Friday, July 6, 2012

GoCars: an exciting way to explore and see the sights in Lisbon…

Pam & Randy with their beers after the GoCar adventure
 What an experience we had in Lisbon! You may have heard of GoCars, little bright yellow, three-wheeled vehicle with a built-in navigation system—more on THAT later—that can be rented in several cities, Lisbon and San Francisco for two.

Randy and I had seen the GoCars in San Francisco and they seemed like a really fun way to see the city. They have a built-in GPS as well as a tour guide keyed to the GPS. It speaks loud enough to be heard over traffic. Well, that was what they were SUPPOSED to do. As we discovered on a fun-filled day of adventure in a city where none of the eight of us—yes, we had four, count ‘em, FOUR, bright yellow three-wheelers careering around a city where none of us had a decent map nor spoke the language—had any idea of what we were getting into.

I never looked really closely at the GoCars in San Francisco. Perhaps I should have? Nevertheless, one stalwart couple we had never met also thought they would be fun. We added two more innocent couples the day before we got to Lisbon. The website says, “It's an exciting way to explore and see the sights. Travelling in the two seater GoCar, you'll be self guided to all the fun and interesting things to do and see.” Oh, they didn’t know the half of what we would do!

Right off the ship we were accosted by taxi drivers who insisted that, one, we shouldn’t go wherever it was that we were planning on going and two, we should go with them to wherever they thought we should go. When we nixed those suggestions and asked for a price to downtown (about a 5 minute drive, as we shortly discovered), they wanted €25. We finally found a two taxis to take the eight of us for €15 for each taxi. The meter read €6. Bummer, failed our first test. But at least we didn’t use the Princess shuttle bus that was $8 per person EACH WAY!

The taxis dumped us in front of a square that they said was the center of town. It was, but we had asked to be taken to Rua dos Douradores, 16. He said it was “Close.” We said we wanted to go there. He closed the door. So off we eight went on foot in search of the address. With the help of bystanders and shopkeepers we found it, about four blocks up, three blocks over, and two blocks up. Close.

Our first clue about the adventure we were about to embark upon was the exterior of the GoCars. Abysmal. Cracked this and broken that and duct-taped other thing. But we were so giddy at our adventure that we didn’t care. But we did take the €10 insurance. We got hairnets and helmets (surprisingly safety conscious) and an orientation. The thing we remembered the most was that the GoCars cannot back up; there is no reverse. To reverse, you push. More correctly, I push. All the women pushed because the men were driving and it takes at least ten minutes to uncoil yourself from the fetal position you are in in the GoCar. Our second clue was the blue smoke the cars belched into the air despite their assurances on the website that they are a completely carbon neutral company. Un-huh.

We were given maps on the approximate scale of the world atlas and off we went. Our first clue about the impending adventure was that half the GPSs didn’t work. But we didn’t find that out until we four had gone two blocks, turned left and right and barely managed to stop for a photo at a church. This was when I had the first uncurling from the fetal position to extricate Randy from the two curbs and a step that he had managed to drive over before finding the brake. This is when we learned that two of our friends could hear our GPS and were just following where we went. OK, so we had #1 with a GPS, #2 no GPS, #3 GPS, #4 no GPS.

After a few more missteps, including driving up on a pedestrian walkway and infuriating a French woman and missing several turns, we found ourselves on a four-lane highway and we had missed approximately 2/3 of the “tour” we were on and about 20 minutes had passed. The consensus was that we should try to find home base (not an easy thing to do). Lorna unearthed a map that had some semblance of a relationship to a proper city map so we thought we might, MIGHT, be able to return home. Au contraire, an additional hour and a half was to pass before we finally got there. Well, half of us got there in the ensuing hour and a half. The other four took a wee bit longer.

About this time our GPS started to break up. We would hear partial directions, like, “Go straight toward the Hard Rock…doing that, turn…then follow…” We went around one roundabout twice, our friends’ GPS got stuck in a loop and I think they went around it about five times. This was about where we got separated; they went straight and waited for us, we turned right and waited for them. Eventually we got storekeeper to help us and, on his direction—his emphatic direction—we turned right. Have I mentioned that we did not have a reverse gear? We turned right into a pedestrial mall with restaurants on either side, lots of umbrellas, lots of waiters wanting us to stop and eat of drink—we thought it would probably be a very bad idea to stop at that point for a beer, much though we wanted to do exactly that—and lots and lots of pedestrians giving us dirty looks as we farted blue smoke down the pedestrian mall.

Surviving that challenge, we wended our way through the streets until Lorna recognized a street we had walked on. A few more turns and we saw the by-now familiar little yellow cars parked outside the office. But none of our friends in their little yellow cars. Eventually they turned up after having the sense to find a phone and call for help—help was a guy on a Segway leading them home. Randy and I and Lorna and Dave had repaired to a local watering hole to lick our wounds and salve our thirsts. When Fred, Kathy, Allen, and June turned up, we made them buy another round.

Our thirsts slaked, we meandered back to where we we unceremoniasly dumped by the taxis and hailed two to take us “home.” Older and wiser now, we bargained to have the taxis use their meters (what a novel idea!) and the ride home only cost us €7 (with tip).

Since this was our Independence Day we tied our flag to the stern of the boat and had a party. It is ridiculously easy to have a party: call room service! And the morning after, just go to breakfast and when you get back your room and deck are sparkling clean!

Fishermen in the river on the way into Lisbon

Discoveries monument

I thought Yolanda would enjoy the dolphins at the base of the bridge supports

Flat Stanley and his beers

Our friends Kathy and Fred

The beginning of the adventure

Our chariots

Randy folding himself into the GoCar

A stop we shouldn't have made, but the church was pretty

After I extricated Randy from the steps

Still regrouping

Inside the church

The outside of the church

The transportation everybody else uses

Very pretty trolley and weather

This is the size street we should be on

We're venturing into dangerous territory

I don't think we should be here, Harry!

Flat Stanley enjoyed the ride

Flat Stanley with Randy

June finally got an internet connection

Street performer

An ornate entry to the main part of Lisbon

The bridge is reminiscent of the Golden Gate, but was designed by the designer of the Bay Bridge; Christ the Redeemer statue is to the left.

Another view of the Christ the Redeemer statue


  1. I didn't stop laughing the whole time I read this post. Hilarious! Starting with the photos of the beers at the top of the post, where the two of you look REALLY happy, sets the tone.

    Loved it! xoxoxo Kathy

  2. I am with Kathy, its been a long time since I had such a good old belly laugh.....what a riot, and I am SO SO glad I read your "review" as it WAS on our list of what to do in San Francisco...most of my laughter was centred around trying to picture my large bum and dicky hip having to use a can opener to get the heck outta there.......I will be laughing over this brilliant post for days, just CANNOT wait to meet you !! Keep safe and keep me amused ..Cheers xx

  3. I Have to tell you 24 hours later I am still laughing !!! Pam, I am having "issues" with my blog, I type us in paragraphs and it prints in one blooming long sentence ? tried and tried to correct this, no luck, any clues ? Also, how do I get people to access my comments with out the stupid "prove you are not a robot" verse, Steves requires this not so on yours.
    If you bump into the delightful Janet Rupp can you please tell her I am loving my post cards, and we will see you all in 13 sleeps ! Who knows we amy bump into you in NYC..its a small world after all..LOL Keep on having super fun ...Cheers xx

  4. I don't know, I use Word2010 and put 2 paragraph marks between each paragraph. But even without that it shows up in paragraphs, so i don't know. I see Janet occasionally but you wouldn't believe how people can be lost on the ship!