Lisbon and Brussels
So I’m back from that silly 4-day trip two Lisbon and Brussels. Kevin and I got up and headed for the airport Friday morning to catch a 7am flight to Lisbon. We showed up and it was pouring rain. I forgot to check the weather forecast the night before. When I was packing, I was two neurons short of voting my left hand to reach for my raincoat and stuff it in my backpack for the trip. The stupid thing is my raincoat is an expensive ultra-lightweight one designed for back-country expeditions and it weights only 200 grams and can packs down to the size of fist.
So we spent the morning in the shopping mall next to our hotel, looking for either a bloody umbrella or cheap raincoat. We finally found I think the only raincoats in the entire mall at the sporting goods store. They were cheap, non-breatheable, and fugly.
Then we went out and walked around on the super-slippery white-tile sidewalks that nearly everything is made with there, and despite our raincoats we still managed to get soaked completely on the lower half.
We wandered for hours down towards the waterfront and back up some of the main touristy streets and couldn’t find a single decent restaurant. We finally gave up, being super hungry and settled for a really dodgy tourist trap. You know, the ones with the big picture menus of unappetizing seafood and the staff that stand out on the street and aggressively try to get you to eat there as you walk by.
The waiters in Lisbon also constantly try to bring out appetizers and drinks to your table that you did not order. If you don’t aggressively wave them off, you’ll find it on your bill. So you spend the entire meal eating expensive bad food and fending off pesky waiters. They don’t care, they have no repeat customers anyways.
The best thing about Lisbon is that the taxis are dirt cheap to hire. I don’t even know how they cover the fuel. We took a taxi to the Expo park area that evening to go see Dave Matthews Band. The taxi cost under 10 Euro. Our comparatively long trip to the Dublin airport cost 40 Euro. Our driver didn’t speak a word of English and we didn’t speak a word of Portuguese outside of obrigado.
The show was good. I won’t really comment beyond that — they are great musicians and a few songs totally had me going, but generally they are way to safe for my tastes. Kevin, who is a huge fan, thought it was the best show he’d seen.
The next day we slept in and the weather was a little sunnier and we took a taxi down to the docks area, where there are a lot of bars and restaurants. Still a little touristy but we had a passable Italian meal and a massive jug of cheap wine. We ended up leaving and passing an Irish pub, and couldn’t resist the irony of stopping for a pint. We sat down on the patio next to some extremely inebriated Irish guys who were in Lisbon on a stag trip. A little later we were joined by some English and Scottish folk and we got along famously. As sad as it was to spend an entire day in Lisbon at an Irish pub, it was good craic. Well after 14 hour session, we finally stumbled to a taxi and got back to the hotel for a three hour power nap and then woke up at 7am to go catch our flight to brussels. I think I was still a little drunk on the plane.
Brussels airport was really big and shiny and clean and new. I liked it. We rode a train into city center and upon stepping out into the street we were inundated with the smell of waffles. The old center is really cool — and we stayed in a cheap 2-star hotel right in the center, next to the Grande Place, a square with fabulous ornate buildings. We caught the tail end of the Jazz festival. We stopped for sushi and then went to Delerium, a bar that has 2004 types of beer available. Belgian beer is really tasty and very strong (close to 10%). In the evening we hopped a tram to the venue for that night’s Dave Matthews show. It was a much smaller theatre, and I enjoyed the show more than the previous Lisbon show which was in a massive stadium.
Monday, we did more wandering and ogling of architecture, ate omelets and waffles for breakfast, and sampled many (many) more belgian beers. Then it was back to the airport and off to Dublin. I rolled into my apartment around 11pm.
Oh, I almost forgot the best part — the hotels in continental Europe have these absolutely lovely little drinking fountains in the washrooms. I guess it’s so you can properly hydrate after a long day of drinking beer: