June 2008


Driving to the Beach!

I spent a couple hours yesterday afternoon at the beach, and I’m happy to report that my 17,20€ sunscreen worked well: no sunburn to report today.

The beach is about 25 kilometers from my hotel and I am fortunate that my friend here is willing to loan me his car, so it’s just a matter of driving out there, which I have to confess is challenging.

I’ve driven in seven different countries, (US, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, and Swaziland) and driving in Lisbon is the most challenging of the seven. It’s not that the streets are any more irregular than the ones in Germany, it’s that they are narrow, busy, and obligatory turns are not announced until right before they are obligatory.

Yesterday it took me about an hour to get from the beach back to my hotel and by the time I got back, I was exhausted. There are these points where the signs indicate the street is three lanes wide, but in practicality it is actually four, three, or two lanes wide—depending upon the traffic in front of you, and the parked cars beside you.

Driving here requires an aggressiveness that I am not used to. If you want to be in the right lane you have to turn on your turn signal and push your way in—if you wait, you won’t get in. You also need to tailgate on the highways, or else somebody will get between you and the car in front of you. Safe stopping distance be damned!

On a random side note, Tuesday I headed out to a BMW dealership with my friend—he was taking delivery of a new car, and when I saw the car, I asked him if the license plate had a hidden message since it had a gigantic “FU” right in the middle.

8 comments to Driving to the Beach!

  • Driving is harder in Lisbon than in South Africa or Swaziland?

    This out of the fingers of the guy that turned right in Mbabane and drove up the wrong side of the road?

    I still remember the truck coming at us. The horn, me firmly telling you that you were on the wrong side of the road, etc.

    Good times… LOL

    I’d still let you borrow my car, regardless.

  • @cq: There can be specific kilometers where driving in one country over another are easier or harder. That block in Mbabane was the worst two minutes, the rest of the time was relatively easy.

    Lisbon is more chaotic, with confusing streets, and aggressive driving tactics.

  • You know I’m just pulling your leg, right? 😉

  • If it’s harder than Italy, I don’t think I’ll be driving in Lisbon. Then there’s Thailand where I almost had a heart attack because, as my aunt, while driving her gold-plated Mercedes into oncoming traffic explained, “the more expensive car wins.”

  • @cq 🙂

    @Christina G: I cannot compare to Italy–but there is an aggressiveness here that is really like what you describe in Thailand. Yesterday at a stoplight I looked out my window to a woman to my left and she was clearly going to try and pass me when the light turned green. Suffice it to say, she didn’t, and I was first. I’m learning to be aggressive and be right, even though my American genes tell me to slow down and allow space in the traffic.

  • I remember Malta was absolutely horrible. It started with that whole “wrong side of the road” thing and escalated into “we don’t know how to make signs because we all know where we’re going” thing.

  • Malta sounds much like where I live now, at least as far as signage goes.

  • I’ve now seen four accidents in two days… one of them was strategically located to cause a massive back up a the entrance to a bridge across the river. Yuck.