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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's a Party from Lisbon to Lagos!

July 20, 2011

Up bright and early because we wanted to make our way to Obidos, a tiny medieval town on the coast of Portugal. Apparently they are having a festival there until the 24th where the entire city is turned in a medieval city with knights, jousts, beer and wenches. Sounds like our kind of party! Unfortunately, we have our bags so we couldn't go directly there. Instead we decided to take the high speed train to Lisbon to drop off our stuff and then make Obidos into a day trip. It was a pretty easy trip to Lisbon although kind of expensive for a train (22 Euro per person).

We checked in the Lisbon Calling hostel which was the coolest looking hostel I've ever stayed at. Everything was made from wood with eclectic knick-knacks decorating the walls. The coffee table was a bathtub! The staff was amazing, especially Sofia and Num, who we spent the most time with during our stay. The only negatives were that the lights in the room which almost too low to accomplish much when you needed them and the way the common room is placed prevents you from being too loud at night. I did wake up with one bug bite too but I as yet have no proof that it was a bed bug and I didn't receive anymore.

Sofia was at the desk when we checked in and she called the festival company in Obidos to confirm it was still going on. Unfortunately, the festival wasn't until tomorrow. This did allow us to relax at little for once so we took the train (from Cais de Sodre station) to Estoril, a small beach town.

The first few hours we spent sitting at a bar on the water drinking caipirinhas (for 5 Euro each) which were REALLY strong but tasty. Being a beach, there were street vendors wondering around selling sunglasses and bracelets. I bartered a guy down from 30 Euro to 4 Euro for two bracelets. I rock.

After passing out on the sand for hours, we headed back to the hostel where we met Eva and Frederik, a couple from Amsterdam. They were the friendliest people, immediately offering up some of the pancakes they'd made to us for dinner. Also joining us at the dinner table was a guy from England named Warren. Dinner was delicious and we followed it up with a little Dave Chappelle but we were being too loud so my friend, Warren and I decided to hit the town.

From Lisbon Calling you take a left out the front door and then another left. You then walk up the street straight through a plaza into a maze of smaller streets filled with bars called Bairro Alto. I mean FILLED with bars. It was the easiest pub crawl situation I've ever seen.
About three deep V-neck T-shirts later we realized it was also the gay district. There were a bunch of fun street vendors selling stuff here too and we took a bunch of pictures with them. My friend and Warren bought me a hat for two Euro.

We wandered the streets and accidentally found ourselves at a bar with live music. After awhile we were super hungry (my friend and I had only eaten the pancakes we had for dinner today) so I walked up to some guys and asked them where the closest, open restaurant was. They told us about a bakery just up the street so we set out to find it.

Thirty minutes later, still looking for the bakery, we ran into the same guys. This time we stopped to chat with them. Their names were Bernardo, Sal, and Pedro and they were a riot to talk to. At one point, Warren, who is the funniest drunk person I've ever seen asked Sal, "I need to take a piss. Where can I take a piss?" Sal responded by pointing at the street and saying, "Piss on the street." To which Warren replied with, "I don't want to muck up your street." This had all of us laughing and Warren stumbled off to piss on the street.

They also asked us where we were headed next and we started Lagos. They told us that that is where all the "steaks" went. When questioned, they explained that they called "steaks" foreigners because we cook in the sun. This immediately became the word of the night. We finally made it home around 6am and slept for two hours because we have our tour to Sintra tomorrow.

July 21, 2011

Yesterday I'd tried to call the tour company to arrange for pick-up at our hostel and no one had answered the phone. I booked the tour through and believe me I was not happy that no one had answered. We woke up extra early this morning to try calling them again and still no answer. I had to go onto and read the reviews where I finally found a posting from a guy who had the same problem. His review said they just walked to the main area where the bus leaves from. We tried to do this but missed the bus by about ten minutes. I was really pissed because for two people the tour was over $200 and it was to Sintra which is one of the top three things I want to see in Europe. So instead we had to find our own way to Sintra.

