Today 7 years ago tragedy struck the capital. The day before London had been announced as the winner of the 2012 summer Olympics. When I moved here in September 2008 the bombings were still in my mind. I wasn’t scared of being in London (if I was I wouldn’t have come) but riding the tube did make me feel a bit anxious.
One of my first memories of the tube was riding the escalator out of Kings Cross, looking around and thinking that something here was amiss. There was damage everywhere. It didn’t click for me, not until months later when I went to the Museum of London and came across a Book of Tributes. As I flipped through I read about the events of 7/7/2005. I read about the 52 people who died that day and the 700 injured.
In the run up to the anniversary this week there was…
I couldn’t get the money. (Here’s why if you didn’t catch the first part.) It was already late afternoon, so I asked the lady about Western Union’s hours and she said that closing time was 19:00 (7 p.m.). Since I didn’t have any cash, I’d have to find a way to the hotel (long walk), get the passport, figure out how to return to the plaza (probably another long walk again) and get the cash… if the office wasn’t closed by the time I returned. I was so annoyed that I decided to leave well enough alone. I thanked the lady for her help and, frustrated & dejected, left the building.
I called the group organizer, told him what happened, and he told me to get a taxi to the next place. It didn’t take long and upon arriving, he paid for the taxi, adding it to my ongoing tab. 😐 Some of the members seemed quite amused at my expense (2 middle fingers forever reserved for them) and I stayed away from them instead of saying something that I’d regret. They weren’t worth my time or energy anyway. A couple of others were sympathetic, offering help until I got things sorted out.
A few members who only traveled to get drunk & a tanhad the nerve to be amused by my situation were tired decided to return to the hotel. The rest of us walked to the top of Edward VII Park. That was one hell of a walk, as it’s situated on a hill.
Afterwards, we walked to the metro station and headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.
Dinner was at a restaurant in a nearby neighborhood, a 10-15 minute taxi ride from the hotel. I forgot the name of the restaurant, but here’s my food.
The sausages – my appetizer – had the texture of black pudding, so it put me off. The apples were good though.
Now that was delicious.
When the bill came, I planned to use one of my credit cards since I couldn’t get my cash. But a few group members suggested that I use my card so that they could give me cash – enough to hold me until I returned to Western Union. I was hesitant at first but decided to try, and sure enough, my card worked. Having the cash took a huge load off of my shoulders. I felt better, like less of a burden on everyone, especially the group leader, who’d been helping me out since my arrival.
We left the restaurant and most of us didn’t feel like heading home just yet (one member didn’t even eat with us; he explored Lisbon on his own). We happened upon a small bar around the corner from the restaurant, and even though there were only 5 or 6 people inside as the night was still young, we decided to go inside. Some of us sat down, while the members who only traveled to get drunk & a tan the others went straight to the counter for drinks. Then, those of us who were sitting down smelled heavy cigarette smoke. I can’t stand the smell of cigarettes so that, coupled with a few of us getting a strange vibe from the bar, led us to decide that it was time to leave. 4 of us (including my roommate) left, while the group leader and the members who only traveled to get drunk & a tan the others stayed behind.
We caught a taxi back to the hotel and, on the way there, decided that we wanted to wind down for the night by heading to the hotel rooftop. But since it was a bit chilly that night, we went to the hotel bar inside instead. Here’s my drink.
Roommate & another young lady – who I’ll refer to as Uzi from now on – also had hot chocolate, while the Italian (male) had a beer. We relaxed & chatted a bit, then took exhausted bodies to our respective rooms. The others clearly enjoyed themselves because they still hadn’t returned by the time we finished. Tomorrow was a new day and a new trip, and a few of those who stayed out drinking would regret it the next morning.
(If you haven’t already, check out Lisbon day 1 before reading further.)
I woke up in the morning and my roommate was already gone. I’m glad that we switched roommates because she was quiet as a mouse, while I found out later that the woman who would’ve been my roommate… wasn’t. The group leader told everyone last night that the group founder’s friend, a Lisbon native, would be at the hotel at 10:00 a.m. to take us around for city tour. It was optional of course, but I wanted to go. Roommate went early for breakfast; I woke up with enough time to wash up & get dressed.
Along with waking up with a headache, I was still kinda down because of the money issue but my aunt was wiring me the money in a few hours so deep down, I knew that everything would be alright. Group leader said not to worry about money, just come with the group. I went into the bathroom and began getting ready. I did a quick wash up and brushed my teeth. I took a step and
somehow or another, slipped and busted my ass.
