June 12th, 2007
Categories: Uncategorized

Culture Shock

 

We only had about 4 hours sleep in Manchester before we had to wake up and go to the airport to fly to Portugal. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t hugely excited – plus walking with my horrible suitcase could hurt. I was very, very nervous also on flying. I know it’s very safe, but even so I was unsure on the whole experience. Would it be like a roller coaster? Or would it be smooth?

The flight was delayed half an hour, brilliant. Sat on a plane on Manchester runway did little to appease my nerves. Luckily I was helped by happening to sit next to a Austrian pensioner, who was chatty and friendly and did her best to make it seem like not a big deal.

Luckily, soon I was up in the air, looking out of the window, and I was like a child. It was great! Flying over places I have visited (including previous holiday destinations such as Minehead) was fascinating, and seeing clouds in 3D was marvellous. The problem of flying soon took over – it is dull, especially over the Bay of Biscay, where there’s fuck all but sea. We noticed the sun parching the already badly burnt ground, the white and red tuscan buildings, and the tress not being oak trees. That was the first time that I realised – to borrow a Judy Garland quote – I wasn’t in Colwyn Bay no more.

We landed, and got the bus from the airport to Praco De Comercio, or somewhere similar to that name, after an unexpected sneeze which meant I’ve probably infected some poor Portugese hottie with Awesome Disease, and a half hour bus ride, we disembarked, ready to start my holiday.

My bag was pissing me off, so I snapped at Richard a few times when we arrived in the main square of Rossio when he wanted to take pictures and I wanted to find the hostel. After walking for a lot less than expected, we found the hostel. Once checked in and showed around the hostel, I imediately went out onto the balcony and snapped a shot of the street we were on.

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We then decided, as we hadn’t eaten for nearly 12 hours, it was the right time for some food. We headed down a side street (the first right turning in the photo above) where there was abundance of eateries. It was there we realised that, like in jail, I was a commodity. Seriously, hash, coke, marajuana and gucci sunglasses were all offered to me on numerous occasions (it must’ve been over 200 times over 3 days).

In the end, we managed to find somebody who was actually selling food, and he was happy to sit us down. I tried some of my portugese, and order a ham sandwich.

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If you’re thinking “hmmm….that some cheesy form of ham they have in Portugal”, you’d be right. It’s not ham at all, more cheese. So far, I wasn’t having a great holiday, so I did what any wounded brit would do – retire to the hostel and hope it all gets better.

I had a siesta (which are a great way to spend the hours between 3pm and 5pm), and then went out for some more food. Something more substansial, something more Portugese than a ham…er…cheese sandwich.

I plumped for Calamari.

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Calamari is my new favourite food, it was devine! I have never tasted anything like it and urge you to eat it before you die. I also had a side salad, bread, beer and a fruit salad, for €10. That’s about £7. Ridiculously cheap, I was so happy.

We then returned to the hostel, which I feel I must talk about. Travellers House in central Lisbon is certainly by far the nicest hostel I have ever stayed in. It was incredibly clean, quiet yet busy. The staff were friendly, and had all sorts of amenities you wouldn’t find even in hotels. They also seemed to want to install a bit of Portugese in you (no, not in a sexual way, though I tried), and wanted to experience their culture, rather than just providing a cheap roof over your head.

One such event was Pestico Night (I think it was called that), it was like a Portugese buffet, with cooked Chorizo sausage (I thought Guy was the only person who cooked it), Salamis, Bread, Buttercheese and Portugese Wine, for only €1.50. They also put some light background music on, and you spent your night chatting to your fellow travellers. This idea shat all over the London hostel because:

  • It was relevant to the country – I assumed they have Pestico nights to allow large groups of people to mingle.
  • It was not overbearing – you could actually speak to people, rather than be drowned out by music, and you could leave anytime and fall to sleep.
  • It didn’t have any Australian male strippers. Always good.

Seriously, if there was one moment that defined the holiday that night was it. It was my main highlight, it was fabulous, and I felt so relaxed and happy and enjoyed myself so much, that when things began to wind down at 1am, I hoped that the Portugese people have taken as much a shine to me, as I have to them.

The next day was one of Richard’s things and one of my things, Rick wanted to see Sintra, and I wanted to go on the Pub Crawl touted in the hostel.

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