Posts Tagged ‘Lisbon’

Day 36: Lisbon to Madrid

Posted: August 25, 2014 in Getting Around, Madrid
Tags: , ,

Day 36: Lisbon to Madrid

Our flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until 3pm-ish but we got up early so we could stop at the Oceanaria de Lisboa – the Lisbon Aquarium…

Our landlord (Pedro) met us at the apartment at 9:30am to handle the checkout and returning our deposit (100 euros). Very friendly (and chatty!) guy – we learned all about his business plan and operation – he has 3 apartments currently being rented out (he rents them from someone else and sublets them to tourists) and has just signed a lease on 3 more… He was telling us that a flat in the Alfama area the size of the one we rented (about 25 square metres) was selling for about 8000 euros two years ago but is now selling for over 100,000 euros! Given that he pays about 800 euros a month to lease the apartment he rented to us and he’s full 85% of the time at 60-70 euros a night, he’s not doing too badly but he’s got a ways to go before he can quit his day job…

After chatting with Pedro for a bit, we headed over to the Santa Appolonia train station to catch the Red Line metro to the aquarium. We navigated our way through Lisbon’s excellent underground system without any trouble – it’s weird how we can figure out the subway system in countries where we don’t speak or read a word of their language but figuring out the SkyTrain system in Vancouver is almost impossible…

We hopped off at stop nearest the aquarium and – as it used to be the end of the line until they pushed the airport extension through in July of this year, took advantage of their convenient luggage storage facilities (4.5 euros to store all our bags for a couple of hours) and then made the 10 minute trek to the aquarium.

It cost us about $70 cdn to get in and was mostly worth it – they have a huge central tank that links all the various ecosystems of the aquarium and is full of sharks and rays and all kinds of other fish. Because you can view it from multiple angles, you get to see every kind of fish up close and personal through the floor to ceiling viewing spaces. The rest of the aquarium is set up around the central tank and is based on various oceans and ecosystems… It’s actually pretty cool and kind of made me want to get back into diving again… The only downside was the three resident sea otters (the only marine mammals they have at the aquarium) were sleeping while we were there so we didn’t get to see them… Kind of a bummer for Caitlin who thinks they might just be the cutest critters on the whole planet (after her dog Ladybug of course).

After the aquarium, we piled back onto the metro and traveled the three stops to the airport. Once there, we hopped the shuttle bus to the right terminal and entered the line to check-in (we’d already checked in but needed to drop out checked bags and EasyJet – like other low-cost airlines we’ve flown this trip – doesn’t have a separate baggage drop for people already checked in… It was a big line up… After standing in line for about 5 minutes, though, a guy came along calling for any passengers flying to Madrid… That was us so we followed him out of the line to his check-in counter where he got us all squared away… Best airline customer service we’ve had in all our flights thus far (on any of our trips). He explained we’d have to consolidate our carry on bags down to one each (Marie and Caitlin were carrying small “purse” size bags in addition to their backpacks) or we’d have to pay 55 euros at the gate and got us all set up for our flight…

After leaving the check-in counter we immediately headed through security (they’re less than 2 minutes apart)… Along the way, Marie slammed the little bottle of Licor Beirho that she had in her carry-on (we all got quite a kick out of her hustling along with all her bags taking little sips of liquor from her tiny little bottle). Security would turn out to be all kinds of fun… You see, at this point in the trip, we’ve accumulated a lot of souvenirs (more on this trip than previous ones) and some of them are quite fragile. So we carry them on the airplane instead of putting them in our checked bags. So going through security in Lisbon, Marie and Caitlin were carrying two medium-sized day packs full of assorted souvenirs – soaps in tins, canned sardines from Lisbon, vacuum packed bags of teas and spices from Turkey, scarves, magnets, mugs and other stuff from the various countries and cities we’ve visited… You get the picture… I think the security guy manning the x-ray machine had a small seizure when Caitlin and Marie’s bags went through… Not surprisingly they were both pulled aside (by a very polite and friendly security screener) and asked to unpack their bags… This was no easy task as these bags have been packed for days and days (Caitlin kept exclaiming “I forgot I bought that” as she unpacked her bag) and they were packed very precisely to maximize space and cushion the fragile items… It was all good fun as they’re pulling all these items wrapped in bubble wrap or plastic bags or paper out and handing them to the security screening who’s looking at the items (and us) with a “what the heck is this?” kind of look… The best part was when the security screener finished with Caitlin’s bag, she turned to Marie and said “I’ve forgotten why I need you to unpack your bag.” It all turned out fine in the end. We’ve seen enough people having to throw out toiletries, aftershave, food (I especially remember the elderly woman in Turkey who had to throw out huge tubs of hummus or some other kind of quite runny dip she was trying to smuggle onto the plane), water, etc. that we’re pretty careful about what goes into our carry on bags and the staff were very friendly and positive. What could have been a very lousy situation was no big deal at all.

