I was going to continue rambling on about the second leg of my cycle, but I think that everything I had to say was more or less expressed beforehand.
Just one little last thing I will add. If you’re open and want to learn you shall, then again; there’s nothing special in this route, as you learn from everything in life. Want to know more? Go do it yourself! :)
After a few days, things were staring to get rather monotonous and boring in Santiago. You’d wake up, get kicked out and spend the day aimlessly trying to waste hours until you could go back, have lunch and rest; which was the whole point of staying there in the first place. I did learn a few useful things in my stay there. I was introduced to these places that are all over Spain called ‘Cocina Económica’ where you can eat – breakfast – lunch and dinner for €1.50, sure it’s for homeless people and such, but the day I was taken there, some dude got off a gorgeous CBR in a nice suit and walked in … so it’s all irrelevant. Just depends on each one’s personal prejudices and how hungry you are. The food was good too, Lentils, then tuna with tomato sauce and a couple eggs, for desert – fruit salad. It’s not bad really!
But I was getting sick and tired of the place and what it represented, there was blocks and blocks of what looked army barracks for Pilgrims, just so one could get an idea of what this could be like in summer – You can’t really whine though can you? If you don’t like something, you just get up and piss off! And that’s exactly that is what I did. The last night Levi, the Belgium hippy appeared at Santiago. “Welcome to Santiago /b/ro! You just walked across the north of Spain!” He looked shattered, then again, what is too expect! Coming to these places at night was usual for him – He made it though!
A bit of left over wine and some weed just for the last night’s sake. We were joined by this German guy, who spoke very little English and a little more of Spanish, he was meant to stay in the Pilgrims place, but they wouldn’t let his dog in, and he said if he disappeared, the dog would search for him or start whining, so he was camping right in front of the place. He was cycling on a handmade bike. He would go to the places where they give you a free bicycle, or free bits for that sake; for example in Barcelona and Madrid I know they exist, apparently in other places too. He’d gone through three bikes and having just crossed France he was now cycling the north of Spain to slide into Portugal – direction – Lisbon! It was great! His dog had a little pack on him and would trot by his side, he was slowed down to a very slow speed, averaging 50km a day as if he did
more his dog would risk damaging the cushions on his paws. He learnt this after the dog started bleeding from them and he had to take him to a vet.
It’s a slow adaptation, even slower than one might think from climbing mountains to suddenly maybe having a few mountains a day. After being used to crawl at some points, this was different; there was still some hard slopes. We were still in Galicia and there was no mercy, but the closer one got to Portugal the sunnier it would get (at least I hoped) and the flatter it would turn into.
Three days and I was right on the border, in O’Porriño. I stayed there an extra night before crossing over as I had to make some phone calls and stuff, why pay more just for being in Portugal, when I can wait out another day, sort all I had too and then bugger off to Portugal.
That night I was just kicking back reading something and eating a bite to eat when a knock came at the door. I opened (of course) and it was this Portuguese fella who was walking to Santiago. He had lived some time in Spain and was forced to move back to Lisbon as there was no work. He currently worked in ‘Medicos sin Fronteras’ So he got a great insight of Africa.
For the whole time I had spent on my bike, there was this constant voice in my head (No! I don’t need to be locked up in a nut house. My voices don’t tell me to kill people.) telling me that Africa, with extremely low funds would be a naïve, stupid and probably life threatening situation. Let’s put it in simple terms;
Europe – you don’t need visas if you’re from here, you can go where you want, with little or no hassle. You can find food, money, etc. You just have to be imaginative or beg (if it comes to that)
Now … let’s imagine Africa – shall we? A continent that was destroyed ever since the white man stepped foot on it, where atrocities happen daily, where there killing each other because they have absolutely nothing. On top of that you have the visa subject, as once I’d step out of Morocco I’d need one.
No money – suddenly you’re visa runs out – You can’t renew it – You’re fucked – on top of that, the continent is poor enough as it is … so there’s not going to be any work for you … What do you do? Oh! And on top of that, you don’t speak the language!
