Lisbon

We had a good four days in Lisbon before waving goodbye to Lois this morning as she jets back to the USA. I know we both will breath a sigh of relief when she texts us this evening that she has arrived in Miami and successfully made it to her hotel for the night.

She is staying tonight in the same hotel we stayed in 17 nights ago inside Miami Airport. But the really big sigh will be when we get a text from her on Friday that she is back in Danville.

We rented a two bedroom/two bath Airbnb for our short stay in Lisbon. The apartment was great except that it’s eco air conditioning system didn’t seem to do anything to cool the apartment off. Thank goodness the temperature at night dropped to the mid to lower seventies and we could open the doors and use the two fans to help make it bearable.

We laid low the first full day in Lisbon as it had been a rough travel day-left our stateroom on Breakaway at 7:30, off the ship around eight, then the joy that is checkin and security at the airport for our flight. Lois got to enjoy the comfort and food in the SAS business lounge as she was flying her return ticket on TAP. Mike and I got to sit at a coffee stand and pay $15 for a cup of coffee, one of tea and a sweet roll since we were flying our return Econ ticket from Mike’s infamous birthday flight from Lisbon to Copenhagen.

Monday night we ate at one of the restaurants at Lisboa’s former market which is now half market and y’all food hall. Readers from last spring will remember we are here several times. lol

On Tuesday we visited the cloister of the monastery in Bel√©m (and had pasteries!) before we took a sunset cruise (ah, the weather was so comfortable) up and down the river on a 55′ sailing yacht. There were a total of 7 guests and two crew so it was very personal and enjoyable.

On Wednesday we rode the train to Cascais, the beach town Mike and I enjoyed so much in the spring. There were more tourists this trip (maybe the heat was bringing them to the beach) so while beautiful, we think it might not be the great town we initially thought.

This morning we left the apartment at 7am..ok 7:08 for the airport. Lois’s flight took off about 10:30 am and Mike and I have spent the day in the lounge waiting for our 4:30 flight to London. Only two more hours!

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Copenhagen to Lisbon

We left the ship about 8:30 this morning and after a taxi, a lounge wait for Lois while Mike and I had to slum it in a coffee shop, a flight on TAP, a bus ride from the runway to the terminal and an Uber (of course there was a taxi strike taking place!) we got to our Airbnb in Lisbon about 4:45 this afternoon.

It is lovely as promised and has a great view of the river.

Unfortunately, it is 94 degrees in Lisbon with a high closer to 100 predicted for tomorrow. UGH. Not sure how much sightseeing we will get done!

Almost there!

After landing on time in Lisbon, we hit passport control along with several other planes and only two customs officers working the non EU cattle corral. After about 30 minutes we made it through right at six am. Then followed the green line towards our connecting gate and lo and behold had to go through security AGAIN!

Got to our gate just as boarding was starting. Unfortunately it was onto a bus and then we apparently drove most of the way to Copenhagen! Eventually got to our plane but weren’t allowed off the stifling hot bus (my hair looks like it has had a shampoo) until the cleaners had finished just as the sun was coming up.

But they are shutting the doors so next stop better be Copenhagen!

Headed Back

So after a month in the USA it’s time to head back to Europe. Posting this from The Raleigh airport waiting for our flight to Miami where we will overnight tonight before flying to Lisbon and on to Copenhagen tomorrow where we will board Norwegian Breakaway next Friday. That’s Mike’s Mom on the phone beside Mike in the picture above and below.

After much effort, she got everything she “needed” into a rollaboard and a backpack. While it took awhile, she was determined not to pack in the medium sized suitcase that we kept suggesting. She said she wanted to travel the way we were. The sad thing is she has no room for any souvenirs. Not sure how that is going to go for a shopoholic!

We had great visits with friends and family (and the doctor and dentist) over the month at home.

It started with Claudigras, our friend’s Claudia birthday celebration at Seabrook Island,SC. We had a great long weekend with too much food and drink. Claudia even got a tiara to wear though it got cattywhompus after a few of the drinks!

