The Journey Continues…
A couple of hours into the early morning the main meal was served, and I must honestly say that, for airline food in Economy class, it was not at all bad. I had the chicken dish and Vince had the pasta dish with a glass of red wine (yes, you read that correctly – Air Canada gave us free wine in Economy seating…. things are looking up).
On these so-called travel blogs I usually write about the music, old and new, that I have the time to enjoy during a trans-Atlantic flight. This time I thoroughly absorbed the just-released 24-bit digital remaster of one of my absolute favourite desert island albums from 1982: ABC’s Lexicon Of Love. 42 minutes and 7 seconds of aural brilliance. The digital remaster is stunning: Martin Fry has never sounded better, Anne Dudley’s strings soar and Trevor Horn’s production is brilliant; everything sounds “upfront” and alive in the mix. Love this album. I followed this one up with a couple of albums from Australia’s Icehouse (with the incomparable Iva Davies), and one of my all time favourite albums, Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark. A masterpiece.
Getting back to the flight, the rest of it was uneventful and very smooth, which is always good on both counts. I tried to sleep but of course only succeeded in resting my eyes. I’ve always envied those who can sleep on plane journeys and hit their trans-Atlantic destination running, feeling refreshed and jet-lag free.
Several hours pass. About an hour out from landing in Lisbon a light breakfast snack was served – a granola bar, a croissant and coffee/tea.
Arriving in Lisbon, Portugal
We landed in Lisbon at 11:09AM local time. We deplaned and walked what felt like forever to find the Customs and baggage claim areas. In all my travel experience I don’t think I’ve ever come across a more jumbled-up, confusing and directionless airport as Humberto Delgado Airport in Lisbon. There was almost no signage for anything, and halls lead off in every direction. The arrival flights were mixed in with the baggage claim, making it one big, confusing mess.
Eventually we found our way to Customs. The agents here were human as Lisbon airport does not yet have their electronic eGates functioning, so we actually got to speak with a live Customs agent. In actuality the agent said absolutely nothing, stamped our passports without a single word and sent us on our way. Amazing – outside of France, I’ve never seen such an easy country to enter.
After clearing customs we found the baggage claim through sheer wandering about (God forbid there should be any signage in this place).
Finding Our Way on the Lisbon Metro
We retrieved our bags off the carousel and began searching for the entrance to the Metro (Lisbon’s subway). We had decided to take the Metro to our hotel as we had lots of time to kill before we could check in.
Armed with information from Tony Galvez’s incredibly helpful Spain and Portugal YouTube channel (thank you Tony!), we found the exit out of the airport and the entry into the Lisbon Metro. As we soon were to find out for the rest of the trip, Lisbon is not overly populated with escalators; it was quite a slog getting our cases up and down all the stairs of the underground system.
On the way to the Metro we were greeted by these caricatures of famous Portuguese cultural figures. The figures range from painters and poets to architects and pilots. They are all drawn in the same style and each one has a small name tag beside it explaining the subject’s profession. Unfortunately I was way too jet-lagged to make note of the name tags:
Entering the Lisbon Metro we found the machine where we purchased our Lisbon Via Viagem card (again, hats tipped to Tony Galvez and his videos on how to find this machine, make the purchase and load the card). Via Viagem is basically a transit pass that is good on the bus, tram and Metro system in Lisbon. We loaded each of our cards with a €20 value, found where to board the Metro on the Red Line at the Aeroporto stop, and were on our way into central Lisbon. When we reached the Alameda station we changed trains to get on to the Green Line which would take us to our destination, the Baxia-Chiado stop. From there it was a short walk to our hotel.
A Memorable Encounter
Waiting at the Alameda interchange station for the next train, we had what was one of our most memorable experiences of the entire trip. It was a such a little thing but set the tone for the trip ahead, showing us how friendly the Portuguese are. At the Alameda station there was a mother with two little Portuguese boys, I’m guessing about ages 9 and 10. The boys didn’t speak English but their Mom did. The boys saw our Canadian flags on our suitcases and, for some reason, were absolutely fascinated with us – they kept waving and smiling at us and chattering to us in Portuguese. From what little we could make of their conversation they kept asking their Mom about Canada and, most likely, about us. They came up and talked to us but we couldn’t communicate very well, so they ran back and got their mother’s phone, opened Google Translate and we spoke to them back and forth via the app.
The boys introduced themselves – the younger one was named Davide and his older brother was Tiago. When we reached our station at the Baxia-Chiado stop and exited the train, they rushed to the subway window, frantically waving goodbye and giggling. I’m still not sure what all the excitement was about, but it’s nice to have fans once in a while 😊. It’s little moments like these that stay with you long after a trip is finished. That’s one of things that make travel special, little moments like these which create memories.
The Hotel At Last!
We got off the Metro at the Baxia-Chiado stop and, after climbing miles of stairs with heavy luggage (again, this is Lisbon… no escalators), found the Metro exit. Courtesy of Google Maps we found our way to Rua de São Nicolau after leaving the Metro station, and found our hotel at Number 78 – the cozy and amazing My Story Charming Hotel Augusta (I’ve been trying for a month now to publish my TripAdvisor review of this hotel, but there’s something wrong with my post as it’s stuck in draft mode on the TripAdvisor system; it’s literally impossible to contact a human to assist but I keep trying).
We were able to check in slightly early – it was about 2:00PM at this point – and that was a great relief. We were assigned Room 305 and when we first entered I could see we lucked out – it was a corner unit on a high floor with windows on two walls. Our room overlooked the busy tourist street of Rua Augusta, and later that night we found out just how soundproof these windows indeed were:
A Quick Spin of the Neighbourhood
We dumped our stuff in the room then went down to Rua Augusta and walked to Praça do Comércio, which is a huge, harbour-facing plaza in Lisbon, one of the largest in Portugal. We had seen so many pictures and travel videos on this square that we wanted to see it in person as one of our first Lisbon sites.
After getting our fill of the square we walked back to Rua Augusta, the main street of the Baixa where the hotel was located. For those unfamiliar, the Baxia is the very heart of the tourist district in Lisbon; if you want to stay where all the amenities and comforts are the Baxia, and more specifically Rua Augusta, is the place to be.
Time To Eat!
It had been a long time since our last square meal and we were famished, so we sought out some lunch from one of the dozens of restaurants on offer up and down Rua Augusta. We settled on something familiar to us at the restaurant Hamburgueria Burgers and Tacos:
Vince and I both had the Lisboa Burger, which was utterly delicious, and I had an interesting creation called a KitKat Milkshake (which was particularly rewarding after such a long travel day). Vince had Sagres beer, which we were told was the locally-made beer of choice in Lisbon (the competing beer in Porto is something called Super Bock – more on that in a future post).
A Walk Into the Chiado
After lunch we headed back to the hotel and unpacked. We rested for a while then went for a long walk around the Baxia-Chiado district (gotta keep moving and not give into that jet lag until bedtime tonight!):
We got back to the hotel at about 6:15PM. We were so incredibly tired and jet-lagged. We tried our best to stay awake until at least 9:00PM, but we didn’t get that far – we fell into bed at 8:00PM. What a day it had been! Time to get some rest so we can take on Lisbon tomorrow.