First there was a ‘compromise’ decision: Let’s go to Portugal! Then came the Picking of Destinations; where to stay and for how long was carefully pondered over weeks. Well, truthfully, only I was involved in this process as C was happy to go anywhere as long as it did not involve (a) France (I know…some people!), (b) Spain again (We’ve had 3 consecutive vacations there and we agreed that we should at least try to go somewhere else) or (c) anywhere cold (well…..at least we both –thought– Portugal would be warm).
When everything was said and done, we had decided (read ‘he was informed’) that we would stay for a month in Lisbon. Other things and places will follow but let’s just talk a bit about Lisbon as I sit in our apartment one week into our stay.
C and I arrived from different locations to LIS and met without problems in the baggage claim. He had visited with family in Switzerland while I stayed at home for 10 more days finishing up a few important things (you know, like going out to eat with all the girlfriends that I seldom get to see in new restaurants that C is not thrilled about, hanging out with the extended family, binge watching 5 seasons of The Walking Dead, being ignored by the cats…).
I had travelled SJU to Madrid on an AirEurope cheap flight. This meant no individual entertainment screens and a single glass of wine served with dinner. So I read a trashy romance novel (selected specifically for the occasion) in my kindle, knitted half a scarf, and slept enough hours to survive a 3hr layover. This was the first time I arrived into the ‘old’ Barajas terminal. What a difference, lol. The experience was a bit reminiscent of the old dark and twisty hallways of JFK. The walking distances in Barajas are just astonishing!
Eventually (should have turned on my Garmin watch and logged in the miles walked!) I found the connecting gate which happened to be in front of a 100 Montaditos restaurant. Yay! What to eat was easy (a tortilla with aioli and a morcilla with peppers) but then I had to make a quick, foggy brained, jetlagged decision: coffee or beer? Finally decided to be sensible and had the coffee. I can safely say that anyone that know me will agree that this was a highly uncharacteristic choice, but I still had a few hours of travel ahead of me. I bought a new (actual paper) book and sat by the gate to see the boarding of the earlier Lisbon flight which I had decided not to take because it might be too tight. What can I say? I’m a layover wimp.
Somewhere I had read that Lisbon airport was small. I disagree. First, the plane lands halfway to Porto and you taxi for at least 15 minutes, and then you walk through a veritable shopping center with all kinds of luxury stores.
After waiting a good 20 minutes for the luggage, C proceeded to the taxi line. It was very (VERY) long but it moved quickly. We were still happily catching up with each other so it took at least 5 minutes before we realized we were going to get scammed by the driver; no counter in sight. Oh well, we would survive the loss of what turned out to be 37E. We did not even argue with him. I think that Karma has something special reserved for scamming taxi drivers.
I had flipped-flopped between apartments for days; well really between areas of the city. The Baixa had been discarded from the get go, with its rows of touristy restaurants. The Alfama was supposed to be noisy and crowded. The Chiado? I have no interest whatsoever in upscale shopping; or non-food-related shopping at all. Then I got some recommendations for the very residential Principe Real barrio which looked intriguing; a decision was finally made.
We had rented an Airbnb apartment in the general Príncipe Real area, almost across from Praça das Flores. One bedroom, small office, decent kitchen, ample living space, dishwasher, washer/dryer combo… the whole 9 yards. The minus? It is a 3rd Floor (American 4th) with no lift apartment. This seemed like a ‘no biggie’ at the time, whoever, when combined with the –ahem- verticality of Lisbon, the enthusiasm begins to lag behind.
First impression was not great, the staircase was dark and the wall paint was peeling all over, we huffed and puffed up 4 flights lugging a heavy suitcase, thank God for the gym! Immediately followed by ‘OoooMmmmGggggg! We have to stay here for a month!?!’ and the Planner’s Remorse ‘I’m never AirBnB-ing EVER again’
We reached the apartment and it seemed like the previous occupants were still in the process of being evicted (their luggage stacked on the stoop) and the cleaning lady (didn’t speak a word of English) was only beginning to do her job (beds unmade, garbage in the hallway kind of state). And this even though we were at least 2 hours later than we had originally announced (this was not a problem because the key to the apartment is left in a coded box so one can enter without assistance). Not exactly the beginning I had been hoping for.
We dropped off everything and escaped across the street to have our ‘Welcome Drink’ in a covered terrace with heater… Have I mentioned that is was cloudy and cold? It was cloudy and cold. Very much so.
We stocked up on a few basic groceries for breakfast and returned to the apartment. Now that it was immaculately clean, orderly and EMPTY, it was much nicer and looking exactly as the AirBnb pictures. Insert big sigh of relief. Okay, everything would be OK!
Dinner was at Cantinho Lusitano selected at random from ones with the best reviews in the ‘Near Your’ filter in Trip Advisor. It was really good. REALLY good. The serve tapas/ración stlyle, though eating like this is sadly NOT a Portuguese thing! It was 7:00pm and the place was full but we were seated with the warning that we had to be done by 9:30pm, as if! LOL. We had the standard olive and bread plate, chouriço al vino (good!), Pica Pau beef (somewhat spicy – sweet – sour totally awesome sauce) with sweet potato fries, grilled octopus leg (yum!) and codfish fritters ‘Patatinas’ (a.k.a. Bacalaítos Fritos backhome where they are very common) served with rice and beans that were good enough to come back for. So, even though I was in a jetlagged, not even showered yet, state I thoroughly enjoyed our dinner in this place and would gladly go back. Bill was not even €40.
We went back to the apartment where I had a surprisingly almost full night of comfortable sleep. Maybe there IS something to all that hype about limiting alcohol during flights after all…