It took us three tries on the metro to get to the Restauradores metro stop to walk to the adjoining train station. Everyone kept telling us the wrong station which was frustrating. From there we walked to the Rossio train station (the only one that takes you to Sintra - wikitravel is wrong FYI). We got the tickets and then my friend got stuck behind the gate because his ticket wasn't working and we missed the train. We had to wait 30 minutes to get on the next one. So irritating. Finally we made it on the train for the 30-40 minute ride to Sintra which is the last stop on that line.

We were planning on staying at Sintra until about 4pm and then taking a train to Obidos for that damn medieval festival so we started with the most important monuments first. Sintra is a massive place with a lot to see. You really should be spending a FULL day there. Since we didn't have a full day we paid 14 Euro per person to see the famous 19th century Pena Palace and the 8th century Castelo dos Mouros. The Castelo afforded amazing views of the surrounding area and ruins that were extremely well preserved. It reminded me of the European version of the Great Wall of China.

Even more impressive was Pena Palace. It literally sits on the top of the world and you can see 360 degree views of Portugal from the mountains to the beach. It is a surrounded by a forest that feels like it is straight out of a fairytale. The fact that I am reading Game of Thrones even added a specialness since I'd already been immersing myself in romantic literature. I half expected to see characters from the books canter by on their destriers.

The site of Pena Palace was once the home to a chapel during the Middle Ages that was later expanded into a monastery. The monastery was destroyed by an earthquake in the 18th century. Finally, in the 1800s, King Ferdinand II purchased the whole surrounding area and had the palace built as a summer home for the royal family. It was later purchased by State of Portugal and turned UNESCO World Heritage site.

I have traveled to almost 20 countries and this is by far the most beautiful place I have ever been. The combination of Arab and European influences to the architecture, the natural forest surrounding the palace, and the spectacular views of the country put it at the top of my list. It barely edges out Cesky Krumlov outside of Prague because you can also go inside the palace to see all the rooms. The rooms were filled with wood ceilings carved into leaves, animals and ribbons, ornately decorated porcelain serving dishes and gorgeous oil paintings. I think I was in a waking dream the whole time.

I also almost ended up with a new boyfriend who I met at the palace. He was traveling with his parents, his two sisters and his two brothers and was probably the cutest eight year old I've ever seen. I had asked his dad to take my photo and he stood next to his dad telling him what to do to ensure I got a really good picture. His dad then asked if his son could get my number and take me on a date and the kid turned bright red and punched his dad in the arm. It was pretty adorable. They were a super nice Belgian family traveling on holiday together. It made me miss my parents.

It was getting close to 4pm so we went to the bottom of the hill to catch the bus back to the train station. My friend had ankle surgery not too long ago and was definitely struggling with all the walking. The bus was taking too long so I stood near the side of the road and tried to flag a car for a ride down. I must be overly judgmental because there was only one car that I would've gotten in and three girls snagged a ride before we could.

Eventually the bus came and we took the train back towards a station where we could change to a train to Obidos. We kept trying to get the right train until finally we threw the towel in and decided Obidos just wasn't going to happen. Bummer.

Back at the hostel, we made breakfast for dinner (omelets and bacon). It was really good! We hung out a bit with Eva and Frederik and a new addition, Heather from Los Angeles. We then went out to the same area and bar from last night. The bar is called Rialto and there was a guitarist there who was playing great music and we all started dancing.

Three French girls had tagged along with us and I attempted to speak my broken French to them. I kept on counting in Spanish accidentally. I'm going to get home and have forgotten how to speak English!

Next we took a taxi to Lux, the best club in Lisbon we'd been told. It was awful. They made the girls pay and were dicks about it, the drinks were super expensive, the club wasn't all that crowded and the music was terrible to dance to so we eventually left.

Back at the hostel we were all been super silly brushing our teeth together. It turned in a dance that ended with my friend accidentally spitting toothpaste all over the floor. What a night.