I guess it’s maybe a pessimistic way of looking at things, but even though I travel and yeah, sometimes with lots, little or no money – another completely different thing is putting myself in life threatening situations for the sake of my arrogance. So South America it was! At least I knew the language, the culture change was probably not as drastic as other places (in a figure of speech) and … fuck I want to see the place … oh! And them Argentinean women; that succulent accent! [I'll stop right there before I get too carried away]
So in the whole scheme of things – I agreed with what he was saying, he was just reconfirming what I had been thinking all this time.
I had acquired a slow flat at some point during my last two days. It would last the whole day but then at night it would go dead, until slowly as the days went by the puncture was going down faster and faster – that fucker! Stopping at a bike shop to get replacements, also got hold of one of these dirt cheap speedometers, “why not I though!?” It was rather annoying to be guessing my daily kilometres. The guy put it on for me, after I made a fail attempt to tie it all to my bike. He did that and also lube’d up the inner bearing section in between where the peddles are. As I had mentioned it was making a very funny sound, which mostly you could feel but at times still hear. He put in lube there for a couple years he said. While I continued to poke and probe about the sponsorship information, this guy was what seemed hard into his cycling and did it as a hobby, not like most people who I’ve come across in the mechanic section of shops, they normally spent many years on a bike but left it – he still continued at it, which meant his information would be rather up to date.
I was not looking for any economic contributions, as that is what was firstly asked for, but there was also another option which I had heard about a while back, but never really known where to start; it was the sponsorship in exchange for materials. So you would get a ‘limited’ or ‘unlimited’ (I don’t know) supply of what you needed for your bike in exchange for whatever they wanted. Rather cool if you ask me. Then again there was meant to be a really long and big bureaucratic list to actually be able to get into their books. Fucking bureaucracy is everywhere … Oh well .. I’m still trying. If anyone want’s to sponsor me in some shape/way or form … let me know … ideas are welcome. :)
There was not many kilometres to the border, but I took it slowly, stopping at nice intervals of around sixty to seventy – five clicks a day. There was no rush, sure I was apparently doing The Portuguese Way, but that was just an excuse to get dirty cheap accommodation, it wasn’t anything like what I had just done, I was free-roaming here.
Before I had reached Santiago, my panniers had snapped, probably due to the extra weight in food I added to it on a daily basis, the top part that was where it hooked onto the rack, there was these things (I don’t know the English word) but basically, it’s like a button made of metal and with a special tool, you clamp it down under extreme pressure and it joins in with another on the other side of the pannier to make a perfectly tight seal. Like what a nut and bolt would do but different. J
I had been told of a shop that would fix them for me in Santiago, but I had to cycle down. I completely refused to do so, the only time I was coming back down and back up that hill with my packed bike was never again! And down it, was only when I would leave. So I left it a bit late.
I asked around the next morning once I had woken up, where a shoe shop was. These were the places who would fix it, and cheap! I found one! The guy looked at it, said he could do something.
Also on my other pannier the bottom part had snapped on one side, which would be similar to the top but instead of a clip/hook, it’s a piece of plastic that swivels around to keep the pannier from flying all over the place (Shit! I am completely useless on descriptions. Working on that!) He fixed both for a superb €3 – I was getting lucky with this bike business! Let’s hope it held up.
That was it! Portugal was here! I stopped and got myself a quarter bottle of Scotch, just to have just in case, you know! and rode over that bridge, which years ago we walked past in the opposite direction, dark at night into Spain only for my wonderful braniac friend, who thought it was a good idea to ask a copper at a police station, past twelve midnight. He was watching porn and drinking vodka when she disturbed him, But that’s another story, maybe some other time
The first thing I thought when crossing into Portugal, was “Fucking cobbles!” I’d completely forgotten about that, every town/city .. whatever, that’s big enough has the whole road covered in them, and not just the town centre may I add. It’s just a recipe for disaster on my wheels.