During Claudigras we got to see my brother and his family who live in Charleston. Hard to believe the kids are so old…..especially since I’m not!

We had a short visit with Sam and Yost in Williamsburg mostly to discuss plans for their visit to Porto to see us in October.

We visited with our cruise buddies, Peggy & Lowell in Lynchburg overnight to finalize our plans for our week in Italy before we all board Norwegian Star in Rome in November for the transatlantic trip home.

The next weekend our friends from Durham, Scott and Robert came up to Mike’s mom’s lake house at Smith Mountain Lake. It was very relaxing to sit and have coffee in the morning and cocktails in the evening with the mountain as our view….or floating in the lake.

Labor Day weekend, our friends from Raleigh, George & Doug joined us at the lake for another nice weekend.

We drove to Salisbury to visit Cousin Martha for lunch earlier this week. Had some good western NC BBQ. Yum!

While we have had a wonderful time at home, I think we are both excited about our first visit to the Baltic region (well except that overnight in the airport for Mike’s birthday ūüėā) and showing Lois around Lisbon after our cruise.

Please don‚Äôt let troubles come in threes!

Greeting from Copenhagen airport at 3:24 am on 6/28/18.

So due to poor planning on my part, we “planned” to spend Mike’s birthday traveling from Porto to Copenhagen via Lisbon to catch our 6 am flight back to Lisbon that then connected to our flight to Miami.

All went great departing Porto, great Uber driver, nice lounge at the airport, great flight to Lisbon including ice cream!

While sitting in the lounge in Lisbon, our flight suddenly pops up with a “delayed-news at 7. Oh well let’s have another drink. Then got a notice we could check in for our Copenhagen-Lisbon-Miami flights. So I started to do so. Wait a minute, it says our flight from Copenhagen tomorrow morning is going to be two and a half hours late leaving…which meant we would miss our connection in Lisbon to Miami.

So I go speak to the Lounge Lady, ” sorry sir I can’t help you, go to the transfer desk”. After helping the transfer desk agent understand that I would like to just overnight in Lisbon, he says “oh you’ll have to go out of security to the check in desks, I can’t help you” since my system doesn’t show that flight being delayed. About this time Mike texts from in the lounge that our flight to Copenhagen is now sorta back on schedule and is now boarding. Jeez! Make up your mind. So we decide we better stay with our checked luggage and we will deal with the morning flight craziness in Denmark.

So we OJ through the airport, get on a bus, ride miles…they literally had a traffic circle out on the tarmac! And finally boarded our plane.

Had a great flight and good meal…no really, the chicken with mashed potatoes in a mustard sauce was very tasty. Of course no birthday cake for Mike, dessert was jello….almost a hospital meal. Maybe preparing us for the next stage in our lives?

Anyway, spoke to the purser who said the crew on tonight’s flight was the crew for our morning flight back to Lisbon and he didn’t have any word they would be late. Hmm, maybe our flight will be on time and all this stress is for nothing.

Since there are no airport personnel working at 11:50pm when we get into the airport, I decide it’s time to call. After several dropped calls and 20 minutes on hold we are offered a change that gets us to Miami at midnight rather than 2:30. Since we have a 5 am departure headed to Ecuador that would mean a second night spent at an airport. We decided we needed to think about that for a bit.

We did and decided that given the boarding passes we printed showed an 8:30 departure that even if the plane and crew were ready at 6 that all the Danes who had checked in wouldn’t show up until closer to the published boarding time and that if we waited until we got to Lisbon to change to the other flight that we might not get seats in biz class which we paid for (albeit at bargain rates-that is why we have to fly from Copenhagen afterall).

