the whole day save for some pastries (okay, its partly because of my newly-launched austerity drive; every few days, I realise I’ve been spending too much and try to cut down in a frenzied attempt to stay within my backpacker's budget). I was also pretty irritated that one of the pastelerias actually served me something that resembled over-baked plain dough. Wasn’t in the best of moods and was glad when I took the train back to Oeiras, leaving this city for the suburbs.
My couchsurfing host’s a 23-year old musician. He plays the drums, and his job consists of rehearsals and performances with his two bands and sometimes teaching drum lessons. He’s got some pretty interesting views and am glad I met him. That night we went to the park with his friend and cousin and hung out for a bit.