I boarded the plane in Calgary at about 4pm and as soon as I got on the plane I was greeted by Lori and mom. Lori and I managed to get the lady seated next to me to move so that we could sit together. We made friends with all our neighbours and even the flight attendants so we got pretty damn good service. We didn't sleep much on the plane so when we arrived in Glasgow at 8am local time we were already pretty tired.
We took a cab to my parents' hotel and then went to George Square. While we were at the hotel I decided to get my sunglassses out of my day pack as there was a chance I might need them. It was raining off and on but in between were sunny breaks. When I pulled my glasses out of the bag, one or the arms was missing. I dumped my bag out completely but the arm was nowhere to be found.
We walked a lot, visiting the oldest house in Glasgow (Provand's Lordship) and St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art. It was pretty cool but by then it was noon and Lori and I could barely stand with our backpacks anymore so we headed back to the airport and slept in the terminal while we waited for our plane. We woke up just in time to hear our final boarding call and made it to Amsterdam. While in that airport I tried to find new sunglasses but good ones are not a good deal once you convert the price in euros to Canadian dollars.
We were very happy to hear everyone speak English to us there. We had some dinner and killed some time on the Internet before getting on our plane to Lisbon - finally.
We arrived in Lisbon around 11pm and took a cab to the hostel where we met Ally, Erik, and Ashley. Then of course we had to chat for a couple of hours about all our traveling misadventures and I think we finally got to sleep around 1 or 2am.
It turns out nothing goes as planned in Lisbon, so don't waste your time planning. It was very sunny out in Lisbon with clear blue skies and I had no sunglasses still. I explained to Ally what happened to mine and she assured me Oakley would send me a new arm. Apparantly they send Erik sunglass bits all the time. In the meantime she lent me a pair of her sunglasses. Very generous of her to give me the pair with one full arm and one half-arm. There was enough arm left for them to stay on, but not for them to stay on straight. Which is why they are crooked in all my pictures. By the end of the day the other arm had broke in half too and then they were pretty much useless.
We walked down to the cool part of town and spotted the castle high above us. We asked a very friendly kiosk dude how to get to the castle, and if we could walk. He recommended a tram.
After standing in a "queue" for 4 trams, we finally got on and headed to the castle. I use the term queue loosely as we were basically tossled out of line and pushed aside but locals, so we never seemed to be moving forward. But we did eventually get on a tram, with about 1,000 other people. The tram climbed and wound it's way through Lisbon. Ally said we had passed the castle at one point so we got out at the next stop. Turns out it was just some building with castle-like walls. At this point we lost Lori and didn't see her again for three hours. We waited where we lost her for about 40 minutes before heading to the castle. The castle was pretty cool and I took a lot of photos. After the castle we got a text from Lori to meet at the hostel so we headed back there.
We decided to head to Alcobaça at that point so we walked down to Rossio station which is a big bus station. We tried to buy tickets at the ticket kiosk but the lady told me in broken English to go to the tourist office. We walked through some government protest trying to find it. Five people with huge backpacks, we seemed to stand out even amongst the protesters. We eventually found the tourist office, which was in a totally cool part of Lisbon we have to go back to. They directed us to the other end of the city to get our bus to Alcobaça. We took the metro to the bus station then bought our tickets and had dinner before catching our bus. It was about 2 hours of vomit-inducing twists and turns. Good times.
We did have a very helpful, English-speaking lady on our bus who pointed out the monastery and a good hotel for us as the bus drove through Alcobaça. We managed to score a room for 5 for only €90 so that was pretty sweet. It even included breakfast.
Today we checked out the monastery in Alcobaça which was amazing - the Monastery of Santa Maria de Alcobaça. The cathedral was massive and when you are inside it you feel almost invisible next to the giant columns and doorways. Now that we have also seen the monastery in Batalha, I have a feeling we missed a lot of the Alcobaça monastery. The only part we explored was the cathedral and you can see just from the photos of the exterior that there is a lot more to the monastery than just a church.
We spotted some ruins while we were walking around and decided to hike up to them. Turns out we just had to walk up a steep, paved road to get to them but it somehow felt adventurous anyway. The ruins were pretty cool and gave us a really good view of the town.
When we were up there we noticed a little covered building that Erik had to go in, of course. There was a huge hole in the floor of it so Erik lowered himself down and found a tunnel under there but we didn't have a flashlight so he didn't go in very far. While he was down there we decided it was probably used as a toilet by the local homeless people.
