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:: Heading to Lisbon

At long last it was time to move out of our resort hotel and head out for some unchartered travel. We threw everything into our 30,000 Euro liability, and made the drive back to Faro. While I can't say that I was ever fully comfortable with driving in Europe, I did get the hang of it after a couple of days. Things make sense, you just have to read the signs and expect the important things to be in small writing. They throw round-abouts all over the place, which get freaking annoying when you're trying to take a major road somewhere. At the same time, I can appreciate how these can help with traffic, assuming everyone plays fair and does what they're supposed to do. Of course, there were a lot of road signs showing a stick figure being hit by a car, so maybe not everyone knows what they're doing.

We got gas near the airport (half a tank of petro cost.. 40 Euros, or $52), and returned the 30,000 Euro liability to Avis. While it was good to finally be free of the liability, we knew different travel times were ahead, where we would have to start lugging our bags from place to place and haggle with taxi drivers. This started in Faro, where a 10 minute trip from the Airport to the railroad station cost us about $12. It seemed kind of steep, but we didn't have many options and we figured we could use the experience handling a cab driver.

We booked tickets from Faro to Lisbon using an automated ticket machine. The ticket machine is something that is a dream in the sense that it is multi-lingual and easy to use. Still, it makes me kind of sad to go to the box, because for me, traveling in Europe is all about having some train official yelling at you because you're trying to do something wrong, or something that doesn't make any sense (You want to go to Paris? But you're already IN Paris..?). We bought the tickets for the next train, which was two hours in the future. To kill time, we took turns wandering around by the train station, while one of us watched the bags.

The ride to Lisbon was rather refreshing. It felt good to be back on a train in Europe. The only thing that would have felt righter would have been if I could have gotten the conductor to shake his head in disapproval over something I'd done, but alas, that wasn't in the cards this trip.I whipped out the laptop and got a good chunk of writing done on that paper I'm working on. What a difference a few years make. I wonder what I could have gotten done if I'd had a laptop with me in '98. Eh.. I probably would have just written more travel notes and gotten a lot better at solitaire.

It was a bit oppressing to roll into Lisbon. There seem to be about five different train stations scattered across the city, and not all of them have subway stops. We overshot the city and stopped at the Oriente station, which connects with the subway. We followed the guidebook's advice and made our way to Rossio, which is a big tourist area that has a bunch of hotels and pensions. We popped out of the subway in the middle of a packed European city, and then rounded a corner and climbed a hill to Pensao Geres. It was getting late so we were worried about finding a place, but PG's had a small, prison-cell like room available for cheap (35 Euros). We checked in and set off to explore the surrounding area before it got dark.

Pensao Geres

Lisbon was quite the contrast to the Algarve. It's a big city, filled with all the good and bad stuff you'd expect. Big, scenic streets with tons of shops and people, but also the occasional shady looking folks trying to sell a watch, or muttering "hash" under their breath. We bought both and had ourselves a grand time. Ho ho! Just kidding (do security background checkers ever grep weblogs?), we tried not to make eye contact with anyone. We wandered around for a long time- impressed by the wide long streets and the bustle of the city. Eventually we consulted the guidebook to find "restaurant row for travelers", which happened to be just around the corner from our hotel.

Embarrassed by our inability to interact with non-English speaking folks, we looked at many (or, according to Amy, "all of the") shops before deciding on this place that fit what we were looking for. The inside was a bit different than what the outside hinted at. They sat us down at a six person table and then put a pair of French women at the other end. We gave up on manners and pointed at the things on the menu that had appealing English translations. This worked just fine, and led to a pretty happy meal with a couple big mugs of beer. Our French counterparts on the other hand tried to remain French, and as a result got frustrated with the service. We finished dinner and left, noticing that they were trying to attract a waiter, menus open, calling "garcon! garcon!". We chuckled to ourselves, and thought about telling them in our beersh voices "pssht- you gotta close the menu in Europe or they won't pay attention to you". It felt good to see other Europeans getting frustrated in a restaurant. Especially since they were French and had given us the cold shoulder when they sat down.

We started the stroll home when we noticed a little bar nook that had people shuffling in off the street for drinks of Ginjinha. Ginjinha is a cherry liquor that we had read about that is the drink of choice in Lisbon. We had read that there are two things you need to say when you go into one of these bar nooks- how many, and with or without cherries in the drink. Still a little buzzed from the beer and confident that alcohol only improved my sloshing of Portugal phonetics, I confidently ordered Doish (two), Com (with). We took our shots to the street and watched a couple of guys on the street sing sad Fado songs about jilted love (or missed bus transfers, for all we know). Ah.. a nice night. And being a little tipsy didn't hurt when it came to sleeping in our tiny room.

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