Looking to meet new people? Try Meetup.com

If you haven’t tried it yet, Meetup.com is a great platform to meet all sorts of interesting people (gay, straight and all). It is a pretty popular platform in London, where you can join (I’m focusing on the gay/LGBTQ+-groups here) anything from naked yoga groups to learning to speak French.

Sadly, in Lisbon it isn’t quite as big and varied… but it is still a great, free resource to connect with others in town (not just LGBTQ+ folks). On the “comunity” side, there are at the moment basically two main groups:

The Comunidade Queer & Friends-LGBTQIA Portugal is a VERY active group that combines many events, not all of them LGBT-events. The group offers you the chance to connect to many people from all across the LGBT spectrum in Lisbon – and many events are arty and cultural in nature – and really showcase queer life in the city. Don’t be afraid if you don’t speak Portuguese – most of the events are more than happy to welcome non-Portuguese-speakers.

For alternative, arts and community LGBTQ+ events in Lisbon check out this meetup:… Click To Tweet

Lisbon LGBT Social Meetup Group has been a little dormant recently, but the new organiser (cough, cough, yours truly) is trying to revive the group at the moment. The idea for that group is to be more social and international, so doing things like bar crawls, brunches and regular drinks.

For drinks and socials in #gayLisbon with an international touch, check out… Click To Tweet

Please bear in mind that you don’t really to choose between the two groups: membership to meetup.com is free for people joining one, two or twenty groups – so you can simply join both. So, whether you’re visiting Lisbon – or staying here for good … remember to come along and make some new friends 🙂 !

Things I’ve learned from staying in an AirBnB

Since I moved to Lisbon a few weeks ago I lived in an AirBnb/shared apartment. Basically, it is a large apartment which is subdivided into three bedrooms and my two rooms (one bed room and a “writing room”). The owner lets out the three bedrooms via AirBnB, pretty much exclusively to short term visitors – so mostly they stay two days or so in Lisbon to explore the city. That makes it a really interesting place to “people watch”… So here are a few of the things I encountered or learned….

  1. Some people are there – but never to be seen
    This probably falls into the “strange guest” category…  one girl rented one of the rooms for almost a week. During the entire time you could hear her in the room… but she was never to be seen, nor seemed to venture out much (if at all). I only ran into her when she left the place, with her bags packed… I asked her a little cynically if she enjoyed Lisbon, and she said “yes, very much”. I’m still puzzled what she was doing here, and I really wonder how her stay in Lisbon has been…
  2. Some people bring food from home…
    OK, there are things I totally understand one can’t live without (yes, I sort of like Vegemite if you want an example). That said, I’ve been quite frequently confused by the food some people seemingly bring with them when traveling: In just a bit over a month I have encountered sugar from Brazil, Dutch cheese bought in Germany … and something that looked like bacon from I think Poland (which ironically made it’s appearance in the fridge in a sealed packet – and then also disappeared without being cooked as far as I can tell).
  3. Some people love to party… some people stay in
    … but it’s not whom I thought it would be. I’m not really able to generalise here, but for a three days there was this a young couple living next to me (my guess would be very early 20s). Every day, they would go out at 8 or so in the morning, and return together around 5. No, they weren’t working, they told me every day what they had seen. Then, at 6:30 they cooked dinner, ate – and spend the rest of the evening in their room.  Similarly, two guys stayed here… I don’t think they were gay (though my gaydar is fabulously crap) – and they did the same. Just that they cut down the time spending visiting Lisbon, and spend more time watching movies in the evening (quite loudly), drinking beer and eating pizza. If they would have appeared to be romantically involved, fair enough… but I really don’t think so (or maybe that was why the movies were so loud?)….
    On the other hand … One couple seemed to have a fantastic time: My room is next to the main door, and I heard them coming in nearly every morning while I was in bed debating with myself if it was a good idea to get up …  they would then seemingly go to bed, though not before engaging in some fairly active pre-sleep exercises, then sleep and next day repeat what they did. On the third day I eventually bumped into them: let’s just say they were at least 20 years older than me. Just goes to show… you can have a party at any age! (#lifegoals!)
  4. Some people adore talking, asking and interacting…
    Talking about wide variety of people: One girl seemed to assume that, presumably because I has just moved here, I was the fountain of all knowledge… I have no evidence she was actually listening at the door of her room for when I’d pass, but a few times, she just opened the door at exactly that moment when I was passing to go to kitchen or bath,…and immediately asked if I knew a local bakery, a restaurant for tonight, the time table of the streetcar, how to get to Estoril… Good news, I knew most of it. But I got a little weary of passing the door (as discussing ways to go to Estoril with just a towel on isn’t my idea of morning fun…)
  5. and some just say a single word…
    An other day, I came into the kitchen and there was a guy there whom I assume must have just moved in. So I said: “Hi! I’m Stephan”. His response was: “ah” – and he left the kitchen. I saw him once or twice after, and he never greeted back…