So after I was on hold for 30 minutes, Mike calls on his phone and after only 10 minutes of Muzak he makes arrangements for us to take the previously offered flights. As the conversation is ending, he asks the nice agent for instructions on claiming the 600 euros per person compensation that the EU requires Airlines pay if you arrive more than 3 hours behind schedule. She tells him to speak to the transfer desk in Lisbon! Arrgh

A few minutes later, while I am literally on the phone with our Miami Hotel to cancel our room, Mike’s phone rings. It seems TAP has rebooked us on Swiss Air from Copenhagen to Zurich onward to Miami so that we arrive…wait for it…..exactly 3 hours late!

So, rather than sitting in a biz cabin that is 2+2+2 with angled flat seats we will be in a 1+2+1 cabin with full lie flat seats. And given how tired I am at the moment (4:30 am) I think they will be well used! And since I hadn’t finished the Hotel cancelation we will hopefully get some sleep before heading back to the airport on Friday morning.

Here’s hoping that the old adage that trouble comes in threes isn’t true. This one has been more than enough!

Lisbon Week Two

Our second week in Lisbon has been quite enjoyable…well except for some fog and rain issues on Thursday…but we can’t complain. ¬†We are three months into this adventure and we have only had two or three days of less than ideal weather and so far we haven’t had any days where it has been ll unlike Houston which hit 106 this week according to friends there. We had to find a long sleeved shirt in the unpacked bag, close windows and snuggle under the duvet to ward off the chill of this apparently unusual weather Lisbon is having this week. From what the locals have told us, it is at least ten degrees cooler than normal….we are not complaining!

Early in the week, we attempted to take the #12 tram to go up the hill to the fortress that overlooks Lisbon. ¬†We took the bus into town (we have gotten comfortable using the local transportation) and found the tram stop. Of course we weren’t the only ones waiting for it and since the trams are so small and we wanted to be able to sit so we could see out the window we decided to go have lunch and catch a later one. ¬†Of course we weren’t the only ones with that idea. ¬† When we got back, there were even more people in line waiting. ¬†So based on my understanding of the tram’s route, there was one stop before the main one where we (and the hordes were waiting). ¬†So off we headed to it…..halfway there, GoogleMaps suddenly says we are going the wrong way, so we turn around and head a different direction….halfway there, it does it again. ¬†I get frustrated – I mean its not like we are walking on easy sidewalks in a flat city. ¬†Everything is either up or down a hill and the sidewalks here are stone pavers which while beautiful to look at are very slippery (thank goodness we haven’t had to walk on them in the rain) and uneven. ¬†So instead, we just wandered around the center part of town and decided we would get to the fortress another day. Ah the joys of “slow travel” and not having to do everything right now.

During our wandering we went into the church of Sao Domingos which was heavily damaged by the 1755 earthquake.  From what we could see and learn from reading bit, the roof collapsed during mass killing a lot of worshippers.  In addition to the roof which as you can see was replaced, there was damage to the altar and other parts of the church.

We also went by the convent up on the hill which was not rebuilt after the earthquake. We would have taken the elevator (designed by a student of Eiffel) but the line was too long….but it does say something about how hilly a place is when your bus ticket is good for an elevator!

Once at the church we elected to not go in as they wanted 10 euros….to see the sky, nah, we are unemployed you know! LOL

We then planned on taking Tram 28 (the one we took on our first day) back towards our apartment with a stop at the local market for supper.  Alas, after waiting well past when it was supposed to come by and seeing locals give up, we decided to do the same.  We walked downhill towards the other market where we had a wonderful supper.

As usual we halved and halved our meal. We had cold tomato soup and hot “market vegetable” (mostly sweet potatoes I think), some croquettes, seared tuna with beets and sweet potatoes and cod with potatoes and greens. All were yummy!

After finishing our dinner, we took the bus back to our neighborhood and then walked up the hill to our apartment as our local bus was also running way behind schedule. It was a long frustrating day but while we did nothing that we had planned to do, we did see sights that were on our list and certainly met our walking goal for the day!