The only change from Spain had been the sun’s intensity, it seemed that by just crossing the border it was instantly hotter, at least it felt like that on the skin.
Slopes up and downs, around canyons/mountains/motorways – all in horribly tarmacked roads, with pot holes that one could be lost forever in! That would not be classified as National roads in other countries (or would they?) It was hazardous, even now after having spent what? Maybe … nearly three weeks in Portugal, I still forget – stare at some cute girl’s ass, only to be abruptly awaken by some nasty dent in the road … Her ass instantly slips out of my mind and the condition of my wheels is my only worry and who to throw a rock at if it’s buckled.
Porto was the last place these pilgrims places, from then on I would start actually making use of my tent. Then again, I could always use the Firemen’s department, as this was where you would be able to sleep when being a Pilgrim – later did I find out that these said places, only accept you after nine P.M which in all honesty, unless I have some sort of company to keep me chatting like a headless chicken – I’ve been asleep for a while before nine!!
I started making use of these Youth Hostels. Which even though I really didn’t like giving money to these people, as I remember paying back in my day €4-5 for these places, the most expensive one, if my memory doesn’t fail me, was Paris for like €13 and I didn’t even go there. Now they were horribly expensive (for the service they provided) and just not really my thing in all honesty, but I had a rather sore neck that was making everything really hard and painful work, so I used them alright though. Also the conversation you could get in one of these places was simply superb. That is one thing that just lacks from the saddle of a bicycle in complete faithful honesty. The complete lack of communication, unless you stop in many bars (and you’re lucky if you find good conversation), directions or simple chit-chat doesn’t count. So it’s rather non-existent and you need to discharge some intellectual oral communication ever once in a while. These places where a gem for people from all walks of life, all with their interesting/peculiar/funny/intelligent …(among many others) …perspective that is always very welcomed while on the road yourself. I’ve met so many eyebrow-raising people in these places that it’s really cool.
Let’s leave one thing clear – I don’t really have the slightest problem with what you think, if you respect my way of choosing to see and wander about life, I shall most definitely to the same with yours.
I met a fascist(his ideas were comical! I think he was just rather young to know what he was talking about) that said he wanted to go to Venezuela and do the ‘Heil Hitler’ while he raised up off of one knee from in front of Hugo Chavez. Another that called himself a Spanish-Basque, even though I’m not too sure he’s entirely aware that if he does go to the Basque Country and define himself as exactly that, not too many people are going to take a liking to him. He seemed it was completely necessary to be extra nice with Basque people, I didn’t like it. Made me feel a ponse and want to punch him round the mouth and shout at him – “Stop fucking about boi! You’re Portuguese, it don’t matter where you’re born … get over it faggot!” but of course I didn’t, same way I didn’t tell the fascist that his ideas were simple, unthought through and at the same time contradictory – so that makes you an illiterate moron! But they respected mine, so I did theirs too. Not too mean I don’t have an opinion, just means I won’t trash you’re idea in public, I’ll leave it inside my mind and maybe, if you’re lucky I’ll write about you one day.
There are, the other type of people though, the ones you share a connection with, the ones you actually understand each other, are on the same page and in some way or another are trying to get to a similar place but in maybe completely different ways. Yael was the first I got talking too like that. Oh! it
was wonderful to hold a conversation with someone, for the pure joy of holding one. She was a thirty-three year old, university graduate in Spanish Language and Literature – Working as a teacher in a private School, who was on holiday travelling around Portugal on well … yes … her holidays.
