pretty in portugal

November 17th, 2016

I was feeling really inspired getting into Porto, so fortunate to have gotten a ride and having had such a nice day of conversation and unexpected connection, and the drive was gorgeous, really. I got to the hostel that I had planned on staying at, but hadn’t booked because I didn’t have time, and lucky for me , there was one bed left. It was a really cute place and as soon as I got to my room I laid down and stayed there. I was exhausted and even though I was tempted to go out and see the city at night, and tempted to make friends, I just didn’t have the energy. Sometimes a hostel is just a bed to sleep in. And sleep I did, for like ten hours. I got up and made myself some coffee, had some biscuits I found in the free food, and chilled a bit before going on the walking tour. It was a nice little tour and our guide was very sweet and funny and gave us a lot of great info and little histories. I liked the one very much about how our verb ‘to miss’ is actually a noun ? in Portuguese, meaning that its hold on you grows and decreases depending, and it can be stronger with those you’re in love with, of course, and sometimes it can be that it never goes away. They have a very sad type of music called Fado, also, which references these feelings.

After the walking tour I went to the wine caves to sample some port wines and I wandered around a little bit more that afternoon, dipping into caves when it started raining more. I was glad to try them and then watched the sunset before I made my way to the station to get a train to Lisbon. It was pretty easy to navigate the metro and it wasn’t a bad ride and I slept a bit. Porto was kind of a romantic city, so I was feeling a little lonely being there by myself, and hoped that I go back someday with a lover.

I got to Lisbon and my hostel at like midnight and the energy around the place was high and welcoming. I did plan to get to Lisbon on Saturday so I could experience the night life, but was pretty tired and unsure of what to do. I met a nice german girl from Munich who laughed a bit at me when I said I had been to Augsburg, and a girl from whales who was getting ready to go out with everyone. She invited me along and I spoke to a couple people in the group as we headed out. They all seemed a bit young and unsure of where to go, and when we landed at a bar deemed too expensive by Lucy, the welsh, suggested we go off on our own and find somewhere cheap. I said sure whatever because I hadn’t any ties to the group and I definitely wanted to go somewhere cheap. We wandered up and down the hilly cobblestone streets of Lisbon and into a small bar. She told me about how she’s been working in a bar in Faro for the past 10 months and only came to Lisbon just to say she’s been, and that actually she hates big cities and knew she wouldn’t like Lisbon. She was a pretty negative person but in a funny and positive way, if that makes sense. She was pissed off at the bartender for not speaking as good of Portuguese as her and he was impressed with her and gave us a bad shot and told us to meet him at the rock bar down the block after he closed up. We went to the rock bar because Lucy wanted to anyway, but planned to leave before the other guy got there. We started chatting easily about our travels and how she lived in Germany and wanted to go back and bartender there, and I started speaking about Asia for some reason and she told me it was hard for her to go to some places because she’s bipolar and needs her medication and isn’t always sure if she can get it elsewhere. And we had a really nice talk about it until suddenly we realized we had to leave because the guy meeting us would be getting there soon. So we dipped out and wandered up and down some more cobblestoned hills, looking for a nice dive bar and finding this seemingly kind of dirty typical Portuguese bar and went in for a drink. What was remarkable about Lisbon was everyone standing in the street drinking, like in a huge group like it was an unofficial street fest. We came up to the crowd and I was just like, what the heck is going on, but then after speaking with a few Portuguese people, this is just what they do. In and out of bars and onto the street. It was kinda cool. But me and Lucy got a little creeped out at the bar, felt a bit looked at like we stood out too much, so we started to make our way back to the hostel and ended up popping into the British bar for one more beer. Some older brits started chatting with us but we left soon after and Lucy went off about how creepy old English guys are and even though they seem nice they only want one thing. I didn’t argue with her but I think my naivety came across when I said I thought they were just being nice.
She was quite a character, that Lucy. She went to bed and I went to the bar to get some chips. I didn’t see her again after that but I hope our paths cross again in the future.

When I went to buy my chips I had a really nice chat with the receptionist Andre at the bar, and we found a lot in common about how we feel about traveling and exploring and not planning too much and letting everything work out naturally. That little conversation was really sweet and put the cherry on top of my evening as I climbed into bed at 5am.

The next morning I had no idea what to do with myself and decided to just start walking. I bought some postcards and the most souvenirs I’ve bought thus far, meaning ten magnets, and found myself at the water and then the train station that goes to the beach, so I was like sure, let’s go to the beach. And I’m so glad I did because it was a lovely day and a gorgeous beach and I sat for a few hours just enjoying it. I walked down the coast and watched the sunset and it was so beautiful. But I realized I’m getting tired of looking at sunsets on my own.