After security we made our way to the loading gate… which more appropriately should have been called a cattle gate as we all got packed into these loading areas waiting for the doors to open… Again, EasyJet demonstrated good customer service as they had a couple of guys going up and down the line tagging any overly large carry-on items to be “sky checked” (moved into a hold instead of the passenger cabin) so that it didn’t have to be done at the gate proper. Once everyone was loaded into the holding pens, we waited for about 15 minutes (this would have been more comfortable with something to sit on or lean against) before the doors opened and we walked over to our plane… No concourses or buses for EasyJet – just good old-fashioned foot power. We boarded our plane (an older but well-maintained AirBus A319) and settled in for the short hop from Lisbon to Madrid.

The flight passed without incident and we were soon on the ground at Madrid airport – although we made quite possible the longest “gear down” approach we’ve ever made (the landing gear came down so early that at one point I actually worried that the plane’s altimeter was off and we were going to try landing at 15,000 feet). Once we landed, we also taxied from one time zone to another (okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration but it felt like we taxied forever to get to our arrivals gate). Then it was pick up the bags and figure out how to get from Terminal 1 (where we landed) to Terminal 4 (where the train to the city leaves from)… We eventually found our way to the shuttle and made it to the terminal… From there we had to figure out where the trains were (took a minute or two but we found them) and made our way to the right platform. The train arrived right on time and, following the helpful instructions from our hostal, we made our way to Plaze del Sol in the heart of Madrid. Using Google Maps’ awesome offline navigation features we found the correct street and made the 5 minute walk to our hostal.

After that it was check-in, dump the bags and head out for something to eat (EasyJet doesn’t feed you unless you pay for it so we all shared a chicken sandwich we’d bought at the train station but other than that had not eaten anything other than some yogurt since breakfast). We wandered around for a bit before settling on the restaurant attached to our hostal (which by the way seems to be a Madrid of Spanish thing – sort of midway between a hostel and a hotel). Our hostal was situated on Plaza Angel which has a bunch of “tables with umbrellas out in the square” sort of restaurants – most of them were pretty pricey (especially after Turkey which was cheap for food and Lisbon which was quite reasonable). Our hostal’s restaurant was reasonably priced and the food was good. The service on the other hand was exceptionally poor – they managed to elevate indifferent well beyond Paris standards (which is quite an accomplishment).

After dinner we wandered around a bit more and found Plaza Mayor (one of the major squares in Madrid) and the Mercado de San Miguel – a happening market with a Granville Island sort of vibe with lots of different tapas and drinks and exotic foods to sample. We decided we’d eat lunch there the next day! We also found a Madrid specialty – chocolate churros – yup… your good-old-fashioned churro dipped into what is basically a cup of thick gooey hot chocolate… They’re delicious… After a bit of wandering around, it was back to the room toff to bed so we could make an early start the next day… Our room was on the third floor of an older building that looked out onto the plaza below (we even had one of those cute Parisien style wrought iron balconies). The hostal has made a good effort at soundproofing the room (installing a second set of soundproof sliding doors) but we could still hear a bit of the noise from outside (and quite a bit of noise from inside the hotel as the kids and family in the room next to ours sounded as if they were right in the room with us). Otherwise, the room was very cute with high ceilings and a lot of character…

I’ve also include a picture below of Caitlin and Marie bundled up in their blankets at the restaurant in Lisbon the other night… Yes, they’re wrapped up in blankets in 26° weather… Caitlin definitely inherited her mother’s “I’m cold all the time gene”

The other picture is of the box of meringues Caitlin and Marie bought for 1.5 euros on one of the days we were in Lisbon (I think it was the same day I bought my bottle of port) – the guy obviously took a shine to them as he packed the box so full of meringues it wouldn’t close… He kept peeking over at the other people working in the store then stuffing more meringues into the box. When he passed it over he made sure no one was looking and kind of gave Marie and Caitlin a conspiratorial look and a big smile… They’ve been eating meringues for days… They’re so obsessed that when one fell on the ground as soon as they opened the box for the first time they both looked at each other with a “oh no, did that just happen?” look then shouted “5 second rule!” and picked it up off the street (the dirty Lisbon street no less) and ate it… Sugar is a dangerous drug kids…

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Days 33-35: Lisbon

Posted: August 22, 2014 in Lisbon
Tags: , , , ,

What an awesome city… we’ve had a great three days in Lisbon and have enjoyed ourselves immensely.