I was making a brew in the toilets with my stove, as the place didn’t have a fucking kitchen, my neck was sore as hell and I was trying to rest. I popped out for a moment while it slowly brewed to take a look at the immense world map they had on a wall and just picture for a moment where I would end up one day, while I sat on something sittable in the middle of nowhere and look at the huge wavy line that my pen had made across my personal world map. She walked in and said ‘Hola’ – I turned around and answered her back ‘Hola!’ She turned out to be Argentinean, who similar to be but in a different fashion as I was fluent in English; hadn’t spoken in Spanish for a while. Conversation instantly snapped off, imagine how much that by the time I remembered about that brew I had, it was cold. I sat down while she chomped down an improvised dinner, saying not to mind her … Such joys, seeing other people who eat like you, not in restaurants or anywhere that cooks your food. More along the lines of just whacking things together and getting it down you’re gullet. We continued to chatter over a bottle of cheap Portuguese wine (That is actually much better quality than the more expensive one) Life, books, travel, thoughts, experiences … we shared over the next two days, over more wine of course. She was heading north and myself south. We agreed to maybe meet up if we were around in Lisbon on the same days.
Karl was another I got chatting too. A huge, twenty-eight year old German, carpenter as a profession. He was walking and hitching an old carpenter’s route while he travelled around. It was great too, because he was travelling around in what you can imagine to be you’re ‘typical’ old fashioned German/Austrian way of dressing. He would say ‘this wasn’t typical German clothes. But when I think of them huge bars in Germany with the women bringing over a fuck load of massive jugs in their arms, at least I picture something along these lines of dress-code. He would complain in a comical manner that people looked at him strange, like he was from another planet or something because his way of dressing, but then he would look at you and with a huge deep and amazingly loud but hilarious laugh that you would never forget if you heard it, he would blurt out in his German accent that this was the only clothes he owned! So what else would he wear?! He jotted down my email for the future, when he got down south in a month or so, he would link up if I was still around.
Apart from these moments, that make it all worthwhile, the days were monotonous to a degree. I spent a fortune in Youth Hostels, mainly telling myself that the pain I had in my neck was due to sleeping on solid ground, as I had not yet found one comfortable night in my tent. Even though it was probably due, to a pack on my back that was on there way too many hours for anyone to bear.
Figueras da Foz was probably the strangest place ever. It had been recommended by a man in Porto, who after asking him for a coffee and noticed I didn’t have a decent map of Portugal (As I had the North part, but no one would give you the south part, not even tourist information – You had to buy the fucker!) He went to his car and brought out four, laid them all out and asked which one I wanted. Then he proceeded to explain where was really worth seeing in Portugal. Figueras da Foz was on that list and it was on my route along the coast. Coimbra, I had already been there, loved it, but didn’t really want to detour just to see it again. This though; was the Marbella of Portugal, the Blackpool of England in upper class. Everything was surrounded with five star hotels, long disgusting, tourist beaches with an endless wind blowing in your face, I went to T.I and asked where one of these Youth places was. “There’s none here” he said – you have one 40km back another 50km that way. Well isn’t that wonderful I though! “So what’s cheap to stay in?” I asked – “€40/30/20” he said per night. Are you fucking crazy!! I can eat a week with that money I wanted to say but didn’t. I left and wondered about trying to get to one of these places, but it wasn’t happening. It was already past five, the sun was setting, the beach was way to open to camp on as the cops where all over the place and to get to the other side which looked much calmer, there was a huge ‘St. Nazaie’ style bridge which just wasn’t happening in my physical condition. I sat and dwelled over a coffee, deciding to ask some random people sitting next to me where somewhere cheap to sleep would be. They pointed right in front and said “There!”Walked over and found what they were pointing at. It looked out of a tacky seventies English show. Fawlty Towers or something like that but without the comical value. It was a tacky place falling literally apart. It kind of reminded me of my house in Liverpool – again – without the comical value, or the heating in that case. It cost a fortune, with a window that stayed closed with a clothes peg and directly under the window was a birds carcass, that had seeped horror style into the roof – Gosh knows how long that had been there. No kitchen either – but it had internet. It seemed like these days it didn’t matter what condition the place was in as long as it had internet. Fuck sakes!! The craziest part of all, all the food I had needed to be cooked, out I went in search of something to eat – ends up being Chinese. *shakes head* Stuck in the middle of Portugal, in a shit hole of a town and just to top it off, end up eating Chinese. That’s just … pathetic! – I got my shit the next day and got the fuck out of there. I had broken into my left ‘big’ note and for what it was worth, I was going to Coimbra, I knew the place there, it was ‘cheap’ had a kitchen and maybe try to rest a couple days. I more or less did rest, but the best possible outcome was I finally put my backpack on the back of my bike. Since I left Coimbra, this is a daily must, there’s no conversation about it, it just goes on there. It really works out too, as my sleeping bag straps on (in a way) to the side, the bungee cords wrap around (when not on a bike) and keep together whatever clothes I have stuck in-between them bungee cords and my pack. My neck is perfectly fine now! It took nearly a week and a half for the pain to gradually die down, but now it’s gone and hopefully not coming back.
