Arriving in Lisbon and beginning to feel your way around the city, one of the first things you notice is it’s size. For a capital, it’s staggeringly small. Of course, there are suburbs in the greater Lisbon area, which cover tens of square kilometres, as in any other big city, but it’s no exaggeration to say that you can walk from one end of the city centre to the other in somewhere around 45 minutes. With this view, for example, I’m almost at the Eastern edge of the centre and the hill in front is at the Western edge. Not so far away.
Indeed, at the weekend, I had a call from a colleague while I was sunning myself at Cais do Sodre, telling me that they wanted to meet in the main square, Praça do Comércio. ‘Crikey!’ I thought. ‘I’m at the Southwest tip of the city and they’re in the centre. I scooted off and found myself in the square within about 4 minutes. Definitely not a huge place.
But, getting far too cocky about this “I can walk anywhere in a matter of minutes” thing, I, naturally, came unstuck. Sitting at the corner of the Praça do Comércio on a work day – dressed in work attire, naturally – I got a call from a colleague, asking if I felt like some lunch at Mercado do Fusao (more on this later). Unsure of how exactly to get from the one place to the other, I quickly flipped up my Google map.
13 minutes – a short hop, I thought to myself! Not only that, but google’s timings are generally assessed based on the average walking pace of a plump member of the elderly with a wooden leg. “There in 10!” I texted back, joyfully thinking about lunch and feeling increasingly ravenous with every step. In 2 minutes flat I was at the foot of Rua da Santa Madalena and all was going well when suddenly, to my horror, the street ahead turned into some kind of mountain terrain. Bearing in mind it was about 25 degrees, with blazing sun and I was wearing a long sleeved shirt and trousers, I did arrive in about 10 minutes, but I looked like an advert for sweating. Lunch was, thankfully, brilliant.
So google, since moving to Lisbon, I’ve decided you need to start producing gradient maps, so I can take not the shortest route to my destination, but that which involves less of a need for oxygen tanks. In the meantime, I’ll just keep developing the calf muscles of a heavily steroided mountain goat.