Praca dos Restaradores, Lisbon
Our trip to Lisbon in July 2015 was organised at short notice and there were a couple of things we had to take into account.
Caroline was due to attend a family wedding on Saturday 4th July and the second was the early morning check-in and flight departure on Sunday 5th July – from Liverpool John Lennon Airport as that’s where our out and back point was.
Fortunately we got a bit of a deal on the hotel, car parking and fast-tracking at the airport.
The hotel was the Hampton by Hilton and this plus said car park were across the road from the terminal. Caroline had however left the reception early to get home, change and get in the car for our drive to the airport. Arrival time? 11.15pm…
We decided not to go for the very early breakfast option, but it was still 5am when the alarm went off. Shower, breakfast and check out were completed by 6.45 and the stroll across the road to the terminal took two minutes.
Fast-tracking through security wasn’t a problem – we’d already checked in online, had hand luggage only and had already checked that our bags fitted inside the easyJet hand luggage measuring devices.
Second breakfast wasn’t an option as we had noticed the prices at various cafes, but another coffee to wake us up didn’t break the bank so that option was chosen instead.
This was the first time that we’d flown with easyJet and it has to be said that we didn’t have any problems with the airline or the flight on either our journey to or from Lisbon.
Unlike the family seated behind us. The youngest hadn’t let his mum know that he needed the loo before the seatbelt light went on as the plane started its descent and he ended up peeing himself. His father ‘fessed up to the crew about what had happened whilst his mum went slightly balistic about what had happened.
The crew were fine about it, but one question remained – would the seat be a dry one for the potential occupant on the flight home, given the rapid turnaround times on budget airlines?
Once we reached the land side of the terminal, it was time to hit the Metro to get into Lisbon. We’d used a cab on our first visit in 2013 and then we discovered Viva Viagem rechargeable travel cards.
Yes, there was queue at the machines to the left of the Metro entrance, but the wait was worth it and it wasn’t long before we were on a train and heading into Lisbon in search of Rato Metro Station.
With a few hours to kill before we could check into our digs, it was lunch time.
Our salads and cold drinks came with a friendly warning from the cafe owner about pickpockets, something that we’d read up about before our 2013 visit.
We had taken our own precautions as we were both wearing Rohan travel clothing with plenty of zipped pockets and our respective Osprey Farpoint 40 travel bags were both padlocked as a means of keeping thieving barstools at bay. Others we met during the week weren’t so lucky…
The trusty Osprey Farpoint 40 travel pack…
Lisbon Dreams Guest House was our home for the week. It’s not on the beaten track, but it ensured that there would be plenty of exercise over the next seven days as we walked into the centre of Lisbon in search of places to visit or fodder for evening meals.
Our minimalist room had a comfy bed, dressing table, a supply of snacks and drinks on an honesty box system plus a very welcome cool air fan, slippers and a rather luxurious bath robe each, handy as the room wasn’t ensuite and accessing the communal bathrooms meant walking through the TV room/lounge area.
Wine or other snacks were available in the hotel reception area or in the mini market at ground level below Lisbon Dreams and there was 24 hour coffee (instant or fresh depending on time of day) available in the breakfast room/resident’s kitchen area.
As it we were pushing the boat out on this trip and letting others do the catering rather than making meals ourselves, the time came to make a decision as to where to go for the first of those evening meals.
The decision wasn’t hard one we’d visited a good vegetarian place on our first visit to Lisbon. Terra is a few minutes walk away from Lisbon Dreams in Principe Real and it offers a good choice of both vegetarian and vegan food in its buffet spread.
You can sit inside or out in the garden area and choose from starters, mains and sweets plus alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks. Caroline went for fruit juice with her meal and I went for the beer option whilst post-meal drinks were Port and um bica (espresso) respectively.
It would have been quite easy to stay in the garden at Terra and linger over more port or coffee, but as it was now 9.30pm and we still had to walk back to Lisbon Dreams, discretion was the better part of valour so we wandered back to our beds and slept relatively soundly, despite the early morning delivery to the mini-market on the ground floor…
In part II tomorrow – Alafama, Belem and why you should always have some small change on you!
If you read my poshpacking post a couple of days ago, you may have noticed that I talked about the clothing and other bits and pieces that I took over to Tavira, but missed out on a few things that ensured that my Osprey hit that 8kg mark that I mentioned in poshpacking.
Three things that weren’t in my pack were my camera, Kindle and dumb-ass phone. Two out of the three items were used in Portugal and one wasn’t.
The Nikon Coolpix S3100 has been worth its weight in gold. The pics are pretty good and the few that aren’t are either dumped off the SD card on the day that they’re shot or nuked when they hit the Mac Mini that wisepacking is put together on.
As ever, the old style Kindle proved its worth. Quite a few books had been added before we headed off to Portugal so there was a good mix of biographies, travel accounts, business stuff and quite a few amusing tomes too.
The best one was started on the plane over to Faro and finished whilst in Tavira – My Dining Hell by Jay Rayner, restaurant critic for The Observer. His weekly column in that paper is always a joy to read and his book highlights several of his Greatest Hits (and mentions which ones are still around and which ones have disappeared into the ether).
Now I did take the respective chargers over for the Nikon and the Kindle with me, but neither were needed as both kept their charges well over the course of the week. The bag used to store the chargers & plug adaptors and any spare SD cards came from IKEA and was one of bags or packing cubes used to keep my stuff sorted and in order …
The phone was only taken along as we were driving to and from the airport rather than using the mix of buses and trains when we flew to Lisbon from Liverpool Airport in September 2015.
