09 October 2013

Em Lisboa: A Run Down the Tagus

Perhaps going on vacation the two weeks prior to a half marathon is the not the best timing (or, I guess in this case, signing up for a half marathon the weekend after returning from a trip!),but that is the way things fell for me this time around. Doing any sort of training meant wrapping things  up and starting taper while out of the country,including my longest run while in Lisbon.

Luckily, this is a great place to get that done. The topography is similar to San Francisco's,including some long,flat stretches. I woke up on Saturday morning, tired (we walked about 11 miles on Friday, then drank a lot,then I watched the A's game until like 4am),dehydrated, and determined together this long run over.

I set off right around sunrise, headed from the Bairro Alto towards the water. As much as I had wanted to get some hill training in,the prior day's activities had rendered this a less-than-desireable option, so I headed west (I think) from the Praço do Comércio along the Tagus (Tejo) River toward Belém. 

This is an ideal route for visiting runners -- it is flat and very straightforward, with little chance to get lost. On the outbound, head towards the Ponte de 25 April. The footpath is well marked... The only drawback is there is some cobblestone that makes running a bit uneven... In many of the cases, inlaid with the cobblestone are some flat stone details, which everyone competes to use. This makes the running a bit more comfortable. One of the nicest things about this route is that you can go almost any distance...From the Praço to the tower of Belém is somewhere between 9-10 miles round trip,but I think you could even further. 

The most challenging part, for me, anyway, was a stretch after the bridge but before the Padrão dos Decobrimentos...the cobblestone was severe and there was only one little strip, right on the edge of the water, that was flat. We all -- and there were a lot of runners out there, we're jockeying for that strip. One false move and you were tumbling down a steep sea wall and into the water. So, be careful!

Bring a euro or two with you, as well, to get water on the route, as there were no water fountains  as far as I could tell. There is a little store/deli along the waterfront, as well as a gas station about a mile before the Tower where you can pick some up.

This run along the Tagus was of the more incredible I have had the luck to do -- had it not been for the huge blister on my toe and the fact that the temperature hit about 80 by the time I was done, I would have liked to go a little farther...but, wow...it was something else to see. It was also fun to feel a part of the vibrant running community of Lisbon (the shirt I was wearing had a silhouette of the Golden Gate Bridge, older sister to their Ponte, so I got plenty of double takes and big smiles). Walking back up the hill to Bairro Alto may have been a bit of a challenge, but one well worth it!

(I also got to run by this party?rave?weird gathering of late teens/very early 20-somethings, who were still partying/starting to head home at 8.30am)

Em Portugal

Apologies (mom) for the lack of posts...Internet here in Porto hasn't been that great -- we essentially have to go into the hall outside of our apartment and pray that we hook into it. I wanted, however,to provide a quick update.

We left Lisbon on Sunday afternoon (after a beautiful sunset on Saturday night, above) and headed up to Porto. This city is amazing. I will write more about it later, but...not sure it could be more picturesque. We've been so very lucky with the weather, as well -- hot but not too hot, a little humid but overall really pleasant. Sweaters haven't had to come out until about 9 at night (or 21:00, as they call it here (I think)). 

That pic above is from my window here in Porto -- not sure we could have a more amazing view! We spent some time here in town, which included a river cruise for allows us, some port tasting & exploring for me, and a bike ride for the other ladies. We also visited the towns of Guimarães and Viana do Castelo. It was great to see others parts of northern portugal, but I do think Porto is my favorite! 

05 October 2013

Em Lisboa: Day 2

Our second day here -- and our first full one -- saw us one quite a trek. We headed from our home in the Bairro Alto and walked down to Belem -- a little over five miles. This would have been fine if it weren't so hot, and if all of us brought proper footwear (I have some really lovely and ginormous blisters!). 

When we finally arrived, it was definitely time to eat.  We found a nice outdoor cafe, and proceeded to wait to order...and wait...I always forget I need to pack my patience when dealing with service in various European countries. I think it wouldn't be so bad if I had a drink, but often times we're just sitting there, hoping someone will finally stop by our table.  When we were finally able to order, one friend & I got our meal super quickly, while the other two didn't get theirs until after we were done eating (we were starving and couldn't wait).

We made sure to stop by Pasteis de Belem after -- these tasty pastries were a favorite of mine last time and they definitely did not disappoint this time! 

Rather than walk all the way back, we hopped on the 727 bus to take us back to Centro. It was getting a bit desperate for us to find good shoes! Of course. It was El Corte to the rescue!

Later that evening, we had the most fun of our dinners so far, at El Gordo Bar 52. We'd passed this little tapas restaurant several times, and thought it looked fun and a little different. Despite being in a heavily tourist neighborhood, the place had a ton of locals...one of whom, after telling us how sexy she thought Jack Nicholson is (there was a pic of him on the wall), became our best friend. Kristina is a proud Lisbon native, an expert on the town, and I would say she was rather drunk. Her husband tried several times to get her away from our table, but was not successful. Instead, she gave us her number. 

It was soon about midnight or later, and the party was just starting in our hood. It felt a bit like we were in the marina, if it closed down the streets to traffic; the folks were so young and so drunk! We, too, decided to join in for a bit -- when booze is this cheap it is hard to pass up! We somehow found our way home around 2am...I had some important business to attend to!

Bom Dia, Portugal!

We have arrived!

Our first day in Lisbon was a short one... After an Ambien-laden flight or two, we finally got into town in the late afternoon. We were met by a great driver, Kiko, who gave us the low down on this weekend in Lisbon -- apparently it was to be a very busy one.  Three cruise ships had just arrived, and there is a Rock 'n Roll Marathon & "Mini" (half marathon) on Sunday. So basically, it will be a little cuckoo-crazy pants with tourists. 

Once he deposited us near our apartment in Bairro Alto, we decided to eat. And, like all newcomers after a long journey, we chose the place that: 1. Wasn't empty, and 2. Had a lovely, translated-into-many-languages menu. We just needed easy, regardless if it was screaming tourist. 

The food was fine, and not super expensive. Definitely not anything to write home about, or something I would necessarily recommend,but it did the trick.  We were all quite tired, but decided ton walk around a little bit and check things out.  We stopped for a bit at an overlook with views of the whole city, and then off to a park where we learned the price of alcohol here is really low! 

On our way back to our apartment, we heard the low rumble of a massive crowd. As we got closer, we could see that crowd start growing bigger and bigger...and closer to home. The rumors are true...Bairro Alto is the spot for the youngins to come get their drink on.  Kids filled the street, sang songs, and did lord knows what else until the wee hours of the morning. Luckily, I was in the back room, in yet another Ambien-fueled sleep... My friends were not so lucky.