Tuesday, August 08, 2017

LIsbon: Day 1-2

I got out of the habit of doing these things when we're on vacation. Last year we stayed mostly in Canada on a quiet vacation. The year before was awesome, with a Viking River Cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam. Unfortunately the Bluetooth keyboard I use to write on my iPad died, making writing difficult.

But this time I'm back on vacation and with a proper keyboard ready to go. This will probably be more general notes and observations as I save the stories for my long suffering editor who buys my travel pieces from me. But I've noticed that if I don't write the day's activities right away the little details, which are often the fun ones, will slip away.

So a few odds and ends from our first days in Lisbon.

1. The red eye flight from Toronto to Lisbon is pretty easy going and I don't have any complaints about TAP, the national Portuguese airlines. Easy boarding process, reasonable seats and most people slept through the flight.

2. Having said that, everyone has the right idea of taking red eyes, but it does mean that customs on the other end can be long. I think we spent about 40 minutes going through a massive line, as at least five flights arrived within 45 minutes of each other.

3. We bought new SIM cards at the airport just so we would be able to have access to our phones right away. The line is long, however, so patience is a must.

4. Lisbon card is a decent investment. Got us on trams and buses during the first two days. Also got us on the bus for free to downtown Lisbon within a block or two of our hotel. So that was nice.

5. We're downtown about a block away from the waterfront. So it's tourist central. But it's still nice to walk on cobblestone sidewalks, dodge tuktuks, look at giant statues of men on horses, and big open market squares. Could do without trying to walk past restaurants with waiting trying to drag you in to sit down, but that's Europe.

6. Jet lag knocked us out early Day 1, and we were late getting going on Day 2. But then we hopped on a massively crowded tram to Belem. The area is known for its monastery, tower and a particular custard pastry. It was crowded, especially in the morning, but the crowds did easy up a bit later in the day. The monastery was nice but I'm not sure it was worth the epic lines. We spent probably 45 minutes in line. Early in the morning it was probably closer to 90 minutes to get in.

7. The Tower of Belem also had lines to get in, but we didn't brave them, as they looked like it would have taken two hours to get in. There's some nice historical features to the place, but if you're going just for the view there's the padrao dos descobrimentos, which gives you a better view, with less price.

8. But honestly, I think the reason most people go to Belem is Pasteis de Belem. At it's most simple it a custard tart. But they are beloved in Lisbon. Upon checkin at our hotel the lady at the front desk listed things we might want to do. Getting a custard tart might not seem a big deal, but the line was long, the crowds slightly frantic and everyone was determined to get a custard tart

And they were pretty good, I have to say. An article I read says they make 20,000 of them a day. I can believe it.

9. Random bits:
- You play games sometimes as you wander a city. Cathy and I have decided that instead of playing "Punch Buggy" we're playing "Man Bun". Everytime we see one we punch the other person. I suspect we'll be black and blue by the end of the trip if the last two days. There have been a tragic amount of man buns walking the streets of Lisbon.
- How to tell you're Canadian. When crossing a street, Cathy was approached by a drug dealer offering pot. The conversation went something like this:
Dealer: Hey, would you like some pot?
Cathy: No, thank you.
Me: It's always nice when we can take the time to be polite to drug dealers.
At least Cathy got offered pot. I was offered hash and cocaine.
- I will say this much about Lisbon, the breeze is lovely. There's an almost constant breeze, which helps keep things from getting too hot.
- I might have loved the pastries in Belem, but I did managed to get punched by a Japanese tourist when I didn't move out of her way fast enough. Thus continuing my streak of having a bad experience with a Japanese tourist on nearly every vacation I've been on.
- English is understood almost everywhere but funny enough, it's not the language of conversation in the streets in the tourist areas. There simply doesn't seem to be many Canadian, American or British tourists around, which is interesting.