We had booked our trip in February and settled on Lisbon after having ruled out numerous other destinations such as: Bulgaria, South-East Asia and wherever else the map suggested. Our flights were the cheapest we could find, which happened to be with Monarch, with no in-flight entertainment due to its short-haul nature, which meant finding ways to entertain myself. We booked our flights and took to finding our accommodation. This was unusual for me, as when I book holidays I can spend hour upon hour, day after day, searching for the perfect accommodation matched with the perfect flight, in addition to finding out a little about the destination I planned to travel to. However, this was not the case here. We booked our flights and within 45 minutes we had our accommodation – Metro Hostel Lisbon.
The accommodation, for us, needed to be close to a metro stop, relatively low budget, and easy to get to. The Metro Hostel seemed to satisfy all of our requirements – we went ahead and booked. We had booked up our holiday and had noted it on our calendars, what could go wrong? Ah yes, I had no passport. I am notorious amongst those who know me for some of the most undesired characteristics of mankind: clumsy, ever so careless, and a “I lost it” champion. Thankfully I applied to HM Passport Office and within 3 weeks I had my shiny, new, passport – all set for Lisbon.
We had booked for the Easter holiday and I knew there was plenty of time beforehand to become well acquainted with TripAdvisor on all the ‘hot spot’ places to go in Lisbon, I set out making a travel diary to note all the places that I wished to go and places suggested to go by locals. I didn’t want to over plan or to compose an itinerary for our trip, but rather to have a document full of places to go, so that when we arrived in Lisbon we could see what we want to visit and to do so according to what was in that given location. My number one, most desired, destination to visit was the Oceanarium, it went on the top of the travel diary and was definitely not going to be missed!
Our trip to Lisbon began with our arrival at London Gatwick North Terminal. We were lucky with our flights being at a comfortable time. It’s funny how when you are little having to be up at 4am used to be exciting, I now much prefer the lack of chaos and undisturbed sleep, I guess that comes with getting older. Gatwick is an airport that I often travel from if travelling abroad, and so I knew exactly where the Nandos was to catch a bite to eat. We ordered our usual and ate lunch as we started to speculate about our imminent trip, excitement rose and we finished up with the intention to head to our boarding gate as it had just been released. The flight was packed, to our surprise, and we took our seats, as I braved the middle seat of the 3. It’s a two and a half hour flight to Lisbon, although that went by in what felt like half the estimated time, perhaps because I was occupied with revision, or maybe it was the excitement after being on a plane again for the first time in a year. The airport the other side was small yet efficient, we passed through passport control and had our bags within an hour of landing.
Our next challenge was to buy sim cards for the duration of our stay, as we intended to travel around and needed maps for when doing so, given the current technology Google Maps was the way forward. I received a text immediately upon turning my phone on that gave me all I could use internet, data, and texts all for £1.99 a day. Sold! Moosa found a Vodafone store inside the airport, conveniently, and brought a sim that encompassed all his 3G needs for our 5 night stay. We were sorted, now to find the hostel for some well earned sleep. The metro in Lisbon is simple to use, 4 clear lines that could all be accessed for the same price, purchased from a ticket machine at the station on a pre-paid for, reusable, card. We took the red line (Vermelha) from Aeroporto to Saldanha, which was the location of our hostel. The journey was expected to take 20 minutes, but first we had to figure out how to buy a card. With the help of a local, who had been roped into tourist duty explaining the metro system to those with luggage waiting to use the machines, we purchased our card and boarded the metro shortly after reaching the platform. Unlike in London the metro runs every 10 minutes or so, with no board telling you when the next tubes are.
We reached Saldanha and decided to test out Google Maps in hope it would lead us to our hostel. we walked for about three minutes and came to a road that was dark, with lampposts few and far between and no sign of a hostel anywhere. We must be wrong, we thought, Google Maps must be wrong. Standing there looking at our surroundings there was no way a hostel was here, was there? Moosa decided to ask a local who pointed to a building a few steps from where we were stood, we rang the buzzer of the 4th floor which then let us in. Inside, a sign: “Metro Hostel Lisbon 4th Floor, Take The Lift”. What a bizarre place to signpost the hostel, by this point you already know where it is! We took our luggage to the lift and ascended to the top floor of the apartment, where we were greeted by one of the members of staff who took our details, payment, and gave us the room key.
The hostel was essentially the top floor of an apartment converted into several bedrooms: a few private, a few communal dorms, a communal kitchen, and 2 bathrooms across two floors. Our room was surprisingly spacious with a balcony, however, the location was right next door to the kitchen, and the walls were paper thin. Having just arrived we put down our suitcases and set out to explore our surrounding area, as the walk from the metro station was too short to have gotten a feel for the neighbourhood. We locked up the room and headed out, passing again the two little cafes we had on the way to finding the hostel, and commenting that we would go there for breakfast tomorrow. Food. We hadn’t yet eaten since lunch and were desperate to find some water bottles for the room, our aim was to find a mini-mart of some sort to buy some water and perhaps something to eat.
We walked 1.2 km to try and find a little shop to buy a few bottles of water and, with no luck. A couple we passed 5 minutes into walking directed us towards a ‘food market’, which inspired hope in us, however, as we reached it we saw it was closed. Hopeful we continued walking until we reached a roundabout with 4 potential crossroads to take, our cross road was to the left of us, in the form of Burger King. We brought water, and Moosa ate a meal, after that we both knew it was time to head back and sleep so that we could explore Lisbon tomorrow during opening hours. What surprised us while walking was that it appeared we were staying in a financial district of Lisbon, where every other establishment appeared to be either a bank or a pharmacy – pharmacies were everywhere! We concluded that the residents of Lisbon must be incredibly health conscious, for pharmacies must have been the staple store in almost every area we visited, even the metro stations had health and beauty stores underground, all offering all types of discounted goods. We got back to the hotel and slept, for tomorrow we would be visiting Castelo de S. Jorge, though we did not know it yet.