I did switch it on a couple of times whilst in Tavira, but the phone didn’t connect with any network, unlike Caroline‘s smartphone, which did and took texts and calls from her family as we’d flown over to Portugal on Mothers Day UK.
Anything else? A small bottle of Lifeventure‘s Fabric Wash did the usual trick when we were washing clothes out throughout the week – around half a bottle was used, even though we were washing shirts, trousers and underwear during that week.
Fortunately we did have a sink plug in the washbasin this time around and we didn’t have to source plug substitutes by buying packs of Pringles or tubs of Hagen Daaz ice cream!
An umbrella was taken along and placed in my day bag along with my reading specs and Transition lensed sunglasses every day… With the food being so good over the course of the week, the Sainsbury’s indigestion tablets taken along as a precautions weren’t needed either.
Some sachets of Tesco Recovery Powder were used however by myself, largely after drinks orders were lost in translation and large beers arrived on the table instead of small ones or after nights where the two of us shared a bottle of wine (we usually make a bottle last 2 nights at home, largely because of one the meds I’m on after surviving a stroke…).
Small packs of Wet Wipes did come in handy on a few occasions. The first was after a meal based around lamb cutlets where the only sensible option was to pick the cutlets up in my hands to eat them rather than trying to use a knife and fork.
The second was after a mini-meal of croquettes at a street cafe in Tavira and the third was after stubbing my toe whilst wearing the espadrilles that I’d taken along.
Yes, blood was drawn and yes, I’m on anti-coagulants. Fortunately the wound wasn’t a gusher, but the Wet Wipes did their job when Caroline used them to clean up the mess that had been made.
Owt else? A folder containing the boarding cards, car parking ticket, fast track security booking along with details of Expedia booked airport to hotel and back car transfers and our hotel booking information.
Other items in this folder were copies of our passports, travel insurance details and bus & train timetable printouts too. Had we photocopied twenty pages of guidebook information and taken those with us?
You might think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment!
So, how did things go with the items listed on Portugal Packing v3.0?
Very well actually (and everything bar the worn stuff did go into our respective Osprey Farpoint 40 packs). Virtually all of the clothing taken along earned their place in the pack or on me in the case of the items worn on the plane.
The only mistake I made was in taking along my pair of Peter Storm Soft Shell trousers.
They’ve been worth their weight in gold since I bought them last year, but they were too heavy an item to take along and wear in Portugal, especially given the temperatures encountered (even on the couple of wet, windy and generally stormy days).
When the storm hit Porto on the Tuesday of our trip, I ended up wearing one of my Rohan Cool Silver t-shirts, Rohan Goa trousers and the same brand’s Silver containing socks and trunks. The top layer was my HyVent jacket from The North Face. On my feet were one of the two pairs of Salomon ventilated shoes that I’d taken along.
Despite the conditions, everything worked well. Yes, I was wet from the bottom of the waterproof to the pavement and the inside of the jacket’s sleeves were damp, despite the pit zips being opened to provide some ventilation.
The rain was teeming down though and as it was still relatively warm, I’d expected some condensation in the sleeves as the linings were solid rather than mesh and also because I was wearing a t-shirt rather than a long sleeved shirt so my bare arms were helping raise those condensation levels.
Now the Goa trousers may be lightweights and meant for tropical use, but this combination worked in their favour once I got out of the rain and into the photography museum we were aiming for during the storm.
They were soaked when I entered the museum, but as I wandered around, they dried out.
So much so that I was able to sit down and partake in one of the many espressos imbibed over the course of the trip. The vending machine coffee was fine, but it wasn’t going to stop the rain, so after a while it was time to get back out there and try and find some lunch.
And yes, the Goas got soaked once more, then dried out again whilst waiting and eating fodder and then got soaked once more as we left the cafe, went to do some food shopping and headed back to the hostel we were staying in at Porto.
End result? Worn/soaked/dried/soaked/dried/soaked and you get the picture by now. Not only did they perform well under the challenging conditions, they also coped well with the heat encountered later in the week and over the time we were in Coimbra plus the lower temperatures and breezes when we were on the Atlantic Coast.
Washing and drying wasn’t a problem with the Goas either. Once we had a decent sink and places to dry kit out, then there weren’t any problems with the washing and wearing of any of the kit we’d taken along.
Caroline’s storm days kit worked as well as my own – the Rohan Thai trousers worked well as did the selection of tops used on the days and her somewhat elderly Berghaus PacLite Gore-Tex jacket. Her Ecco Blom Lite Mary Jane shoes did get a soaking, as did my Salomons, but they did dry out relatively quickly and were usable a couple of days later (something we’d anticipated, hence the decision to take two pairs of shoes each rather than lighter or flimsier items).
All of our tops performed as expected, especially the Rohan Stratum Polo Long Sleeved which came into its own on the nights when we could sit outside restaurants to have a meal.
Caroline was also more than happy with the couple of Ultra Silver Camisoles and the matching briefs that she’s taken along. These were used on their own or as part of a low-key layering system on cooler days, but washed and dried like crazy every couple of days, as did her Serene vest tops.
One thing that we did forget (okay, one thing that I forgot!) was our Lifeventure travel sink plug.
The sinks in three out of our five different lodgings in Portugal didn’t come with sink plugs, so necessity was the mother of invention. I plugged some sinks with socks whilst Caroline found that the top from her Nivea roll-on deodorant did the job in one place.