We then headed back to the bus station and caught a bus to Batalha, where we are now. They have an even more impressive monastery here (Monastery of Santa Maria da Vitória) but nothing else. We first went in the church, which was admission free. It was absoultey stunning. The sun shining through the stained glass windows created thousands of colorful marks on the nave columns. I took about a billion photographs of this effect. I have read so many times about churches I have visited in other parts of Europe where the stained glass windows are supposed to do this, but this is the first time I have actually seen what they are talking about and it is amazing.
After we checked out the church we had a snack and then left Ally & Erik as they didn't want to pay admission to see the rest of the monastery. The rest of us went back and paid our admissions so we could check out the cloisters, gardens, and unfinished, roofless abbey. It was well worth the admission.
While we were walking around the cloisters, Lori and I went into a room with the tomb of the unknown soldier, which was guarded by two young military men. As we came in she wispered something to me and one guard said "shhh!" and the other quickly followed it up with "shhh!" then the two guards starting giggling. They whispered to each other and giggled some more. Lori thought it was unfair that they could talk but we couldn't.
When we were done with the monastery we still had three and a half hours to kill before the bus to Tomar departed. It doesn't leave until 6pm. We have ate a lot, walked a lot, and then ate some more. The lady at the tourist office let us leave our heavy backpacks there with her which is very helpful. She is super nice and friendly and helpful, unlike the tourist information people in Lisbon.
It is very hot here today and everyone is walking around in jeans and sweaters. I am not sure what is wrong with these people! There is some sort of market going on here and all the old people are wearing thick, dark clothing and buying fruits and nuts. We walked through the market and I bought a bag of meringues for the bus ride. Yum!
We got to Tomar last night at about 8pm after another hurl-tastic bus ride up and down steep hills and around very tight turns. The bus even went down a very narrow and twisted one-way street. We had to stop at one point to honk at a car blocking the way and then wait a few minutes for the driver to finally move.
When we arrived in Tomar, there was a fair in full swing so we checked into the closest hotel and crossed the street to the fairgrounds. There was a lot of crap - I mean souvenirs - for sale and we looked at everything but avoided the rides.
This morning we left our bags at the hotel and walked up to the Convent of Christ and Templar Castle. It was a bit of a walk through town and up a long, windy road. The castle-monastery was at the top of probably the highest hill in Tomar. As we were walking up we passed a pack of dogs that decided to join us and lead us the rest of the way. They were pretty cute guides but I didn't have any food for them. When we got up to the castle they were shooed away by the locals there.
About this time Ally started vomiting over the edge of the castle walls. She decided she and Erik should head back to the hotel where she could barf a little more comfortably. Me and the other girls went into the castle-monastery which was remarkable. It is a massive monastery and the church was very impressive but of course you weren't allowed to take pictures in the church.
We spent a few hours at the Convent of Christ and Templar Castle then headed back to the hotel to collect our bags and Ally and Erik and get the train back to Lisbon. By this time Ally had emptied her stomach and was feeling much better.
We arrived in Lisbon in the early afternoon to find that there were no accommodations left in the city because of the Grand Prix. Sunday is race day so hopefully that means everyone leaves on Sunday giving us more options of where to sleep.
We walked around the baxia district trying to find somewhere to sleep. Prices were pretty steep but nothing was available anyway. While we were wandering, we passed a street performer, singing and playing an accordian. He had his chihuahua on a shoebox in front of him, holding a minature plastic bucket. Every now and then the chihauha would lift his head up and sing along. It was pretty damn cute so we took a few pictures before continuing our search.
Finally we spotted a hostel above a delicious-smelling gelato stand so we went up. The price was right and it was possibly the only two rooms left in Lisbon so we took it but the place is a total crap[edited for Yahoo]hole. My room smells like mold and Ally and Erik's room smells like a sewer. Ally pulled back the comforter on their bed to find someone else's hair in it. Not like one strand of hair but a nice big pile of it. Their bathroom isn't any cleaner.
Our bathroom is the best though. It looks like a bus station in the middle of our room. There are two beds (one twin, one single) and the bus station. The bottom half of the bus station is solid but the top half is a tinted glass that you can see through. So if I want to shower I have to put on a show for my roommates. Even better though is the sink and bidet in the bathroom. Nothing wrong with them except that there is no toilet in our room. You have to go down the hall to relieve yourself. And if you are the type to use the bidet, then you would have to run down the hall with your pants down so you could wash your ass. I would really like to meet the person who designed that bathroom.
I decided that there was no way I would be sleeping in the bed and instead covered it with towels and slept on the towels. We also all agreed that the best thing to do was to stay out as late as possible to minimize the amount of time we had to spend in our stinky rooms.
Desperate for friendly people and familiarity, we went to the Hard Rock Cafe. While we were trying to find it I found a new pair of sunglasses, for only 5 euro! Can't beat that. I have no doubt they will fall apart in a matter of days, but whatever.
