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The rarely updated blog of Joel Dixon

Viewing blogs tagged Lisbon

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Lisbon, Portugal - 2012

# Posted by Joel Dixon at 02/08/2012 09:59:24

EuroJoel 2012 has kicked off and Lisbon has been ticked off

I flew over with Emirates (as they have a service direct from Melbourne to Portugal via Dubai) and I will certainly try to fly with them again any chance I have. While it was mostly little things - my whole flying experience was made as enjoyable as it could possibly be (the noise-cancelling headphones combined with episodes of The Office helped in this regard as well). When you are in the air for 24+ hours as part of the one trip - you certainly appreciate this.

As comfortable as the flights were - I was still feeling like a zombie on my first afternoon in Lisbon (I arrived at around 3 pm on Tuesday). I'm thankful for my decision to go with a classy joint for my first hotel - the bath and the extra space made it a lot easier to unwind. The first thing I wanted to cover off was reserving my next few train journeys, so on a sun-drenched 31 degree afternoon I set off to walk to the train station.

I went south through the main tourist spots of Rossio Square and Baixa and was quite impressed by the massive statues and old-style architecture (old-style is as descriptive of the time period as I can get). I was kind of blown away at this point when it hit me - I was in Portugal, the other-side of the world. I was also transported back to high school where a skinny, pasty-white, jersey-wearing Joel would constantly get besieged by helpful drug dealers trying to hook him up. I think I was offered "hashish" no less than 5 times on that first walk (I was later told that they are actually selling bay leaves that are made to look similar to hashish - do drug dealers have no professional integrity anymore?).

Rossio Square
You'll notice that the soldier's horse has one foot raised. This means the horse had just stepped on a piece of Lego

After organising my train tickets it was getting kind of late so I made my way to Chiado to get some dinner at a nice outdoor cafe listening to some pretty talented buskers. After nearly falling asleep onto my cheese and lettuce salad, I walked back to the hotel and slipped into a brief coma.

I had planned for day 2 in Lisbon to involve a trip to see Belem Tower and through the beauty of Facebook (thanks again Rita and Gen) I was informed that Belem is also home to Pasteis de Belem, credited with being the first to sell Pastel de nata - basically a custard tart. The store was very busy but efficient and just 1 Euro later I had a delicious tart sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of it - so I had to buy another one for the purposes of this blog (the things I do for completeness).

Pastry Store
Just two stores down was a Starbucks, also selling similar custard tarts. I think I'm happy with my choice of pastry supplier

Pastry
The pastry in question (not shown: the deliciousness within)

A short walk from the delicious pastry was Belem Tower - a fortification built in the early 16th century. Just like in Canada, I love seeing remnants of our warring past. The best part of Belem Tower was being able to walk around inside and really get an idea of how the inhabitants would have lived back then. Seeing the fireplace in the corner of the audience chamber, the tiny winding staircase and the stooped dungeon level was such a treat to experience. The entry line took a half hour in the heat and annoying people were everywhere - but I couldn't stop smiling the whole time I was there.

Belem Tower
Belem Tower - well worth the walk

Cannon
So very cool - you can see in the left how the cannons were positioned around the battery level

Drawbridge
I resisted the urge to draw the bridge, if only it wasn't for the pesky "don't touch" sign

Unfortunately the tapas place that was recommended to me by a friend was booked out (so no need to be jealous Ros), so I walked down another few alleys and found a nice, small and seemingly genuine restaurant. Using my great linguistic skills, I determined that "bife" is beef and "tinto" is red and was able to point my way into an excellent meal without issue. Afterwards I found a cocktail bar that happened to have a Pommy owner (we bonded over the previous beauties of Neighbours - and he was suitably impressed by my acting work in an episode). I met a few locals, had too many drinks and thus I sit on this train to Porto slightly hungover (being queasy on a train is not a good mix, especially as the guy next to me has just started to eat a pungent tuna salad).

So my first city is completed and I am off to find a sandwich in Porto. As I have never really travelled on my own before, I was a little worried about how I'd fare without someone with me. I'm glad I didn't let the lack of a travel partner stop me though - as I am having an excellent time on my own (at least so far). I think the power of the Internet, Facebook and a few useful iPad applications has made my experience so much better than it would have been otherwise.


This is the 1st in the EuroJoel - 2012 series
City 1 - Lisbon, Portugal - 2012City 2 - Porto, Portugal - 2012City 3 - Madrid and Toledo, Spain - 2012City 4 - Valencia, Spain - 2012City 5 - Barcelona, Spain - 2012City 6 - Naples, Italy - 2012City 7 - Rome and Vatican City, Italy - 2012City 8 - Florence and Pisa, Italy - 2012City 9 - Milan and Bologna, Italy - 2012City 10 - Venice, Italy - 2012City 11 - Prague, Czech Republic - 2012City 12 - Dresden, Germany - 2012City 13 - Berlin, Germany - 2012City 14 - Legoland, Denmark, 2012City 15 - Edinburgh, Scotland - 2012City 16 - Nice and Monte Carlo, France - 2012City 17 - Lyon, France - 2012City 18 - Dijon, France - 2012City 19 - Provins, France - 2012City 20 - Paris, France - 2012City 21 - Ireland - 2012City 22 - London, England - 2012City 23 - Killarney - Ireland, 2012City 24 - Amsterdam, Netherlands - 2012City 25 - Brussels and Bruges, Belgium - 2012City 26 - Warsaw, Poland - 2012City 27 - Krakow, Poland - 2012City 28 - Vienna, Austria - 2012City 29 - Budapest, Hungary - 2012City 30 - Bucharest, Romania - 2012City 31 - Nile Cruise, Egypt - 2012City 32 - Cairo, Egypt - 2012
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