Friday, December 25, 2009

Portugal Trip Part 3 - On to Lisbon!

Merry Christmas from Richmond, where I finally arrived on Tuesday evening after many trials and tribulations, which I may or may not write about later. But for now let's stick to happier topics, like the continuation of our ongoing serious about my voyage to Portugal. When we last spoke I was on the 10:52 train from Porto to Lisbon, where I arrived around 2 PM. I mostly slept on the train, since I was still pretty tired after the restless hostel night, and when I arrived I took the metro to the Lisbon Old Town Hostel and checked in. Although I (obviously) didn't know it at the time, this was the best hostel I stayed in on my trip. It was really well located in the middle of the sights in the Baixa-Chiado (Buy-shuh Shah-dough) neighborhood, the staff was very helpful, and they had computers with free internet and Skype. After getting situated I got directions from one of the people at the front desk to the National Museum of Ancient Art, and he also recommended that I check out the Museum of the Orient while I was in the area. It houses relics from all of the various places in Asia (Macao, India, Japan) that Portugal colonized or had contact with during the years that they dominated the spice trade and the sea routes to the Indies by going around Africa. The Museum of Ancient Art was interesting but it was so large that after a while it just got overwhelming. I did see some interesting art and furniture by native Portuguese artists, but pictures weren't allowed like in the Museum of the Orient. Let's get into this first batch of pictures.

Picture from the train to Lisbon - first time I've seen the Atlantic Ocean from this side

Guess which building is the Lisbon Old Town Hostel?

Freaky Indian costume, I forget what it was used for but I'm pretty sure it was designed to be scary. I think it was a representation of Shiva, which would be fitting given it's terrifying appearance.

After the Museum of the Orient it was getting dark and I didn't feel like walking back the considerable distance to the hostel, so I took a bus that unfortunately was very indirect. After 30 minutes on the bus I still had to take the metro two stops to get back to my neighborhood, and I went to a local mall food court to get dinner. I actually called this mall the "Devil Mall" in my head as I was walking around it, because there was only one escalator to get to the food court on the sixth floor, and of course all of the signs informing patrons of that fact were in Portuguese. After what seemed like forever I found a restaurant that sold some sort of pork and potato dish, and the employee and I exchanged Spanish and broken English, along with a few euros, to finally get something on a plate. I left the Devil Mall and went back to the hostel and talked to my dad on Skype, who recommended that I go out and take pictures of Lisbon at night.
I left the hostel and headed straight down the hill towards the river and then over towards the Praça do Comércio, which is a huge square on the riverfront surrounded by a former royal palace that was historically used as the point of entry to the city for distinguished visitors. On my way towards that area, however, I looked down a side street and saw the bar pictured below, which anyone who knows me knows I had to make a detour to check out. Hilarity ensued?

The Bar Oslo! On a very sketchy back street in a very sketchy neighborhood of Lisbon. What surprised me more when I came down the block were the neighbors, though.

The Bar Copenhagen! Is there a Bar Stockholm and a Bar Helsinki somewhere around here?

The third and final Nordic-themed establishment within a 50 yard radius, the Viking Discoteca, which was unfortunately closed.

Naively, I didn't realize that Little Scandinavia was also the prostitute district of Lisbon, despite the multiple "ladies" standing against the walls and in the doorways of various buildings, until one of them approached me, informed me that she spoke English, and tried to show me the available merchandise. I took that as my cue to leave the Nordic District and continue on to more scenic destinations. The Praça do Comércio (Commerce Plaza) was just down the street, but unfortunately it was undergoing some sort of major renovation and was completely surrounded by walls. That was a disappointment, but the main arch of the palace was still very pretty, and the surrounding streets of the Baixa neighborhood were really nicely decorated.

The main arch of the former royal palace in the Praça do Comércio.

Awesome street decorations. These presents are actually 2-D, but you can't tell until you get right under them.

What would have been a pretty picture of the plaza, if not for the giant construction site.

Rossio Plaza, a major gathering point for tourists

At this point, after seeing most of the attractions in downtown Lisbon by night, I headed back to the hostel for the night. This didn't really work out for me though, because I thought I saw a shortcut on my map, but when I tried to follow it I got lost in the maze of cobblestone streets for a little while. Eventually I figured out where I was, but it turns out that where I was was back in the prostitute district. I don't know how many of you have ever been harassed by Portuguese prostitutes before, but the second time they see you walk down their street in the same night they apparently really think they're getting close to closing a sale. So I basically ran out of there, got back to the hostel around 11:30, and went to bed. I didn't sleep great, again because of the noise from my fellow hostel guests talking in the hall, but I didn't want to wear my earplugs for fear of missing my alarm. I planned to get up early the next morning and get out to explore Lisbon more in depth. So we'll see if I did that or not . . .


  1. Just wanted to let you know that I'm reading and enjoying your blog. Looking forward to the next chapter.

  2. Nice post. Lisbon is known as commercial hub of the city. Cruise boats harbor very near to this bridge, at the Doca de Alcantara. You can see Belém waterfront, Castelo de São Jorge, yellow colored Tram, Parque das Nações. Lisbon is a shopping locality, you can see wicker, embroideries, lace, copper utensils, pottery, other ceramics. Portuguese is the basic language of the city. For more details refer Lisbon Portugal attractions