Lisbon, Day 1.
So, what's the first thing one does with vast quantities of relatively unrestrained freedom?
Why, one goes to buy socks, of course. (In all the haste and chaos and confusion, it turns out I had forgotten to pack them). ;)
Anyway, the worst hours for jetlag are between 8 and 10 in the morning, which correspond to 12 to 2 a.m. in California. This is precisely when breakfast at the Youth Hostel is being served. Now, if you consider that not having slept much for 2 straight days was of no help in preventing me from waking up wide-eyed at Lisbon's 2 a.m. and remaining so 'till 6:30, well, then you'd appreciate the enormous sacrifice it took for me to tumble all zombie-like to the breakfast table at 9:30.
Breakfast wasn't all that bad though, since while not unexpectedly rather skimpy and with some pineapple juice that needed the correction of 2 packets of sugar, I enjoyed a pleasant conversation with my next-door table neighbor, a woman from Hamburg, who patiently suffered through my very enthusiastic but quite horrible grammar-mistake-ladden German. As it turns out, this girl had previously biked the Vienna-Budapest Danube bike route, in my plans for late July/August, and told me all about the 3 days of plains and 2 days of easy hills I had to look forward to.
After breakfast I took a brief stroll in the YH surroundings. The recoinossance mission was quite useful for I quickly discovered a cheap internet cafe, several mobile phone stores, and a chinese-owned cheap miscellaneous shop selling everything from coats to alarm clocks and cookware sets.
This, however, was not good enough to cure the jetlag, unfortunately, so at this point I decided to honor subsumption rule #3 and take a 1.5 hour nap upon arriving back at the hostel, which was good, because by mid-afternoon I was all refreshed, clean, and shiny from a newly-minted shower, so I took a leisurely stroll down to Baixa, one of Lisbon's downtown neighborhoods. Lisbon is very much like almost any big city, a bit reminiscent of Zurich, or Boston, Mexico City at some points, or even Morocco's Fez, but with the rather obvious difference in the last two cases that Lisbon is a bit more "european". Which is of course a polite and rather euphemistic way to of saying that the city is rather obviously economically richer, and overall cleaner and very well maintained, for the most part. Still, this doesn't prevent the Portuguese from driving just like Mexico City taxis, pedestrian ignoring and obnoxious ineffective horn tooting included.
Oh, by the way, did you know that the Portuguese drive on the left side of the road? No? Well, I didn't either. But believe me I learned that pretty quickly after a near miss during my very first crossing of a busy intersection. :)
Anyway, for pictures of my afternoon Baixa and Bairro Alto wanderings, take a look here (uploading from the internet cafes is excruciatingly painful, so you might not yet get a complete set until later when I finish all the uploads...). And if you'd like to listen to some of the sounds of the city, take a look at the mini-movie here (and please excuse my accent. I've noticed it's become a lot thicker in English the more I converse with foreigners. Bad habit I'll have to try to consciously correct).
As you'll notice from the frequency of the type of pictures, you can see that I was quite taken with the windows of Bairro Alto. Could come straight from a calendar, huh? If you have PhotoShop or similar, may I suggest you take a look at some of them in black and white, they look rather nice that way. Anyway, I very much enjoyed my aimless meanderings along Barrio Alto: I had promptly ditched the map soon after arriving to Baixa, a bit on purpose, you see, because the map doesn't tell you, for instance, about the very exciting and doubtless quite artistic movie: Las Vampiras Lesbas do Sodoma, now playing at the corner theater near you, and other such treasures, like nice little restaurants along the hidden criss-crossing staircases, or the fortuitiously located (for it was right along the route of my drifting walkabout, as it happens) sock shop (yup, exclusively dedicated to socks. You just go up and say: "10 pairs of pink and red socks, please", and they serve you, like at a butcher's shop or something! Cool, huh?). There I finally bought 5 pairs, and which, although a bit more expensive than the Donald Duck patterned pair I was forced to buy in the morning at the supermarket, were at least all white, the way they should be. ;)