July 22, 2011

Finally a day to sleep in a little! We woke up way late and went to get the rental car for our drive south to Lagos. The man behind the counter had the biggest, bushiest unibrow I have ever seen. It was really distracting. The service at the rental place was awful. They were so slow and took terrible care of the cars. The guy helping us left the car in neutral while he showed us the car and it started rolling down into the street. My friend had to run and jump in the car to stop it before it careened into traffic. Then the guy opened the trunk really fast and it slammed against the concrete ceiling. Wow. We definitely did a full once over on the car to note all the damage.

We returned to the hostel, picked up Eva and Frederik who were hitching a ride and headed out. You don't really need a map - you just hop on the A2 and take it for like three hours until you see signs for Lagos. If you go to Spain you've gone to far :-) We made a pit stop at a restaurant on the side of the road which was awesome because it was us and like four old men who were just chilling smoking cigarettes. We sat at the table with them and ate our ham paninis which were super cheap, really greasy, and hit the spot!

After about an hour we pulled into Sines, one of the main beach towns on the way. This was Eva and Frederik's stop. They were going to stay for a music festival that takes place in the castle in Sines. It was pretty cool. We hung out for a bit at the beach and in the castle and then my friend and I said goodbye and continued on our way. Eva kept pronouncing "castle" as "castel" which I thought was pretty funny.

If you ever lose the A2 on the way you can pretty much navigate but sticking near the coast or just follow these signs - Algarve Sul, Olimeria, Aljezur, Lagos. We finally pulled into Lagos at 10pm and my friend, who had been driving, was absolutely beat. He totally wanted to stay in tonight but I told him hell no we are in LAGOS!! Party capital of Portugal! We parked the car and asked randoms how to get to the Rising Cock Hostel (yes, an excellent name). Everyone knew where it was because it is a pretty famous hostel so we found it right away.

The girl at the desk had clearly had a long day of it because she was all over the place but we finally managed to get to our room. We were in the 69 room. Yes, they all have ridiculous names. While we were checking in a guy walked up and said, "Hey Laura, you guys made it." I swear I have never seen this guy in my life. I was so confused. Turns out Brendan from Porto had been here and told this guy (Mike) about my blog. Mike is the head of marketing for the hostel. He told us we HAD to go upstairs to trivia night or we'd miss it.

Upstairs we ran into Brendan who was on a team with a ton of Australians. Lagos might as well be a principality of Australia because we were two of four non-Australians in the entire hostel. What does this mean? We were going to have a fucking great time. Everyone had a nickname so I met PK, X-Man, Dolphin Trainer, and more. At first I thought they were calling me "Blonde Chick" which I thought was a lame name but turns out they were saying "Blog Chick."

We managed to make it there for the last three questions and my many hours of watching Discovery Channel helped me get the question, "What is the only male animal to give birth?" A seahorse - duh. Finally they tallied all the answers and our group and another one were tied. The guy leading the trivia, Pedro, announced that he was going to pick the winner based on who had the best name. I yelled out, "No way! It has to be a drinking contest!" Everyone loved that idea so Pedro said that the person who shotgunned a beer the fastest won their team the bottle of vodka.

Yet again I spoke up saying that I'd seen my friend down a margarita pitcher full of beer in about 30 seconds once. The Australians clearly weren't sure if they wanted to put their faith in two people they'd known for 15 minutes but Brendan spoke on our behalf.

Next thing I know my friend is standing next to this massive drunk Aussie girl I nicknamed The Linebacker. She was shit talking to my friend almost immediately saying she was going to kill him. Keep in mind my friend and I are pretty much sober so the look on his face was one of bewilderment. Pedro sounded the alarm and my friend trounced the girl finishing his beer before she'd even made it halfway. She started freaking out and saying he cheated but couldn't manage to make a coherent argument so our team snagged the bottle of vodka. Next thing you know our team is MVPing my friend around on their shoulders and making him take sandal shots. It was pretty ridiculous. We later found out that the Linebacker had gone straight to the bathroom to have a good cry about her loss.

