“i was walking along in the sun”

6/19/10   –   22:53

Bom día, Lisboa, you old-world city, you. Very interesting first day and also a very tiring one. I started out doing a lot of things that you’d expect to do while in Lisbon, but as the day wore on, I ended up spending a lot of time doing things that were vaguely related to Portugal but were not necessarily Portuguese. I will explain later.

The first thing on the itinerary was a ride on Tram no. 28 up through the winding streets of the Alfama district, which is the old sailors’ quarter. It survived the Lisbon[ian?] Earthquake of the 18th century and was thus not reconstructed with the easy to use grid pattern. What it lacks in navegability, it makes up for in charm. The winding streets reminded me of Sevilla except the Alfama was built on a hill. Thus, it was murder for my calves and knees. Good photo ops though. But back to the tram. These trams are symbolic of Lisbon and some of them are models still functioning from before the first World War. They’re wooden on the inside and metal on the outside which makes for a very squeaky and creaky ride up these streets. I was amazed and pretty jealous of this tram-worker whose job necessitated that he be knowedgeable in not only Portuguese, but Spanish, English, and French as well. He just popped in and out of each language, one after another, helping customers. Good job, guy. I salute you. I, on the other hand, am mastering the art of muddling Portuguese. The process is as follows: Speak spanish, but pretend you have had a few to drink and then stuffed cotton balls in your mouth. It sounds odd, but hey, it works. Shop clerks are more responsive to my feigned Portuguese accent as opposed to my pseudo-correct Spanish one.

I continued wandering through the Alfama and came upon one or two miradouros [which in Spanish is miradores, and in English is platform with a good view and throngs of tourists] I didn’t mind them as long as I got to get my photos. I asked this one lady to take a picture of me and we ended up striking up conversation. In Japanese. [Yay, I have not forgotten!] Her name is ようこand she was very nice and wanted to take pictures together to remember our chance encounter. She’s from 福岡. She said she’d send me an email once she got back home to Japan. It made me happy that I hadn’t forgotten my Japanese. And also that chance encounters can be pleasant.

I made my way next to the Castelo do São Jorge which is at the very top of the Alfama district. It’s just the remains of the old residence of the monarchs of Portugal before they had moved it to downtown Lisbon. While I was trekking up stone stairs and through chambers, I came to the conclusion that these huge castles are just big playgrounds for adults [barring the whole historic significance and all]. I was thoroughly tuckered out by the time I got out and all I wanted to do was sit down. But no. I had two more things to check out: the Panteão Nacional and the Feira da Ladra.

So it turns out the Panteão costs 3 euro and there isn’t a student discount. But it’s free tomorrow, so I guess I’ll do that then. The Feira da Ladra was very cool, though. The name means the Thieves’ Fair or Thieves’ Market [from what I can guess by mangling the Portuguese into Spanish] They sell pretty much everything. It reminded me a lot of going to the Swap Shop and garage-saling with my dad when I was little. I looked through a lot of stuff and they had a lot of things that I didn’t need. Barbie parts, loose screws, Sega Saturn games, more Barbie parts, military attire, Barbie parts. The only things I actually rummaged through were the bags of old currency from all around the world [I have a collection at home of world paper money] and the old 19th century photographs [daguerrotypes?] and newspaper ads. Vintage things interest me. I don’t know.

Walking through the Alfama, back towards Baixa, you can’t help but pass by a thousand and one pastelarias which sell delicious pastries and baked goods for dirt cheap. I had a piece of bread to sate my hunger, but I also got a pastel de nata which was pretty delicious. I am definitely going to look up a recipe to attempt to imitate it when I get back home. It’s like a custard, in a tart crust and the top is charred a little to caramelize the sugars. Yum. On the way back, also, I saw one of the more clever graffiti I’ve ever seen. It says entrada da estação, and has a cut-here mark around it. It made me chuckle.

It was very hot on my walk back to the hostel and it made me very tired so I took siesta from about 2 to 5. I didn’t have anything else planned for the day so I decided to venture off to Colombo, the enormous shopping mall, probably one of the largest in Lisboa. [It has its own roller coaster. Come on.] It’s quite a ways away on the metro, but it was definitely worth it. You see, the last few days in Sevilla, Chase was always saying “Only [insert number] more days until I can do [insert activity that can only be done in the States]” and it made me miss things like malls. And Target. Lucky for me, Lisbon has Colombo, and inside Colombo is Continente, which is basically Target, down to the red and white decor. I was ecstatic. One of the things that I like to do in new areas is go to the supermarkets. I like the strange brands and the unfamiliar ingredients. I like weird mixes like apple-cherry juice and odd sights like boxes upon boxes of milk just standing, unrefrigerated, in the open. [Don’t worry, it’s not fresh milk so it doesn’t spoil, to my understanding]. I swear, a supermarket can entertain me just as much as any museum, so I didn’t mind spending an hour there. I got some chocolate with hazelnuts and a milk/juice drink. And you know what? My cashier’s name was João. João Romão. Looking at his name tag made me lmão on the inside. Just a little bit. I wish my first and last name rhymed/had a nasal accent in it. João wasn’t a very competent cashier, btw. I was trying to get rid of all my small change and I guess it confused him cause he put in 20 more euro cent than I gave him. Obrigado, João.

Speaking of food, I like how Andalucía followed me over here. The tourist department of Andalucía was making a display in one of the wings of the mall. They were carving up a leg of jamón ibérico and giving out free samples of vino de Jerez [which I finally got to taste after being too hungover to do so the last time]. Good stuff, I told the lady at left that I had just come from Sevilla and we had a small conversation. It felt nice to be able to communicate smoothly with someone for more than 2 seconds.

But yeah. This shining moment of Spanish clarity was crushed by my utter failure to express my order to the people at óKila–Sabor a Brasil restaurant in the food court. I eventually, after many hand motions, and a resounding eu não falo Português, I got my food, and it was delicious. Definitely a good value for the 3,95 I spent on it.

Also, in Colombo, they were having Semana de Macau em Lisboa which is a series of events promoting and celebrating the former Portuguese colony on the Chinese coast. I enjoyed their little booths and performances a lot. The people who were doing transliterations of people’s names in calligraphy looked at my name oddly. They asked me if i was Indian. -_- Then they started arguing in Cantonese. I actuall didn’t know they spoke Cantonese in Macau but they were surprised and amused to find that I could understand what they were saying. I like how they made my first name 来人. Nice. After that, they had a Chinese chamber orchestra play, which made me very very happy because I’ve never seen one live before. Seeing their performance rekindled my desire to want to buy a ruan or a yangqin again.

I feel like I should go out and see what Bairro Alto, the clubbing district, is like tonight, but I’m a little pooped and I just want to shower and watch television. Look at me being a stick in the mud. Ah well, I had plans to go out tomorrow, so I’ll make it up then, I suppose.

I have a pretty packed day tomorrow too. I’m gonna hit up Belém and Parque das naçoes. For now, I leave you with this. Sometimes your store name just needs to tell straight up what you’re selling.

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