Other than that, it was make do and mend with the plastic top off a Pringles tube or the plastic top from a small tub of Hagen Daaz ice cream. Needless to say, a small amount of food consumption went on before these tops were used in the sinks…
Anything else? Yep, the tea tree oil worked well on the insect bites, as did the tube of gel that was bought in Porto to help combat the results of unexpected encounters with mosquitos.
The lavender oil had helped to keep the flying nasties at bay, but some had got through, resulting in 10 bites on my back, legs, arms and face, even though I had kept myself under the bed sheets on even the warmest nights in Portugal.
What I wasn’t expecting was for one of my pairs of shoes to deteriorate. One of the fabric lace retainers came away and as the two weeks wore on, it became apparent that the shock absorbing materials were breaking down inside the sole unit.
Although the shoes weren’t that old, they had done around 400 miles or so. Given that I have gait problems and also have trouble with my left leg as a result of that stroke a few years ago, I knew that it wasn’t something that I could put down as a problem with the shoes as I’ve been wearing Salomon shoes and boots for years now and not had any problems.
As a result, they were left in Portugal – not in a bin, but with someone who was going to repair the lace retainer and hand the shoes over to a local homeless charity.
On a lighter note, the umbrella that I’d taken along didn’t last either. It went inside out a few times in Porto and ended up being left in a guest house somewhere in Portugal.
It had served its purpose though in Somerset, London and Porto and as it had cost me the princely sum of £1, I wasn’t going to complain about being ripped off by a pound shop…
See – told you that it would be along shortly!
One of the reasons why there’s a Portugal Packing v3.0 rather than a Portugal Packing v2.1 is that our road trip in September 2015 was two weeks long rather than one week and the predicted weather conditions for the first part of the trip were dire…
Had the weather forecast been warm-hot and dry, then there wouldn’t have been any problems as all I would have done is swap a couple of t-shirts for a couple of polo shirts or smarter short sleeved shirts to ensure that there was an element of smart casual rather than just casual when eating out.
But the weather wasn’t destined to be warm-hot and dry over the first week. I’d taken the precaution of adding each of our locations to be visited on the Weather section of the BBC website so I could track a set of ten day forecasts for each town or city that we were visiting.
Every town or city showed the same prognosis for the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the first week. Something was coming and it did not look good – heavy rain and high winds.
So our packing lists were thought about and adjusted accordingly to take into account of potential weather conditions that were more reminiscent of Blighty on a bad day…
The heaviest stuff was worn for the flight, a good move as the weather at Liverpool John Lennon Airport on Sunday morning as we crossed the road from the hotel to the terminal wasn’t wonderful (and we were aware of the fact that we had to walk to the plane in order to board it – none of this bus to the plane nonsense here!).
In my case the Rohan Goa trousers were packed not worn and a pair of Peter Storm Soft Shell trousers took their place. The Rohan Stronghold shirt was worn again (plenty of pockets to keep passport, camera, reading specs and change bags to hand) over one of Rohan’s Core Silver t-shirts, but the top layer was a HyVent waterproof by The North Face.
Footwear came courtesy of Salomon once more, but rather than take sandals, flip flops or espadrilles as a second item, an identical pair of Salomon ventilated shoes were packed, just in case. Yes, it was tempting to take a pair of Gore-Tex lined shoes with me to counter the potential weather conditions, but these would have added more weight to the bag and ensured that my feet could sweat buckets if these shoes were worn on warmer days (prefer Gore-Tex lined footwear between October and March in the UK rather than in warmer months).
So, that was the worn line-up, but what was inside the usual Osprey Farpoint 40 bag? Another Rohan Core Silver t-shirt, two blue and one white Rohan Element t-shirts, two Rohan polo shirts (one Progress Polo, one Stria Polo) and a Rohan Stratum Polo Long Sleeve shirt for wearing on its own or as part of a layering unit if eating outdoors on an evening.
Packed trousers were not one, but two pairs of Rohan Goas tropical trousers. I’d liked wearing these during our Lisbon stay in July as they were cool to wear in hot temperatures, had good pockets to help deter thieving bar-stools and dried quickly after washing in Lifeventure Fabric Wash.
Rohan Silver trunks came into their own once more as did a few pairs of the same brand’s socks. New to the equation though were a couple of pairs of M&S trainer liner socks – easily washed/dried, but also useful enough to deal with my feet being encased in approach shoes after several months of padding around barefoot at home or in sandals when leaving the house.
The clear bag to be examined by security contained a couple of travel size Nivea Factor 30 bottles of sun cream, the bottle of King Of Shaves shaving oil that I’d bought for the last trip, a travel tube of Colgate Total toothpaste, small bottles of tea tree oil and lavender oil (tea tree to deal with insect bites and lavender oil to help prevent them – the latter didn’t always work!). Also in the mix was a disposable Gillette razor and the Slim Sonic battery powered toothbrush.
Techie stuff was the usual Kindle and Nikon Coolpix digital compact camera plus respective chargers and one three pin to two pin plug adapter. A Petzl e+Lite was packed as a light source, a Moleskine paper notebook for notes/accounts and a Fisher Space Pen to make the notes with.
I’d also got a new set of specs for this trip so one was worn, the reacting to sunlight specs were packed and the reading glasses stayed in my trouser pocket or day bag until needed.
I’d had reacting to sunlight specs before and found them useful, but the new ones are back with my opticians at the moment as the lenses started to work their way out of the frames after being used twice on this trip – apparently it was known problem with this type, but hadn’t come up in conversation when I was buying them… Ooops!
