On the go in my Eurovision shoes … a fan’s journey to Lisbon.
Anni Jowett (United Kingdom) reporting.
I’ve been a fan of the Eurovision song contest for as long as I can remember, and I always hoped I would actually get to go to experience the contest in the host city someday. So when Alexander Rybak was selected to represent Norway for a second time in March 2018 I had no doubt that this year would be THE year to pack my bags and head for Eurovision in May.
We made plans to be in Lisbon for the opening ceremony, which sadly this year was only accessible to accredited people, so we watched on the big screen, in the public Eurovision square in the city centre, cheering enthusiastically from the front row. After the opening ceremony we jumped straight in the car and took a few days road trip to see the sites and taste the port to the North of Lisbon. Visiting Porto, Coimbra and Sintra. It’s a beautiful country for sure, friendly people, great weather and delicious food and drink. We watched the first semi-final on TV in the hotel stopover on route back to Lisbon.
2nd Semi Final
Thankfully we all managed to get tickets we wanted to both the dress rehearsal and the live show of second semi-final, the semi-final Norway was taking part in. So we made Lisbon our home for the next few days, staying in an apartment in the city centre. Travel to the Altice arena was pretty straight forward using the underground train system; it did get pretty packed at times, but always a wonderful high spirited atmosphere on board, chatting and singing with fellow Eurovision fans from all countries. It was like this everywhere amongst the fans, in the city, on the trains, and in the arena… a real feeling of fun and excitement, friendliness and warmth.
For the afternoon rehearsal we had to arrive at the arena quite early as we had golden circle tickets which also included a backstage area tour before the show, as you can imagine I found this fascinating as a fan of Eurovision. We were also incredibly lucky to be on the first tour, which meant we were first to be let into the arena for the show and were able to get standing places at the very front of the stage. I cannot express the joy I felt in my heart when I saw Alexander on the Eurovision stage again, and this time to be there waving my Norwegian Flag this close to the stage in person! Wow it was amazing! Just as I had dreamt it would be.
In the evening it was the live semi-final show and we had managed to get seats together seats in the front rows of the first tier, which not only had a great view of the stage and the audience in the arena, but also had a direct view onto the green room area where the artists were during the show. And Norway’s couch was the closest to us! At one point during the voting, Norway’s head of delegation Stig Karlsen spotted us in the audience and waved, he then pointed us out to Alexander, who turned to us waved and smiled broadly, I got so caught up in the moment I blew him a kiss! Which to my delight he returned the gesture! Another thrilling joyful evening went to yet another level when we heard Alexander had qualified for the final on Saturday!
Heading “home” we knew there would be overcrowding on the first metro’s back into the city, so we found a nearby bar to relax and wait for the crowds to abate, and there we found like-minded people eagerly analysing the night’s performances, singing the songs and looking forward to the final. Let the party continue.
Trying to get tickets for the final contest proved most difficult as we only applied on the final wave of ticket sales in April. However we managed four tickets for the Jury final on Friday night and then two others would go to the family rehearsal on Saturday afternoon. I knew the chances of getting the final live show would be virtually impossible, not to mention incredibly expensive, so I was happy with Jury final tickets knowing that I would get to see the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 a full 24 hours before the rest of Europe. And as this is the show the Jurys vote on, all performances will be exactly the same as the live final.
So we went and sat again on first tier but on the other side of the arena this time. During this particular show the artists didn’t sit in the green room, but walked to and out of the green room area after the flag parade. And as we waved, Alexander and Stig spotted us again and waved back. We sat next to some very likable and excited Spanish people and had a splendid evening together. Amazing performances, the audience was so vibrant and animated also; all the songs were so well received. At the end of the evening we made our way back to Lisbon floating on the Eurovision air.
The next day I awoke wondering what to do with my day before the big final that we planned watch in our apartment that evening. Before I could even wipe the sleep from my eyes, Susanne handed me a ticket and said… “Would you like to go to the rehearsal this afternoon?” It turned out she had bought an extra ticket back in April after spending 5 hours in the virtual ticket queue and planned to surprise someone with the ticket! “My Eurovision godmother!” I was delighted to accept of course! So I quickly dressed into my Norwegian colours and skipped back to the Altice arena for a final time. After the show we stopped on the way home for some Fado and dinner and we arrived back at the apartment to find the drinks and snacks laid out by our friends for a proper Eurovision Party. “Let the final Eurovision song contest of 2018 commence!” And it was a very fun night in.
It was thrilling to hear that Alexander had the highest number of votes in the second semi-final, and in MY heart he was the winner of the whole contest. Whilst my loudest cheers and votes went to Alexander this year, I had also become familiar and fond of a lot of the songs and artists after attending the London preview party, watching the first semi-final (once), Second semi-final (twice) and finals (three times). There was some incredible music on that stage during the whole of the contest, and what a totally entertaining show and definitely something I would not hesitate to attend again!