On Monday morning, as I said, I went to the royal palace in Madrid. It's obviously very beautiful and impressive, but I forgot that Spain still has a current royal family that uses the palace (I don't know if it is for living but certainly for ceremonial things like galas etc). It reminded me that as a kid I used to say that the only royal family I would ever marry into would be the Spanish, purely because I wouldn't have to change religions. Of course, there's Monaco as well but neither Grace Kelly's genes or elegance of behaviour seem to have been picked up by her children so that's off the list.
I'm pretty sure the chances of me having a story such as Princess Mary of Denmark are very slim :) But hey, that didn't stop me from walking down the grand staircase in the palace imagining for a moment I was at a royal gala. I'm sure I'm not the only person to have done so!
The afternoon was spent in transit making my way to Portugal. Given that the flight from Madrid to Lisbon is less than an hour, it seems like such a huge effort to getting to the airport 2 hours early to check in and do all that. I forgot that the budget airline I was flying with only allows one carry-on bag. Due to the amount of things I have accumulated during the trip, I usually travel on the plane with my bag pack, a handbag and an extra bag of stuff. When I realised this rule I had to somehow fit everything into the back pack. I actually did it – one of the zip handles is now broken – the effort of pulling it closed was too much for the metal clasp. But it worked! It looked ridiculous but it worked.
I arrived in Lisbon in the early evening and felt restless so went for a walk. My hostel is centrally located so I actually got to see a fair bit of the city, albeit in the dark. However, even in the dark it was obvious that Lisbon is a beautiful city. It actually has a lot of décor and architecture that reminded me of Istanbul and I couldn't figure out why until today when I learned that until the 12th century, Lisbon was ruled by Muslims – hence the similarities between it and Turkey.
I found a nifty little cafe where all the cool kids hang out – I've never seen so many facial piercings in one room. It reminded me a lot of the cafes at my uni campus. Melbourne Uni has a lot of really grungy style students – all the musos and wannabe philosophers.
Yesterday I did a lot of walking and got lost a few times but it was good – I got to see lots of little side streets and things I wouldn't if I stayed on the main roads. The sunlight in Lisbon is amazing – for all of my trip I've had to use the night setting on my camera to take shots outdoors and this place is the first time I could take shots without it! In fact, I had to walk in the shade in the end as I could feel myself getting burnt! Mind you, I'm so pale I would burn anywhere that's got any real sunlight. Indeed, walking down the streets of Lisbon it must be so obvious to people that I'm not from around here – I'm easily the palest person in a mile radius. Not even the Irish or Scottish people I have met on this trip are as pale as me. People often don't believe that I'm from Australia because they are expecting the blonde haired, blue eyed beach-bombshell kind of look. Then they don't believe me when I say that's what my younger brother looks like.
The main thing I did today was go to the medieval castle on top of the hill overlooking the bay. It's called the Sao Jorge Castle and was originally built by Muslims in Lisbon but was expanded after the country came under the rule of Christian kings in the 12th century. The view from up here were amazing – real postcard shots.
The hostel I am staying at has a library of books people have left – I haven't read anything since I finished The Three Musketeers on the plane to Barcelona so I wanted to get something out. The choices were rather slim – a book about the Portuguese tax structure, plenty of Mills and Boon romance novels and a couple of books in other languages. However, underneath a romance novel called The Wife and the Wet-Nurse (I kid you not!) I found Cormac McCarthy's The Road. I've been wanting to read this for a while so got this one out. It's pretty bloody depressing but I finished it in 4 hours. It's good – hard going and afterwards I felt cold and hungry but it's rather haunting. It won the Pulitzer Prize in any case, so if you like post-apocalyptic-end-of-humanity literature, you'll like this. If you don't, perhaps you'll enjoy The Wife and the Wet-Nurse more ;-)