Day 33: We started off with a visit to a giant flea market/outdoor garage sale (aptly named “The Thieves’ Market). They were selling a pretty wide variety of stuff from household bric-a-brac to touristy souvenirs and everything in between. I think one guy was even selling an outboard motor… After the Thieves’ Market we headed over to the National Pantheon – started as church back in the 16th century but never finished until the 20th century when it was completed as a sort of monument to dead leaders of Portugal’s democratic movement… It’s a really beautiful basilica style building (similar to the Aya Sofia or those types of churches) but pretty sparsely decorated inside and without all the church trappings (no chapels or crucifixes or the like). The outer terrace provides a great view of the Alfama area (where we were staying) and the river…

After the National Pantheon we made our way over to the Castle (of St. George I think but I can’t remember exactly and the Portuguese name for it escapes me at the moment)… Along the way we made a bit of a detour back to our neighbourhood to grab a quick lunch (fantastic fried beef sandwiches – basically a small dinner steak fried with a bit of tasty pan gravy on a couple of pieces of peasant bread – after 2 weeks of donors and kebabs – it tasted like manna from heaven). Then it was off to find the castle… which proved more difficult than you’d think considering it’s a huge pile of rocks at the top of one of the highest hills in Lisbon… Turns out the area we stayed in is a bit hilly (by that I mean hilly like the Himalayas… we’ve been doing our own bootcamp each day just going to and from the apartment).

Along the way to the castle we found a nice viewpoint overlooking Lisbon with a great old church… Of course we needed to poke our heads in and check it out (Marie is a fiend for old churches) – this one was pretty cool – your typical dark and atmospheric gothic style church.

We eventually found the castle (it took a while and we had a lovely tour of the neighbourhood along the way) only to discover there was a huge lineup to buy tickets to get in (and by this time it was getting close to closing time so we figured it wasn’t worth it for that day). So we headed back to the main street we’d found (the one where the iconic #28 tram runs) and decided to hop on the tram and take a bit of a tour of Lisbon… After forking over 8.55 euros for the three of us we clambered aboard with about 100 other people (in a tram built for maybe 60 people) and shook, rattled and rolled our way around the narrow streets and alleyways of old Lisbon… It was awesome… And I didn’t see a thing (after giving up my seat for an older woman I was caught in the crush of standees and gradually got pushed further and further to the back as new people climbed on) for most of it.

We hit the end of the line and piled out into a kind of empty commercial area and poked around for a bit then climbed back on the tram (for another 8.55 euros!) for the trip back to the Alfama area… This time we got seats and were able to see a lot more of the sights along the way.

After our tram ride, we headed back to Alfama and the area of our apartment to find something for dinner. We settled on a place with a fixed menu – you got a plate of fish and potatoes or grilled meat and rice… And for the first time in all our travels were told we couldn’t play cards while waiting for our dinner… We’ve heard of this happening to other people but have never had it happen to us… The woman tried to explain that it was some kind of bylaw (I looked online for it but couldn’t find anything)… They also brought out a nice block of cheese, some bread and some chorizo sausage (without us asking for us) and then charged us 11 euros for it all (this isn’t unusual and we could have said “no” but it was quite tasty)… The meals were excellent… but the no cards thing kind of took us aback a bit… Especially Marie who was winning at rummy for the first time in quite some time…

After dinner it was back to the apartment and off to bed as we’d had a bit of late start today and were planning to get up early to get in a full day in Belem tomorrow.

