Said bye to Nuno and his wonderful family, then took the train to Belem. Was going to meet my next couchsurfing host later at the station, but first I had 3-4 hours to kill.
Belem’s one of the districts of interest to tourists in Lisbon. It’s next to the waterfront, and consists of several grand monuments like large fountains, a big monastery, museums, and a cultural arts centre. Weather was terribly hot (yes, I’m complaining this time) and I felt like I was sweltering under the Singapore sun. Didn’t really care about the multitude of tourist attractions there, and they didn’t seem very good anyway, so I just walked about a bit, and then went into Pasteis de Belem.
This is one of the most famous places to eat in the world. I've known that Portuguese egg tarts exist and are delicious for as long as I can remember. Portugal’s most endearing image in the minds of people worldwide is the humble egg tart. And the original shop? Pasteis de Belem. I remembered watching it on the Lonely Planet travel series on the travel channel, so naturally I had to give it a try.
It’s really big inside. They all say that on the reviews, and yeah, its true. Not maze-like though, that would be an exaggeration. But the entrance of the shop, though big, doesn’t even prepare you for how many tables there are in the interior. Its just a single pastry shop, but it looked like it had more seats than an average food court in a shopping mall. Nice retro atmosphere inside, and the egg tarts (0.90 euros each) were pretty good. I had to exercise some self-restraint to stop myself from ordering more than 2 of them.
Sat by the side of the river for a while, looking at the 25th April Bridge (lookalike to Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco) and wished I was at the beach.
That night, my couchsurfing host Joao and his housemate Ivo (both went to the same school, and have just started working as engineers, at the same company too lol) invited some friends over for dinner. It was a great dinner, and I liked the concept of having such dinner parties a lot. Its great to cook something and invite friends over to your place to eat, drink and make merry.
After dinner, we took the subway to the city centre for some drinks. Bairro Alto, the nightlife district of Lisbon, was extremely crowded. It looked very different from the day – I think I prefer it at night. The narrow cobblestoned streets in Bairro Alto were almost fully packed, with all kinds of people hanging out, drink after drink in their hands and chilling the night away. How packed was it? Almost like the interior of any city-bound MRT train in Singapore on a weekday at 8am. Seriously. I met a lot of new people that night and tried different exotic drinks as well (I liked this strawberry drink which is pronounced something like modegaskhor). Alcohol, friends, music and old streets make for a surprisingly good combination. The weather was heating up, so it wasn’t very cold, and everyone was just hanging out outside the bars, making the interior seem empty by comparison. It was kinda strange in a familiar way how everyone seemed to be bumping into friends all over (small city) and also how much English was being spoken. A profound sense of tiredness hit me once I got on the bus and I fell asleep on the way back. An African guy from Guinea sat beside me and tried to talk to me, but I was really too tired. I could only remember him saying that they speak Portuguese and Creole in Guinea, and then I just zonked out after that…