Owt else? My usual meds and back-up literature plus a small umbrella and a copy of Rough Guide To Portugal as I’d forgotten to copy the relevant pages before we left.
A new travel wallet came into play as a means of keeping my £’s separate from my €’s and to help avoid card details being skimmed by no-gooders with scanning devices. After July’s day bag problem, the chosen one was a nylon drawstring shoe bag that I had at home. It lasted three days and was replaced by a more substantial bag bought in a sports shop in Porto.
Caroline’s bag contents included Rohan’s Thai trousers (comfortable, light, good for hot weather and easily washed and worn again).
Other options included the same brand’s Linen Plus Tunis trousers and a dress that also used their Linen Plus fabric, a couple of Ultra Silver Camisoles and a couple of Ultra Silver Briefs (the camisoles were good for layering when needed and were also easily washed and worn again).
Oh, and her Rohan Serene vests and Malay top also proved their worth once more.
To cope with the rain, Caroline also took her Berghaus PacLite Gore-Tex jacket. Two pairs of Ecco shoes (Blom Lite Ballerina Pump and Blom Lite Mary Jane) were used over the course of the trip and a newly acquired two-piece swimming cossie was used for the obvious and as spare top and knickers if needed.
And her tech? Kindle, Pentax camera, her smartphone and the necessary adaptors. Both of our sets of adaptors were stored in IKEA wash bags – small, sturdy, zipped and cheap too. As ever, Caroline’s day bag was her Rohan Stowaway Daybag 3.
Now you may be wondering why there are so many mentions for Rohan products on our packing lists…
I’ve been using Rohan clothing for around 30 years now and Caroline’s been doing the same for around 10. The items we’ve been using on our travels have usually been bought in the sales or when there’s been specific offers on items instore or online.
Heck, we’ve even paid full price for stuff on a number of occasions, because when we’ve looked at other items from competitors, they’ve not always been what we’ve wanted for one reason or another…
So what are the verdicts on items mentioned in Portugal Packing v3.0?
They will be along on Friday!
Because we’ve undertaken two visits to Portugal this year and our bag contents were changed from our original Portugal packing list to contend with the very different weather conditions encountered in July and September 2015.
v2.0 covers the stuff that was taken along in July when there was little chance of rain, but a very good chance of high temperatures and top of the charts UV levels, even in Lisbon – our destination and base for the week away. Fortunately, the weather conditions at home were approaching those in Lisbon.
The drive to Liverpool John Lennon Airport and a pre-flight night in the Hampton by Hilton hotel was a late one as Caroline had spent virtually all day at a family wedding. A swift change was made when she arrived home and the car was taken off the drive and pointed towards the M62 in search of the airport.
Baggage choices? Our trusty Osprey Farpoint 40 packs as usual as yes, we were travelling hand luggage, but on an airline that neither of us had used before – easyJet.
And the contents of the bags?
In my case they included a security friendly travel size wash bag that had been bought for the journey. It was originally full of predominately Gillette products aimed at travellers, but a little pruning and replacement ensured that the new contents covered all eventualities.
The disposable razor and small tube of toothpaste were retained, but in went a plastic cased Dove roll-on anti-perspirant instead of the smaller capacity metal aerosol.
That was followed by the Slim Sonic Toothbrush I mentioned a few posts back, a bottle of Lifeventure Fabric Wash for the clothes, a 100ml bottle of Lush’s Flying Fox shower gel for me, a small bottle of tea tree oil, a similarly sized bottle of King Of Shaves shaving oil and two small bottles of Nivea Factor 50 sun cream (Tesco had them on a 3 for 2 promo and they were worth the investment of buying a couple of deals each on Factor 50 and Factor 30 creams…)
Did they work? Oh yes and even though we were keeping the protection topped up, we still came back a little browner than we were when we left the UK.
As before, my usual prescribed meds, yellow Warfarin book and repeat prescription forms went in along with a pack of indigestion tablets and a few sachets of recovery powder (just in case there were too many glasses of vino collapso or local lagers imbibed over the course of a day…
Worn items included a pair of Salomon ventilated trainers, a pair of Rohan Goa trousers, one of four Rohan Core Silver t-shirts (the rest were in the bag along with a couple of Rohan Element t-shirts).
Why so many t-shirts? As good as all of these shirts are, expectations of 30+ C meant that for once I was playing safe and wearing two shirts per dayrather than one a day. I did however regret not having a polo shirt or two as a smarter option as we were eating out so much over the course of the week.
Rohan Cool Silver trunks and suitable socks completed the worn outfit and yes, there were spares in the bag of these. Other packed items included another pair of Goa trousers, my Nikon Coolpix digital compact camera and charger plus my Kindle and charger, a newly purchased Rohan Stowaway Daypack 20 packable day sack and a travel towel. Oh, and a copy of Rough Guide‘s Pocket Rough Guide to Lisbon plus a pair of Next espadrilles for sock free days or nights out…
Caroline’s clothes packing wasn’t quite a mirror image of mine as she packed a couple of Rohan Serene vest tops, a Rohan Malay Linen Plus top and a few other items from that brand’s travel linen range too.
Footwear choices were a pair of Ecco Blom Lite Mary Jane shoes and a pair of Merrell sports sandals. Her day bag was a Rohan Stowaway Daybag 3 packable handbag to hold her passport, camera, travel wallet, tissues, sun cream and a small bottle of water.
Was everything used?
Yes, it was and the washing and wearing processes also worked well too, even when washing out trousers. Washing was typically done on a morning before we went out and left to dry on hangers next to the windows once the clothing had been rolled up in a travel towel as a means of squeezing out any excess water.
