Hola otra vez,
I am in Lisbon (Lisboa) Portugal, and unfortunately my concerns about getting here were right. It was 12 hours by train, plus 6 hours by bus, including a 3 hour stopover at a station in the middle of nowhere at 1AM which was a little too quiet to try and take a nap in, a little creepy.
My final train which went from 3AM to 10:30AM, didn't even have reclining seats and I was packed in a compartment with 6 other people so no room to lay down. It was really hot, too. I got maybe 5 hours of sleep which is remarkable, until we were woken up at 7AM by a Passport Control guard. but I enjoyed the ride into Portugal after that. Who knew - the countryside here looks like a rainforest!
Spain has been really "hit or miss" for me. Cordoba was wonderful, Granada's Alhambra was magnificent, but the city itself was not too impressive, and then because the trains in Andalucia are few and not very fast, unfortunately I had to go back to Madrid to get to Lisbon which is very out of the way, and the ticket lines were dreadful, even at 1AM.
I actually had a traumatic experience trying to get on the overnight train to Lisbon from Madrid, I'm honestly even trying to just forget it happened, but basically the agent made me get out of line, and back in line 3 times, rather than give me any information about other options for trains when the first train was full... he was like, "If you want a schedule, you have to go to Information. If you want to travel tomorrow, you have to get in the line for travelling tomorrow."
I seriously almost screamed some profanities at him by the 3rd time, except that there was lots of security guards watching people in line. At one point I did yell at the third guy who tried to cut in line within a 20 minute period, "La Linea es ALLI!!" (the line is THERE). People cut in line so badly here.
In my first couple hours here, though, Lisbon seems very quaint and mellow, there was no line for train tickets at the main station, for example. I asked my taxi driver to "please hurry" when going to the hostel, and he laughed. I think there is no such thing as hurrying here, people are low key, people were going about 45mph on the highway. And the 25 minute trip was only 8 euros, amazing.
One thing I learned from Jennie in Istanbul, which was such good advice - if you don't want to get ripped off by a taxi, find out approximately how much the trip should be, and then tell the cabbie, "I need to get to the airport, but I only have 12 euros... can you do it?" and make sure you only have that exact amount showing in your wallet when you pay, hide the rest of your money.
Well I am off to pick up Kate at the airport, yay!!!! She is literally going to feel at home in our hostel because the furnishing is white shag carpets and lots of orange and brown bean bag chairs, just like her parents' house!
On Friday, we are off to a beach town / fishing village called Salema where the food and atmosphere are supposed to be great, and maybe a little removed from the rest of the world. I may be signed off for 3 days then.