Category Archives: Lessons Learned

Porto to Lisboa

I love riding the train. If I could take the train everywhere instead of flying, I would! Luckily, we could take the train from Porto to Lisboa.

But first, a breakfast of champions – McDonald’s – where I ordered half the menu.

Waiting for our train to Lisbon in Porto

Anyways, the three-hour train ride from Porto to Lisboa was very relaxing, as we rode through the countryside, through vineyards and along the sea. Well, except for the two screaming kids sitting in front of us. Nothing my iPod couldn’t drown out, I guess. I was also able to catch up on my journal entries as I listened to Drake’s words of wisdom.

We arrived in Lisbon and decided to try to take the metro, which was pretty easy to navigate. Unfortunately, once we got off the train, we had no clue how to get to our hotel. We didn’t have a map. And Frances’ iPhone map wasn’t working.

We asked an older Portuguese gentleman for directions and he was nice enough to give us a general direction to start walking in. Luckily, that got us to a kiosk that sold maps. But Lisbon is like Toledo (Spain) – full of hills and windy streets – so a map only gets you so far.

Fortunately, we found our street. Unfortunately, it was a steep, winding road. We were at 23 and our hotel address was 198. We were at the bottom of the hill and our hotel was apparently at the very top. Yikes. And so began our uphill hike with our huge backpacks.

I really didn’t think I was going to make it. I was dripping sweat and my shoulders were trembling from the weight of my backpacks. I was not a happy camper, to say the least. But we finally made it to Lavra Guesthouse.

Lesson learned: if you’re in Lisbon, just take a cab from the train station. Our hotel host informed me that you could usually take a taxi from one neighborhood to another for 3 Euros.

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Lessons learned: en route to Prague

Lesson learned #1: be more than two hours early for flights (especially when flying discount airlines), but there’s no need to be more than 15 minutes early for a bus or train departure.

Needless to say, my grandma and I being over an hour early for my 1 a.m. bus departure to Prague resulted in a one-hour wait for said bus to arrive. Not to mention that most of that time was spent sitting in a taxi because my grandma refused to leave me anywhere on my own at that hour.

Lesson learned #2: it’s never too early for a beer. One of the Polish men in our tour group had one for breakfast. Literally, it was 8 am.

Lesson learned: Polish bathroom signs

Since it was raining yet again in Warsaw, I decided to go to the movies. Before the movie began, I had to take a trip to the bathroom. You can imagine my reaction when I get to the bathroom doors and all that’s on them is a circle and a triangle (insert expletive here).

I stand in front of the two doors for a minute and randomly choose the triangle. Well, it wasn’t completely random – I figured the triangle was like the dress on the typical girl bathroom sign. Plus, I thought of the triangle chalice symbol from the Da Vinci Code (damn you, Dan Brown!).

When I walked in, the bathroom was empty, but you’d think the urinals would have tipped me off. Nope. Oh well, it was just awkward walking out as some guy walked in. He seemed confused for a minute, as if he had made the mistake, but nope – it was me!

Lesson learned: triangle = boys, circle = girls.

Lesson learned: get the Immodium

I won’t go into details, but if you’re travelling and experience stomach issues, just get Immodium. After trying Pepto, Buscopan, herbal tea and the BRAT diet – and wasting two days in Rome in the hotel room – I finally dragged my ass to the pharmacy and got Immodium. It worked IMmediately!

Lesson learned: London metro

I’m all about the metro. I love having a set map that tells me every stop clearly and a mode of transportation that is not dependent on traffic. But I also learned a few things about the London metro.

  1. Wear your walking shoes. The London metro, and many European metro sysems actually, has got some long connections at transfer points. Sometimes it’s a mission just to get up to the street! Take into account an extra 5-15 minutes for your commute up and down hallways, stairs and escalators.
  2. Pass on the Oyster card. Contrary to Rick Steves’ advice, a metro employee told us (under strict confidentiality since the metro promotes and wants you to buy the card) that the Oyster pass isn’t really worth it for tourist. Go for the one-day pass if you’re really going to be using the metro that much.
  3. It’s hot. It is freaking hot on the metro. And being confined in a hot metal box underground = lot of sweaty people. And you know what, you’re going to be one of them, so deal with it!

With these key learnings, go ahead and experience the London Tube yourself!