Follow the tourist: our journey to Castelo de São Jorge

It’s time for a classic vacation game: follow the tourist!

The goal of this game is to find a destination with the help of a fellow tourist who, just like you, have never been to the destination or surrounding area before, but seem to have an authority based on the fact that they’re ahead of you.

First, let us establish how to spot a tourist:

If a person fits two or more of the following descriptions, they’re most likely a tourist.

• They carry a camera around their neck

• They have a backpack

• They carry their backpack on their stomach

• They have a sweater and/or a jacket tied around their waist or shoulders

• They are sunburned

• They have a selfie stick

• They have Google maps open on their phone

• They have a physical map

• They are wearing one or more pieces of clothing with the vacation destination’s name or a famous sight on it

• They look confused on where they are and where they’re going.

Katie and I played this game on our way to Castelo de Sao Jorge in Lisbon, after Google Maps had led us up a long staircase leading to nowhere. In front of us, we had spotted three young women, all were wearing backpacks, one was sporting a fancy camera, and most importantly, they stopped at every street corner to check their phone, in other words: we had found us a tourist! (Or a group of tourist to be precise).

In the hopes that their phone was giving them a different route than the one mine had presented, I tucked my phone in my pocket and followed them around a corner and up a hill where we met a new group of tourists. It was at this point the girls also decided to play follow the tourist.

A new game always start at a respectful distance. Therefore the three groups, although in a silent agreement to help each other, did not address one another. Instead we all politely pretended that we were just randomly walking in the same direction.

Taking a right, we followed a narrow street filled with people walking in the opposite direction of us. I think we all knew they were coming back from a dead end, but unwilling to give up hope, we continued on, and unsurprisingly, the end of the street unveiled itself in front of us. No matter how much the map told us that there was a street ahead, we could not ignore that there was a house blocking the way.

Defeated, we started our back tracking. Katie and I were now leading the way. That was when we ran into a group led by a middle aged Irish couple. Their group was more evolved than ours, already a little community getting to know each other and small talking. So they asked us directly if we were also on a quest to find the castle. When hearing our sad news, the two groups decided to join forces, but before we could proceed, a young gentleman with a girlfriend on his arm made his way through the crowd. His map said there was a road where we had come from, were we really accusing his map of being wrong? Nothing could persuade them that there was a building where the map claimed there was a road, and the young couple decided to go rouge.

Never the less, our group, now counting at least 15 heads, continued on and we walked and walked. We had the castle on our right hand side, and felt like we had circled the thing more than a few times (we hadn’t, that thing is enormous). As we approach what seemed like yet another dead end, a couple appeared from nowhere and told us to follow the rails. The rails? The question was murmured among the group members until we finally spotted them. The tram rails were crawling their way down the cobble stoned street. And we were off, not in the direction of the rails, but in a street that seemed to be parallel. One could argue that that might not have been the best solution, but all of a sudden we were by the entrance to the castle and our group, bound together by the common goal of finding the castle, now parted in silence.

Also: here’s a picture of a peacock we ran into:

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