June in Lisbon is when they celebrate the Lisboa Festival which has a concert every night it seems (Katy Perry is the closing one on June 30th) and every square has at least one and sometimes multiple stalls set up grilling sardines and other tasty goodies. ¬†We understand that on June 11 – St. Anthony’s Feast Day that these squares will be alive with music and fun. ¬†Unfortunately that is the day we leave for Porto but most of the squares are already up and running a few nights a week. ¬†So last Wednesday evening, we walked down the hill to the square nearest us and had dinner. ¬†We each had a bowl of traditional and delicious Soda Verde (potato garlic soup with kale), a grilled sardine apiece and split a pork sandwich. ¬†The sardines are bigger than what we get in the cans in the USA so you had to remove the bones. ¬†They were really tasty but I sorta felt about them the way I feel about King Crab claws – good but not worth the work. LOL ¬†There were a few others out in the square and they had recorded music playing from the stage where I presume a band will soon be. ¬†I can only imagine how much fun we will be missing tomorrow night!

Thursday we used our rechargeable transportation ticket and headed northwest to Sintra. ¬†This involved a walk to the train station located right below our apartment (if there was a zip line from our sun room we could be there in two seconds instead of the 15 minute walk), a train to the next stop where we transferred to another train which about 30 minutes later we arrived in the hill town. ¬†There we bought a day pass on the circulator bus that went to all the sights. ¬†Unfortunately as mentioned about, we had picked the wrong day weather wise to visit so we never got to see the view which purportedly allowed one on a clear day to see downtown Lisbon as well as the Atlantic Ocean. ¬†However, the mist and clouds did add a certain mystique…especially to the Moorish Castle.

We started by visiting Pina Palace. ¬†The palace was built in the late 1800s by one of Portugal’s princes who was a cousin of Prince Albert (you know, the one married to Queen Victoria). ¬†He was also a contemporary and cousin of “Mad” King Ludwig and apparently wanted a romantic castle like his cousins. ¬†He began by renovating a 16th century monastery using its cloister as the center point for the private apartments. ¬†These were created by combining several monk’s cells and creating bedrooms and bathrooms (the first indoor flush toilet in Europe supposedly along with bathtubs and showers!). ¬†These spaces are in the portion of the building that is reddish in the photographs. ¬†The entertaining spaces are in the gold colored building and are a mishmash of architectural styles – renaissance, gothic, and even moorish! ¬†I was impressed with some of the details – some were a bit overwrought but then so is the whole building. As has been the case through Portugal, the ceramic tile work is incredible.

We had hoped to walk through what appear to be absolutely beautiful gardens (you can see some of the plants above) to the Moorish Castle ruins a little lower down the hill. ¬†Alas, the fog and mist had turned into full blown rain by the time we finished touring the palace so instead we took the bus back down to the center of town where we had intended to eat in one of the many local restaurants. ¬†However, they tended to have very small interior dining spaces with huge exterior umbrellaed cafes for al fresco dining with views….however today those weren’t the places to eat. ¬†So we ended up at Pizza Hut! I was just thankful there wasn’t a Taco Bell as I know Mike would have demanded we “dine” there. ¬†And it was fun to have a refillable soda!

After lunch we boarded the bus and headed back up the hill to the Moorish Castle. ¬†Thankfully the rain had stopped and there was only a drizzle. ¬†We actually really enjoyed the walk (hike for us) to and through the castle ruins. ¬†The grounds were beautiful and the mist and fog gave it a “Game of Thrones” feel. ¬†We walked throughout the complex though I have to admit we only climbed up to one of the two towers – since we knew there was no view, we elected to not risk a broken hip (or worse-the crenelated walls were the only banister) by visiting both of them.

After the castle, we returned to the apartment and stopped in at an indian restaurant at the bottom of our hill.  We split a most wonderful garlic soup, some samosas, and a mango chicken dish.  It was so good (especially the soup on the chilly rainy day) that we went back the next night and got take-away!  After dinner we ended up riding our local bus up the hill as we had already walked over 5 miles and I was about to drop!