Day 34: We decided (after Caitlin doing a bit more research) to buy a Lisboa card that would give us 48hrs of access to all forms of public transport and free or reduced admission to most of the major attractions (it turned out to be well worth the 31 euro cost per person). We headed to the nearest metro station with a Tourist Information booth (where we could buy the cards) only to be told by the woman that she was just closing (at 9:25am when their card brochures said the shop was open until 1:30pm… grrr). So we paid our 6 euros for one ticket each and piled on the metro to the next stop (as advised by the tourist info woman) – turns out we could have walked it in about 10 minutes… Keep in mind this is the same tourist information service that wanted to charge us 24 euros for a taxi trip that ended up costing 14… Not impressed so far but will give them another chance… Turns our third time was the charm and we left with our Lisboa cards in hand to head for Belem – a small “town” a few kilometres away from Lisbon – it seems all the tourists in Lisbon had the same idea. We missed the first tram to come along by a fair margin (it was way too full) and ended up waiting about 20 minutes for the next one. I think the people of Lisbon take their sardines a bit too seriously as they were doing there best to turn us into a tram full of human sardines…

When we arrived in Belem about a half hour later (a little wrinkled and squished) we headed for the Museum of Modern Art (Caitlin’s choice) where Marie kept up a running art criticism commentary – “looks like it was done by a kindergarten kid… oh look – preschooler’s art… I could have done that – If I had no talent or interest in beauty at all…” It wasn’t the best museum of modern art I’ve ever seen (and some of it was of the “I don’t want to get it” variety) but overall it was a nice way to start the day (mainly because we had it mostly to our selves for a good portion of our visit).

Then it was over to the Discoveries Monument – a huge tower built in the mid 20th century to commemorate all the explorers and discoveries in Portuguese seafaring history. It was cool. Except for the fact that 3 of the 4 sides were completely covered in scaffolding and screening so we couldn’t see it (not the first time we’ve commented that construction people should check with us before they begin restorations). We decided not to pay the money to climb the tower (fair-sized lineup) and headed over the Jeronimos monastery – a very cool gothic church and accompanying monastic buildings and cloister… The lineup was pretty long and brutal (no shade, blazing sun) but it was worth it.

After the monastery we headed over to a Belem pastry shop that apparently invented this pastry that Lisbon is famous for… They make 15,000 a day and have been making them since 1837. They are fantastic. Unfortunately, I was sharing mine with Caitlin and she almost bit off two fingers trying to stuff as much of my pastry in her mouth as possible. I was a little frightened. Marie had tried the pastries (from a different shop and clearly inferior) and didn’t really like them so she had something else… I have no idea what it was although it tasted pretty good.

After loading up on pastries we hopped back on the tram and headed to the Belem Tower – a defensive fort built to lob cannon balls at any shops foolish enough to try to and sail up the river without paying off the King or monks or whoever happened to be controlling Lisbon at the time. When we arrived, the line up wasn’t too bad. For some reason, though, they decided that no one could go into the tower until everyone had come out (at least we think that’s what happened but no one said anything to those of us standing in line). We waited a long time… The tower was cool but maybe not worth the hour we waited.

After the tower it was back on the tram for the ride back to Lisbon proper and then a metro train to the Rossio and Baixa-Chiado districts. These are supposed to be some primo shopping areas but we’re pretty shopped out at this point in the trip (and the packs are getting pretty full) but we did same some Ginjinja (a sort of cherry brandy like liquor) at the place that supposedly invented it back in the mid 19th century and we stopped for a drink at a local watering hole (the type where you come in, order something, knock it back while standing at the bar and then leave) – I’m pretty sure Caitlin and Marie were the first women the place has seen in quite some time… We also checked out a very cool 16th century church that was badly damaged by fire in the 1950s but is still standing and still being used as a church… It was very enigmatic to see what had obviously been a very ornate and elegant church so badly damaged by fire. It was quite poignant actually…

After a bit of wandering around, it was time to head back to our neighbourhood (Alfama) for dinner. While waiting for the tram to our neck of the woods we hit a liquor store and stocked up on some unique Portugal liquors (small bottles of Ginjinha and Port and 700 ml bottle of Licor Beirao – sort of a Portuguese Jaegermeister type herbal drink that Marie has decided is the next best thing to Black Sambuca). We also hit up a little Museum of Beer celebrating Portugal’s beer industry (it was cute but there’s no way we could afford to eat or drink there). Once we got back to our neighbourhood, we settled on a little place right across the street from our apartment. Food was good. Service was interesting – the old guy (who probably owned the place) was doing well until he lost it on his 17 or 18 year old grandaughter(?) for talking or texting on her cell phone… This set off an extended squabble that lasted the whole dinner and took a toll on the poor guy’s attention span. But the food was good.