Well,… so far this has really been quite entertaining to live with so many people coming and going around me. I’m planning on staying a little longer depending on when I have found a good place for me… so let’s see what other curiosities may come up. So far, I have to say, it almost beats sitting in a café and watching the world go by – especially as, as a fellow resident, it is quite easy to talk to the people (well, to some anyway) . It’s almost a shame I haven’t got a fiction book contract lined up..

Lisbon In Books: The Two Hotel Francforts

It was actually quite a coincidence that I picked up this book… Wandering into the lovely Daunt Bookstore in London, which orders books by the place they are set in, I stumbled across The Two Hotel Francforts. The cover was intriguing, as it showed a couple in the 1940s on Rossio Square – a time that I find quite fascinating for all sorts of reasons (including the fact that my mother happened to be living in Lisbon at that time). Not knowing too much of the book (and the cover not being much of an enlightenment), I decided to give it a read – originally thinking it would be some sort of detective story or spy story, which seemed quite appropriate given the time it is set in.

Well.. I was pretty wrong: what the cover doesn’t give away is that it is actually very much a gay story, albeit of two married men, set in Lisbon. This came as a bit of a surprise to me – although the author has previously written extensively about this (and maybe I should read a review next time before starting to read a book… or does that spoil the fun?).

The basic premise is that two American couples meet in Lisbon. They are refugees fleeing the Nazis via the last open port in Europe – and by coincidence end up in the same café, though living in two very different, but named the same, hotels in Lisbon (yes, there actually were two hotels Francfort in Lisbon – see here for more information and pictures [in Portuguese]).
Just when I wondered where the plot was heading (still expecting a few spies to pop up), on a “boys night out”, the two husband start an affair – all against the backdrop of both couples trying to secure passage out of Lisbon and to America with their wives – and not entirely happy to leave the old continent behind.

I’m not trying to give too much of the plot away, only to say, it does take a lot of unexpected turns. But it is not just the love (or sex?) story that is intriguing and well written… it is also the backdrop of 1940s Lisbon live among people trying to escape – and the description of the atmosphere surrounding this extraordinary situation and time in this city.

As you might expect, this book is not much about Portuguese – nor does it venture much beyond the refugee circles and their life, as none of the characters interacts with locals. Of course, this is very much the story line, and although this could be read as somewhat disappointing, it would only be so if you expect a character study of the Portuguese. Don’t expect much in terms of local habits or local psyche… even Salazar and his policies only appear in very small doses. If you see the book as an atmospheric description of life as (very wealthy) refugees in this strange neutral country – then you will love it… if you happen to read it in Lisbon, you’ll be even more intrigued as it talks about some of the places which are still here, taking into account how they were at that time. For example, there is a lot of talk about Pastelaria Suiça… the way the author talks about it is very much how my mother talked about it. If you look at what I’d call one of the worst tourist traps on Rossio square today, you wonder why anyone would want to be there – but those were different times, and the author does well in reviving them.

Overall, if you are interested in any of these:
– Lisbon in the 1940s
– wealthy people fleeing the Nazis
…or just want to read a gay (I’m not sure I’d call it love-)story…
this is your book. If all three interest you – you’ll have trouble putting the book down.
And although it had no murders and spies, as I originally thought, I definitely enjoyed reading it tremendously.

David Leavitt (2013), The Two Hotels Francfort, New York: Bloomsbury USA

Uber vs Taxi in Lisbon

Today is a day where the taxi drivers in Lisbon will be on slow go to protest the proposed legalisation of Uber (and Cabify) in Portugal. This dispute is extremely bitter and has been going on for a while now (see these reports about it – in Portuguese).

To be honest… I’m in a bit of two minds about this.. on the one side I really don’t like the Uber’s business model, and therefore have always avoided taking them in London (or other places I have traveled). On the other hand, four out of five times I have been in a taxi in Lisbon I have been taken for a ride… which really doesn’t endear me to the Lisbon taxi drivers.