Thank goodness I didn’t hit my head or spine, but it wasn’t a pleasant fall. Marble bathroom floor + a bit of accidentally splashed water = disaster. I felt pain in the muscles between my left shoulder and neck.
I was thoroughly annoyed and, as a result, decided to meet the group for lunch instead. (Maybe I’ll laugh at the fall one day, who knows.) I sent the group leader a few texts and told him I’d see everyone later. I was already dressed, so I only had to put on my sneakers and leave when they were ready to eat. I turned on the TV, glad for a couple of extra hours to myself, and laid back down on the bed.
I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until close to 14:00 (2 p.m.). 😐
I checked my phone and saw that the group leader sent me a text at around noon to let me know about lunch. Quite annoying & embarrassing again. I sent him a text apologizing because I didn’t expect to fall asleep. He returned to the hotel in a cab & met me in front of the hotel, then we went to the city center to meet the rest of the group. Some of them were sitting outside of the city’s cathedral, Lisbon Cathedral, while others were taking photos nearby. I did a quick walk through the cathedral, taking some photos.
We then walked to a castle. Before we walked in to wait on line, we happened upon a street musician named Bubacar.
As we walked away from him, the woman who would’ve been my roommate said
You should have gotten his number. He’s a nice looking man. Wouldn’t it be great to make a love connection on this trip? *wink*
Yeah… No. While I didn’t disagree with her about him being a nice looking man, I think that she just wanted to play matchmaker because Bubacar has dreads like me and because he initially thought that I was Rasta. Sorry lady… 2 dread-heads don’t = instant love connection. I politely declined her bootleg matchmaking offer.
Only a few of us from the group wanted to see & go inside the castle, so we left the pansies who only traveled to get drunk & a tan the others outside waiting for us while we explored the grounds.
The rest of the group (except for 1 other member) finished a few minutes ahead of me while I took photo after photo. As I made my way out to meet the rest of them, I happened upon
I found out that there’s an extensive garden further back on the castle grounds, where peacocks & peahens & other feathered friends – ducks & geese – wander around freely. I wish that I knew about it before leaving the castle, but at least I got a few priceless photos & video for memories’ sake.
We headed back to Lisbon city centre, where I asked around for the nearest Western Union to get my cash. I found one… but of course the computer was down because it’s just my luck for some reason, so the representative directed me across the city plaza to the next one, which was bigger and had working computers & multilingual representatives. I made the quick walk over & waited on line, happy to finally get some money. I spoke in Spanish, showed the representative my driver’s license and she said in Spanish
Sorry, but we don’t accept this. I’ll need your passport.
I didn’t have my passport. Why, you ask? It was in the hotel room safe; a few people told us that we didn’t need to carry our passports around.
This was the day. I’d been excited about it for a while. I don’t know about any of you, but when a trip is coming up, I don’t get excited about it until the last minute. I might have fleeting moments of excitement in the days or weeks beforehand, but the excitement always grows at the last minute. It’s surreal – I know that I’m going somewhere but it doesn’t feel real until I land in my destination.
I made sure to get enough sleep to manage the trip on public transportation the next morning. I didn’t feel like paying for a cab this time around, at least for the trip to the airport. It went well overall; it took 90 minutes to get there, which isn’t too bad for a major world airport like Heathrowand on a holiday weekend. The only thing that annoyed the hell out of me was the price for the Heathrow Express – £19.00 one way.
I got to the airport before the rest of the group. Oh, I forgot to mention the group…
I joined Meetup about 3 months ago as a way to get out a bit more, as a challenge to myself for 2012 and beyond. (I may write a post or two about how that’s going in the future.) Among other things, I looked for traveler groups and sure enough, I found one that caught my eye: Solo Travelers. As someone who likes traveling solo, this group and its description sounded perfect. This group already planned its 2012 trips, and while I’d love to go on each one of their trips, I’m not rich. But there were a few that appealed to me, and Lisbon caught my eye first – affordable, 2 hour plane ride, long weekend (I hate very short trips). A few days after joining the group, I paid a deposit and secured my spot. While I prefer traveling solo, traveling with other solo travelers made sense to me for a couple of reasons:
1. While we arrived & departed together from each airport, staying together was optional. If we didn’t vibe together, or wanted to do our own things, we could always split up.
2. This was another way to challenge myself to more & make new potential connections.
So there you have it – I traveled with other solo travelers. How did that go, you ask? Stay tuned.
