Tram Traumas

Breakfast again this morning was in the Hotels breakfast room and as I was a little earlier today I was hopeful that there might be a better choice on offer than yesterday! I was right! There were croissants. They were lousy croissants. The coffee was (if anything) worse than yesterday? Or maybe it WAS yesterday’s! Anyhow, I vowed not to waste my time with this again and to seek out somewhere better tomorrow. 

By 10am I was out in search of the “legendary” Tram 28 of Lisboa. This tram is the one in all the guide books that as well as being highly recommended as a perfect way to see the city in one Round trip is also renowned For,attracting the Cities finest pickpockets! So I went prepared and left with nothing at all in my pockets apart from my Viagem Oyster Card thing and a few lose coins – pretty small pickings for any potential pickpocket I’d say! The tram went from the next square to the left of my hotel (there’s so many squares in Lisbon !) and I soon found the stop – mainly because it was the one with the queue that snaked half way round the square! I joined this happy throng and waited for the trams arrival, and waited …….and waited……….and waited some more! One of the things that I think happens when you travel alone is that you learn stuff about yourself that maybe gets hidden when others  are around. And one thing I was learning pretty damn quick in the heat of Lisbon was that I was just a tiny bit impatient and intolerant of queues! Not very typically British I hear you say but actually I am probably more tolerant in the rain and cold of Britain than I am in the 35 degree heat of this place! Anyway the long and short of all this was that I decided the queue was not for me and I should therefore go in search of a suitable alternative to the good old No. 28 Tram. Those rampant pickpockets will just have to wait a little longer! 

So I ended unit a different Tram stop much closer to my hotel and much less busy as well. The Number 12 Tram was another little old fashioned 1 Carriage tram that ran a 20 minute round trip up to the castle and back – ideal for a fun journey and getting my bearings I thought. And indeed it was. I nabbed a single seat with a nice open windo to lean out of and enjoyed the short ride around the old town and castle. I resisted the temptation to get off at the castle but made a mental not to return as it looked particularly nice up there. We were soon back where we started and I was unceremoniously booted off the Number 12 tram! I then took the opportunity to have a walk around the local area and ended up at the Santa Justa Lift which is another big tourist attraction in the area and looks a lot like this………

Now that’s what I call a lift ! Although which bit of it is actually a lift I couldn’t tell you at this point as I haven’t actually been in it yet! Yes, there was a queue! I did join it briefly but it was long and it was hot and it didn’t move in all the time I was there ! I left! I’m hoping to go back this evening when it’s hopefully a bit quieter. I’m probably going to be disappointed! 

Anyway after this brief stop I decided a coffee was in order and when I passed a little local pastry shop with a window like THIS………..

Well the decision was an easy one! It was busy inside with locals ordering cakes and coffee ,mainly at the counter where I guess it was cheaper, but I sat down with all the more affluent locals and ordered coffee and an apple pastry I had spied in the window………..

And believe me it was as good as it looks! And it was large! And it was my lunch.

After another good walk round the local area enjoying the sunshine and sights I retired to my hotel room for a bit of a rest and cool,down before I embarked on day 2 of Nos Alive and “Operation Radiohead” as I had called it. This was my plan to be near the front for Radiohead as last time I saw them  (in Berlin believe it or not!) I had been forced to watch from afar for a good part of their set due to being on my own and drinking beer and the obvious side effects of that! This time I would have a Plan and be prepared! It would involve a long wait and no drinking of beer but would hopefully be worth it! Now there are people who would say that this would spoil the whole evening and they may very very well be right but for me ( and this is another learning point about myself!) the music always comes first and a good view and sound is almost always the most important thing. 

So off I went to put “Operation Radiohead” into action……………


Nos Alive Day 1

Thursday July 7th 

The journey down to Alges involved a Metro from my hotel to Case Sodre on the coast and then a train to Alges which is just 2 stops along the coastal railway line. This sounds simple but the good folks of Nos Alive seemed intent on making it as difficult as possible with no extra trains laid on for the 60,000 punters expected at the festival. So just the one train of five  carriages every half hour then! I thought I’d struck lucky when I arrived to find a train waiting , but no this was not that lucky as I had to stand up in a crowded train in 35 degree heat for 15 minutes whilst we water for even more people to cram into the carriage before setting off! 