After dinner it was back to the apartment… We left just before 9am and didn’t get back to the apartment until well after 10 and most of the day was spent walking (on the cobblestone roads that Lisbon is famous for). Our feet were pretty done in… And we have a full day of stuff to do tomorrow as well…

Day 35: We got up bright and early and scarfed some yogurt and fruit for breakfast (excellent foraging again Dad!) and then headed for the castle that had been too busy earlier. We beat the lineups and headed right in to see some stunning vistas of Lisbon – definitely one of the most scenic overlooks you’ll ever find with the river in the background and the white and tile buildings with the red tile roofs… Very pretty to look at. I still think they should section off a part of the city and let you fire cannons from the castle into the area. After all they’ve got all these old cannons lined up pointing to various parts of the city and the river… I’d pay to do something like that 🙂

The castle is very interesting – it’s the real deal in terms of having been built to defend instead of as a fancy royal residence. The walls are huge. The murder holes would actually have worked and the overlapping walls, turns and curtain walls are all still intact. And it’s all situated at the top of a very scenic hill providing 360° views of the city… Well worth a visit – especially right after it opens when the hordes haven’t arrived yet.

After the castle it was off to the main cathedral – a 12th century Romanesque church with a gothic addition. Your usual dark and spooky kind of church designed to put the fear of God into the worshippers. We paid a couple extra euros to see the cloister – this was quite interesting as they’ve actually dug up the central courtyard of the cloister and exposed the Moorish and Roman structures that were covered over when the cloister was built. It was very interesting to see the layers of history. We also visited the treasury of the church and a particularly elegant library and audience room where the Bishop would meet important guests.

Before we hit the church though, the tram bypassed the stop for the church and deposited us right in front of a very good port, wine and liquor store that did tastings… We tried a few ports and green wines and other liquors and in the end I settled on a bottle of 20 year old port (that you can’t find in Canada because they aren’t allowed to export it) – I’m looking forward to tasting it again when we get home. At 45 euros for the bottle it’s one of the more expensive liquors I own… But nothing compared to the 2000 euro bottles of port we’ve seen in some places.

After the church we headed back to our apartment to drop off our purchases from the morning and to have lunch at the place we’d eaten at on our first day – 3.5 euros for a pork sandwich and a glass of sangria… Yummy! We also stopped and bought some linens from a great old guy across the street from our apartment – he spoke absolutely no English, loved Caitlin and Marie and chattered away non-stop the whole time we were in his shop…

Then we headed to the Chiado district (kind of an upscale shopping area) to check out a Museum of Design that Caitlin was interested in (actually pretty interesting) then made our way over to a ruined convent (damaged during the 1755 earthquake and then ripped by fire) then stopped for a drink and to listen to an impromptu music show, then explored the Bairro Alto area (one of the more rough and tumble neighbourhoods now converted to a whole bunch of bars and restaurants for the tourists). We eventually found ourselves back in Rossio where we’d been the day before (not exactly sure how that happened) so we headed back into Bairro Alto to find a place to eat dinner and settled on a place with outdoor seating that provided blankets (a nice touch) – It was still in the mid to high 20’s but Marie and Caitlin were freezing after the high 30s and low 40s weather we had in Turkey… I was comfortable…

After dinner we made our way back to a tram stop and headed back to the apartment to pack and get ready for our flight to Madrid and the last couple of days of our holidays…

Lisbon is a beautiful city full of interesting and friendly people. The architecture is beautiful without being pretentious. The food is simple and down to earth and very tasty. There’s lots of history and a melting pot of culture and no shortage of little alleys and interesting squares to explore.  In short, it’s a great place to visit… In fact, it’s the kind of place I’d like to live for 6 months or a year to get more of a feel for the place. We’ve walked our feet off (even after all the walking we’ve done on this trip we’re all hurting) and have had a great time… We’ve had very full days and there’s a still a bunch of things we’d like to have done if we had more time. Kudos to Caitlin for talking us into to adding it to the itinerary for this trip!

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Whew… that was quite the travel day. We left the guesthouse at 7am precisely (it was a bit of a struggle as no one really wanted to get up so early) and made the trip to the Izmir Airport in far less than the 90 minutes Google Maps said it would take… In fact we got to the airport so early the check-in desk for Pegasus Airlines hadn’t even opened yet. So we kind of wandered around a bit looking for something to eat (most of the places hadn’t opened yet) and a WiFi connection…

The airport is quite new and has obviously been built with expansion in mind as there’s a lot of empty spaces and room to grow.

After shelling out an arm and half a leg for some muffins (that cinnamon raisin bagel I talked Caitlin into turned out to be an olive bagel… not so good with strawberry jam apparently) and juice we checked some emails, updated the blog (I’ve been a few days behind the whole trip) and basically killed time until it was time to board our flight.