The group went to the wrong gate because of a mix-up, so the group leader sent a text message on my way to the airport and I met the group at the correct gate instead. They arrived 10 minutes later, and the group leader introduced himself & the other group members. We checked in, got our boarding passes & went through security together, but split up until we got on the plane. While we were split up, I tried getting some cash out of my account, but the ATM declined my card . No sweat, though… I’d try when we arrived, and at least I had enough elsewhere.
I should have sat next to a group member, with whom my intuition sensed good vibes, but she was gracious enough to allow a couple to sit together. That was very nice of her… but not for me because the woman in the couple was so annoying that I wanted to punch her in her jackass face & throat. 😐 Lucky for me that I usually fall asleep on flights because I slept for at least half of the flight… which meant that she annoyed me only half as much as she would have if I was awake for the full flight.
When we landed, it was a nice surprise to disembark to nice weather since the weather authority predicted rain in Lisbon for most of the weekend.
Before we took our taxis to the hotel, I told the group leader about my ATM issue and he said “No problem, I’ll cover you until you get access to your account. These things happen.” Quite embarrassed – it’s my issue and I take ownership of it – but relieved that it wouldn’t be a huge issue. Our hotel was a short distance from the airport, and the taxi fare was pretty cheap for European standards – well less than €10.00 for each taxi.
We arrived at the hotel, and I was quite impressed. I should have shared a room with an older British woman, but she must have made a good connection with another group member because upon hotel check-in, she said that I was sharing with someone else instead. (That turned out to be a good thing. Stay tuned.) New roommate & I went to our hotel room; were we impressed again. I forgot to take a photo of the outside & our room, but check out the view from our window:
We settled in, chose our beds, got some help with our TV & internet settings from hotel staff, and relaxed (except for contacting my U.S. bank) until it was time for dinner. For the first night, we all dined together. We weren’t sure where to eat, but at least there were options within walking distance of the hotel. We walked a bit and I spotted an ATM – perfect time to give the group leader his money back. I inserted my card, figuring that there was something wrong with the ATM at Heathrow since the bank didn’t see anything wrong with my card during our phone call.
Of course it was my card. Cash machines in Portugal are pretty damn good because unlike at Heathrow, the ATM flashed the following words on the screen:
Your ATM card has expired.
Sure enough, I checked the card and it’d expired 6 days before the trip. I was even more embarrassed. I told the group leader and he was fine with it. He asked if I was alright for dinner and I assured him that I was. Unlike a few years ago, I didn’t throw a temper tantrum or cry or hide away in my room for the night. I just kept calm and thought about what to do next.
We decided on a restaurant across the street from the hotel; unlike a few of the other restaurants in the vicinity, this one was more affordable and there were locals eating there, which signaled to us that the food was probably decent.
Since my money was funny, I ate within my budget.
It was very good – no need for condiments or seasonings, it tasted good as shown in the photo. The restaurant specializes in seafood, though.
Some of the group members liked their food, while others could have taken or left it. The main complaint for those who could have taken or left it – the food was too oily. Thank goodness that mine was good.
We stayed for 2-3 hours, and some of us were tired so we went back to the hotel afterwards to get some rest for the next day. I called my family to tell them about the money situation, and my aunt said that she’d wire money the next afternoon. That was fine with me, as I wouldn’t be spending much money anyway, even after getting her money. It was quite annoying to know that I had money that was inaccessible, but it wasn’t worth turning the trip into doom & gloom. Thank goodness for age, wisdom, growth, and back-up plans. New roommate & I chatted a bit, then watched some TV and settled in for the night.
I’ve discussed something along these lines in my post 10 Things I Hate About You because one of my pet peeves about this country (or, at least, where I reside in this country) is the rudeness of the people. What I didn’t add to that post (but should have as a bonus) is the lack of chivalry. Most people think of Britons as proper, polite, & posh, but that hasn’t always been my experience. I can’t count the amount of times that I’ve offered my seat to an elderly person on public transportation while no man blinked an eye, or the times that I’ve helped an elderly person carry something while no man blinked an eye, or the times that a pregnant woman needed help or a seat and no man blinked an eye. I’ve seen women help way more often than men.
But maybe this blogger is on to something. Maybe “society making people accountable for their actions is dead.” What do you think? Is chivalry dead in your part of the world? If so, on what do you blame its death? If chivalry isn’t dead in your part of the world, where the hell do you live so that I can move there? 😐
In less-developed nations, some people ride with live animals on certain modes of transportation. Transportation in these countries is already tricky because of overcrowding with people sometimes sitting on top of each other, so if you add a few chickens to the mix, public transportation is one hell of a ride in these countries too.
