Bar 104

For once, the bar is empty. I stroll up to the front and casually order two large beers, because a litre is only one euro and fifty cents in this particular bar, if I remember correctly. The swarthy man behind the counter balks at the sight of me, and pours my Superbocks whilst staring.
“It’s been a while since you’ve been here – maybe 2 years?”
As my hands instinctively go to my mouth out of embarrassment I’m suddenly transported back in time to the first night alone in Lisbon.
I am 21 years old, and for the second time I’ve moved country to try and figure out what I want to do in life. I had just been given my spot in a 14 bed room in a hostel, which would be home for the next 5 months.  I have hung up towels and flags to block my bed from the view of strangers. Strangers who know Lisbon better than I do at this point.
Although it’s February there is a mildness to the evening breeze. It carries me out the door and up to Barrio Alto. It’s still too early for the night crawlers to start prowling the streets, but the day shift are certainly wavering. A few lonely stag dos wander the streets, separated from the rest of the pack. It’s a sight I’ll become used to; tipsy British men roaming the white cobbled hills, but right now I just need to find my love of the city.
Along Rua da Atalaia I see an old, run down, blue and white building. It’s so unimpressive that I would have walked right past it had I been in a rush to do anything with my night. I go in and buy a litre of beer for one euro fifty. There are no seats inside, so I carefully carry it out and along to Miradouro de São Pedro de Alacantara. The beer is ice cold, hurting my hand, and the warmth has left the city to be replaced by a bruise coloured sunset. As I sat with my giant cup near the railings of the lookout point I watched the sky blossom from teal to yellow and green, and then finally to the navy stillness marking the start of my first night there.
I would return to that spot many more times over the next few months, with many different people, ritualistic in my ice cold beers from Bar 104, and my love of the night sky. And it seemed that old habits would die hard. The passing years had no effect on my vigil appreciation of the city, and fortunately, very little had seemed to change. Including the price of a litre of Superbock.

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Lisbon in 3

I took three snaps on my last trip to Lisbon which constantly remind me of how much I love the place. To check out things to do I wrote a post about a year ago that you should check out.

Praca do comercio at sunset

I stayed here for a good hour watching the sun go down. There’s such a great atmosphere there at golden hour, people play music, they blow giant bubbles and it’s generally just a lovely place to spend an evening.

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The view from the Museu da cerveja.

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Padrao de Descobrimentos

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Belem is a cultural hub. Spend an afternoon here soaking up the culture and eating multiple pasteis de nata in a beautiful park.

My first day off.

I finally got a room to myself, even though it was only for two nights it was a blessed relief. I’ve been moved to one of our “lofts” which is actually a really cool set up and I don’t have to buzz in now, which is good!

Yesterday was my day off and because they are pretty few and far between I made the decision that every day off I’m going to go somewhere or do something. And mission accomplished. By 11 am I was in the oceanarium. Guys. If you ever head to Lisbon (and once again, if you do, hit me up) go to this place. It blew my mind.
DSCN1214On the way you pass this row of flags. Every single country and the collective flags are represented, it’s pretty cool. I tried to take a photograph of the Portuguese flag and didn’t realise until I got in that I actually got the UK one too! So fitting. I wandered around this bit for a while. I could have done it all day, there was so much to see. There were weird statues and paintings from people all over the world, and they were all so unique and interesting! 

I did get a bit lost with all my wandering and photo-taking I won’t lie. But a lady in a cafe pointed me in the right direction. I got lost again but thankfully the oceanarium is pretty well signposted and I am just an idiot…

To get into the oceanarium is about 16 EUR for an adult or 15 if you are a student. It seems a little steep but there was so much in there do to that I thought it was definitely worth it. 

First of all you go through the turtle arena, This is a temporary exhibition but I think it’s on until the summer. So much fun. There are lots of walkways which are glass which kind freaked me out, and little tunnels and cubby holes that have glass roofs so you can sit and watch turtles and sting rays and all sorts go over you. I couldn’t really get many good pictures in there as there were a couple of girls huddling around the good animals with their DSLRs but I tried. (which, by the way, is the motto of my time abroad…) This section was actually really good. Glass floor :/There was a huge focus on conservation and recycling etc. It was mainly focussed on children but I thought that the idea was really good in itself. There were videos on how to reduce your carbon footprint and water/food wastage. It was pretty interesting.

There are also a lot of different climate zones. Not just in the world, obviously but within this vast enclosure. There were penguins and otters and all sorts of critters. One of my favourite animals are frogs, so I was pleased to see that there was an amphibian section. However, I definitely couldn’t see any because they were so small and cute… Probably… 

Mica, the otterI got to the otter tank at feeding time. Otters are hilarious. Look at his face and his little hand and his little prawn tail. I also didn’t realise that they couldn’t drink salt water, maybe that seems stupid. but they have a wee box of ice cubes that they had to fish cubes out of. They’re so clever!

