Sunday, 9 December 2007

Adventures in Portugal

Living in London, Europe is so close it seems a shame not to hop on Easyjet or Ryanair and pop to the Continent for a weekend. Tane declined to accompany me on account of the environmental cost of air travel, so Erica and I travelled to Lisbon to experience a place that I will not be forgetting any time soon.
Apparently they like soccer in Portugal ...

Our first experience in Lisbon was what I will refer to hereafter as the Taxi Incident of DOOM. We ambled from the arrivals lounge to the taxi stand to quickly learn that our driver was very angry and slightly nuts. He had more than a few impolite words to say about us not wanting to put our bags in the boot, then got into an angry sounding conversation with a near bye police officer. I have no idea what was said, but the driver then drove like a try hard Formula One champion while talking some very angry Portuguese to himself. He eventually pulled over by a busy roundabout in a part of Lisbon we did not want to be in, and angrily ordered us out of the cab. He scared me, so was happy to oblige and we both scrambled out as fast as we could. He then made a show of slamming doors and snarling angrily, before speeding off into the distance. It all happened so quickly he was well gone before I realised that one of my two bags were gone also. Gutted.
A typical Lisbon street scene
Given that my first Portuguese experience involved losing a lot of my stuff and us having to find our way from a random roundabout in what felt like the middle of no-where to our guesthouse, I was almost surprised to be enjoying Portugal by the time I left.
So, how did Lisbon redeem itself? First, for a capital city, it feels an awful lot like a small town. The streets are narrow and cute, the trams create a neat Old-World atmosphere, and the pastries officially rocked my world. The best thing about Lisbon for me, though, were the tiles. An amazing number of the houses there are covered in tiles which means that there was always something to admire. It also gave us a good excuse to stop and rest while walking up the huge hills.
Not a very good photo, but an example of a tile house

We also happened to be in Lisbon the same weekend as the Africa/EU summit, so were treated to seeing a number of very exciting motorcades carrying various world leaders zipping past us during an early morning stroll. I was chatting to a woman from Malawi in Lisbon for the summit who had talked to Kofi Annan himself. Nothing that exciting happened to me, although given the numbers of motorcades we saw I can pretend that he was in one of the cars I saw zipping past. I would like to think that Mugabe was inside this one ...

The most fabulous part of the weekend, though, was a day trip to the near bye village of Sintra. Sintra is just stunning, a small town filled with small cafes and beautiful buildings, as well as some lovely nature to boot. The highlight was the castle overlooking Sintra that was so pretty I won't even bother with the corny adjectives and show you some photos instead.
In summary, I don't know if I'd recommend Lisbon as a place to visit. If you do, though, make sure you visit Sintra. And most of all, don't take a taxi.


MR said...

I'd have wanted to kill someone if a taxi left with my luggage! You should have gone to the police! Did you get a receipt from the driver or anything that could identify him?
Too bad this bad experience spoiled your time in Lisbon! But it is still a very charming, unique and beautiful city to recommend! ;-)

ryan said...

nice fotos