Yeahhhhhh, apparently a fantastic trip to Lisbon was not in the cards for me. A bout of bad travel luck made my trip more difficult than I realized.
In 5 days I:
Lost my jacket within 30 mins of landing
Dropped my phone in a toilet while fumbling with my luggage
Dealt with awkwardness in my hostel – not the experience I expected!
Got repeatedly harassed on a train – even got my water bottle stolen!
Here’s how I tried to look on the bright side and tried to turn my Lisbon adventure back into the trip of a lifetime:
Lisbon Has Gorgeous Weather!
The weather was perfect for exploring Lisbon – it was a balmy 60 degrees (15 degrees celsius!). When I landed and peeled off my wool peacoat and took in the palm trees outside the airport, I was eager to go exploring. The weather was much warmer than I expected – and in the middle of the day if you were in direct sunlight, you got pretty hot.
Lisbon is a great place to go to if you want to get away from Paris’ dreary winter weather. The climate is mild year round and palm trees will instantly boost any winter blues. The good thing about the weather is that I was able to easily buy a cheap-ish new jacket to replace the one I lost!
Less Screen Time, “Better” Photos
Upon dropping my 6-month-old iPhone into a bowl of toilet water, I was in a panic about what to do next.
My phone served as a:
- Navigation system
- Alarm clock
- Soundtrack for long rides
- Notepad for important safety information
- Notepad for future blog notes
My sister gave me GENIUS idea of buying a disposable camera, which helped out with at least one part of the list. I didn’t know disposable cameras were still sold – but not only are they are in souvenir shops but they’re VERY expensive to boot! My disposable camera was 12 euros for 27 exposures.
The upside of my disposable camera was that I had to be extremely selective with my photography. I only took photos of what I figured I could make a great shot – no food photos, no random selfies (note: I still did both :)). Losing the usage of my phone allowed me to take a breather from being glued to my phone and take in more of the beauty around me. Fewer distractions, more introspection and weirder photos!
Thankfully I brought my laptop with me and I forged ahead with my 12-euro disposable camera. With only 27 pictures, it comes out to about 50 centimes a photo, which meant I had to be very selective!
Lisbon Has Great Wine
I spent a lot of my time in Lisbon wandering around the city – armed with only a map and my disposable camera, I happened upon the Wine Tasting Room, in the Plaza de Comercio.
I highly recommend visiting this place. For 3 euros you can taste 6 different wines. Similar to place in Paris, Wine by One, you load money onto a vending card and taste at your leisure. It’s a great place to try different Portuguese wines if you don’t have time to go to a vineyard. I even met a lovely group of American tourists from New Jersey!
No Phone = More Open to New Friends
I learned the hard way that a mixed dorm room in a hostel is not for me. I decided to try a hostel again after my great experience in Iceland at Loft Hostel. Yes! Hostel in Lisbon was very clean, felt safe and had a fairly diverse crowd. The bed was comfortable and the facilities were modern and well-appointed.
Unfortunately, they were sold out of female rooms. I assumed that a mixed dorm would truly be a mix of people – and it wasn’t. My 4-bed room was me and 3 other guys. Granted, the men were really nice – two British brothers and an American from Brooklyn. However I wasn’t comfortable being the sole female in the room. I think the men felt slightly uncomfortable too because they kept announcing their entry into the room, even if it was just to drop something off.
I normally make friends while traveling, but being without a phone definitely made me more open. One of the best things about hostel life is the people who you’ll meet. I met a few interesting people during my short stay at the hostel. Over breakfast, I met a young Australian woman who lives only an hour away from Paris! We became inseparable in Lisbon, and most of the pictures I have of me in Lisbon are thanks to her.
Hostels do a lot of activities designed to bring people together – including a free walking tour. On my walking tour I met a lot of interesting travelers, who, thanks to facebook, I’ll be in touch with for years to come.
My experiences with hostels have been up and down over the past few years, so I may be putting my time with them to rest. BUT – I will still book hostel activities as a way to meet and connect with other solo travelers. That way I can get the best of both worlds!
I liked the room and the hostel in general – but my discomfort over my single woman status in the room led me to booking a room at the Hilton (for free – it pays to be HHonors member) for the rest of my stay.
The Colorful Castles of Sintra
Sintra is beautiful medieval city, only 40 minutes by train from Lisbon. In Sintra, you can see many castles but I only had time to see one – the most famous – Palacio de Pena. I’m glad I made the trek even though I didn’t have much time.
Completed in 1854, a few royals have lived in this castle. The last person to live in the Palacio de Pena was Queen Amelia in 1910. Shortly after, the palace was turned into a museum and in 1995 it was classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
Sintra was the highlight of my trip – you shouldn’t go to Lisbon and not spend time there! If I make it back to Lisbon, I’d like to spend more time there and perhaps stay overnight.
When you travel so often, it’s easy to forget that not every trip is an amazing one. I paid good money for my trip and I was very disappointed by my series of mishaps. Overall, I’m glad I made the trip and that I was able to make the best of pretty bad circumstances. I hope that my weird experiences won’t turn anyone off of the city. I’d like to go back someday but I think I’m going to wait a while to make sure I’ve shaken off the bad Lisbon karma!
Here’s a few other things to check out when in Lisbon:
- Eat the world famous custard dessert, Pastel de nata!
- Eat a Francesinha sandwich – packed with 3 types of pork, cheese and soaked in gravy, it’s a unique culinary experience. Here I am below with mine – I opted for an egg on top!
- Go see a Fado performance. Fado is traditional Portuguese music that is beautiful, but melancholy by nature. Most Fado performances come with dinner, so it’s a great way to get dinner and entertainment all at once! The performance I went to was amazing – there were two men that sang competing parts. Read more about Fado here.
- Go to the Lisbon Oceanarium! The Oceanarium boasts that it’s the Europe’s largest indoor aquarium, but honestly – what is an outdoor aquarium?? The ocean??? Either way, it’s an impressive place to visit if you’re fond of ocean life (which I am!).
- Take the train to Cascais to explore the beaches. I didn’t get the chance to go but from what I hear, it’s beautiful! The train takes about 30 minutes from Lisbon.
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