Tag Archive | Lisbon

Portugal packing v2.0

Why v2.0?

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…

And v3.0?

Along soon!

This could be the start of a beautiful friendship III

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.

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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.

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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

This could be the start of a beautiful friendship…

DSCN0308 Just another Friday afternoon in Lisbon – fortunately it was at the end of our trip and pretty good humoured!

Caroline and I were half way through our Portuguese road trip when we got talking to a group of Brits sitting on the table next to us outside Cafe Arcada in Evora. They were on a coach trip looking at cultural sights in Portugal and Spain and the look on their collective faces was a picture when we told them what we were up to…

Two weeks in Portugal with hand luggage only and most, but not all of our accommodation booked. We were travelling on buses and trains that hadn’t been booked back home in Blighty. We were eating at local cafes or getting evening meal fodder from the local mini-market. Oh, and we were wandering around strange cities, towns and villages after dark.

I also mentioned that I’d just fired my employer and had worked my last shift for the company the day before our TAP Portugal flight into Lisbon. Were they gobsmacked? Oh yes!

Rewind a week and we’d had an early start to Manchester Airport for that TAP flight. Leaving the car at a car park near the terminal was a doddle, as was check-in once the clerk realised that we had hand luggage only and nothing for the hold. We’d also booked Fast-Track for the security checking procedures and whilst we passed with flying colours, things came slightly unstuck as there was a log-jam on the baggage scanner, so we took about the usual time to get through security and then headed off in search of coffee and a late breakfast.

After a good flight into Lisbon and a brisk stroll through the terminal and passport checks, it was time to get some euros from the cash points and a cab to our first hotel, Pensao Londres in the Baixa area of Lisbon city centre.

It didn’t take long to check in, switch on the air-con, freshen up and change before heading off for the first steps around the city. We knew we were in for a lot of walking on this trip, especially as Lisbon‘s built on or around seven hills. We expected the centre to be quiet as the guide books had suggested that shops closed around 1pm on a Saturday afternoon.

Oh no they didn’t, as we found out when we reached Rossio Square to find it heaving with tourists, locals and politicos either taking photos, having conversations or pontificating in a language we couldn’t understand. Although we had a phrase book, it wasn’t needed as everyone we encountered spoke a fair amount of English.

Things were a little quieter as we approached the banks of Rio Tejo where the first of many cold drinks and ice creams were consumed. We’d had a good summer, but the temperatures in Lisbon were higher so we were pleased that we’d packed clothes with good sun protection and a new bottle of Factor 30 in our wandering around bags.

As this was just a good excuse to get accustomed to the temperatures, the lie of the land and a good leg stretch after the flight, we gradually orientated ourselves and found that wandering around the city centre was quite easy and that we didn’t have to keep looking at the map.

So much so it was if we’d been using a homing beacon to get us back to the area where our hotel was. A short walk around Baixa and several perusals of menu boards later, we ended up at Lost In… a bar/restaurant opposite Pensao Londres. Given the outside temperatures, it seemed only natural to take our meal, wine, dessert and coffee on Lost In’s terrace to take in the views over Lisbon as sunset approached rather than sitting inside, a good move – until we stood up.

Yes, the wine was stronger than we thought and we’d polished it off in one sitting rather than taking two nights as we do at home. The double espressos hadn’t kicked in, so it was a good job that we only had to cross one road and ascend a couple of staircases to our room rather than staggering a kilometre or more back to our digs.

As it was Saturday in one of Lisbon’s popular nightlife areas, sleep was a rarely found commodity that night. We were still up early though for showers and breakfast before a day of gentle wandering around was declared.

Although it was still before 9am, we even managed to beat the first tour bus to the nearby park – Sao Paulo de Alcantara Miradouro. We’d rested there before heading back to our hotel the previous night, but it was quieter now despite the contents of the tour bus so we were able to look, see and get our bearings as to where we’d been on Saturday and where we’d like to go to during this day and the next.

Some brave souls had got up even earlier as we found when we headed into the centre – a mass cycle ride to Sintra was about to start. As the riders started, one was unceremoniously stopped in his tracks by an organiser. His crime? No helmet! Once the riders were on their way, more wandering and then more caffeine was called for.

Now we’d said that we were wherever possible going to avoid global companies on this trip, but as Caroline was looking for an Americano rather than a double espresso, it was time to hit Star****s. Yes, we’d commented among ourselves when an American couple were drinking out of takeaway cups whilst waiting to go up Elevador de Santa Justa, but the lure proved to be too great. Caroline got her Americano, I plumped for an Iced Mocha and our ‘go local‘ stance had gone out of the window for the rest of the holiday, especially when money off the next visit vouchers were handed over with the change.

As Sunday morning and afternoon meanderings go, the one in central Lisbon was rather good. Although I’m averse to most museums, the Museum of Design and Fashion an interesting experience – and not just because it was a free attraction! An old bank has been turned into a gallery with furniture, design icons and items from Givenchy and Dior.

We’d wandered back down to Praca do Comercio by the Rio Tejo, discovered ginjinha and explored the back streets of Baixa – and all before lunch too! A couple of stalls on a craft market near Praca do Comercio had extracted some euros from our wallets, but the feeling at the time was how relaxed and laid back central Lisbon was. And why hadn’t we discovered it years ago?

Lunch was equally relaxed with salmon and cream cheese wraps washed down with fresh mango or orange juice and more coffee. Eating out and outside was going to be a feature of this holiday as that night’s evening meal was also eaten outside in the garden of Terra, a vegetarian restaurant that’s famed for its buffets and surroundings.

With curried dishes included in the choices, these were a cut above those offered in another town later in the week. As our local curry houses are all in Bradford, Terra’s dishes were more akin to what we’re used to at home whereas the other establishment’s offerings were more a case of ‘take a walk on the mild side…’.

We felt that we’d earned it though – we’d been walking for hours and had found our way around quite well without resorting to getting a map out to find out where we were. Only one barrier had got in our way whilst wandering around – a charge to walk through the Botanical Gardens.

If it’s Monday, then it’s just another day in Lisbon. We’d abandoned plans to take a journey on Tram 28 the day before thanks to a scrum worthy of Odsal Stadium (home of Bradford Bulls Rugby League team).

So we had another early start and caught Tram 28 at 9am. It’s on most traveller’s ‘to do’ lists in Lisbon as it wends its way around the streets on the forty-odd minute journey between Martin Moniz and Campo Ourique. The route is almost Lisbon in a nutshell as it takes in Alfama and sights such as the Se along the way.

The walk back into the centre after the ride on Tram 28 was the result of an unexpected need to go shopping. My camera had packed up even though it was fully charged and been tried with a new memory card. Not an ideal thing to happen on the third day of a trip, but the search for a new one proved fruitless and was abandoned.

Caroline’s Pentax was in full working order and we could share the camera to take whatever shots we wanted as we wandered around. We also had some train travel to book.

The next day’s journey to Sintra was easy as we just had to buy singles at Rossio Station for the short hop to our destination. The journey to book was the one from Lisbon to Evora on the day we left Sintra. With the advance ticket office being just a few feet away from a U.S. based coffee shop, you can guess where the next destination was!

With Terra closed on a Monday, a new place to eat was sought out. Esplanada is on the edge of a park in Principe Real and it’s another indoor/outdoor eating place. As we’d gone to town on Saturday and Sunday night’s meals, we kept the bill down by ordering a couple of specials with beer for me, fruit juice for Caroline and a couple of coffees.

And then? An early night, early breakfast, a quick packing of the bags and a walk down to Rossio Station for the next part of the trip… To be continued!