On Friday we visited two Airbnb apartments for our four day stay here with Mike’s mom in September. ¬†One is in Belem (the town just west of Lisbon) and one in Lisbon. While we really loved the one in Belem – we both want to live there, it was unfortunately on two stories up a narrow staircase and the upper level had low ceilings (I couldn’t stand up in the shower or in half of the bedroom) whereas the other is about in the center of town, has a view of the river from its terrace and has an elevator. So, we have booked the place in town. ¬†If however you ever want a beautiful apartment in Belem, let me know. The host was most kind and the place just lovely.

Before leaving Belem we had an early lunch at Pasteis de Belem-the bakery with the long lines for the tarts. After having had one (well at least one) I can say they are worth the wait. But we didn’t have to-we went inside and got a table (they have seating for 400 in their dining room and most tables were full) in their courtyard. Why anyone would wait in line I don’t know.

We had several (!) different morsels (including the Portuguese version of a Houston kolache) for lunch but OMG were the tarts tasty! They have a huge kitchen where they continually bake them so they are always warm and fresh from the oven. We also saw someone else with Mike’s grandmama’s sofa shirt!

June is when the jacaranda trees bloom here so everywhere there is a riot of purple-just beautiful!

Yesterday, we took the train to Cascais. This is the seaside town about 30 minutes west of here. ¬†That’s a picture of the main beach at the top of this post. It is Lisbon’s beach community. ¬†We really liked it. ¬†It is the first place we have both said, “we ought to consider this for a long term locale.”

We had a wonderful lunch based on a Trip Advisor recommendation-the best moderate priced restaurant. ¬†Sangria, Delicious tuna salad for a starter, greek salad, Bacalhau (the salt cod/potato casserole) and a whole octopus, and chocolate charlotte (with port) for desert – then the restaurant offered us either a sip of port or of a local almond liquor…we went for the liquor. ¬†It was like amaretto but better!

After lunch, we wandered around Cascais and then along the paved beachfront esplanade to the next train station (about 30 minutes on foot) back towards Lisbon. On the train, we made notes about each of the towns along the train route so we can do some research if we decide this area is worthy of a return visit before we head back to the USA in November.  At first blush, I am afraid we may not be able to afford it, but I remain hopeful of finding an accomodation.

Today, we are going to pack and finalize our google maps (I hope they work better than the one we used downtown earlier in the week) for our drive to Porto tomorrow morning. ¬†Presuming we get that done, we are planning on going out for lunch in search of the other traditional lisboa dish we haven’t yet had – Duck Rice. ¬†I will probably do a short post about it if we find it.

Have a great week – pray or think good thoughts depending on your spiritualness tomorrow for our safe drive (EEK) to Porto!

Lisbon Week One

After arriving and settling into our AirBnb, we decided to take the iconic tram #28 which departs up the hill (yes, another town with hills….think Genova but with more ups and downs rather than just all up or down – ugh). ¬†The ride is roller coaster in some places but we got to see some of the city.

Here is a video of part of the ride. You can’t tell how steep it is but the the higher the whine the steeper and faster we were going. Also watch Mike’s sleeve bouncing That’s whAt looks like Grandma’s sofa in the left corner of the frame, it’s a good indication of how much we were moving.

After arriving at the lower (flat) part of the city along the river, we had dinner at the old Market half of which is now a food hall/restaurant center priding itself on local chefs with star power at lower prices.

WOW, what a delicious meal! ¬†We started with the appetizers that Portuguese restaurants put on the table without you asking but aren’t free! Below are (clockwise) marinated olives (eaten and paid for), tuna and anchovies “pate” (yummy on bread and paid for), some kind of soft cheese (didn’t try it but bought some at the supermarket-it’s ok)

Teen for the first time we had razor clams – omg, so good.

The octopus was braised and served with a roasted tomato slice, almonds??? and potatoes and was very good.

We also got to try the chefy version of Bacalhau which is a dish made of formerly salted cod, olives and potatoes. ¬† It was very tasty and not at all fishy or salty which is what I was worried about.¬†We are hoping to have the traditional version this week at a restaurant our waiter recommended. That one will have real black olives and not “dust”.

