I rolled into Lisbon at six a.m. or so. The flight, for all the trash-talk about TAP, was very pleasant. At some point in the night, the significance of my decisions hit me; I had not planned this trip for myself, I had planned it for my future self, and now I was here! I am flying to a country I have never been to, where I know no one, and do not understand people… and I am supposed to put together a bicycle and just take off. Well, the feeling passed. I deboarded the plane and stepped into a mild rainstorm. I took the shuttle to the airport building. I walked, with everyone else, towards baggage claim and right into a line for customs at least a mile long, no exaggeration. Fine by me, I have a good book.
I get through and into baggage claim, where our luggage had been sitting for at least an hour. I wander around, looking for my bags. Our flight info is gone, you just look. Hey, there is my checked bag. Cool. I wonder if my bike is here. Amble over to the oversize section and there she is! Sweet. I tear open the box and dig in. Before long I had a bike! Now what do I do? I push through the airport, grab a map and a cup of coffee (never did get around to buying a map ahead of time), and walk outside. I grease my chain and test the bike. Everything in order. Now to find the Se Cathedral. I have my map, I know where to go: but there is no way in hell I am riding my bike on those roads. The next few hours are spent attempting to navigate Lisbon, a sprawl of apartment complexes. They are stucco, pink and blue and yellow, with red tile roofs. The buildings in old town are beautiful, many faces covered in lovely decorative tile. The greenery is bursting with Spring feelings. There is limestone cobblestone everywhere, every ditch and sidewalk. As I casually wander, I feel a raindrop or two. Before I finish considering whether or not to pull my slicker out I am soaked to the bone. Think hurricane, think monsoon, tropics. The sky gushed, for a while! A sign of things to come.
There are a few bike paths in Lisbon, but they lead nowhere, nowhere at all. Some go in circles. I rode on sidewalks, mostly, and all of the curbs are tall and largely unsloped. I was smashing up and down curbs all day. Limestone is also slippery when wet. I ended up losing a pannier and breaking off an important piece, the one that clips it down. I also put a good hole in it. My front fender lost a nut as well, so now I just carry it around, useless. I am also pretty banged up- the hills are steep and there is a great deal of wind, very powerful and omnipresent.
After a while I find the Cathedral, at about noon. No worries, my goal is to learn how to relax. I get my pilgrim passport for 2 euros. A yellow arrow is spray-painted on the corner of the church. Off I go! My goal is really to make it out of town, nothing more. I make my way through Lisbon, following a series of spray-painted arrows on the backs of signs and the corners of buildings. These varied in age and wear from, say, 3 years old to 10 years old. I struggled not to miss turns and backtracked a lot. After a while I came to a legitimate sign, with the iconic clamshell. Alright! I should have better markers from here. I followed these through the chaos of modern downtown and was led along the beach and then they just disappeared. Dead end.
The problem with the Camino du Portuguese is that there are a lot of variations. So, I was on the wrong path to begin with. At this point I just wanted to get out of town, and I knew I needed to head West, so I started off back through town, again, hoping to rediscover the path. It was not to be so.