Homeless In Lisbon

Travellers House 300x199 Homeless In LisbonThursday 5th of April 2007

It was crazy.

We arrived at the hostel, and were told that they were fully booked (and with a waiting list… imagine that?), so although I could stay for the two nights (as was booked), Ruth could not. I could, however cancel the second night and then we could go find somewhere else for the four nights.

We were absolutely gutted when they told us this because the hostel was really nice. It was Travellers House on Rua Augusta. This must be the nicest they come in “hostel world.” They had a lounge area which was really colourfully decorated with rugs, beanbags, books, a chess board, card games…etc It had a really homely feel. When we arrived one girl was cooking up a storm, so that just added to our feeling of guttedness!

The staff were really nice too and offered to ring around to see if they could find anywhere for us to stay… As the man at the front desk called around, place after place declared that they were full, until the only option was to hit the streets ourselves and find somewhere. We were offered the option of sleeping in the store room should our attempts fail.

So off we went.

From pensao to pensao (boarding house) everywhere seemed to be full. As we were almost giving up hope we came across a waiter hanging outside a restaurant. We told him that we were looking for a room and he pointed us to the residence next to the restaurant. Looking at where his finger was pointing were some huge heavy rotten wooden doors that were flung open to expose a vast barren waste land and stairs at the end of it from which a dank odour greeted us.

We gave each other a “HAAAAAAAAAAAAAYLE NAW” look and reversed, as if we were backing dancers for Lil Jon. The waiter came up behind us,

“You can go”

In chorus we replied,

“No,  it’s ok”

“Go, it’s good place- very safe- go.”

It was an act of desperation, half reassured by the waiter hand in hand we took deep breaths and broke into a manic run, not wanting to be on the barren waste land for a moment more than necessary. The soles of our feet pounded the grimy manky heaped debris that was the floor and thoughts of rats and cockroaches swarmed my mind.

On reaching the top of the first set of stairs we came face to face with an enormous chest freezer. Something that you would imagine not looking out of place in a mortuary. In an effort to keep dead bodies being added to the cockroaches and rats imagery we kept it moving, arriving at the door of the pensao breathless.

We rang the doorbell and heard a drawn out shuffling noise. The door opened very slowly. A man peeked his head around the door; elderly and short he was wearing pyjamas that looked like they had never seen water, let alone detergent. I asked for a room,

“Nos queremos um quarto amanha para quatro noites”

There was a grunt.

I took it to mean that yes he did have a room, and so signified that I wanted to see it by pointing to my eyes and then back at him. He opened the door in a leisurely manner and we followed behind him as he directed us to a room, or should I say shoebox?

The house of horrors was hoarding a room fit only for a porno shoot. There was a double bed with a floral patterned bedspread and a sliver of space either side of the bed that would not have even fitted our suitcases. At the foot of the bed in the corner of the room mounted on a slight platform was a shower encased in a glass box. Ruth tried to open the shower by it’s manky handle. It felt weak as though it would fall apart. The man in his attempt to assure us that the shower was not decrepit and falling apart drew his fist up in his best Popeye’s impression,

“Muito Forte… Sttttrong!”

We were not assured and were put of even further when another elderly man started peeking around one of the doors like some weirdo. I saw hairy ears and and another layer of musty scent hit the air. I knew that we had to leave,

“We’ll come back.”

He grunted again.

We left in silence, held our breaths ready for the run back over the wasteland and out to freedom. The waiter stood there grinning as if he had granted us the favour of a lifetime in leading us to the house of horrors,

“You liiiiike?”

“Er… We’ll be back.”

I must say we did even think about staying there for one night to give us time to look  for somewhere else, but that thought lasted just one minute. The store cupboard at the hostel was a preferable option. Nightfall set in and we forged on, determined not to become a statistic in the freezer in the house of horrors.

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