Thursday, we again headed uphill and went to the local neighborhood’s market which also has devoted a portion of the space to food stalls. ¬†After buying some vegetables and lettuce for use at home, we had a late lunch – hamburgers! ¬†We have both been craving one since they used to be a staple of our weekend eating and haven’t had one since we got off the ship on March 17th. Didn’t take any food porn there but here is the stall I hope to visit next time we are there!

On Friday, we got haircuts at the barber up the street (yes UP another hill) for the first time since we were in Milan.  While not quite the full family experience that was, it was fun and a third of the price and we both look a little less shaggy Рme in particular!

That afternoon we went downhill (finally) and wandered through a nearby former warehouse/industrial area that has become a trendy multiuse development of startups, restaurants, food trucks and shops…felt very Portland.

We had delicious chicken, grilled veggies and chips along with really tasty iced tea.

Saturday, we took a cruise up and down the river.  What a great afternoon and early evening.

We went under the suspension bridge that is the view from our apartment twice. I really love the paintings on its foundations.

We also sailed by Belem, a neighborhood to the west of downtown that was originally the port for all the explorers we heard about in elementary school. We sailed by both the monument to them and the tower that was the last thing and first thing they saw of the old world.

Yesterday, we took public transportation west about 15 minutes to that town of Belem.

While there we visited the National Carriage Museum. Queen Amelia realized that with the advent of the motor car that carriages were going to become a relic of the past so in 1905 she started this museum. ¬†It contains not only all of Portugal’s carriages but many from other countries as well as several early pope mobiles! One portion of the collection is housed in the beautiful old riding school while the larger part is in a new purpose built building. The intricate carvings on the coaches is amazing.

We then walked along the riverfront past the monument to the explorers – one side has sculptures representing DeGama, Magellan, etc. while the other portrays those who financed the voyages.

I had hoped we would have a pastel de nata (the stereotypical egg custard tart from Lisbon) from Pasteis de Belem where they were invented so I could compare them to the supermarket ones I tried. But the line down the street and around the corner wasn’t something I was willing to wait in. ¬†Hopefully we will get by there during the week…and if not, we think we are going to try to stay in Belem when we are back in September with Mike’s Mom and surely then the line won’t be as long! <fingers crossed>

While in Belem we also visited the Monastery where the explorers used to pray before leaving to find the new world. The line for the cloister was longer than that for the pastries so we will see that in September but we did go into the church. ¬† It is one of the few structures that remained after the big earthquake and has interesting details. ¬†For example the ceiling over Vasca DeGama’s tomb is (as Rick Steves described) a veritable Scout handbook of knots. ¬†At the main altar, the tombs of the kings and queens are held up by elephants which is Portugal were considered more royal than the lions used in most places.

The elephant also appears elsewhere in the city.  For example in the main square (Praca do Comercio) of Lisbon where we headed on the tram after leaving Belem, the statute of King Jose the 1st also includes elephants!

Before the earthquake this space held the palace, afterwards it was moved uphill and this space was created.  If you look at some of the pictures from our boat ride, you can see it from the water.  In addition to the (very) grand arch at its entrance there is a small beach here too.  It is the largest square in Europe.  This square is also where Carlos the first was assigned in 1908 while riding in one of the carriages we saw earlier in the day!

After wandering from the bus across the square to the beach, we had tapas and dinner at one of the cafes lining the square.  Once again octopus was the centerpiece Рboth as a cold salad and as a warm entree in olive oil with garlic along with some fries. Yummy!

So that catches me up….finally.

This coming week we hope to visit two Airbnbs under consideration for our stay when we are back with Mike’s mom, go up the hill to see the castle/fortress and take a different iconic tram ride through the hilly narrow streets – this one is #12.

We leave a week from today to Porto and have rented a car – it will be strange to be driving again after three months of letting others do it but we think it will let us see some of Portugal we wouldn’t otherwise see.

Have a great week!