I eventually arrived at the Festival site after a protracted journey and a good 20 minute walk at the other end and immediately embarked on a good recccy of the site. It was pretty big I guess although I’ve got very little to compare it with really having never been to a “proper” festival before. Dot to Dot in Nottingham isn’t really “proper” as its indoors and bereft of things such as rip off food stalls, corporate advertising stands and tents! So here I was then – my first proper festival! And it was pretty much as horrific as I’d imagined with lost of trendy young things drinking far too much lager far too early in the day and sitting in the 35 degree heat as if it was a sunny afternoon in Inverness! I had arrived failed early and the site was not that busy yet but I wasn’t too bothered about the  bands on the bill today so was just intending on wandering and seeing what happened. I decided to look for something to eat amongst the hundreds of food stalls and was accosted by a charming young lady offering me sweet potato fries. They were rather nice and I was enticed to her stall to buy some alongside her recommendation of a Pichana sandwich. I walked away and found a bench to sit on and investigate what I had just paid the princely sum of €9 for. Turns out I’d got a kind of dry muffin with 3 slices of roast beef and a bag of the sweet potato fries so well advertised by the lady earlier! It’s a good job she was handing out the fries is all I can say because if she had been handing out the tough old beef then I’d guess the stall would not have been half as busy as it was (and it wasn’t very busy at all!).

Anyway, after this I decided to see what was happening on the main stage and on the way stopped off at the “Dance Stage” to witness a certain Mr Bob Moses who appeared to have failed in his attempt to attract he sort of numbers his Biblical counterpart had managed! Here he is though  in all his glory…..

The main stage was conversely quite crowed but I managed to sneak up around the outside and secure a very good view in what is becoming my traditional right hands front barrier position! On stage were a number of Scottish Gentlemen sporting bare chests and tattoos going but the name of Biffy Clyro who were going down a storm with the assembled crowd. I wasn’t at all sure why this was but I persevered and came a cross a couple of tunes that were almost listenable. Next in the main stage was Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters and seeing as I’d secured a fairly good vantage point I decided to stick around and see what the ex Led Zep singer had to offer. So after a 45 minute wait I was disappointed to discover that the answer to this question was – precious little! I endured 3 songs of his howling and wailing and walked off in disgust. I’m sure he likes his “new direction” but I can’t help feeling that for everyone’s  sake he should just get hold of the remaining members of Zeppelin, bang their heads together and demand that they have one last throw of the dice and play some decent music for us all again? It wouldn’t hurt would it ? And it would certainly stop us all having to pretend that whatever his current project happens to be ,it is perfectly valid and he has earned his right to do this all night long! And we just have to suffer it! Here he is though (the boring old fart!) …………

So I left Robert and went in search of something a bit more lively and entertaining. I passed by the Heineken Stage and was pleased to see that Wolf Alice were next on so went in search of a place to wait for this. You guessed it I ended up front right barrier yet again so I sat down and waited for their set to start. And start it did ,after about half an hour at 10.15. And they were actually very good indeed and were very popular with the crowd there ,which was huge. And this is Wolf Alice (or part of them!) …….

I actually think that Robert Plant looks more like a Wolf than Alice but then what do I know!

After this I had pretty much decided enough was enough for one night and although there were bands playing until as late as 4 am I decided that none of them really warranted my staying any longer. On the way out I stopped at the Main Stage again to watch a bit of The Pixies set but I was too far away and the sound was pretty poor so I made a mental note for tomorrow night and left by the nearest exit.

The journey back was pretty horrific but as I’d left relatively early it wasn’t half as bad as it might have been as the next two night were to prove conclusively! 

Funiculars and Festival Firsts…..

Thursday July 7th 

After a relatively undisturbed night I awoke to the sound of activity in the Square outside my window. It was dark and I was too tired last night to bother much about the view from my room but it was a pleasant surprise to pull back the shutters and see this…….

What a charming lamp! 

The square is called Praca Da Figueira and my hotel is named after it! Handily its smack in the middle of the City and Rossio Metro is just under my window so not far to walk then! 

Anyway after a bit of breakfast in the hotels tiny dining room, I decided to go out in search of a proper cup of coffee! 

It was actually very nice coffee ,and not a bearded hipster in sight (behind the counter anyway!). I sat for quite a while and enjoyed the comings and goings whilst searching for things to do nearby. After a while studying the map I realised I was quite close to the Hotel where Jayne and I stayed last time I was here so what better place to start than there… The Hotel Britania. Looks pretty unexciting really but it’s still number one on Trip Advisor although it’s prices have rocketed up to reflect that factThe hotel is situated just off the Avenue de Liberdade which is the main Avenue running through the centre of Lisbon and home to all the big designer shops,si I took a stroll along here and ended up at the Elevador da Gloria – Gloria’s Funicular railway basically……

This was the inside of the carriage as I got on after a 5 minute wait. The funicular is not the longest journey I’ve ever made and if you happened to doze off for a couple of minutes whilst waiting for the thing to actually depart (15 minutes after boarding for me!) Then you would miss all the action! It’s an exciting journey however and climbs a very steep hill up to the Old Town , which can only be a good think eyes! I did a video of this and here it is (hopefully!)