It is true that in Lisbon the taxis are relatively cheap, so even if they take you for a ride, it will not usually break the bank. That said – it can be quite a bit more expensive, and I’m definitely not happy about such behaviour. In fact, if you read some price comparisons, it seems Uber is sometimes slightly more expensive than regular taxis (and by that I’m talking with someone who is Portuguese in the back seat). However, as cheap as the taxis may be when they go directly from point A to B, the more complicated it can get when you have to explain to a taxi driver where he should go. To make it easier and avoiding having to explain where to go, I simply  pick a big building or square … and ask to be dropped off there. However, at least in Lisbon that doesn’t seem to be a recipe for success: When I tried that with Praça de Espanha the taxi driver completely ignored this – and drove off on a dual carriage way to somewhere else… It took a lot of shouting to get him to stop and I eventually made my way back to the place I wanted to be on foot. And really, Praça de Espanha is not that easy to miss or not know…
Another time, a taxi driver decided that the quickest way to go from the Airport to the Parliament Building was to first head to Parque das Naçoes … and then loop all the way around. In the latter case the damage wasn’t really so bad as being in the middle of nowhere because a taxi driver can’t locate a quite massive intersection in Lisbon, that said, it was notably more expensive than it should have been (still not really expensive, but about 25% more or so).

So far with Uber, on the other hand, I never seemed to have any problems. Firstly, because I guess the application seems to automatically guide the driver to wherever you tell it to go. That is a massive convenience (it also means I can rely on the person dropping me off where I want them to, rather than going somewhere nearby). Also, without exception, the Uber drivers I have met seem to be friendly, genuinely happy to have you on board and all seem to speak very good English.

I know this doesn’t really make up for the issues surrounding the company as such… I know that maybe I have just been unlucky with regular taxi drivers… but  to be honest, from my experience at least, Uber seems to have the upper hand in Lisbon – and while I’m sure there are some really honest and hard working cabbies out there… unfortunately, some taxistas seem to enjoy taking the scenic route a bit too much.

Dateline Lisbon… Spies, Suspense, Action!

In the 1940s Lisbon must have been quite a fascinating place to be: the only neutral port in Europe, a gateway to the US and away from the terror of WWII, a place where spies from all over the world mingled with refugees from all over Europe. Remember Casablanca? They fled to Lisbon. James Bond? Well.. it seems even he was “born” in 1940s Lisbon. Here is another little ingot from those times: A radio play from the 1940s about a foreign correspondent, based in Lisbon and accused of murder.

Transfer yourself to 1940s Lisbon, to a lobby full of spies and some good old time mystery! And for more about this fascinating time in the history of the city… check out this post on Huffington.

LGBT Sports in Lisbon

In this recent post I lamented (or maybe just ignorantly assumed) that the list of LGBT+ sports clubs in Lisbon is “short”. Well… let me come clean: I was wrong, there are a few. So trying to bring them together, here are the ones I have found out about so far.

Basically from what I could find out, there are two main “groups” offering sports: BJWHF (Boys Just Wanna Have Fun) and ILGA. Each of these offer a variety of different sports options … so here is a handy list, listed by day, sports type and link to further information/address.

Day Sport Organiser Address
Monday Volleyball BJWHF http://bjwhf.weebly.com/info1.html
Football BJWHF http://bjwhf.weebly.com/futebol-bjwhf.html
Tuesday Rugby BJWHF http://bjwhf.weebly.com/info2.html
Dance (Tango) BJWHF http://bjwhf.weebly.com/tango.html
Wednesday Running BJWHF http://bjwhf.weebly.com/corrida-bjwhf.html
Swimming BJWHF http://bjwhf.weebly.com/info.html
Yoga (Lunch time) ILGA https://www.facebook.com/CentroLGBT/
Thursday Football BJWHF http://bjwhf.weebly.com/futebol-bjwhf.html
Dance (Kizomba) ILGA https://www.facebook.com/CentroLGBT/
Running ILGA https://www.facebook.com/CentroLGBT/
Friday Rugby BJWHF http://bjwhf.weebly.com/info2.html
Volleyball BJWHF http://bjwhf.weebly.com/info1.html
Saturday Running ILGA https://www.facebook.com/CentroLGBT/
Swimming ILGA https://www.facebook.com/CentroLGBT/
Sunday Tennis ILGA https://www.facebook.com/CentroLGBT/
Football ILGA https://www.facebook.com/CentroLGBT/
Swimming BJWHF http://bjwhf.weebly.com/info.html

 

As always: If you know of any other sports clubs/meetings… please share it below! Many thanks!
P.S. Thanks to @BJWHF for reaching out and updating some of the dates in the earlier version!

