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 Belém (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!

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!

Please don’t 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!

Barcelonai

You may be saying to yourself, “Self, I don’t recall Clay mentioning Barcelona when he told me about his year of travel.” and you would be right!  We hadn’t planned on visiting Barcelona this trip (well at least once we decided we couldn’t afford to spend our month in Spain there).  But Mike’s brother Chris and his wife Jen along with their daughter Rebecca and her boyfriend Karol (Pronounced Karl – he is polish) decided to celebrate Rebecca’s graduate school graduation with a week in Barcelona.  We had to get from Sofia to Lisbon and that entailed a stop somewhere and Barcelona was just as good as Milan and lots better than Frankfurt, so we modified our Airbnb stays and spend four nice days with them.

We arrived at the Hotel Rec (which Chris found and we loved) around 8 pm on Saturday night and the others arrived around 1 pm on Sunday.  Mike and I spent Sunday morning wandering through the park below the Arc d’triumph (who knew Barcelona had one too?) and got back to the hotel as they were arriving.

We all went and had a late lunch and then the travelers checked in and took naps until that evening.

The hotel has a beautiful rooftop lounge and terrance and we ended up having a Jamon tasting and just relaxing that evening.  Mike bought the ham at a speciality store around the corner and boy was it tasty….but not inexpensive – we had three levels, the most expensive was 199 euros a kilo or about 105 dollars a pound!  Wowzer!  Needless to say we only had a taste of it.  Most of us thought the much more economical $50 a pound ham was just fine….of course his majesty Burton thought we should only eat the good stuff from now on!

Monday we all went to Park Guell together. This was originally envisioned as a residential development in the hills above Barcelona and Saudi (architect of La Sagrada Familla) was charged with designing the common spaces.  Unfortunately, it never took off – I guess just like our neighborhood in Knightdale, the best laid plans don’t always come to fruition.  So at some point the it was all sold to the City and turned into a park.  Most of the park is open to the public but the “monumental” area requires a timed ticket to try to keep the crowds down….notice my use of “try”!

Through our the park there is a lot of decoration done with tile shards. This is the technique that Calatrava uses on his modern buildings-remember the cultural center in Valencia?

The Hyperstyle Hall was designed to serve as a covered gathering space for neighborhood events -that’s it at the top of the steps and its roof as the public plaza. It is currently having repairs made which allowed us to see how the dimes on the underside are made above. So while most visitors were unhappy about the construction fence I enjoyed it!

There is also an interesting area of the park which creates a walkway that has a wave form on the interior and interesting columns on the outside, including one called the wash woman and another reminiscent for the spiral columns of the canopy over the altar at St Peters in Rome.

Gaudi’s work may have influenced lots more architects than I realized-these columns at another spot in the park reminded me of Frank Lloyd Wright’s columns for the Johnson Wax Building. Knowing Wright’s ego I’m positive he would say he was unaware of them!

You will have to make your own decision:

On Tuesday, we continued our Gaudi experience by heading to La Sagrada Familla.  This is the church that Gaudi started and that still isn’t finished as you can see from the construction shot at the top of this blog post. When Mike and I visited in the 90s, they said they hoped to have it finished by 2020, they are now pushing to have it finished by 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.  I doubt they are going to make it as they haven’t yet started on the biggest towers…but who knows, with modern building techniques, perhaps they will.

Mike and I had planned on going inside and I “knew” I had bought the tickets – hell we didn’t buy the airline tickets until we were sure we could buy tickets for the same time as Chris and crew were going.  So Monday, I go to find the tickets in my email, hmmmm, not there?  Let me check the credit card…hmmm, no charge?  Did I just imagine it?  Anyway, it appears I dropped the ball, so while Chris et al climbed the tower (been there done that, not gonna do it again) and spent time contemplating inside this magnificent building, Mike and I sat outside and people watched!  Luckily we will be back to Barcelona as our first and only mainland port stop on our Transatlantic back to the USA in November and I am definitely going to buy a ticket for inside this time!

We are also making plans to have lunch at the restaurant around the corner from our hotel where we had wonderful tapas (including grilled octopus better than any we had in Greece) on our last night in Barcelona.  Yummy!

on Wednesday, Mike and I metro-ed to the airport (again arriving too early to check our bags, had a quick visit to the lounge again courtesy of our Priority Pass and then boarded TAP Portugal airlines headed to Lisbon.  While the checkin and boarding process had some of the same issues we experienced in Sofia – again due to contracted airport employees I believe (and so tweeted to TAP), we were pleased with the flights.  On our slightly over 2 hour flight we were served a sandwich and drinks! When is the last time in the US that you saw anything other than a packet of peanuts on a short flight (unless you were seated up front)?

We arrived in Lisbon uneventfully and made it to our Airbnb via UBER after seeing the loooooong taxi line.  Since we have been here we have learned that UBER is easy and cheap here…in some cases, no more expensive than taking the bus!

More on Lisbon coming right up!