For real there were so many animals there that I could go on about it all day. But I’ll move on.

Where I’m from there is a famous bridge that I usually walk over with my friend whenever I visit home. However. This bridge near the oceanarium is in a very different league. It’s called the Vasco da Gama, and it is the 8th longest bridge in the world. It’s 17.2 km (10.7 miles) long.DSCN1211 When it first opened in 1998 the people of Lisbon put on a huge feast lining up tables all along the bridge. It did really remind me of the bridge back home. I had a small homesick moment, though as a rule I don’t really get homesick. It really reminds me of a picture I took back home (click through). So that was my homesick moment. It passed pretty quick when I walked around a little bit more and found these hilarious statues. DSCN1209I took the shot from behind to save their dignity. I really can’t wait to bring people here in the summer because although it looks pretty mundane it is honestly so out of place it’s hilarious. There’s only naked ladies, no men. Thought I’d mention that as it’s International Woman’s Day. 

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I was only kidding about saving their dignity. It’s too funny. 

Later on I went to the cinema with Kevin to see Oz. Portuguese films are subtitled, not like in Spain where they are dubbed (often badly at that.) But yes, go see that too. I’d give it 4 stars. 

I’ll leave you with a picture and a lovely short poem I saw in the oceanarium which I feel is applicable to me. They aren’t appropriate together but I felt as though they didn’t really fit in anywhere else in this enormous ramble…

starfish are inherently funny!“Quando eu morrer voltarei para buscar
Os instantes que não vivi junto do mar.” 

“When I die I will come back to relive
All the moments I didn’t live by the sea”

-Sophia de Mello Breyer Andresen.

Glossolalia & Riots.

Today I was forced to find a laundrette. Sad I know, but one has to maintain a normal life when everything around you is completely abnormal.

DSCN1151The woman there asked me outright which language I would prefer to speak to her in so I said Portuguese. She rattled away in Spanish for a while so I took the bait and asked her in Spanish what time it would be finished at. She said quarter past eleven… In French… I said I’d see her then in Portuguese and she asked me what my name was in French again. I answered in French then she told me hers in Italian and then she said “Danke”…

It’s too early for this volume of languages. Fortunately I could understand her. But when I got out I really had no idea how I did. I speak little to no French. Or Italian. Or German. Or Portuguese really let’s be honest here. It was a confusing exchange. I think she was just showing off.

I’ve been working every day so far and today I switch to afternoon shifts. I’ve been getting used to the software we have and getting used to sharing a room with eleven people all the time. The only downside is that I feel like I’m constantly “on.” I can’t just be grumpy in my room where no guests can see because they see me all the time and constantly want to ask me things. But apart from that I’m having a lot of fun getting to know everyone here. I’ve found maybe the only other person in Portugal who knows and loves Honey Boo Boo Child. Which is great, obviously. We had a great laugh.

In other news I nearly killed a guest by feeding her a pistachio nut. No, she wasn’t allergic. She freaking ate the entire thing, shell and all. Turns out she had never seen one. I felt terrible!! I also gave a guest a bandage when she asked me for a sanitary towel. The more you know…

DSCN1149On Sunday there was an enormous protest in Lisbon. It was a general strike against Troika, the German company which is offering to help Portugal out of the economic crisis. Many people don’t agree with the rule changes and tax cuts etc. My Portuguese isn’t good enough to really grasp what they were chanting. One of them was “Que se Lixe a Troika” which is like let’s throw the Troika out like trash. I was told there were half a million people just in Lisbon protesting, and around a million more over the country. Which is pretty impressive. If we consider the riots that happened a couple of years ago in London that nearly destroyed the capital, Lisbon got off very lightly with just a bit of littering and light arson – someone always sets a bin on fire…

DSCN1148As you can see from the photos there was hefty police presence, even though we got to the square just after the march was over. There’s maybe about 16 vans just for that one square, and there were more all over the city. 

And there were also people protesting just anything they believed in. Like the trickling gay rights parade at the end like you see here. >

To be honest, I’m quite glad I missed the march. It was violent or scary but it’s what I’d call “chilling.” Coelho is the current leader in Portugal, whose name means rabbit. There were a lot of real rabbits being hung from sticks and swung around. Not violent, but menacing. Weird. 

Anyway, I’ll leave you on that cheery note. I am working from three until nine today and tomorrow and then I finally have a day off! Oceanarium here I come! 

First day of my new job.

Today I did two things for the first time.

