So far, there’s been a three day weekend for each month that we’ve been here. Remember during the first one, I went on a roadtrip with six other friends to a very beautiful part of northern Spain called Asturias? Well, this time, we decided to go on another road trip, and to drive south.
At first we had planned to go to Granada (one of my must-sees while I’m here this time.) Unfortunately, everyone else in the universe wanted to go to Granada, too, and planned further ahead than we did. There were no tickets left for La Alhambra online, and no hostels. We decided to change routes and go to Cadiz.
Unfortunately for us, no one else wanted to go to Cadiz because everyone goes there for Carnival (Mardi Gras). So the hostels all close this time of year to prepare for the busy season.
We finally decided to go to this small town in Portugal called Lagos. I had heard good things about it, and it fit Marcus’s requirements which were that it was in Portugal, in the south, and on the coast (come to think of it, Marcus sounds pretty demanding.)
This time, there were only five of us. It was Stacy, Marcus, Horti, Asa and me. Asa drove. Since we only had five people this time, it was easier to get a car that had seats for all of us plus room in the trunk; as opposed to the car we had last time where the trunk turned into two more seats. Therefore, the ride was relatively more comfortable.
Here’s a photo of the gang, minus me, the one taking the photo.
The trip started out pretty good…after it took us about a half hour to find our way out of the rental car parking lot.
Following this pattern, an estimated 7-hour drive from Madrid to Lagos took us about 10 hours (and we didn’t even hit that much traffic.) We got there late in the evening on Saturday and immediately settled into our awesome hostel and went out on the town. We paid 10 Euros and got a huge meal of bread, soup, a giant main course (some opted for fish, I opted for chicken) and the most delicious chocolate mousse in the entire universe.
We were stuffed. So what to do after you eat a meal so huge you can barely walk? Oh, the same thing I do every weekend in Spain: go out and drink a ton of alcohol.
The next day, Stacy and I awoke to the news that the boys had already gotten up, gone to the store, and bought us things for breakfast. It was music to my ears. Marcus cooked us some eggs while Stacy and I got ready for the day.
Then we ventured out into Lagos to see the sights.
Lagos is famous for these rock formations called Grottos. I won’t try to explain them, I’ll just show some photos:
We had a good morning wandering around the beaches and things. We stopped for some much-needed coffee, and I was sad to see that the Portuguese have the same “get it over as quickly as possible” philosophy about coffee as the Spaniards do. I really just wanted to stop and sip a giant coffee, instead, this is what we got:
Lagos was a nice change from the hustle and bustle of Madrid. However, we decided to go to Lisbon next. I had been there before in 2005 for a very short weekend.
It was nothing like I remembered it! I’m not sure if it’s because we stayed in a different area, or what, but it had so much more character than I had remembered from before. While it had some wide streets and plazas, it also had a ton of small ones where cars barely fit and it felt really European. It’s so hilly and big. We got lost over and over again trying to find a hostel. We didn’t have a reservation so we had to just try our luck with a bunch in the area, which wasn’t incredibly difficult once we found a place to park the car!
The language in Portugal wasn’t too big of an issue. Stacy knew a little Portuguese, my guide book had some phrases, and because we know Spanish, we could more or less communicate with anyone who didn’t speak English or Spanish. Portuguese people actually speak a lot of English, perhaps because all their movies are subtitled instead of dubbed. I’ve heard that’s one of the reasons that Spaniards speak English so poorly: because they dub things instead of just putting subtitles. The historical context of that is two-fold: for a long time, many Spaniards were illiterate, so subtitles wouldn’t have done them any good. Also, it was easy for Franco to censor movies if they were re-recorded in Spanish and he could decide what was said.
We also ate a really good meal when we got there. It was a typical Portuguese dish of cod, garbanzo beans, onions, and olive oil. It was really good, and again, cheap.
Some photos of Lisbon.
The streets of Lisbon were beautifully and tastefully decorated for Christmas. Someone seriously knew what they were doing when they put those lights up.
Lisbon is a maze of streets and hills and more hills and did I mention hills? So after we trekked to the top of the hill (pretty much the highest point in the city) where the castle is, we discovered it was already closed. We did, however, get to go up on a ledge and watch the sunset. It was beautiful and peaceful and wonderful. The colors were amazing, and with the river and the bridge and the lit up statue in the distance, I loved it. I tried to capture it with my camera but it never worked (why have a night scenery setting at ALL?!) so I told myself just to sit there, enjoy it, and commit it to memory.
Here’s one of my attempts at a photo, anyway:
We sat there for a while and then decided it was time to walk back. We had a brilliant idea to take the cable car to our car (we had to put money in our parking meter.) We paid a Euro forty so that we wouldn’t have to walk, but after 30 minutes of sitting on the cable car, we had only gone about 6 blocks because of traffic. We got out, and started to haul ass to the car because it was about a 40 minute walk and our meter expired in 20 minutes. Unfortunately, some of the weaker members of our party had to “pee” so they excused themselves to go to the hostel while the rest of us (me, Horti) took care of business.
We were about 20 minutes away when Horti and I realized that neither of us had the keys. So Horti continued on to guard the car, while I went back to the hostel to get the keys. Then Marcus and Stacy manned up and came with me to meet Horti at the car. Phew. The walk back was awful (uphill).
When we finally made it back to the hostel, we were exhausted. We’d gone out in Lagos the night before, gotten up early, driven to Lisbon, walked around the hilly hill hills, and were now all laying on our beds in our shared room. Someone said to turn off the lights, and I knew it was all over.
Three and a half hours later, at 11:30pm, we awoke from our deep slumber, got dressed, drank a bottle of gin, and went out on the town.
Spain thinks it has the monopoly on drinking in the street, but, I’ve got news for you. Portugal has got it down (and is not even trying to make it illegal like Spain is.) We went into bars and they gave us Mojitos for 2.50 in plastic cups so we could walk right back out onto the street again! Not that I wanted to be in the street, especially. I really wanted to be inside somewhere warm. But we wanted a fun bar with good music and a good crowd, so we began to search for one.
After lots of wandering, we never did find any place. Oh well.
Stacy, Horti, and Marcus look happy to be out in Lisbon anyway, don’t they?
The next day we grabbed some Portuguese pastry (rumor has it that Portugal has the same amount of pastry shops as Spain does tapas bars) and drove home. We were all very tired after a long and eventful puente.