Not long after leaving Coimbra, maybe two/three days in, I’m not entirely sure, but my front cog was starting to make a strange sound. You couldn’t really hear it over all the other sounds that the bike itself made, but when you peddled you could feel it. I was told, maybe in O’Porriño when the guy greased them up, that the damage starts when the ball bearings start to chew away at each other and at the metal. That is what it seemed like it was doing. I suddenly happened to find a bike shop, literally around the corner, as I had stopped to ask in a petrol station if they could tie the bolts up, as I thought, that when this starts to happen, it’s because there’s something loose. The grumpy old man said no and waved me off. I got back on my bike and managed to cross a rather busy national road, without getting killed and to my surprise there’s a bike shop right there. It was closed for lunch, but if I waited around for ten/fifteen minutes the mechanics would come back. I had no rush and my bike was the most important factor.
An old man got out of a car with a woman and said hello while walking past. I didn’t think anything and continued smoking my cigarette while soaking in the sun. The man who had told me to wait beforehand came back out and said “The mechanics in there, bring your bike in” – Seemed this old man was indeed the mechanic. He asked what was wrong, which was (as always) explained as best as I could in slow Spanish with some Portuguese words thrown in there every so often. He took the peddled off and after a while brought out another part for the inside. He spoke as a guy who had appeared, apparently another mechanic translated more or less in Spanish, how the part that I had in was not very good quality. “How much?” I ask. €8 he shows me the label. “Wack it right on!” I tell him, that’s a barging, something like that would cost me at least €20 in Spain. While it was all being put in place, I was looking around at my surroundings, while thinking that this was not just a bike shop, this was actually where they made bikes, a few moments after my thoughts were proven right when a bunch of guys walked in and started working of pieces of metal that looked oddly similar to bike frames.
My bike was sorted and ready to ride. I was shown to wash my hands, then left completely alone. Cummon! Is no one going to charge me here? I wandered around trying to look for one of the guys who fixed my bike, but there was no one there. I went round back and found one. “How much?” I asked rubbing my thumb and finger together, so he knew what I was on about. He went in search of the old man and asked him the same thing. Nine € he said. I mean, it can’t get any better than this! €1 installation fee. That’s just wonderful! Thank you kind world!!
I took the bike for a little whizz as I left the place while I played with my gears, making sure everything was in order. My front cog’s hardest gear wouldn’t go in – but the feeling of peddling had changed completely, now it wasn’t as painful and ‘uphill’ as it normally was, it seemed that the bike was lighter. I spun around and told the guy that it wouldn’t slide in and he fixed it in a jiffy. That was probably due to the small piece of metal the chain runs through to make the front cog’s gears slide in, the guy had opened it up as he said it would otherwise make a racket! ‘You think I haven’t noticed!?’ I thought, somebody could of mentioned this 2000km back.
I was averaging 25km/h and higher, something that I hadn’t been doing recently, at least not with the complete lack of effort of now. But something had to go wrong didn’t it? The peddle started coming really loose. I couldn’t understand it; I had just seen this guy tighten it up good and proper. No time to dwell, someone to tighten it! A grumpy old man appeared from behind a half ripped up motorbike, he came out with the right socket and tightened it for me while he mumbled “What if I brake the peddle now? The guy who put it on should have done it properly!” – It continued to slide off for the next five days, until suddenly, without explanation after waiting around for two hours for a bike shop to open, the guy who tightened it – had that magic touch. It hasn’t loosened up anymore.