Coming from a major city, and having been to a few different countries ranging from extremely wealthy with efficient modes of transportation to less-developed with a van that comes on time if you’re lucky, I’ve seen & experienced a range of interesting rides. So it wasn’t too much of a surprise to see some ridiculous shit interesting stuff on public transportation over here. Here are a few examples:
– A man got on the bus with his pit-bull. It wasn’t a service dog; it was just a man with no disabilities bringing his pet pit-bull on the bus with no objections from the bus driver. He was nonchalant about it and (thankfully) had it on a leash, but I wasn’t too happy about them sitting across from me. It was a crowded bus so I couldn’t move elsewhere. 😐
– A man got on the bus and began drinking alcohol & smoking marijuana; a few passengers moved away, including me, and I reported him to the bus driver and he got off 2 stops later. That’s right – I snitch.
– One man in a nearby neighborhood is notorious for getting on a certain bus or buses drunk, first thing in the morning, during daily rush hour. Luckily, I’ve only been graced with his presence once. He likes talking about Babylon & Jamaica, and he loves cursing in front of young children on the way to school.
– Yet another man got on the bus with his young daughter… and drank a big can of beer.
– A man was being verbally aggressive on a bus one weekend as I was heading to my friends’ house. The bus driver refused to move from the bus stop until or unless the man got off of the bus, which is understandable because there are plenty of signs that explicitly state that any form of abuse against public transportation workers is not tolerated. I got annoyed along with a few other people, told the man I had somewhere to be at a certain time, and to either pay the fare & leave the driver alone or get off of the bus because he was inconveniencing everyone. After extra uproar from other passengers, he finally got off. (Jerk.)
– The singing bus driver during morning rush hour. He was hysterical. He sang old-time gospel songs with an operatic voice. I was on his bus twice. At the end of the route, the passengers gave him a round of applause. I laughed my ass off. (I don’t even speak in the morning, so he had to be hilarious for me to laugh that early.)
– The children. Ahhhh yes, the wonderful cherubs. The screaming babies & crying toddlers in their gargantuan carriages [better known as pram(s)], and temper-tantrum-throwing children are an absolute delight during morning & evening rush hour.
– A former expatriate & friend of mine, who was studying here but has now repatriated, got into a physical fight with a drunk woman on the bus. The drunken dame heard her accent, asked her where she was from and upon hearing the answer, began name calling & cursing. In spite of this, my friend was calm and tried staying away from Dame Drunk-A-Lot. Dame Drunk-A-Lot kept it up, along with purposely stepping on her foot 3 times… and after the 3rd time, my friend slapped her in the face.
What are your colorful stories in your part of the world? If you’re an expatriate, what are some differences that you’ve noticed between public transportation in your home country and your current country? Do you have public transportation stories and if so, are they more colorful in your home country or your current country, or are the stories just as colorful in different countries?
I receive lots of travel e-newsletters & have many blogs in my reader. They inspire me to travel the world (or at least imagine doing it), help me refrain from moving back home, and give me ideas about things to do in my neck of the woods. One of the e-newsletters that I receive is Time Out, a great resource worldwide for things to do in some major cities across the planet. Prior to the riots, I received my usual Time Out e-newsletter and a free walking tour caught my eye. A few words stuck out:
Those words, to me, meant that this was a different way to see the area – not your typical (double-decker) bus tour with a bunch of annoying loud American (or insert other country here) tourists and a tour guide holding a megaphone while reciting the typical boring basic (insert any city here) facts. Most importantly, this is free. In a world where the rich get richer and the rest of us get poorer every day, anything free is a godsend. And finally, I like learning about places on an intimate level. I appreciate the good, bad & ugly about places: history, culture, architecture, art, future urban planning, and quirky facts that most others aren’t interested in and/or won’t know.
So I looked at the website listed in the e-newsletter and contacted the person (or people) who run the tours. After a few snafus that were out of my control, I finally got a chance to take the tour. Luckily for me (and you), the tour occurs year-round.
I’m glad to say that I enjoyed myself and wrote a TripAdvisor review about it. Check it out in the link above, as well as a few of the many pictures that I took during the tour below.
If you want a down-to-earth, unpretentious, interesting & (maybe) fun way to explore just one area of this large metropolis, take this tour and my word for it. Enjoy.