The Rohan Goa trousers were just right for the trip thanks to a lightweight fabric that washed and dried quickly, two zipped pockets to take wallet, camera, reading specs and guest house keys and protect them from thieving bar-stools.
We knew that there is an ongoing problem with pickpocketing in Lisbon, but the owner of the cafe we ate in when we first arrived was quite forthright in his views when he warned us of the dangers of losing stuff (we did meet a lady who had had her smartphone stolen on a tram in Lisbon when we were in the queue for the flight home a week later…).
Out of all the things we took along with us, there was only one piece of kit that required a rethink. I’ve no doubt that the Rohan packable day sack will come into its own in the UK over days out and periods away over the coming months, but I have to admit to making a personal wrong choice by using it over the first few days in Lisbon.
It was a bit too big for what I wanted to carry around with me and I ended up buying a small cotton bag that sufficed for the rest of the week. The Rohan item won’t be wasted though, because there’s at least one trip coming up soon where it will be in its element, so it will be used again and again. The cotton bag purchased in Lisbon will be inside to use as a shopping bag…
Osprey Farpoint 40 travel pack
Yes, it’s on here again.
Caroline and I both have one and they’ve proved their worth again on our recent week in Lisbon. Both did their stuff once more and there were a few people checking them out as we headed to our digs in Lisbon and at both Liverpool and Lisbon airports as we waited for our flights out and back. And yes, they do fit in easyJet’s hand luggage cage – we checked!
It’s good to see though that the Farpoint 40 has also picked up the Best In Test kudos in the August edition of Wanderlust Travel Magazine here in the UK:
A couple of recent purchases were inside my Farpoint 40 in the shape of the Slim Sonic Toothbrush and the Fisher Space Pen. The Slim Sonic Toothbrush is quite a neat package that runs off one AAA battery that comes complete with a good cover for the business end of the brush which protects both the replaceable head and the all important on/off switch.
My example came from Amazon here in the UK, as did a four pack of replacement heads to keep things sweet for future use:
The Fisher Space Pen is something that I’ve looked at several times over the many years that it’s been around. Yes, I’ve heard the comments before (in an episode of The West Wing no less) about the Americans allegedly spending money developing the pen for use in space whilst the Russian cosmonauts used pencils…
The Space Pen is compact when it’s not being used, but once the pen top is removed and put into place at the non-business end of the pen, the whole thing is well balanced and a joy to use.
Mine was stashed either in a trouser pocket or in my reading specs case whilst we were in Lisbon (it now stays in the reading specs case all of the time when not in use), allowing me to have a decent pen with me for use whenever I need it. Am I impressed with it? Yes, as is Caroline, but she quickly handed it back to me when she found out how much it was!
This was another item found on Amazon here in the UK:
The purchase of the Slim Sonic Toothbrush and the Fisher Space Pen were both prompted by the mentions made in a very useful Kindle Book – The Modern Nomad’s Backpack: A Guide To Packing Light For Round The World Travel by Anne Richardson.
There’s a host of other useful ideas in the book that can be followed, especially if you carry tech items with you on your travels…
Our accommodation in Lisbon – Lisbon Dreams Guest House – was booked via booking.com. I’ll be writing about Lisbon Dreams in a future posting about our week in Lisboa here on wisepacking, but I have to say that one the usage so far, I’m quite impressed by the service offered by booking.com, so much so that I’ve also used the site to find a place to stay in London and for another trip Caroline and I have planned for later in the year.
What we have found is that a couple of places I’ve booked have been via the establishment’s own web site and the when I’ve clicked on the booking button on those websites have led me to booking.com‘s facilities.
In other cases, the places we’ve booked have been sighted before in examinations of either the appropriate Rough Guide or Lonely Planet to the country in question. In one case, a guide book quoted a hostel’s double room as being 44 euros a night, the hostel’s own website was quoting 44 euros a night for each person in that double room and booking.com came up with a cost of 50 euros a night for a double room in that same hostel…
And finally we come to easyJet. It’s the first time we’ve used that airline and the choice was made on the price of the flights compared to the prices on other airlines we looked at. Neither of us have flown from Liverpool Airport either so it was a case of two firsts on the same day!
The easyJet booking process was easily done with seats chosen for both the outward and return flights. Baggage wasn’t an issue thanks to those Osprey packs and the online check-in was a doddle to sort out once we’d got Caroline’s son to install a new computer printer for us!
We’d stayed at one of the hotels at Liverpool Airport on the night before the flight out and it was easy to walk across the road from the hotel, find the automated ticket check post, get through the paid-for Fast Track Security and then relax airside with a coffee whilst we waited for the flight’s gate to come up on the screen.
The flight was quite reasonable and the approach to Lisbon interesting as Caroline was spotting places on the ground. Service on the plane was good with no overselling taking place and attentiveness happening when needed, even when the father of the youngster sitting in the seat behind Caroline announced to the cabin crew that his son had had a wee on the seat as the plane approached Lisbon Airport…
And the return flight – not too bad either, but we did have a longer wait in Lisbon Airport for the flight home as we got to the airport much quicker than expected thanks to the Lisbon Metro system and the swift bus ride between Lisbon’s Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.
Would we fly easyJet again? Oh yes, the flights are already booked, but we will be wary of apparent damp patches on the seats when we board the plane!
Thanks to Rohantime for posting this one from the wisepacking files a few minutes ago!
Yes, we’re twelve days into 2015 and if the news/opinion/conjecture is anything to go by, it could be a good year for travelling.