The initial idea of the road to Lisbon was down the coast and round into the actual capital, that I’m afraid had to be altered as my funds where indeed starting to run rather low. I had a bit of extra money stashed away for Lisbon, as I wanted to actually stay in the city. But apart from that I needed work, the sooner the better. So I cut straight down the middle from Coimbra to Lisbon. Three whole nights it took me to get there, it was a very nice ride, with mild to moderate up hills and lovely calm sloping roads on the verge of rather flat (compared to what I had grown accustomed too) On one of these roads, after stopping to have a coffee and refill my water bottles, the manager seemed it was a must to tell me the legend of how in Benedita (If I remember correctly) the Spanish lost the war to the Portuguese and when they all started fleeing, they hid out in this town for shelter. Only to later find a macabre death as it is told – there was a bread oven and the man who ran the place shoved all the Spanish into it. I wasn’t sure how he was telling it to me, as obviously to a non-English speaking country, I am Spanish, little did he know though – I could give two fucks what happened to the Spanish in their history of colonisation. A little after I had left, I came the closest to death that I have probably ever experienced in my lifetime. I was on my part of the road side and as in spain, when there is a hill, the road splits in three carriages, ,one for the side that comes down and two for the ones that go up.
All the motorways, they were built when Portugal joined and became part of ‘Europe’ than because you have to pay, fucking no one uses them, they all use my roads, unless I want to be taken on a stupid tour of endless kilometres through little towns and horrible roads. Suddenly a horn sounds, which is normal as a lot of lorries do this to let me know there coming, suddenly I turn and there’s two lorries overtaking each other and the one closest to me … is way too close to my actual persona, I didn’t see my life flash in front of my eyes or anything like that, everything did go really bright for an instant until I snapped myself out of it because the back draft would of left some carnage. I stopped, bricking and started hurling a load of insults to the fucking arrogant cunt who would do that?! Are you that completely fucking stupid, that you don’t recognize what you can do to a cyclist. I swear … sometimes … if these people actually stopped to confront me or I knew their address. Real nasty shit would go down, because, it’s just plain pathetic. This is why there are so many accidents on roads. For drivers like these that give two fucks about their safety so how would they give even one for someone else’s!
By now I was right back in full sway of things, making the most of the tent and the pleasures of stealth camping. There was only two days where I paid to stay in a place and these were the days I was in Lisbon.
I initially went to the Youth Hostel place, which was a bizarre mix and match of non-complementary people. When I first walked in the guy behind the counter was friendly, nothing too strange. The next morning though, the same guy appeared with a jumper that read in big red letters “REDS BEWARE!” not I understood why he was extra friendly to me and was willing to go that step further … the military trousers! Still; how contradictory is it for a skinhead/fascist (whatever) would be working in a Youth Hostel, where you get people from all walks of life and from all over the world. It was just silly.
I induce he was a skin head because of the music he was playing. He had Oi Oi Oi blaring out loud at nine in the morning. It made me giggle.
When he left the night before, two girls appeared, who were peculiar to say the least. I mean I don’t generally like slagging people off, but this was one of them situations. I walked down to ask a question and from my side of the counter you could see – two girls with their faces stuffed in Telepizza, while one watching the tennis game on the computer and the other swaying and singing to some tacky Reggeton music. It was a horrendous site. Something that should be reserved for the privacy of their home.
By this time I was starting to get the feeling that there was probably more than one of these places in Lisbon and the chances of me meeting up with Yael, would be slim. I sent her an email just in case and thought about food. There was no kitchen in this place either. Seriously! Who creates these places that are ‘economical’ when you have to spend money on food.
