Wed, 23 Sep 1998
Lisbon // at 00:00
At seven pm I found myself sitting on the Paseo at Expo '98, resting my aching legs and writing about the day. I'd been on my feet since 9AM.
Breakfast was the first priority, pastry e um bica in a café, standing at bar with the rest of the patrons. An ordinary request and a simple one, but buying the breakfast and sipping my coffee increased my confidence 100%. The next priority was to try and find a cheaper pensâo for tonight — cheaper, quieter, and possibly safer... I'm not sure what other business goes on in the pensâo, but judging by some of the ladies nearby in the streets, it isn't the classy end of town, and I didn't feel comfortable leaving my bag and bike in a ground floor room with no glass and only half-open wooden shutters across the windows.
The first two pensôes I visited were full, then the tourist information telephoned a few for me and sent me off to one in Baixa — when I got there it was no longer vacant! Everywhere I went I felt that I was being stared at because of um bicicleta, I did get shouted at by a shoe-shine guy when I tried to lock my bike up on the street. I guess it was blocking too much of the miniscule footpath and potentially damaging his passing trade.
The girl in the full pensâo laughed when she saw the bike from the window — in a friendly, amused way — then gave me directions to another pensâo, about three kilometres away back in the direction I'd just come from!
Almost impossible to ride in Lisbon, I walked there pushing my bike, ended up soaked in sweat and very nearly couldn't locate it since the door is unmarked. For $5500.00 for the night, my bag and bike and I are all comfortably located for the night, safe up on 3 Andar — the third floor.
I mentioned to the pensâo's manager that I was going to Expo and he immediately delved into a desk drawer and handed me a free ticket! Labelled at $2500.00 — student discount — it was still better than the $5500.00 that I had been expecting from all the brochures. He said that the tourist office had handed them to all the pensâo operators for international visitors.
I caught the metro to the Expo site and then spent the afternoon seemingly queueing for a long time and seeing the insides of pavillions for a short time. There are so many people here! Expo closes at the end of the month, I wonder what it would have been like just after the Expo opened?
The highlight of the afternoon was the aquarium — huge — it was around 8m deep. According to the brochures it is the largest in the world, and packed with fish and sharks, and one enormous grouper. Another tank was square, about 3m on a side, and just full of the most amazing multi-coloured anemones.
On the negative side, all the food and drink and souvenirs are expensive, but I was half expecting that. Still, $900.00 for an open baguette seems high!
After sundown I stayed to watch this evening's free concert. There's one on every night, tonight it was Lou Reed. Standing here in a packed stadium watching Lou Reed is amazing. 10 or 20 thousand people, I have no idea. Just an incredible feeling, despite the strangeness of him singing in English, and all the fans screaming in Portuguese. Regrettably I had to leave before it finished, hurrying off to catch the last metro at midnight, only to be handed a brochure at the station saying that they were open until 3:00AM for the last few days of Expo. Oh well, by now I was so tired I was ready to go home and sleep regardless.