Will the exchange rate (pound v euro for example) stay favourable?
Will air fares come down thanks to the price of oil and changes to APD charges?
Will George bite the bullet on Budget Day and drop APD charges as a sweetener in the run-up to the election in May?
Will more people head off to foreign shores as a result?
Or will they stay at home in the UK and take advantage of the current lower fuel prices?
And lower food prices if self catering thanks to supermarket wars?
Will travellers cut down on tech and talk to real people in hostels and destinations rather than immersing themselves in what’s onscreen on their smartphones, tablets or laptops?
Or realise that you can travel on hand luggage only, even if it’s a three-six month trip?
(I suspect that the lady Caroline and I were talking to in Tavira may have cut down on her bag sizes after seeing our Osprey packs. A few Brits staying in the same hotel were similarly gobsmacked when they saw us checking out on our last day there…)
Or realise that by flying hand luggage only, you can cut out hold luggage and bag in the cab boot charges – more money for nights on the town, a better meal or sightseeing…
Or realise that staying in one, two or three places rather than five, six, seven or more can be a more worthwhile experience as you can see more, pay less, relax and linger over breakfast rather than rushing out for a train to get to the next port of call…
(Best example of this is the American guy I met who had arrived in Bergen that morning, had joined the Norway In A Nutshell tour and was heading to Oslo from Myrdal then onwards to Stockholm and then to Helsinki – Scandinavia ticked off in 24 hours! D’oh…)
Our trip list for 2015 has been discussed, but there’s a couple of late suggestions going into the melting pot.
One is a visit to Northern Ireland to visit Bushmills, Giant’s Causeway and the Armoy motor cycle road races.
The other is to visit a place that’s been mentioned a few times, but has come to the fore once more thanks to the book I’ve just finished reading, watching Casablanca last week and news stories over the last few days.
I’ve walked in the Jura and in Provence, but we’ve never been to Paris.
After a couple of nights in Tavira, our moving on day arrived and after a short wait in the railway station, we headed off to Lagos in search of a bus to Sagres as we travelled from one side of The Algarve to the other. This was down to be the treat of the trip as we were booking into a hotel that was several stars above what we’re used to – the Pousada do Infante, part of a sixty strong group of Portuguese hotels that include buildings old and new.
Pousada do Infante, Sagres
Pousada do Infante dates back to the 1960s, but it is one of the more modern buildings. It’s the only hotel we’ve ever stayed in with its own helipad and it’s the only one either of have stayed in because we were entitled to a discount on the room rate for being over 55!
The reception staff were great, but a bit bemused by our relative lack of luggage and the fact that we didn’t have a car. They were also bemused when we were both soaked through when we asked for our room key the following day. ‘It’s okay’ said Caroline ‘We’re English, we’re used to a bit of rain now and again…’.
Sagres provided the most peaceful part of the two weeks in Portugal. The hotel was quiet, as were the local bars, restaurants and the local attractions. A morning walk to Henry The Navigator’s Fotrazela and onward to the lighthouse at Ponta de Sagres was followed by lunch at beach bar Raposo and that sudden rainstorm.
We’d also made a wonderful faux pas. Our intention had been to head to Cabo de Soa Vincente, but we didn’t make it as we’d mistakenly taken the road down to Fortazela instead. Cabo de Soa Vincente is what was initially thought to be the edge of the known world, but we didn’t make it – our mistake however does give us one very, very good reason to revisit Sagres on one of our next trips to Portugal…
Our first evening meal had been an outdoor one at an Italian restaurant, but as we were staying in a Pousada, we ate in on the second night. The meal, wine and coffee went down well and it was a cut above our usual night out at home – as was the bill.
Given that we didn’t have to check out until lunchtime, we headed down to Porto de Balleeira harbour the following morning before picking up our bags, hitting an internet cafe for orange juice, mango juice, espressos and a bit of mail checking before getting the bus to Lagos.
Lagos Youth Hostel
After two nights in a Pousada, a night in Lagos Youth Hostel was always going to be a bit of a culture shock, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Caroline and I are both old school hostellers – I was on Border and Dales Regional Council in the 1980’s and did some of YHA magazine’s gear reviews in the 1990’s whilst Caroline was an assistant warden at Malham Hostel back in the day.
Yes, the room was basic, but it was better than one or two hotels we’ve been in here in the UK and a darn sight cheaper too. Breakfast portions were on the small side, but as we didn’t have to check out for a while, there was time to get a second breakfast at a cafe down the road. Coffee and a pastry filled the gap that was still there after the first breakfast, but they were also tastier than the evening meal we’d had on the night of our arrival in Lagos.
That early morning in Lagos was pretty quiet. The centre had been teeming with people before we checked into the hostel the previous night. The route to the hostel from the bus station had taken us straight down the main tourist strip and boy, it was busy. We did have a short wander around after our second breakfast to see what we’d missed, but as the visitor numbers increased, it was time to get our bags and get the train back to Lisbon.
We were pleased that we’d booked our tickets in advance at Tavira as Lagos station was busy and only one of the ticket windows was open for business. There was an hour or so to kill before our train and it was interesting to see the size of bags that people were toting around with them.
The younger crowd had the biggest bags on their backs, the thirty-somethings had wheelie bags and the over 50s were those with the smallest bags. The wisdom of the age? You might think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment!
