Ahh, omg! I was planning this travel adventure for a couple of months and it was finally here! It was a pretty big deal for me because it would be (1) my first time in Europe, (2) my first time in over a year to be embarking on a solo trip, and (3) an early graduation gift to myself for completing my Master’s degree (more on this one later).
I had a red-eye flight and arrived in Lisbon from Toronto around 10:30am. It was a good flight with two small meals and my boyfriend’s plane letter to keep me company. I had a good few hours’ sleep on the plane ride sprawled on the two seats I had to myself. From the airport, I had to take the metro and train to get to my place of stay. Public transportation in Lisbon is pretty easy to figure out, and I had quickly looked it over before I landed, but I completely missed the part where the day pass for the metro was different from the one for the train! Oops. Validating my ticket to exit the train station was an awkward affair but I was forgiven and they told me to just remember that they were different ticketing systems.
Anyway, once I got out of the train station, I used a pay phone to contact my Couchsurfing host, Rita. Actually, this was my first time Couchsurfing! My host was absolutely amazing and lived halfway between Lisbon and Sintra, and, like myself, was in the process of writing a thesis to complete her Master’s degree.
So that’s the thing: the past little while had been consumed with MRP writing and the duration of this trip turned out to be my absolute crunch time to get it all done. :O!! Since this would also be my first time Couchsurfing, I was extra nervous that my host would think I was boring and antisocial for having to do work. I was glad she could be totally sympathetic, lol. After making myself comfortable in Rita’s home, I realized the universal adapter I had was missing the European one! I was already on a tight deadline to get a draft in to my supervisor, and thus ensued my mad dash through Lisbon’s city center looking for either an Internet cafe or a universal adapter for North American plugs. Remembering a tip I read on this life-saving list of travel hacks, I tried my luck at a couple of hotels and hostels to see if they had one another traveler had left behind that I could use or have, lol. One of them pointed out the electronics megastore FNAC on top of Chiado-Baixa subway station, and I found an all-visitor-to-Europe adapter! Crisis averted. I scored a copy of the hostel’s map highlighting recommended areas to visit and eat at, too.
A little more at ease, I walked around the area a bit to take in downtown Lisbon. The layout and architecture is charming, though there’s a lot under construction right now. The trams are cute too, but always looked SO packed! I wondered if I would end up riding one during my stay in Lisbon. Wandering around a little more, I stopped for coffee in a quiet alleyway at this place:
I then returned to my host’s home to unwind a bit and work on my MRP for a couple of hours. Rita was doing the same. Things were a little tricky not having access to stable WiFi during my stay in Lisbon, but I managed pretty well.
Rita invited me to a free concert by the beach. Her favourite Brazilian reggae group was going to be there. At 7:30pm, she drove us to Cascais and we got there around 9pm. Roads are so windy here and there are tons of roundabouts. Rita was such a pro driver managing to parallel park uphill on her first try while eating an apple and not even batting an eyelash. I grabbed a cheap bifana (pork cutlet sandwich) from the convenience store and we met up with two of her friends and made our way to the concert area. On a side note, I need to get used to the cheek-kiss greetings here.
Such high energy! I declined to drink since I wanted to work more on my MRP, but I had a sip of Rita’s caipirinha. The concert finished at midnight. We stayed and chatted for half an hour to let the mad rush of crowds clear out. We were left with an aftermath of plastic cups and beer bottles littering the area and over-excited youngins running around. We managed to lose Rita for a while which was extra difficult with cell phone circuits being jammed. Our train left at 1:00am where I reunited with Rita who drove us back home.
I had a really full first day of things, lol. Not the smoothest start to my trip, but still a very exciting one, and it would be a steep uphill from here (with more and better pictures, I promise!). :D