Stepping out of the airport in the direction of Lisbon’s metro system meant immediate good vibes. The area surrounding the airport seemed immense. The trees were tall, the sun beaming, and the air fresh. It was a good sign of things to come.
I rode the red line from Aeroporto and transferred at Alameda for the green line heading to Rossio as if I had done it my whole life. I generally feel at home in metro stations, having taken them for most of my life in New York City, and Lisbon’s seemed to be something special. Every stop I passed on my path was pristine and many had their own theme of artwork. My favorite is still the caricatures at the Aeroporto stop – – a real welcome to the city.
Exiting at Rossio, a main square in Lisbon, the day’s humidity finally impacted me and I could feel my backpack digging into my shoulders, imprinting and reddening the skin. Living in this square meant that there was no even and odd side for addresses, just a one by one increase in digits. I ended up walking the entirety of the square before finding my building. Then, I was faced with what a four-flight walk up felt like in the sweltering Lisbon heat, but I made it!
I was told via Airbnb that even though I’d arrive after 12pm I would have to wait until 2pm to enter my room, but it was a slow day and the hostel worker was very nice. He showed me around and then gave me a choice in which room I wanted to stay in. I chose the female designated room, which at the time, had no occupants. After settling in and changing into something cooler I set our for Tram 28.
This particular tram is suggested for tourists visiting Lisbon. Why? I didn’t know… but it was a thing, and I had a transportation card with fares on it, so I was going to find out. Later on, the same hostel host who greeted me asked how it was and what it dealt with since he’d only moved to Lisbon a short while ago. I realized I still can’t quite say why it’s a tourist suggestion. I suppose because the tram is in an antique style (read: no air-conditioning!) and drives around various spots in Lisbon making it an easy way to sight-see. I secretly also came up with the conspiracy theory that perhaps Tram 28 just happened to be a line that wasn’t in use by many locals and the Portuguese government was clever enough to come up with the idea to tell tourists to take it! 30 or so passengers in each of the dozens of trams a day – – that could really add up.
Anyway, when the tram reached the last stop the driver, in his yellow uniform shirt, slowly turned around and announced ‘That’s it. Last stop.’ Then he waved everyone off. Welp, his tone summed up all the excitement there was in my Tram 28 ride. That was truly it. I got off, waited for the bus driver to use the public ‘Water Closet’ a.k.a ‘WC’ a.k.a restroom and then went to put the 10 Euro cent charge for use. When the machine spit out my two 5 cent pieces I checked again to ensure that it accepted 5 cent coins, which it did. That’s when I learned that this public WC was ‘self-cleaning,’ which seems to mean it sprays an outrageous amount of water about the small toilet-closet (back up because some water will make it outside as well) and when done once again allows you to insert money. It may be self-cleaning, but it was no cleaner than any other public bathroom experience I’ve had and I’ll leave it at that.
Unsure of what one does in this last-stop area of Tram 28 I walked around and stopped in a couple convenience stores, took in what views were offered and set about walking. Where to? No clue. That ‘no clue’ turned into my walking the entire length of Tram 28 back to my hostel! Don’t worry, I wanted to. It gave me the chance to see up close some of the things I’d admired from my window seat. I passed by the restaurants where workers waved at us tourists sitting on the tram, the park I so readily wanted to explore, and the beautiful government-looking building that caused a wave of oo’s and ahh’s from passengers. I even stumbled upon a classical concert being performed by what seemed to be young students!
I was thoroughly enjoying following the tram tracks back to Rossio square until I found myself at a spot where there were so many tram tracks I didn’t know which was for Tram 28! No worries, I eventually made it back to the hostel where I, once again, needed time to cool off. As the night carried in cooler air I stopped at a fair in Rossio square and picked up a nice little dinner from a local business. Then I walked ten minutes out to the sandy river-view to catch all the happenings at Lisbon’s pride celebration. At one point the crowd formed a huge circle and watched attendees become entertainers. There was a man of about 90 years old, beyond sun-kissed, and shirtless who really seemed to like the attention. Soon after his 15 minutes of fame were up dancers actually booked for the event wowed the crowd on the main stage. I stayed for a couple of acts before making the walk back to my hostel to settle in for the night.
The next morning I had a walking tour and it was lovely! The tour leader was great and it was one of those experiences that made me realize I do love having a tour guide to explain little details and fun facts I likely wouldn’t have picked up on for myself. We had ‘pastel de nata’, a traditional Portuguese sweet custard pastry only ten minutes into the tour. Later we also had various meats, cheeses, bread and a glass of wine at a local shop. The sheep’s cheese was my favorite! So soft to the chew. I learned about various neighborhoods and landmarks, the festival of Saint Anthony, traditional Fado music, and possibly the biggest surprise: newly installed elevators that at times can take the place of trams! Basically, instead of winding up locals hills and getting stuck in traffic one can walk into a building, get on an elevator and emerge further up a hill in a completely different neighborhood in Lisbon! I wasn’t the only one amazed. In just two minutes and two elevator rides we found ourselves staring out at the Tagus river, the 25 de Abril Bridge and the Christ the King Statue. It was beautiful. The other nice thing was that this three and a half hour walking tour cost me less than $20USD and we ate twice while also getting some nice insider information.
My time in Lisbon had its fair share of hostel sit-ins where I laid on my bottom bunk and chugged water just to cool down. That said, when I ventured outside once again I was always just as happy with the beauty of the city as I was shocked at how hot the sun could feel even after a shower. Some things I think I’ll remember are the skateboarders practicing tricks on smooth structures as the sun departed for the day, as well as staring out at the hills of homes from my hostel balcony while heat beat into my pores. If you should find yourself near Portugal, it is worth a stop over. Take in the sun, the architecture, and plenty of water.