The Hard Rock was great. All the staff spoke fluent English, the food was all American and good, and the dessert was even better! After dinner we walked around, window shopping and just observing the night life, until we found a mall open until 10pm. We shopped right until closing and then walked very slowly back to our rooms for the night.
We are still in Lisbon and we actually managed to do a few things today, even though according to tourist information, nothing is open in Lisbon on Sundays. We are starting to think the tourist information in Lisbon is like the Soup Nazi in Sienfeld. "No accomodation for you! No shopping for you! No buses for you!". They are the exact opposite of informative.
So immediately after getting up we got dressed (except Lori who figured why get out of her pajamas) and got out of the stinky hostel as quickly as possible, leaving our bags behind to absorb more stench.
We found a nice hotel. Well, the outside looks even worse than the room we were in last night so it was frightening walking up to it, and we all started to panic. But once we saw inside we were relieved to see everything was clean and relatively classy.
Today we walked up to the palace ruins we have seen from pretty much everywhere in the Baxia district. The ruins were pretty cool but the museum was closed so we couldn't go in the ruins, we had to settle for just walking around the exterior walls. We also noticed that the Elevador de Santa Justa that we have been walking past every night actually would take us straight to the palace ruins.
After exploring the ruins, we took a train to Belém which is a bit out of the downtown area - I think it might be a suburb. We walked from the train station to Belém tower and Ashley had to leave before we actually got to the tower to catch her flight back to London.
Ally and I went in the tower and checked it out, climbing all the way to the top. It was pretty cool. After the tower we crossed the street and backtracked a bit to a church which was massive, the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. It was really cool but we only went in the free church part and didn't bother with the cloisters.
From there we headed back to our clean hotel rooms where we showered before dinner, except Erik, which gave us more material to make fun of him. After dinner we walked back to the mall for more gelato and then that was pretty much it.
Today was our first and only day of crap weather in Portugal. We woke up and it was pouring out. Everybody had umbrellas. It was kind of funny. But it was really coming down. By the time we got ourselves to the correct metro station to get us to the train station that gets us to Sintra, the rain had stopped. When we got to Sintra it started raining again but not for long and not nearly as much.
Sintra is such a beautiful city. The entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is well-deserved. We walked into the historic center and just followed the signs to the cool stuff from there. Our first stop was the Sintra National Palace. It was kind of cool but it angers me when they won't let you take pictures inside so you have to buy their stupid, overpriced postcards if you want a picture of it.
From there we went to the tourist office (one that actually gave me tourist information!) and they told us that the one site we were all dying to see, the National Palace of Pena, was closed on Mondays. So instead she gave me a map of the city and sent me up to a very cool estate, Regaleria Palace and Gardens. I took a lot of photos and we spent a few hours there.
We decided from there to hike up to the Moorish Castle ruins, which was the stupidest idea we've had yet. After about 40 minutes of walking up a very steep and windy, never-ending road, we decided to wait for the bus. It arrived soon after and they charged a ridiculous €3.85 which we breathlessly paid. It took only 5 minutes to reach the Moorish Castle from where we were picked up. Five minutes was too close for us. We stayed on the bus because nobody wanted to stand on their feet anymore. So instead we stayed on the bus and got off another 5 minutes up the mountain, at the National Palace of Pena. The grounds were still open even though the palace was closed so we walked through the grounds up more steep hills to take pictures of the palace exterior.
We walked back to the bus stop and were dropped off right in front of Pizza Hut. Naturally we went there for lunch, and dessert. We headed back to Lisbon after lunch and did some shopping before the malls closed. Tomorrow is a very early day for Lori and I. We have to be up at 5am to catch our flight to Glasgow via Amsterdam!
Today I finally got to see Amsterdam. Lori and I took a cab to the Lisbon airport at about 5:30am, got on our flight to Amsterdam, and ran the hell to the Amsterdam airport train station to give ourselves as much time as possible in the city. By the time we got there we only had an hour and a half.
We wanted to go to a live sex show because Ally said we should but we were still aways from the city and we saw a boat cruise just about to leave as we passed it so we got on and saw Amsterdam from the canals instead. Probably not really comparable to a live sex show but what can you do when you only have 1.5 hours in Amsterdam? I have to go back, it looked totally cool, like a better Vancouver.
We then got to Glasgow and took about 2 hours to find our hotel. Oops. It's a nice hotel with no hot water. Good thing we are leaving early tomorrow morning, after I take a nice, ice-cold shower. We didn't have time to do anything today after getting lost and having dinner and doing laundry. Tomorrow we will head to Moffat for the wedding. But all that is to come in my Scotland blog ....