Whilst the train from Lagos to Tunes was a local one, the narrow price gap between first and second class meant that an upgrade to first class for the section between Tunes and Lisbon was a no-brainer. This train did however terminate at a station we weren’t familiar with, so we got the Metro back into the city centre and made sure our Lisbon Viva Viagem travel cards were charged up with enough credit for the Metro ride to Lisbon Airport later on.
As it was late afternoon and it was Friday, we stashed our bags in the left luggage lockers in Rossio station (one locker for two bags – another joy of travelling light…) and headed for coffee, a stroll and then made a final decision about sleeping at the airport in readiness for a 5am check-in time.
I’d done it at Manchester and Leeds/Bradford before and Caroline had also spent at least one night sleeping on the floor of a terminal building so the plan was hatched – forget about getting a room and just go for a good blow-out meal, get the bags and head off to the airport.
So that’s what we did. No fuss, no messing and we just got on with it. Da Vinci near Rossio station was busy, but they just kept on bringing more food, tables and chairs out as almost everyone was wanting to eat outside as it was such a warm night.
The Metro to the airport was quiet, but the terminal was quite busy and it became obvious that we weren’t going to be the only ones looking for benches or comfy chairs for the night. So it was a case of Sleepless in Lisbon as the night wore on until the check in opened around 5am and we could head through to the food court in the departure area.
And yes, that was closed. We did get a couple of coffees from the Harrods coffee shop and then wandered through to the main shopping mall for Caroline to buy a bottle of ginjinha and for me to buy a bottle of Tawny Port.
Our trip was almost over, but the return visit was already being planned. It’s another fortnight with one week in Lisbon to see the parts we didn’t get to on this trip and to make side trips to Cascais and Estoril from Lisbon. After that, the plan is to visit Coimbra for a night or two and then head up to Porto to explore the city and the Douro valley – and do a couple of visits to port wine lodges to find out the story of port and to partake in a glass or two in the interests of our own research into port wine.
Travel wise, it will be local trains to Cascais and Estoril and either train or bus from Lisbon to Coimbra and then onwards to Porto before heading back to Lisbon for the plane home – unless we can fly into Lisbon and out of Porto from the north of England. Time and airline schedules will tell and no, we don’t intend to spend another night in Lisbon airport – once is enough!
Did we enjoy our trip to Portugal? Oh yes! There were places we loved, there were places we didn’t, but there were always places that we found that were stunning, relaxing and interesting. We missed out Belem and a good walk around the Alafama in Lisbon, but we did find some good eating places around the city centre.
We didn’t go for the local seafood specialities as neither of us are into seafood, but we did eat well as even the busiest cafes or food stalls offered good food and drink. And that’s why we’re going back… for more ginjinha and to try the pasteis de nata from the bakery in Belem… We did try other variations on this custard tart theme in Lisbon and elsewhere, but the ones in Belem are highly rated.
As I said earlier – this could be the start of a beautiful friendship…
Templo Romano (Temple of Diana) in Evora
And so to Sintra. We’d heard good things about Sintra, an apparently mystical town that’s surrounded by palaces which has attracted many (including Lord Byron) over the years. The attractions are spread out over a wide area in and around the older quarter. As we were staying at Piela‘s in the more modern part near the railway and bus stations, the palaces and other attractions were a good walk or bus ride away.
There is however a circular bus route from the centre that offers a day ticket which allows you to travel between the main palace attractions. With Caroline doing the visiting and me doing some reading, it made sense to get a ticket each, so whilst she was exploring, I was reading and having an espresso nearby and we could talk and eat afterwards rather than meeting up at a specific time or place. In case you hadn’t guessed it, Caroline’s the one for history, older buildings and historical culture whilst I’m more for Horrible Histories, more recent events and museums relating to aircraft, cars, exploration and the like.
As one might expect from a destination that’s a World Heritage Site and Sintra being high on the destinations list of many tourists, the likes of Palaciao Nacional de Sintra, Castelo dos Mouros, Parque da Pena and Palacio Nacional da Pena were very, very busy.
Heading around the sights didn’t take us as long as we thought though and it was agreed that if we paid another visit to Sintra, it would be as a side trip from a longer stay in Lisbon rather than a separate destination for two nights. That’s also been the opinion of others who have joined in on discussions about Sintra on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum over the couple of days before this was posted.
One thing we did learn though is there’s a very good treat available for the princely sum of one euro in Sintra and a few other places besides. It’s a cherry liqueur called ginjinha that can be served in glasses with cherries, in glasses without cherries or without cherries in small chocolate cups. Which version did we go for? That last one on the list of course!
As meals weren’t part of the deal at Piela’s in Sintra, eating out was done at a mix of cafes, former bakeries or tourist restaurants around town. Place of choice for breakfast? Casa da Piriquita – good coffee, good cakes and pastries and a popular venue with both tourists and locals too.
We also discovered a useful treat at the local mini-market – servings of red wine in the kind of cartons you’d normally associate with child size doses of orange or apple juice. No need for a bottle opener – just tear off the corner of the carton and pour… A good move? Oh yes, especially as we’d had a few goes trying to open a bottle of wine the night before using a specially bought cork remover that wasn’t playing ball.
After exhausting Sintra and having a late afternoon train booked for Evora, it was back to Lisbon for a bit of shopping and some lunch.
The shopping was supposed to be for nibbles and drinks for the train, but a camera shop was spotted, a trial run undertaken and a purchase made. A Nikon Coolpix 3100 with case, 4GB memory card plus a charger that would work with a shaver adaptor at home and all for the around £65. One bargain and I was a happy photographic bunny again.