I muched around some bread and stuff I had stored in my bags improvising. There was a Japanese guy in the room who I got chatting too, his English was far from perfect so in-between some dedicated thought to get the right words out we somehow understood each other. Politics, Religion and Takashi Miike where our choice of conversation. Interesting, such a shame he wasn’t more fluent in English so that I could of actually understood what he was actually trying to say.
Bike packed and ready – I was off to find the place Yael had been staying at to meet up with her. I found the place after getting lost a couple times. Lisbon kind of reminds me what Europe thirty/forty years ago would have felt and looked like or maybe what Brazil might be like. Just a taste that is. The slopey streets that intertwined with each other, the tram that looks as if it hasn’t stopped working in over fifty years. Also there is an awful lot of poverty there. This is very true of all capitals but I think maybe because Lisbon is rather small compared to any other European capital (unless maybe Brussels or some other – but in comparison of the country with capital.) So maybe I think this is just out lashed in a more drastic way and people tend to notice more. I don’t know … speculating here!
She appeared with an open mini sized carton of wine in hand – placed it down and asked if I wanted to leave some of my stuff or my bike where she was staying. I declined kindly – so she went up and rented one! We poured the wine into a small plastic bottle and we where off.
As she already had her day planned, I was just tagging along, not interfering with what was already set out. I didn’t really see Lisbon anyway so some sightseeing, once in a while couldn’t do any wrong.
Talking while being constantly overtaking by stressed cyclists completely suited up as if they were going to run the race of the century. Popping into the touristy places, that were free on Sunday mornings, up until 14:oo – It took me a while to remember after she mentioned that, that of course these places where free! It was a European thing wasn’t it? Not just Portugal.
Everything that was by the river/sea we cycled around snooping into some places, leaving out others. There was a monastery that was also free and a Contemporary Art Gallery, but we had spent way too much time just sitting around letting words blurt out of our mouths to have reached these places in time. The sign ‘Free entry’ had been taken down and now there was a different one raised that stated the entry fee. “Fuck that is where going to pay!” we thought and went in search of some spot to have a little picnic. Bread and tomatoes we’d bought before. Yael had tuna, I had oil and we both had garlic. Oh! Not to forget the wine. The deal was sealed, we sat on a bench in the shade and munched away in the afternoon heat of Lisbon.
Last time I had been in Portugal, I clearly have one long lasting memory – that’s that; any sort of wine drunk in the middle of the day in Portugal will get you tipsy, it doesn’t matter how much you eat.
With a slight off balance due to the wine, we stumbled back onto out bicycles and in search of these apparently famous Belém cakes. I say apparently, because I never heard of them, but okay.
The queue was huge, but they were apparently worth it. She jumped in line while I went in search of a bank, all I had were forty pounds and that was not much use in this country. Of course! The banks had closed at 15:00 on a Sunday. Stupid Spanish custom for everything to close on a Sunday, now causes me to never get used to it.
Went back and she queue stormed by like it never happened – “Coffee!” I said and we headed to a quiet bar, even though quiet was out the question – this was tourist heaven! It didn’t matter, the wine was starting to affect our bladders, we walked into one that was relatively full, ordered two coffee’s, emptied our bladders and realized that these little cakes where indeed amazing! They kind of reminded me of Basque Cake because of the filling. Truly superb. Yael disappeared for a second and got hold of two ‘beer cakes’ they were also selling, but at the bar, not at the official place. We tried them … yeah, okay they were alright, but compared to what we had just tried!! They had nothing on the original ones!
The place she was staying at, only cost a couple Euros more than the Youth hostels and it had a kitchen. She did me the huge favour of paying the night up front and I would give it back the next day once I managed to change these notes.
The place was chique, smooth jazz music playing in the background, open kitchen, dining/living room, huge beds in the bedroom. It was insane! I felt a little out of place in all honesty, but who wouldn’t?
You walk into a place with dressed up people (like not tuxedo style) and I stumble in with my copious luggage looking like a tiger just jumped on it from the road wear. But hey! Who cares right.