We boarded. The plane took off. They served nothing to eat or drink unless you paid for it. The plane landed. It was pretty usual stuff… But we were landing in Athens… Home of the best feta cheese anywhere in the world. And Alfa beer… We ate better in the Athens airport than we have for days. I ordered a special at one place that included the biggest piece of moussaka you’ll ever seen in your life, a Greek salad and a cold Alfa beer (for €12 which isn’t exactly cheap but Marie and I were able to share it… sort of… Marie didn’t like the moussaka and was a little greedy with the Greek salad) – I was even able to convince the woman serving it all up to let me add some extra feta to the Greek salad… It’s funny – we hunt high and low in Victoria for authentic Greek feta and this stuff from some chain restaurant in the airport was better than anything we can find at home… And Alfa beer is one of my all time favourites and I’ve never been able to find it in Victoria.

We also found the whole check-in process a lot more civilized. We’d booked the flight from Izmir to Athens through Pegasus and they have no baggage drop desks – it doesn’t matter if you’ve checked in or not, you stand in the same line just to drop off your checked baggage. With Aegean, you don’t check in at all at the desk – they have kiosks or you do it on line and the only reason you approach the desk is to check your bags… It went much faster and even though we were flying two different airlines (Aegean to Rome and TAP from Rome to Lisbon) and had book our flights through Expedia, they were able to check our luggage through and make it all work…

Soon the gastronomic delights had to end and it was time to board the plane for our flight to Rome. Again, the plane  took off. But this time they served a decent hot meal of meatballs, rice with tomato sauce and a dinner roll and free drinks… It was positively decadent compared to the budget Pegasus flights we’ve taken since we left Istanbul. The plane landed (obviously or I wouldn’t be writing this) and we deplaned and headed into the heart of the Rome airport… Last time we were here, I’d found a little paper/pen store that sold Lamy fountain pens for 1/2 what they cost at home and wanted to replace the one I’d bought a couple years ago (it’s started to leak a bit) – I was able to find it eventually and their prices hadn’t changes since the last time we were there… Score!

We grabbed a snack from a serve yourself restaurant and used the free WiFi to finish up a last blog post and then it was time to board our flight… so far we’d spent about 6 hours in lay overs and a couple of hours of actual flying so we were all starting to feel a bit bedraggled…

Again, we boarded. The flight took off. And this time they served a chicken pasta with almonds and spinach and a cream sauce… Marie salivated all over herself at how good it was and tried to steal from Caitlin and I… I thought it was pretty good but wasn’t worth gnawing our child’s off over… The flight passed without incident (although they did announce that we were flying around some 100 km/hr winds and it might get bumpy but nothing really materialized) and we landed in the Lisbon airport a little after our expected arrival time of 9:30pm.

After picking our luggage up we headed for the exit and tried to figure out the best way to get to our apartment – having found out when we landed that our landlord wouldn’t be able to pick us up at the airport after all… After a bit of discussion we settled on grabbing a cab and checked with the tourism information booth about their prepaid taxi vouchers… Turns out they’re running a bit of a scam on the tourists as they were going to charge us €24 for an 8km cab ride (that in the end cost us €14 with a generous tip)… If we’d been traveling a greater distance it would have been a deal perhaps but for a short hop it was considerably more expensive to go the prepaid route… The scammish part of it was that the woman wasn’t wholly upfront about that when we asked…

Our cabbie whisked us to the front door of the apartment where our landlord’s surrogate checked us in, ran down the basics and collected our money. The apartment is located in a very historic part of Lisbon and is quite cute (albeit a bit small for three people) and the landlord has gone to great lengths to make it very homey and livable and even provides a decanter full of ginjinha – a traditional Portuguese liquor – and fresh fruit and pastries and a couple of Fado CDs (kind of a Portuguese jazz but that’s a bit of an oversimplification). Although the stairs to the apartment are something else (my shoulders touch the walls and if one were to fall on the exceptionally narrow steps it would be game over). After taking a bit to acclimatize ourselves and sort ourselves out after a full day of travel, it was lights out and off to bed for all of us after a long day of layovers and flights.

I’ll be doing an “omnibus” update on three days in Lisbon as soon as I can get to it… The short version: Lisbon is amazing. Great people. Great food. Beautiful views. Awesome architecture… I’m putting it my top 5 favourite cities of all time…

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