Once at the top of this transport of delight I was hoping to visit a little Jesuit Church I had read about but rather inconveniently the old Jesuits were in the middle of a Service and so my entry was barred! What a liberty! They’ve obviously got no idea about commercial opportunity those Jesuits! Faced with this let down I wandered through an entrance festooned with banners and posters just next door to the Church and got as far as the entrance to what I imagined was a museum of some sort only to be sharply rebuked and turned away by an armed guard! He then got on his radio to give the girl on the front desk (who had let me wander in through!) A jolly good dressing down! He then led me back past her to the front door and with a glance at her with severely raised eyebrows he threw me back out where I clearly belong! I enquired at this point what it was I had wandered into and was told it was the draw for their National Lottery or something like that! What a load of balls!

I wandered the streets round here heading towards the sea front back down the hill in the other direction and finally reached my destination for lunch – The Mercado Ribiera ,kindly sponsored by Time Out magazine. I had read a lot about this place and was pleased to see it was pretty much as described – a big old market hall full of all sorts of different food stalls from which you can order your meal and then sit wherever you choose.Ideal for the lone diner! I walked around the whole place and of course ended up at the first place I’d seen – a very nice little fishy counter which seemed quite popular. I found a seat at the counter and placed my order for tuna and sweet potato fries.As tends to happen in these situations, I soon got talking to the lady next to me as we compared notes on our different choices. Turned out that Mary was in Lisbon at a conference about something to do with poetry I think and was contemplating the afternoons “workshop” on something g to do with Angola!! Her friend was apparently heavily involved in this and she felt duty bound to attend. She is obviously quit leaving some friend! Anyway she was an interesting person and we spent a very pleasant half hour discussing the merits of our very different home towns. She was from Brooklyn New York and was most impressed with my tales of old Grantham Town!! I began to feel like I was in an episode of “Friends” as she talked about Brooklyn and her problems with purchasing ” real estate”!

After a while Mary the New Yorker rushed off to her Angolan Poetry workshop in downtown Lisbon, and excitingly I had a Chocolate Ice cream! She didn’t even have the common courtesy to invite me along! 

So after my very pleasant I’ve cream I caught the metro back to Rossio and cooled down and rested back at my hotel before an early start for the evenings festivities at Nos Alive. 

Gareth Bale’s Wales and Luis’ Uber Fails!

Wednesday July 6th 2016

Well Here we are again! Another little blog and another trip into the unknown (in more ways than one it turns out!). This time however I am actually travelling alone which means things will probably get seriously strange owing to my propensity to attract weird strangers!

The main reason for this trip is of course to attend a Music Festival (Nos Alive) here in Lisbon. This is not something I have entered into lightly, having always vowed never to attend such an event EVER! This still holds for the UK if there’s actually anything left of that particular little Union by this time next year! However I have made a notable exception “Nos” as it is (a) Not in a field (b) unlikely to attract many “modern parents” with screaming kids in tow and (c) features 2 of my very favourite Bands, Radiohead and of course the best live Band in the history of music (no arguments please!) – Arcade Fire!

Here is the line up (this is for me really, when I look back on this in years to come – so please bear with me!)

Not a bad line up I think you’ll agree? I mean who in their right mind could resist the delights of “Bob Moses”, “E Sam the Kid” and “Jim Dungo” – household names one and all! You heard it here first folks!

Anyway back to business and yesterday’s fun and frolics!

My journey down started at Grantham Station at 3pm and ended in Lisbon at midnight. In between these times there was a fair bit of sitting about waiting punctuated occasionally by some travelling in a forward direction ( usually anyway – but more of that later!). The train to  London was nice and I had forgotten that being a mid afternoon weekday train and relatively cheap, I had booked myself a 1st Class seat which was all rather splendid and meant I availed myself of the facilities on offer and ordered a “Craft Beer”! I know it was “Craft” because it said so on the label , even though it also said that it was made by Marstons  Brewery in Burton on Trent – very Crafty! I was also offered a chicken curry which I though was a little odd at 3.15 in the afternoon and I politely declined! I did however ask if ghee were any “craft” crisps to go with my beer and the nice lady promptly went off in search of some. When she came back she was sadly lacking in the crisp department but instead gave me a slice of cake wrapped in a napkin! I think she must have thought it was my birthday! Or had someone further up in 1st Class just got married? Who knows really but it was all a bit odd!

