I arrived in Lisbon, Portugal at just before noon. Unlike some cities, Lisbon’s airport is only five miles from the city center, and since my hotel is in northern Lisbon, it was only a five minute cab ride. My friend and conference organizer Herminia was kind enough to pick me up and take me by cab (she refuses to drive in Lisbon) to my hotel.
Although I was dead on my feet once I checked into my hotel, I decided to do some exploring and familiarize myself with Lisbon’s metro system. Lisbon’s metro consists of four lines, all color coded. My hotel, the NH Campo Grande is just across the street from the Entre Campos station on the yellow line. The other lines are blue, green, and red. The metro system itself is extremely easy to use and is quite efficient. On my first day I decided to ride the metro from my hotel to the Baixa section where we were to eat that night. I walked across the street, caught the train within five minutes and had to change trains twice using two different lines. The whole journey took less than fifteen minutes.
The stations and the trains are all incredibly clean. The metro stations themselves all have different art works displayed throughout. Each metro station is like its own museum and it’s worth it to linger for awhile checking out the art. Each station also has a different design and some are more elaborate than others. While this metro system is not as grand as the one in Washington, DC, it is the nicest of the European countries I’ve visited. As I said, the stations and the trains are all very clean. Police are a constant presence and, for the most part, I got the sense that the metro is a safe place to be. The best part of the system, and perhaps I just hit it right, is that I did not encounter any of the smells that usually accompany metro systems in cities. Lisbon is pretty much a smoke free city, and while there are homeless, I saw none in the metro. The weather could have a lot to do with that. (Later, when I came out at the Rossio Station and stopped for a cold beer at an outdoor cafe, I saw a homeless women lying on the ground holding out a McDonalds cup and mumbling to herself. She then decided to lie down on the pavement to sleep. Sitting not ten feet from her I decided to snap a picture of her. I suddenly had the urge to document, if only for myself, a glimpse of this uncomfortable, shameful aspect of humanity. The shame is not with her, but with all of us who allow this to happen.)
I first caught the metro at two in the afternoon. It was, oddly, busier than I expected. The metro was filled with high school aged kids coming home from school. What struck me most is how “American” they seemed to me. Nearly all of them were texting and had their iPods and other mp3 players inserted into their ears. There were many more girls than boys and if I did not know any better I could have sworn that I was Boston taking the T. So here I was, a middle aged American standing in the middle of a gang of girls. I never felt more like Humbert Humbert. (I realize that I can never run for public office now as someone, somewhere will dig this particular post up and misuse it to call my character into question–well, such is life.)
One can get nearly everywhere on Lisbon’s metro. The only place it seems not to go is to Belem, but one can always catch a tram or bus for that. The metro runs until 1:00 am, and is perhaps the best way to get somewhere quickly in Lisbon. But for me, walking is still the best. Nevertheless, the Lisbon metro is a sight that one should see and experience.