They even had a guy –Antonio, that if you wanted, for €10 he would cook you’re meal for you. That thought made me giggle a bit as … how lazy can one get? But in all fairness; the guy was good in the kitchen!
We popped out to get a couple things after we put our heads together and deciphered what we were having for dinner. We had rice, salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, dates. So we were going to get fish (which later turned into chicken) wine and that’s about it.
Taking a stroll up to El Barrio Alto while we’d gone out to get them few things, the city seemed to have changed during the night. The weather was wonderful to just walk with a light coat on, the buildings came to life and even though you may thing you knew where you were in the day light. It was another place at night.
A very curious thing that really shocked me and caused me to think with a baffled face, was while walking up to this part of Lisbon, (obviously it’s called Barrio Alto, because it’s high up – nothing else) Walked past a pretty fancy restaurant in a fancy area, nothing five star, but it was nice. Suddenly two doors down you had a couple tacky sex shops. It just startled me … Imagine that on a classy area in Paris, or London! It would just be outrageous.
We stopped after staring at a sculpture of a man with what seemed like a ticket in his hand, but nothing anywhere that would indicate who he actually was. An old lady waiting for the tram I asked to where this Barrio Alto actually was. Right in front of us she pointed. We ventured in, small uneven roads, that went in all directions completely filled with bars. You could head the accents and they all sounded familiar. Yankees, English, Australian, Germans, Dutch … everything you could imagine. People who had come all the way from wherever where here in these bars, getting drunk on the same beer they would drink back at home with the same people and not really having a care for what surrounded them. If that’s the case … why did you come all this way? Just to get drunk? *shrugs* We walked around the place with a non impressed aura, stepping back onto the streets, the tram road up – the same one Fernando Pessoa used to ride up in to the bar La Brasileira. This was all new to me, but interesting.
Fernando Pessoa was a Portuguese poet, who after reading a bit from – is actually really good!!
We strolled back to the Hostel and prepared to cook some dinner.
Yael from what she’d told me, was no miracle in the kitchen. I wasn’t nothing special but took the reins and said I’ll cook.
Rice with pre-fried garlic, a dash of oil, salt and pepper then our chicken breasts diced up, fried with some more garlic, dates and a reduction made from a glass of red wine. This was not anything fancy, it was something where we used all our ingredients and tasted nice (hopefully) which it did – it was actually really tasty!
The left over rice was stored with a couple left over fried chicken and we’d split it for both of us tomorrow. Where I would leave continuing on south and she would stroll around for her last day in Portugal.
The night continued over the bottle of wine with dinner then over a little bit of weed after and continued into the early hours in the morning.
I had a rather distant outlook on Lisbon for whatever reason when first arriving. But after spending a day doing tourism with an Argentinean tourist. I must say that I really enjoyed the city. It has a special ring to it that many – specially – capitals now a day’s lack in a complete sense.
After a wonderful night’s sleep, waking up having a lovely shower and some nice breakfast. I was heading out – of course – this sometimes turns into a more difficult situation that one may seem.
While on the computer, checking a few things. A guy, who was also in the room we was in walks in and asks if the computer’s being used. I let him use the one I was one as I wasn’t actually using it.
The day before I had crossed paths with him and with a ‘Hello’ instantly knew he was English. He sat down and we started yapping away. Before I’d realized he was pulling out whiskey shots. I had to pull myself away (after a couple whiskeys of course) as it was nearly 13:00 and I had to cycle.
That is another story now. Which will be told on a later date :)
This post has been extremely hard and excruciatingly, painful, stimulating and enjoyably frustrating – so it may be all over the place. Also the writing may vary, the location to where it was written influences me a lot. A library for example is all silent and non-smoking (this infuriates me, also making my patience lack, then again; also making me nervous) Where, writing from the peacefulness of my tent, in my solitude with maybe a few joints or alcohol, cigarette constantly in hand, makes me feel and remember that moment more at ease. So be patience. Actually I think I write better stoned, then again – You be the judge of that.