Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Lagos, Portugal—Seville, Spain—Days 273-276

So what they say is true—you spend a few days in Lagos and really never want to leave again. Perhaps it is not just because of the beaches and the bars but the fabulous Portuguese hospitality that lures everyone and tries their best to convince them to stay.

On the way down from Lisbon, I made friends with the guy sitting next to me on the train who also just happened to be going to Lagos. His English was fantastic and we chatted all the way down to Lagos. By the time we arrived he had fully convinced me that it was a nice place to be on one’s birthday.

Pedro—my new friend—showed me back to the hostel where I was going to stay and if it weren’t for him helping me with my luggage and directions, I would probably be still looking for the hostel right now. The directions given to me to get from the train station to the hostel from the hostel employee were “go out of the train station, across the walkway and then to your left 500 meters.” I was assured that it was a “short and simple” walk.

Well, it took thirty minutes, several winding turns and a heck of a time getting my suitcases through the small cobblestone streets to get to the hostel. Pedro dropped me off and I was so thankful that I had met him to help me.

I dropped off my things at the hostel feeling silly about all of my luggage and all that I have accumulated. Clearly my new scarf, gloves and jacket that I desperately needed in Germany wasn’t going to be needed here in Portugal on the beach, but I have no choice but to carry everything with me from place to place—rain or shine.

So I found my room and had a nice talk with the girl who I was sharing with (Angela from Australia, spending 1 year traveling Europe) and then went out to the main center of the town where a medieval fair was taking place. It was quite something and there were stalls everywhere selling food, jewelry and medieval weapons (I kid you not) and just about everyone in the town seemed to be in costume. It was crazy—the entire weekend was this festival so every day they would stage a mock-historical event in the town. Like, for example, Lagos was the first place in Europe where the slave trade began. Yes, that is right. The slave trade. So what did they do? Hold a mock slave auction. I didn’t see it but I heard about it from Pedro and people at the hostel later on. Apparently it was quite something.

There were parades and music—all sorts of fun and festivities going on. The charming thing about it all was that people were taking it SO seriously and seemed really, truly into it.

I met up with Pedro and his friends for dinner which was so great. It was his other friend’s birthday (I didn’t realize this when I was invited) and so there were probably 12 or so other people there. I sat right across from the birthday boy (Joao—Pedro’s good friend) and couldn’t believe my luck. At midnight, when it officially became MY birthday, I almost had to pinch myself. There I was celebrating my 24th birthday at a birthday party with 12 Portuguese people!

They then took me out on the town which was quite fun until I got bitten by a dog which is something I don’t recommend experiencing yourself.

What happened was that we were walking from one bar to the next, which was literally just across the way from the first bar. It was raining so people were taking refuge under the awnings of each bar and restaurant. We dashed across the street and passed these two dogs who were standing in the pouring rain barking at the rain, as silly Portuguese dogs do I guess.

Well one decided that as the moment I was passing it to lunch out and attack me on my derriere. He jumped and took one huge bite at me as I sort of yelped and ran away. It all happened so fast and I rushed into the bar almost not believing that I had just been bitten by a dog.

My first thoughts included rabies and tetanus—good god, the ONE thing that I haven’t been vaccinated against was rabies. Thus, I was going to DIE in Portugal! But I have so many more hippos to see!

My fears subsided when I made my way into the woman’s bathroom in the bar to check the damage which turned out to be this massive, massive, MASSIVE black and purple bruise but with no signs of the skin breaking.

The rest of the weekend passed quickly from one beach and renaissance parade to the next. Pretty soon it was time for me to head to Seville where I would visit the Jerez Zoo in Jerez de la Frontera, which is an hour south of Seville. With Monday being a national holiday (and thus no bus service) I had to wait until Tuesday afternoon to get a bus to Seville since there are no direct train routes. If I took the train, I would have had to gone all the way to Madrid via Lisbon and then down to Seville but by bus it is just a five-hour or so drive.

So I checked out of my hostel and called a taxi to help me lug my stuff to the bus station (there was no way I could do it by myself on all of the cobblestone streets!) and boarded my bus to Seville. I was in Seville by 8pm and went straight to where I was staying, dropped off my things and headed out on the town to find something to eat. The great thing about Spain is that dinner doesn’t even start until almost 10pm so I didn’t have to worry about restaurants closing.