From there we went out to the bars which are right around the corner. Lagos is tiny so you can walk everywhere and it is pretty safe you just have to watch out for gypsies who will steal your purse if you give them half a chance.

We ended up spending most of the night with our two roommates - Keith and Ginger. Ginger's name is really Tom but his hair was bright red so Ginger he was. The two bars of the night were Three Monkeys and Inside Out. The bartenders at Three Monkeys are insane and wear crazy costumes and Inside Out had amazing music for dancing. Lagos is also fun because there are a handful of bars so you keep running into people throughout the night. The night ended around 4am after I'd ordered a vegetarian pizza with ham on it. The guy behind the counter said it was the most random order he'd gotten in a long time.

July 23, 2011

We woke up the night morning feeling relatively good and set to drinking almost immediately. Before that though we headed upstairs to breakfast where "Mama" was making crepes. Mama is this adorable, older Portuguese lady who essentially takes care of all us drunken fools.

For breakfast she made us Nutella crepes and tea. The tea was crazy - you pour a cup of it (it's yellow) and then squeeze lemon in it. You stir the mixture while saying "Tiki tiki" and the liquid turns white. It tasted like lemons (obviously). I have no idea why this ritual exists but it was fun to do. A girl at the table was telling a story about how a gypsy had tried to yank her purse away. The strap broke and she screamed at the gypsy to leave her alone. She told us she was super drunk but just kept thinking about the fact that her passport was in the purse and she couldn't lose it.

Ever since we arrived we'd been hearing about the booze cruise. For 40 Euro each they take you out on a party boat for like four hours. Drinks and food on board are included. It is apparently THE thing to do in Lagos and it was completely full. Turns out having this blog just became worth all the work because Mike got us on the boat so that I could write about it. So write about it I will!

Once everyone paid and received their wristbands we walked to the boat with our two new roommates, Mike and Matt, after slathering ourselves in T-Shirt-in-a-bottle. T-shirt-in-a-bottle is almost as good as my Steaks-n-Strippers idea. Who wouldn't love to eat a really good steak ringside?

We arrived at the boat and Pedro explained the two rules - 1) If you get caught drinking with your right hand you have to down your beer. 2) There were a couple pegs on the boat (the clothesline kind) and if someone pegs you and counts to five you have to down your beer.

It was Matt's birthday so he was immediately attacked by two Aussies wielding beer bongs of sangria that he took back to back. He then headed straight to the bathroom to puke. I started the cruise checking out the landscape which was the prettiest I've seen thus far. We were moving along a coastline of massive rocks jutting out of the water to reveal tiny hidden beaches and caves.

It was pretty funny to see this scenery in front of me versus when I turned around and was met by forty Aussies dangling from the boat rafters, skulling beers and throwing them at each other, prancing around in their tiny Speedos, and motorboating girls. There was one girl in particular with giant boobs who had a line of guys waiting for their turn. And then there was the creepy old Portuguese guy who mans the smaller boat that takes you over to the caves who slapped my ass and tried to motorboat me and I was super creeped out and ran away from him. It was like Mexico spring break for those of you that have been.

I barely remember getting off the boat but we somehow made it back near the hostel where my friend, Mike, Matt and I decided to grab burgers. Apple Pan in Los Angeles, Fergburger in Queenstown, New Zealand, the burger I had in New York - all the top burgers in my life. But my burger today ranks among them. It was called The Cock Meat Burger...of course and it was giant, juicy and delicious.

After burgers it was pretty much us four walking around like assholes drinking beers as it got dark. At one point two Welsh girls were hanging out with us and Mike was telling us a story about how a girl he'd hooked up with on the trip "had her hand in my pants for like an hour" to which I responded, "Maybe she couldn't find it?" The two Welsh girls thought this was hilarious. A lay-up in my opinion.