 

Establishment Day of the Republic – 05 October

OK, so yesterday I wrote all about scheduling – and here comes the first scheduling “mistake” – forget bank holidays! So… Little did I realise that today is “Implantação da República”, a bank holiday to commemorate the establishment of the Republic of Portugal in 1910 (if you are historically minded, here is a quick summary of the events). I only figured out that it was going to be a bank holiday after I had finished my work on Tuesday and was reading the news before heading to bed…  there was an article about 30ºC and going to the beach in one of the papers, and I thought it was rather strange that a newspaper would suggest to skip a day in the office… and head for the beach instead (especially in a country in which good weather isn’t exactly earth shattering news!).

Digging into the article a little deeper, I discovered that it was indeed talking about a mid week holiday: talk about a treat! Luckily I don’t have to go to an office – as I’m sure I would be very annoyed if I would have turned up there only to find out it was closed! This actually happened to me once while I lived in Spain, so it is better not to be repeated… I know, as a freelancing, writing kind of guy this doesn’t or shouldn’t immediately make much difference to me… but at least I now know a bit more! Intriguingly the holiday day was apparently scrapped in 2013 as part of austerity measures in Portugal. But, it has been brought back to life under the current government.

I tried to find out a bit more if there are any traditions associated to the day, but it appears it is largely a ceremonial day for the political classes – rather than something that is more widely celebrated. So, no special cakes, pastries or drinks – but simply a day off – unless you are (un-)lucky enough to stand on the balcony of Lisbon city hall … The only other “regular” event I could find was the opening of the gardens of the Presidential Palace in Belém (am I forgetting something here? Let me know!)

Of course this year is a bit special, as it sees the opening of the new museum in Belém (MAAT Museu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnologia) – an absolutely stunning building in the touristic and somewhat political hotspot that is Belém. Coincidentally, it now also makes sense to me why the museum would open on a Wednesday!

So … even if it is “just” a nice and quiet day, it is lovely to find out that there is suddenly a bank holiday. I have now googled and entered all the holidays in my calendar … so next time I’m prepared (for All Saint’s Day as it seems, on the 1 November!). So… in that spirit: Happy Establishment of the Republic Day!

 

First Week in Lisbon

Yes… Today marks exactly one week since I arrived in Lisbon. The first week went seriously fast… I imagined it to be quite slow, and I would have lots of time to do things … but things didn’t work out quite that way.

I spent the first week volunteering at a film festival, which was exciting in some ways and interesting in others. It was fun to meet different people, including some who moved here from abroad and made Lisbon their home – and to hear what tips they had for settling in and their impressions. What struck me was that all of them appeared very positive about living here, and all were glad they made the move – even if it mean much lower wages than in Northern Europe. But everyone commented on the much better quality of live, the vibrant cultural scene and generally amazingly friendly reception they received. The only “downside” was the complexity of Portuguese… nothing surprising there (it really is a complicated language to learn!).

I’m currently living in São Bento – close to the Parliament building, and next to Bairro Alto, Chiado and Principe Real. This is very much central in Lisbon – and close to almost everywhere. The film festival is in Avenidas, the main Avenue on the other side of these three areas. I decided to walk a different way to “work” every day, walking though various backstreets of Principe Real or Bairro Alto: Of course, while Lisbon isn’t a large city (or at least nowhere as big as say London) I still haven’t managed to see many parts… but at least this gave me chance to explore the neighbourhood and surrounding areas I’m in in more detail.

I also had three friends visiting briefly from London, so there were a few opportunities to catch up – and it was great to see them. The common thing everyone remarked was how (positively) surprised they were about Portugal – and how Portugal is really underselling itself abroad. It was quite interesting that all of them talked about this as a major point… and all of them have sworn to come back and explore more. So there is definitely something there.

The festival is still on until Saturday – so I’ll still be working a bit for the rest of the week. I’m looking forward to watching a few movies and working – and then hopefully I’ll be a bit more settled next week to write again more regularly and work more on the projects I have lined up.

Four Alternative Ways of Meeting New (not only gay) Friends

Moving to a new city is exciting. And it also means having to find new friends… which can be a daunting task – especially as an adult and working from home… I know from my SWIPES analysis that friends and an active social life are very important to me… I literally get grumpy when I’m left on my own for too long. So I need to address this as a high priority point as soon as moving. Thus,  I came up with a few strategies I’ll use when getting to Lisbon (of course, you don’t have to move cities to use these strategies – they work just as well “at home”). As some of these strategies have already worked well in London for me, I’m quite hopeful I can do something similar in Lisbon. Though first, two strategies which seem popular and easy… Continue reading “Four Alternative Ways of Meeting New (not only gay) Friends”