Saturday, June 28, 2014

[LISBON] Lisbon and Your Legs

If you are a regular reader of my blog, then you'll know how obsessed I am with legs. But before you spread the rumor that I'm a pervert, let me clarify it as early as now. Your legs will take you to all the places you want to go, and when they say that the trip is over, the trip is over. There is no argument here unless you are bound on a wheelchair a la Professor X and have enough mental stamina or elbow grease to drive your tired ass around. And then, Lisbon.

Has anyone told you that Lisbon is built on seven hills? That very fact does not seem so shocking on paper but once you get there you'll know what a city built on seven hills really means, and its relation to your legs. Suffice it to say that in Lisboa, every day is an unavoidable obligation to exercise your lower limbs. Whether it’s going to be a pleasant experience or not really depends on your fitness. But first, how to reach Lisbon? Either plane or train.

From Faro, it took me three hours to get to Lisbon on board the Alfa Pendular. The fare was 20 euros one way. How was the train? The train was okay. It even had WiFi, albeit intermittent most of the time. I took the late afternoon trip which meant it should have already been dark by the time I reached Lisbon, yet I vividly remember that it wasn’t. I was not aware of that issue regarding the hills. All I knew was that almost every contact of mine on Facebook who has been here only had nice things to say about the place.

The train station is linked to the Metro and the Metro only has a few lines. We can say that it is not as extensive compared to those in other major cities, but many of the most frequented locations are easily accessible anyway, so no problem with that. What I find interesting about the Metro lines was how each one had its own emblem, a symbol of sorts which I just thought was fancy, akin to the houses of Hogwarts. The Metro is also a good place to discover the ethnic composition of a particular city, and Lisbon is just a melting pot of various cultures.

My hostel was located near the area of the Elevador da Santa Justa which is, surprise, an elevator. If you manage to outwit all the tourists lining up for the ride, you'll then be rewarded with a good view of the city. I lost in that reenactment of the Hunger Games because I had luggage with me. Stupid me had to go hiking up the hills when my hostel was just a few blocks away from the Metro station. On flat ground. I also encountered a police officer who wouldn't give me directions until I greeted him Boa Tarde.

The immediate neighborhood of the hostel seemed to be the epicenter of most tourist activity, which made me realize how easy it was to fall in love with this city. Old trams still operate in the streets providing some vintage kind of flair as if the wide plazas and their mighty statues were not enough to impress every dumbfounded visitor. While the tourist infestation level is quite high, it is still difficult to hate this city, unless your bag gets stolen or you get stalked by a hashish vendor. More on that in a later blog post.

Yes, plazas! There is a small one directly above Rossio called Praça da Figueira. It is small but also happens to be a tourist favorite for photo-ops because of that castle perched on one of the city’s seven hills stalking you from the background. This is also the plaza with the statue of Dom João I on a horse. Ah yes, Iberia has a consistent love affair with men on horses, as most statues in Portugal and Spain would make you believe. If you think this plaza is too small for you and you need some extra fountains, you need not go far.

Yes, we have another plaza just a few backflips away from that one. The Praça Dom Pedro does not have a guy on a horse but it does have a rather tall obelisk thingy at the center flanked by a fountain each on opposite sides of the square. To the east is a national theater; to the west, Baixa, which leads to the river. If you opt to just cross the plaza and go straight ahead, you'll end up on the steps leading up to Bairro Alto, like Hong Kong’s Lan Kwai Fong on steroids.

Because I was exhausted from the three hour trip, which should not have been the case because the train ride was comfortable anyway, I decided to call it a night by having a taste of Portuguese culinary goodness. I heart fish. Like, so much, and having Dourada Grelhada for dinner was enough for me to prematurely declare Lisbon as my favorite city in Europe. Of course, later it would be replaced by Barcelona. Lisbon still wins in the food department, though. I could have that fish for dinner every day until I die. Seriously.

It was also a good thing that there is this group of young men who sang and play instruments inside the restaurant while I was dining al fresco. I think it is a Southern European thing, like impromptu a cappella slash play your own instruments for lack of KTV or something to that effect. It just makes you want to get up and move it move it. In any case, it only took me a few hours to really like Lisbon and, in effect, Portugal as a whole, which led me to think that Spain would also be just as awesome. Well, we’ll see.

[LISBON] Lisbon and Your Legs

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