Our wandering took us to Three Monkeys where some random guy offered to buy me a Jaeger bomb but I gave the bartender a look and then pointed at the massive beer bong on the wall of the bar. The bartender, who was dressed in a red Bruno-esk bathing suit with white lacy tights, smiled, rang the cowbell, plopped a construction hat on my head and gave me the beer pong filled with beer. By the time it was over my eyes were watering! The bartender then yelled "$2.50" at me and I gave him what must have been the most confused look like "I have to pay?" Whoops!

After that we partied a little more and eventually went back to bed.

July 24, 2011

Woke up this morning and feel like death. Pretty sure I'm coming down with a sinus infection. Can't imagine why! We woke up and started driving back to Lisbon.

An hour so in we stopped in a small beach town called Milfontes that had the most beautiful beach. Different from Lagos because this was more like a Southern California beach with soft white sand that stretched for miles. We ate a quick lunch that wasn't very good and then wandered down to the beach for a nap. A scruffy little dog named Daisy kept barking at us. My friend said that maybe she doesn't like steaks. She was pretty cute though even when barking. She eventually left us alone to bark at someone else.

After the beach I felt a little better but could barely get us home to Lisbon because I needed sleep so badly. Of course as soon as we get close to Lisbon we get stuck on the bridge waiting for people to pay the toll. It took forever. Two quick things of note for those driving cars - there are very few gas stations in the city so fill up your rental before you enter and the second is that when you get to the gas station some pumps are fill and some are pre-pay.

Finally we made it to our new hostel, Travellers House. It was on a really cool shopping street but I was too tired to really pay attention.

We walked straight to our room and passed out. Another day of Oreos for dinner. My mom would kill me.

July 25, 2011

Slept in soo late today which was amazing. First day I've felt rested. We donned our swimsuits and grabbed our towels to head to the beach when we realized we still had the rental car to return. Uugh! And of course we had only filled the tank halfway so when we arrived we had to pay at 25 Euro tax for not filling the car up. It could've been worse though. We finally made it to the beach around 3:30pm. The beach is called Cascais and is a lot more touristy then Estoril although they are on the same train line and only a few stops away (you take the metro to Cais de Sodre and then the train to Cascais).

Another note here - two people can't share cards. We learned this the hard way. There was a huge line for tickets so we just bought four on the same railway card. My friend used it to go through and then I tried and it wouldn't work. We realized it's because it knows you haven't come back yet. We tried to swipe twice and then send me through but the security guard came up and got all angry. It resulted in us wasting about two trips worth which was super annoying.

Cascais, as I mentioned is a bit touristy, but the beach was more sheltered than Estoril so less wind and sand attacked us. We promptly fell asleep after enjoying a glass of rose wine.

After our nap we wandered around town playing our travel game again. We ended up at a little cafe that had empada de frango which was like a chicken pot pie only twice as good. It was a total surprise since food from the cafeterias has been pretty shoddy at best. We continued along towards the coast and came out on the coastal road right by this really cool outcropping of rocks which we explored for awhile before heading back into town to catch a train back.

Upon arrival at the hostel my friend realized that his wallet was gone. Worst luck ever! Neither of us could imagine where he would've lost it and it remains a mystery. Luckily he left his passport at the hostel but that seriously sucks about the rest. Looks like I'm gonna be a sugar mama for the next five days!

We finally resigned ourselves to the fact that the wallet was gone and we weren't getting it back so we wandered into the main living area of the hostel for the traditional Portuguese dinner that the hostel was putting on. We dined on wine, cheese, sausage and bread all of which was delicious. It was nice to have some homemade food again!

We met some kids from Santa Rosa, CA, (I call them kids because they were 20) and two Canadian girls all of whom came out with us. We ended up in Barrio Alto again because it's the only happening place on a Monday and then made our way to the club district near there and spent the rest of the night dancing.

It was a good night although one of the guys in the group got really drunk and was pretty annoying so I spent most of the night ridiculing him in front of his friends because he was pissing me off so bad. At one point I bought his two friends beers and then handed him a water which really made him mad. His face turned bright red and his friends started laughing. What a little shit.

Finally the rest of us were ready to part ways with him but overall a good last night in Portugal as we head back to Spain tomorrow!




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