Portugal diary, days 1 and 2

This was a trip I took to Lisbon to attend an ISO Technical Committee 42 Photography standards meeting. My wife accompanied me and we spent an extra week in Portugal to do some sightseeing.

Saturday, 11 May, 2019. In flight

Our trip began with a train journey to the airport. We left home just after 17:00, walking to the station. It looked like we’d just missed a train to the city, and the next train was only going as far as North Sydney, with nearly a 15 minute wait until the next city train. The North Sydney train was nearly empty, but the the one we caught after it was almost standing room only.

As we stopped at Milsons Point, we noticed on the indicator board that all the trains were terminating at Wynyard, which was unusual. I checked the trains website on my phone to find out that there was trackwork on the City Circle, and trains were only running anticlockwise. So we had to get off at Wynyard and go down to the lower platform and catch another train to Central and then change again for an airport train. Thankfully both connections were quick, but both trains were very full.

We arrived at the airport a bit after 18:00. We’d already checked in online and printed our boarding passes, so we went straight through passport and security checks. A lot of people had just filed into the immigration area in front of us, so it was fairly full, but the lines moved quickly and we were through before too long.

After buying some duty-free Plymouth gin and Drambuie to pick up on the way home, we went to the food place we always go to, to sit and have a bite to eat. M. had the wood fired haloumi, which came with fired red grapes, pomegranate kernels, a grilled red onion, and sourdough bread. We also got some smoked almonds to nibble on. The food was good, but I didn’t want to eat too much because I wanted to have the dinner on the plane and then try to sleep on a full stomach. It passed the time though, and by the time we were ready to go it was almost time to board our flight.

We boarded nice and early thanks to my silver frequent flyer status, getting seats by a window and a middle seat. It was too late to change our seats to have an aisle by the time I got to selecting our seats online.

Sunday, 12 May. 07:49 Dubai time

We landed in Dubai a few minutes early, just after 05:00. Our connection to Lisbon departed at 07:25, so we had a short time to sit and rest while M. had a coffee and a pistachio croissant from a patisseries in the terminal. We had to walk almost the length of the terminal, from Terminal C to the far end of Terminal B, for our next flight, but it was good to stretch the legs out. This flight is just under eight hours, so it won’t be long before we touch down in Lisbon.

20:41 Lisbon time

We landed in Lisbon a bit before 12:30. It didn’t take long to get out of the airport customs area. Most of the time was spent walking from what looked like the furthest gate in the entire terminal. Passport control had virtually no queue, we only had carry on bags so didn’t have to wait for luggage, and the “nothing to declare” customs door simply led straight outside.

Once there, we ducked into a toilet to put on some sunscreen, because we’d decided the best way to get to our hotel was to walk from the airport. Lisbon Airport is close to the city centre, and even closer to our hotel because we’re staying in the suburbs near the university where my ISO meetings are. It was a 45 minute walk according to Google Maps, which we were fine with, even on a hot day such as today, with the temperature around 31-32°C. Before heading out, M. got a take away coffee from a shop in the terminal.

Getting my bearings from a map app on my phone, we headed out along the footpath beside the busy airport access road. The path was narrow and cobbled, squeezed between the road and either building walls or rows of bushes, making it single file and uncomfortably close to the road where cars were speeding by. But this was clearly a used path, as we saw several other people coming and going the same way, and the path led to marked pedestrian crossings on the freeway access ramps, so we could get to where we wanted.

After passing under the freeway and around a large roundabout intersection, we reached a quieter road, running along the edge of a large park with fairly thick forest in it. There were birds singing and gathering food on the ground, and a large group of people picnicking on trestle tables laid out with yellow table cloths – exactly the sort of thing you expect to see in a Mediterranean country.

Past the park, we hit buildings, a lower end of town neighbourhood with some shops and restaurants, but almost all closed for Sunday. As we progressed, the area became cleaner and better looking, and a few cafes were open for business with large lunch crowds patronising them. We stopped at Pau de Canela (“Cinnamon Stick”), a very nice looking patisserie-cafe, which was serving lunch plates to an almost full house of tables both inside and out. We went inside and goggled at the delicious looking cakes and pastries, and a woman came to assist us. I tried my first words of Portuguese: “Falo English,” at which she said she only spoke a little, but said we could sit at any free table (of which there were two).

We perused the sweet goodies and found a “mil folhas”, looking very much like a classic vanilla slice. M. asked what was in some of the sweet looking croissants, and got the answer “egg” for one of them. I suggested that might mean custard, and M. selected one of those. As it turned out, the filling was indeed egg: cooked yolk sweetened with sugar. She found it acceptable and finished the large croissant, while I had the mil folhas. We also got a bottles of water to share as it was hot and we’d been walking in the sun much of the way (thankfully with the sunscreen we’d put on at the airport). When I went to pay, I was surprised that the total was only 2.80€. It turned out the sweets were very cheap at just 90 cents each, and the water 1€.

We continued walking, soon hitting the middle of the long thin park at which our hotel is at the southern end. We found the Hotel NH Lisboa Campo Grande and checked in, causing a bit of a surprise to the guy behind the counter when I said we were two people, as he said the booking was for one person. I guess I must not have mentioned I was travelling with M. when I emailed to reserve the room at the special ISO meeting group rate. But he changed the booking to both of us without any problem and we went up to the tenth floor to find a very nice room waiting.

Hotel NH Lisboa Campo Grande view
View from our hotel room window

We both had showers straight away to wash off the travel grime. And then feeling a whole lot better we hot the road to walk in the direction of the old historical centre of Lisbon. It was still hot when we left a bit before 16:00. And it was a long walk, through some fairly boring neighbourhoods at first. Things only really got interesting once we hit the Avenida da Liberdade, running south from the Praça do Marquês de Pombal, with its giant statue in the middle. Along the Avenue was a market, with dozens of stalls selling souvenir items, clothes, bags, jewellery, antiques, and food items. M. browsed and we ended up buying some ceramic tile coasters, and bracelets made of cork decorated with silver bits for Giselle and Arwen for looking after Scully while we’re away.

Typical Lisbon footpath
Cobblestone patterns in the footpath along Avenida da Liberdade

Eventually we got to the old town region of Baixa, and it was close to 18:00. We decided to find a place for dinner and then try to get the Metro back to our hotel. A lot of the restaurants around here looked very touristy, with outdoor seating full of American tourists and touts out the front urging passersby to come inside in English. We avoided all of these and went down a side street to look for something quieter. We found Veganapati, a vegan place with a mostly Indian inspired menu, but also burgers and salads.

Corn bread bruschetta
Corn bread bruschetta at Veganapati

We sat inside, though most of the customers were on the half dozen or so tables outside in the small square. It was still very warm and we downed a lot of water as we ate. We got a starter of bruschetta made with Portuguese corn bread, and both followed it with the black bean and brown rice patty burger. M. had a rosé wine while I had a nice cold beer. It was all good.

Black bean and brown rice burger
Black bean burger at Veganapati

We were far too tired to walk all the way back to the hotel, so we went to the nearby Rossio Metro station and bought stored value Viva Viagem tickets with 5€ each on them. The trip to Roma station was quick and easy, and cost 1.33€, so we have three trips left on the tickets before we need to recharge them. From Roma station we walked back the short distance to our hotel. M. was asleep by 21:00 and I am following soon after.

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