Once at Kings Cross I then had to contend with the delights of the Piccadilly Line across London to Heathrow Airport and contend I did! My new suitcase (bought just before this trip and used here for the first time) was one of those new fangled things that you see super cool people pushing around London by their sides on all four wheels. I’ve never really understood the attraction of these and can’t really see what’s wrong with dragging the thing on 2 wheels but hey -I’m nothing if not adventurous and thought I’d join these super cool dudes! Well it’s all very fine and dandy when you’re casually walking through tube stations looking cool as an absolute ice box with your fancy new bag, BUT when you get on a tube train and leave the thing by the door whilst you get yourself a seat and the next thing you see is your suitcase wheeling itself down through the carriage – well the resultant panic is an awful long way from Cool! Is it me or is this not a very basic design fault? I’ve since examined the thing for wheel locks or a braking mechanism but there is nothing to be seen! So what you  actually have to do is sit with the thing clasped between your thighs all the way from Kings Cross to Heathrow (51 minutes fact fans!) in order to stop the stupid thing clattering through the carriages taking everyone and everything in its wake! Ridiculous!
The only other thing of note that happened on this never ending journey underground was that I decided upon a new piece of legislation they ought to introduce when allowing people to enter the UK! Now I’m all in favour of free movement and open borders and I voted “remain” like all right thinking people BUT instead of having to prove a command of the English Language or a knowledge of British culture what I actually think these lovely people should have to do is prove their knowledge of and  ability to operate a simple can of anti- perspirant! I say this because I had the misfortune to sit next to a very charming foreign lady who would quite frankly have failed this test on both counts! Enough said I think – but what with my runaway suitcase and this to contend with ,I was rather glad to see the back of this particular part of the journey!

And so to Terminal 3 Heathrow. I was early to be honest and had around 3 hours to wait until my flight so I searched for the quietest looking restaurant to hide in and escape! This turned out to be a place called Oriel (or something like that) and didn’t really seem to have decided what it specialised in ,so I opted for a “Full English” on the basis that it was about the same price as a bowl of French Onion Soup and would probably do me just fine. I sat next to a young businessman who seemed to be trying to break some sort of speed record for ordering, consuming and paying for a meal! He too had opted for the Full English and although he ordered his well after me, his arrived first! They must have known!

I meanwhile decided to watch Andy Murray’s Wimbledon Quarter Final on my iPad and As per usual, having gone 2 sets up, he was now beginning to struggle! I finished my meal,found somewhere comfy to sit and continued to watch him lose game after game and by the time I was at the Departure Gate he was just about to lose the fourth set to make it 2 sets all! Meanwhile on the TV at the Departure Gate the Welsh football team were marching out to play in the Euro 2016 semi final against (yes you guessed!) – Portugal! Yes it was 8pm and I was about to miss the climax of not one but two major sporting occasions involving British hopefuls! Typical! We were called to board the flight just as Wales kicked off and with a chorus of loud boos me and the Portugese contingent walked slowly towards our fate!

The flight was uneventful but was punctuated by regular  football updates from the cockpit and at around 9pm just as we were clearing British airspace it was announced that Christiano Ronaldo had scored for Portugal! The plane erupted with Portugese cheers but not one single Brit saw fit to challenge this by booing! No updates were forthcoming  on Andy Murrays progress so I fully expected to turn on my phone on landing to find yet another European Fail by the Welsh had been matched by a Scottish exit at Wimbledon. Thankfully this was not the case and good old Andy lived to fight another day!

We arrived in Lisbon at around 11pm – 15 minutes early according to the Captain- and I decided to take a taxi to my hotel as I couldn’t face another underground journey right now! However on exiting the terminal I was faced with the biggest queue for taxis I had ever seen and decided to give Uber a try. Everything worked well and I got word from the driver(Luis)  that he was on his way. Soon after this he rang me and asked where I was , a question I was not best equipped to answer having just stepped off a flight from Heathrow! Anyway in the end I saw his ref plate driving towards me and I threw myself in front of him as he came around the corner. We held up the traffic considerably at this point but were soon on our way. Luis was ,it has to be said a little excited about the football result (2-0 to Ronaldo) against Wales and I guess was rather pre-occupied with telling me all about it rather than concentrating on the job in hand! As a result of this we appeared to be embarking on a “City Tour” rather than the usual fastest route from A to B routine! This did however result in us passing several squares full of crowds celebrating the football result and I was only surprised that good old Luis didn’t decide to get out and join the at some point! After a while it became very apparent that Luis had lost the plot (not to mention the route!) and having gone round the same square for what I’m sure was the fourth time , he pulled into a lay by and asked me to give him directions! I ended up putting the route from our current position to my hotel into google maps and allowing him to borrow my phone to guide him in! This was clearly all he needed to help him with his day job and we were there in no time at all. I thanked him for his time (and for wasting mine!) and finally entered my hotel.

The square outside my room was a little noisy with excitable Ronaldo worshippers but once the Air con was on and the shutters shut I was off to the land of nod.