I got back to the hostel to charge my phone and planned to meet up with a Norwegian guy who had messaged me on the couch surfing site about getting a beer. But there was a guy playing guitar in the bar at the hostel, so I had to chill for awhile and jam with him. He played guitar by ear only, didn’t know any of the chords, so that was interesting to work with but actually really fun because we played off each other well. I sang with him for like an hour and then I ran to meet the Norwegian. He had recommended a craft beer place across town and the streets are very winding in Lisbon so I got a little lost and delayed taking pictures here and there, but found it. I was very impressed with their selection of Portuguese craft beer and they had some snacks, too, so we got some cheese and pate. The guy I met, Ben, is studying online right now and is taking advantage of being able to live anywhere, and has been in Lisbon for a couple days, doing a lot of work, but wanting to party a little bit, and loves this bar he brought me to. It was his third time there that weekend. But I could see why, it was delicious. We talked about a lot of different things and really got along swimmingly. We talked a bit about our couchsurfing experiences, politics, of course, and movies, and how he can’t watch a movie more than once. Which I find very interesting about people, whether they can or not. We realized that we both basically have the same undergrad, his being social anthropology, mine being international studies, his a little more sociology, mine a little more political. Fascinatingly enough, we both want to go into similar things next, him into psychology, so he’s actually getting his second bachelors now, and me wanting to go for my masters in counseling. Different, but alike in our desire to help people. Him wanting to talk to his patients more, me I think more wanting to tell people what to do and letting them figure it out from there. Haha. I was really glad to meet him and hope to visit him in Norway someday, or at least cross paths with him again somewhere.

The next morning at breakfast, I sat in the smaller room to the side and couldn’t help but overhear what was being talked about behind me. A fiery red haired lady was walking around with a beer and the guitar and was talking to a group of hippie looking American guys. She was speaking pretty loudly about how she had missed her flight because she was up till 5 playing Disney songs with people, but had to figure out how to get to London to hang out with John c Reily and play music with him. She was also saying things to the boys about the work they were doing and all these ideas she had for them. It was such a bizarre conversation and I told myself I would ask the boys later 1. Who this lady was and 2. What was it that they did for work.

I went to Cintra area by myself instead of going on the guided tour and got a little confused and ended up on a hike, but it was really beautiful, so I was okay with it. I found a castle and a palace and the whole area was really lovely. I felt annoyingly touristy, but enjoyed it anyway. I started walking back in the direction of what I thought was the train station, but when I asked a guy for the right direction, he said it would be a far walk and I didn’t believe him and kept walking, and his friend offered me a ride in his tuk tuk for free, so I took it. And I’m glad I did cuz actually I was pretty far. He was a local who had been born there and happily offered to show me around if I wanted to come back again before I left town, and since he gave me a free ride I felt obliged to take his number. Worked out for me, anyway! Didn’t plan on calling him though.

I had signed up for dinner at the hostel that night and joined the guys who were also in my room at their table, and a Canadian girl also in our room joined us, too. It was really fun to chat with her, and the boys from London and we had a good time. The dinner was good and the ‘Mama’ of the hostel made it and helped pass it out. We also got unlimited drinks, and they had a lovely little toast with port wine the end. She was an adorable elderly lady that reminded me of my grandma a bit, walked around checking on everyone and giving hugs, and gave authenticity to the hostel having the name “home.” Most everyone hung out after dinner, too, and me and the English boys found some Croatian girls on the balcony and had fun talking to them. One of them was studying there and the other was living in Dublin, and I think they were genuinely inspired by my solo traveling. It was their last night but I hope I see them again someday.

I came back inside to find the boys I had overheard at breakfast and was super excited to sit down and hear their story. They started explaining what they do, having a little trouble with it, one of them, Brecht, from Belgium, at first simply stating it was new age hippie bullshit, and the other two, nick and Greg, getting upset about that, but conceding that it was a bit hippie. Nick lives in a tree house in South Carolina and Greg lives in a huge abandoned house in Detroit that he bought with his Brazilian wife for less than $4k. They all work in sustainable living, and met in Thailand where they all lived for six years learning and teaching these principles. They were in Portugal/Lisbon because they had just been on an intense retreat/conference having to do with rehabbing abandoned living spaces or something like that, and told me that’s where they had run into daisy, the ‘mad’ red head, who actually has albums and been in films, and had attached herself to nick and she had brought them to the hostel. They were a little overwhelmed with her and didn’t know how to handle her really but just went with it. They explained to me a little more about what they do, and it’s kind of exactly like the film I just saw, captain fantastic, and how they works towards finding a balance between their values and the society we live in. It blew my mind. And actually they’re looking for an abandoned village in Spain to buy and rehab and live there with their friends. Seriously, mind blown. They left go explore the abandoned building across the street, but first inviting me to visit nick at his tree house in South Carolina. I just might have to, because he also stole my lighter. I found out the next day that daisy had decided to go to morroco with nick for his 20 hour layover. Haha.

The rest of my time in Lisbon was spent wandering the streets and trying not to spend money, and at the hostel chatting with the German gay guy I found hilarious, and a chill American girl from San Fran. I met a few other cool people, but towards the end of your time somewhere you start to distance yourself, naturally, from meeting new people. Charles introduced himself to me as he was in my room and from Detroit and came often to Chicago, and while speaking to him about how I wasn’t sure what exactly to do when I got back, he asked if I had considered singing, and confused, I asked him if he had heard me the other night, and he said no, he could just tell from talking to me that I had a nice voice. Whoa. We had a little conversation at the bar later and he kept daring me to start singing. I did later, in the living room, with some Germans who were doctors and also played guitar, of course.

I really enjoyed my time at the hostel there, and even though I didn’t go out a lot at night around Lisbon, I was okay with it because this might have been my last hostel experience for awhile. I really hope I can go back to Lisbon and Portugal someday.