Part of the appeal of moving from Seattle to London is the ability to travel all over Europe fairly easily. Our first attempt to actually do this was thwarted by a snowstorm in March (we promise we’ll get to you some day, Belgium), so we decided that our five-year wedding anniversary would be the moment. We picked Lisbon as the spot, as it was a country that neither of us had been to before, and booked five nights away.
Lisbon has something I appreciate whenever I travel: an easy way to use public transportation to get to and from the airport. Upon exiting baggage claim at the Lisbon airport, you’re literally facing the entrance to the subway. Tickets were easy enough to procure, and the one transfer we needed was simple to follow (the train lines are color-coded). It was then just a short walk to our hotel.
After we were settled, we decided to walk around, and realized that we were in town on a religious holiday. Corpus Christi is a Catholic holiday, and in Lisbon they close of streets for a processional, and they also pump the mass audio out into the streets. We were beyond confused at first because we didn’t realize what was happening — we were just hearing choir music all around. A little Googling helped us determine we hadn’t wandered onto a movie set.
Because this was an anniversary trip, we went a bit overboard in hotel selection, picking Hotel Corpo Santo which is currently #2 in Lisbon. It was amazing. It’s a new hotel, and not overdone or absurdly fancy — it’s just a lovely place to be, in an excellent location. The staff were delightful, our room was comfy, the shower had lighting and music displays that you could choose to accompany your time in there), and the windows blocked out all the noise. We were only a couple of floors above the main street, and we could hear nothing. Glorious.
It might be a questionable choice, but the first place we got food in Lisbon was at a Mexican restaurant called Mez Cais, which was just across from our hotel. I enjoy eating local food, but I also think it’s kind of fun to try food from other countries while traveling, to see if it similar to what I expect of such cuisine in my own neighborhood. This was delightful — the margaritas were excellent.
In fact, throughout our time in Lisbon, we had some very good meals, and some fine ones. On the day we visited the castle (more below), we were hot and exhausted and ended up at an Italian restaurant. Their A/C made it one of the best meals I’d had in awhile.
(Side note: has anyone figured out how to do lunch when traveling? I’m always exhausted from site-seeing, cranky from waiting too long, and overwhelmed by options.)
We sampled from the Confeitaria Nacional, which had some tasty (and some odd) baked goods.
We went to the beer museum where I got green wine and accidentally ordered cod cakes.
But honestly, our best meal was probably our last night, which was at the hotel! I know, hotel restaurants aren’t usually the stuff of memories (well, good memories), but this was great. The food was delightful, the waitstaff were so so nice, and the suggested wine pairings were spot on.
On our third night in Lisbon, there was a friendly football match that we wanted to catch. We initially were in a place called the American Bar. We left at the half because folks were smoking inside. And I’m so glad we did, because next door was Crafty Corner Beer. They serve local beers, have one giant bottle of cider if beer isn’t your thing, and a small bites menu that comes from next door. It’s a relaxed environment that we returned to each night because we could grab a drink, settle into a chair or stool, and just read or relax.
We also got drinks at one of the outdoor cafes along the Tagus. It was beyond relaxing to sit at a shaded table on a sunny day, just sipping something cold and reading a good book.
June is when the Festivities of Lisbon take place, so there were little pop up markets in many of the city parks. The one across from our hotel featured some traditional Portuguese singing one night – everyone in the area was singing along and having a blast. It was delightful.
There is a ton to do and see in Lisbon — here is a sampling of what we did.
We visited the old palace, which is now open to the public as a museum. They did not fuck around with their dinner parties.
We enjoyed walking around that neighborhood because it wasn’t as tourist-focused as some others, at least not on the walk from the palace to the river. It felt more like just a normal place where people live.
Also, there were peacocks.
So. Many. Peacocks.
By chance an M. C. Escher exhibition was in town, and we stumbled upon it as we were exploring the Alges area.
We also looked at the monastery from the outside, but the line to get in was a bit long.
Instead, we went down to the river and spent a little bit of time puzzling over this giant monument. The focus on exploration as a very Portuguese thing is understandable, but there wasn’t a lot of acknowledgment of the whole colonizer thing…
We walked up to the Castelo de Sao Jorge, which gives you an amazing view of the city.
We walked back down, and saw some shops (include bookshops!)
We strolled through back streets and visited church ruins.
We also visited the museum celebrating the works of Jose Saramago, who wrote my favorite book – Blindness. (That’s his Nobel Prize!)
Lisbon was a lovely place to visit, and I think the five nights we spent there were enough to get a small taste of the full city. We’d like to come back, but this time rent a car and travel out to some of the nearby cities and parks to see more of Portugal beyond the city limits.
Only read this if you have a strong stomach…
We made the rookie mistake of booking Ryanair for our travel. It was the cheapest, and had some good travel times. But we failed to factor in the fact that you have to FLY RYANAIR. Which is really never what anyone wants.
Our flight to Lisbon was slightly delayed, but that was fine. It was the return that was awful. It was pretty toasty in the airport (we were in the ‘budget’ terminal, which includes some chairs, some gates, and a McDonalds), and once we were scanned through to board the plane, there were no screens, so we had no idea what was going on. At one point we were close to our departure time and still smushed into this little unventilated part of the airport. So I called Ryanair.
Me: “Hi, we’re boarding for the flight to Heathrow but we have no idea what is going on. We’re through the gate but not to the plane and there’s no information. Is our flight delayed?”
Them: “You should talk to the gate agent.”
Me: “I would, but you see, we can’t get to them, because we’re already through the gate.”
Them: “Oh, well I see that there are some thunderstorms in the area, so maybe you’re delayed by like an hour?”
Me: “Maybe? Or is that actually what is happening?”
Them: “I don’t know, I’m just saying the weather might cause a delay.”
Me: “Okay … I’m calling though for actual information, not guesses. Can I speak to your supervisor please?”
Them: “Ha ha. No.” Click
Yup, Ryanair hung up on me. I was flabbergasted. But then we were released to board the plane. When Austin went to put his seatbelt on, we discovered … vomit. Vomit on the seatbelt. Vomit on the seat back that had been sort of wiped off. Little bits on the floor. You see, Ryanair is so fucking cheap that they don’t even have seat back pockets, which means they don’t have barf bags, so if someone lets loose, it’s going everywhere.
We told a flight attendant who came back with some cleaning supplies but then said “nope” and told us to “find other seats.” Um, what? Austin was able to find one, I was not, so I sat next to vomit for the two hour flight.
I complained to Ryanair. They basically told me to go fuck myself. So yeah, I don’t care if they are paying me, I’m never boarding one of their planes again.