As the train to Evora was from a station that was out of the city centre, the bus ride to it gave us an idea of what suburban Lisbon was like. A bit like parts of Sunderland in fact – I’d lived in that city whilst doing my degree back in the mid-1990’s and some of the flat complexes we passed in the bus were very reminiscent of those back on Wearside.
The snooze on the train was a good idea, as were the snacks as it looked like it was going to be a late evening meal. With Evora being a walled town, the rail and bus stations are away from the centre, so we were glad that we could just shoulder our packs and walk, rather than taking a taxi to our hotel. Taxi or drinks? Drinks or taxi? Easy decision!
Residencial Riviera was just off the main square in Evora and we’d booked our stay just as the prices went down after the main holiday season. The first night was quiet, but as Friday nights are Friday nights, a couple of rowdies came back to their room at about 2am. Revenge was a dish best served cold… or was that loud because for some reason, I really, really had to slam our room door shut twice before breakfast on Saturday morning!
But I digress. Evora is a magical place and one we’d go back to tomorrow. It’s relaxed, it’s friendly and it’s compact. All of the attractions are in easy walking distance of each other and there’s a good mix of bars, cafes and ice cream shops for those times when you just have to sit down, relax and unwind that little bit more. Resting place of choice? Cafe Arcada on the main square, a venue that was popular with both locals and tourists alike.
There’s museums or the remains of a Roman temple (see the lead photo…) to visit and walls to climb or walk around. The main square may be peaceful now, but it has historical associations with the execution of at least one duke and the Inquisition-led public burnings of several unfortunate souls. Which is the last thing we were thinking about whilst having coffee on the square on Friday night or when talking to Brits on a coach tour on a Saturday morning.
If it’s Friday, it must be Evora…
Caroline also visited Ingreja de Sao Francisco, a church adjacent to the Mercado Municipal (the local market hall). Ingreja de Sao Francisco has a side chapel in Cappella des Ossos (the Chapel of the Bones) which comprises the skulls and bones of around five thousand former monks. Apparently it’s not uncommon to hear the song ‘Dem Bones, Dem Bones’ being sung as people wander around the chapel according to one guide book we read!
Yes, I’d given it a miss in favour of another Kindle session, but I did find a bar that served a nice cold Radler low alcohol beer to sup in the sun which also sold cider, a type of refreshment that Caroline’s quite fond of. The cider wasn’t by Aspall’s or Weston, but it went down well once Caroline exited the Chapel and found me relaxing.
The relaxation of Evora carried on as we had a five hour bus ride to Tavira on that Saturday. The coach wasn’t even half full, so there was plenty of room to spread out and read or snooze.
Legs were stretched and comfort stops made at the bus change-over point in Faro and when we got to Tavira, we were glad of our small bags, unlike a Hawaiian lady we’d met on the bus who was trundling a very large wheelie bag around plus her matching hand luggage too. Over kerbs, pavements and then cobbles when the pavements were taken up by various outdoor dining areas outside restaurants. She’d been on the road for three months and for some reason, she was wishing she’d packed less stuff…
Like Evora, Tavira was a place to savour. Yes, it was a busy Saturday night down by Residencial Mares, but it was also the last night of a local youth festival. With live music. As we didn’t get to Tavira and book into our hotel until late, that evening’s meal venue was rather close to said hotel.
Now Caroline and I do like our curries, but the ones we had that night were supposed to be of medium heat – hey, we usually eat curries in or around the Bradford area!). These ones however, were not Bradford curries, We’ve eaten curries in the home counties here in the UK that were more potent than the Tavira curries we tried – they were more mild than medium!
Sunday was given over to strolling around the town, looking at the tiled buildings across the river, finding a very good (and well recommended) place to eat called Bica for lunch plus a couple of other meals later during our stay and finding an English newspaper to read over coffees and servings of cake or ice cream. Just another relaxing day in paradise? Oh yes…
Sunday night wasn’t as noisy as Saturday had been, but our plans for an early night were interrupted by a local troubadour that we’d seen and unfortunately heard near another bar earlier on. The temptation was for the two of us to do ‘Doo whops’ from our balcony or to do impressions of baying hounds as he sang/murdered a few classics. But we didn’t…
Monday was train and room booking time. We were moving on on Tuesday and we needed tickets to get to Lagos and then tickets for a train on Friday to get us from Lagos back to Lisbon in readiness for our flight home on Saturday morning.
We also booked a night at Lagos Youth Hostel for Thursday night by going into the Tavira Youth Hostel and doing the deed. There was however one problem remaining – we’d drawn a blank on finding somewhere to stay on Friday night in Lisbon so it looked like there was only one option left open to us – sleeping in the airport.
Monday was also the day to take a boat trip to the much-vaunted Ilha de Tavira. We didn’t have that far to go for the boat as the landing was just across the road from our hotel.
That boatload soon dispersed when we got onto Ilha de Tavira. Some headed to restaurants, some headed for the campsite whilst others turned right onto the nearest beach and others (including us) headed for the main beach. Which was red flagged…
So a bit of photography was called for on my part and Caroline headed along the beach on foot before finding me again (I have mobility problems on soft sand or snow thanks to that stroke ten years ago) and the two of us headed back to the beach near the boat landing. As there were no restrictions on swimming here, Caroline took the plunge for a while as I tried to make some plans for the potential of Friday night in Lisbon airport.
With Bica providing the last of our meals in Tavira and some fine wine too, a late night stroll was called for before we headed back to the hotel and partly packed our bags in readiness for the next stage of the trip – and a couple of nights in a very posh hotel in Sagres….
To be continued…