  1. Made coffee with a percolator* – I’m British and I drink tea.
  2. Made breakfast for 76 people.

I won’t lie, it was pretty busy but I quite liked it. I was a cleaner in a hospital before so cleaning and stuff doesn’t bother me. Unless it’s of my own will in my own flat and then I really can’t be bothered… 

Today I was working from eight until two, which would have been A-OK, it was my friend here’s 21st birthday and there was a free bar. That’s all I’m gonna say but tipsy Kirsty turned off her alarm so woke up with about 20 minutes to spare…

DSCN1146Kevin, or as he’s asked me to refer to him “the sexiest person I know…” and I went out to Reset bar. It was 15 euros in total to get in and, as mentioned before, a free bar. Carnage. But on your 21st your allowed a bit of carnage.

Working in the morning was fine. The programme we use here is going to take a little bit of getting used to but it was great fun chatting to all the guests. On hostelbookers.com and hostelworld.com we have 97% for our staff, so you have to chat to guests and make them feel welcome. But you get to meet some interesting characters. Today, a singing troupe on tour in desperate need of a hostel due to a an extra gig date, an American visiting friends and a Polish guy who was doing a tour of Portugal. 

When I worked in Spain I was mistaken for Irish, Greek, Portuguese, Spanish, American, Italian, French and just about everything other than Scottish. Here so far I have had Spanish, and Brazilian! Guess my Portuguese isn’t too bad, I just need to work on the nasal-ness (is that a word? Nasality?) of it. Today a co-worker tried to teach me the proper way to say “não”. For those of you in the English-speaking world say now and hold your nose. Perfect Portuguese guys – well done!!

After my shift I completely crashed out. I’m planning to not do that everyday but it’s been a while since I had to do any work not through choice after a night out. So that will get better. Some of the girls in my room have asked me to go out with them tonight but I really am too tired. You meet some lovely people whilst travelling. A guy from the Wild-Walkers is stopping by for a chat tomorrow before work. Which is nice as I was a little afraid that bar Kevin and the people I work with any friendships I make will be very temporary.

Anyways, I’ve bored you all enough here! Boa Noite!! 

I heard multiple people expressing their opinions on my coffee. It kind of sounded like the noises that people make when a child shows them a drawing they’ve done and you have no idea what it is of.

Settling

I suppose a small introduction is necessary. I’m Kirsty,  I’m 21 and I’m a a student in my penultimate year of a Hispanic Studies degree. Last year I went to Ceuta, which is a teeny tiny part of Spain which borders Morocco, however this year I’ve had the good fortune to be working in Portugal’s capital and Europe’s cheapest capital – Lisbon!!

I was given a few days to travel about, and from the looks of things it might be one of the last chances I get to properly explore, as my hostel is pretty competitive. These some pictures I have taken on my wanderings around here. I’ll try and update as much as I can, but it really depends on the time scale of things!!

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As some of you might know from my original travel blog (click the picture to go to it if you don’t!) I quite like these love lock images. I found this little pair on the railings of the Tower of Belem (Torre de Belém). If you buy a train card in Lisbon do not through it away!! Re-charge it and you can get on the tower for the cost of a train journey, which is about one euro. If not, it’s five euros, but it really is worth. Boarding a rickety elevator maybe isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but it is a step back in time and lifts your spirits (ho ho ho…) The tower was built to join the lower areas of Lisbon with Barrio Alto – which is now the Bohemian centre of Lisbon, and the Capital’s popular night-life zone. Once you are up the tower I would suggest you climb the spiral steps (carefully) and head straight to the tops to see staggering views of the whole of Lisbon. I went at around 2pm on a sunny day, but I plan on going back at dusk.

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These are some snaps from the tower:

< To the river

To the old church >

 

 

The old church is one of the oldest buildings in Lisbon. In the earthquake that hit Iberia in 1755 it was one of the only buildings that remained intact. The Portuguese realised that it was because of the inner and outer arches, which made the foundations and form of the building a lot stronger. They used this as a stepping stone to modern earthquake proof buildings! 

Until two years ago the Portuguese guitar was only allowed to be played by Portuguese men. I know, right? However, to commemorate the abolishment of this law the government put these strange things all around the city

DSCN1140If you are ever in Lisbon (and if you are hit me up) have a look out for these. Each one is different. I’m not sure how many there are here but I think I’m going to make it a mission to find all of them. I’ve seen two so far. The other one had blue fishnets on with little fish in them.

Seeing as the abolishment of this law some time ago now I’m not sure why these things are still up? Not complaining, I love all things quirky. Answers on a postcard please!

There’s some pretty interesting graffiti around where this picture was taken. There is a mural which is government protected which shows the story of Portugal, and the myths and legends (and facts) of how it’s traditions came to be. It’s near Morreria (there is almost definitely a spelling mistake there) and well worth a gander if you are near by. 

And finally, I leave you with two things.

1) There is currently a production of Macbeth showing. Coincidence?

2) The cat on a hot pink roof!!

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If anyone has any questions or comments please feel free to fire away!