Portugal diary, day 13

Thursday, 23 May, 2019. About 21:30, on board the plane

This morning we slept in late. The breakfast basket was placed at 08:30 we were told, so there was no real reason to get up any earlier. It had two large bread rolls, one dark brown and one with grains, a small jar of raspberry jam, packs of butter, a plate of cream cheese and mild sliced cheese, a banana, a kiwifruit, an apple, a pear, a small bottle of milk, and two pastéis de nata, the mystery sweet treat. A fairly predictable mystery I suppose, but I hadn’t given it any thought so it was a pleasant surprise.

Reflecting on Lisbon
Exploring Bairro Alto on our last day

After breakfast we headed off for a short walk through the Bairro Alto, to explore more streets that we hadn’t walked down before. Before too long we had to return to our room to shower and repack our bags for the trip home. This took us until about 13:00, when we checked out. The reception office had a small white dog that was lounging on a small sofa each time we’d gone in. M. pointed out that it had a play area in the window, with artificial grass, a bed, and some toys.

Bairro Alto tram
Tram in Bairro Alto

We left our bags in the reception to pick up later and headed out again to explore until we had to leave for the airport at around 17:00. We’d decided that we had to try riding at least one of the old trams while in Lisbon. The most popular route is the 28, but it’s notorious for being very crowded with tourists (and pickpockets), often requiring standing for the whole one hour trip, and it was a bit of a hike to get to either terminus where one has a better chance of securing a seat, if the queues aren’t too long. It would probably take too long to travel to a terminus, ride the whole route, and travel back again. So instead we elected to walk to the Campolide terminal of route 24, which is a new route, reinstated just last year after a 35 year absence, and so still under the radar of most tourists. But at the ISO meeting dinner, Neelam had told us that she’d ridden both the 28 and the 24 trams and she preferred the 24. So it seemed a good choice, as both terminals at Campolide and Chiado were within walking distance of our guest house (which was not the case for the 28).

The walk to Campolide was unfortunately uphill all the way, so we got a bit hot after our final showers. Once there, we had to wait about 25 minutes for a tram, which according to the timetable printed on the tram stop sign was running over 10 minutes late by the time it arrived. But eventually it showed up, with about half a dozen people on board. Some were tourists who wanted to return from this rather uninspiring location, but the driver made them all get off and then get on and pay again for the return trip. We got on and tapped our Viva Viagem cards, using up another 3€ from the stored value we loaded.

24 tram
Catching the 24 tram at Campolide

The tram took us down the hill and around the eastern edge of the Bairro Alto back to Chiado, passing several interesting sights and views on the way, including a lookout spot we’d walked past yesterday. The trip was a bit over 20 minutes long, so not as long as the 28 tram. The way the trams move through the traffic on the streets is amazing. People drive very close to the tram, and others park their cars on the side of the narrow streets barely off the tram tracks. At one point a beeping noise occurred, which I think was a proximity alert for the driver that parked cars were too close to the tram. He slowed down and even stopped, opening the door to crane out and look at the cars parked by the tracks to see if there was enough clearance to pass. It turned out there was, and we trickled past, maybe only a centimetre or so from the cars.

On the 24 tram
On the 24 tram

At another point the street passed through an old stone archway, forcing it to narrow to a single lane. The tram tracks for opposite directions, which otherwise ran parallel, chicaned together and crossed over to allow trams going in either direction to go through the archway. As the tram slowed to negotiate this section without hitting an oncoming vehicle, someone drove their car through in the opposite direction, barely scraping through before our tram filled the arch.

We ended up in the familiar square in Chiado, where there was a political rally happening, for the European Union elections which began today. Avoiding the noisy crowd, we walked down the hill towards Baixa, planning to spend a bit more time wandering around and then get a metro train back to Rato and walk downhill to our accommodation to pick up our bags, rather than walk from here uphill. M. stopped in at a few shops along the way and eventually we found ourselves on the main pedestrian street running through Baixa from the huge archway to Rossio square.

M. wanted a cold drink so we stopped at a cafe. They were out of lemonade, so we both ordered the strawberry and basil drink, which was nice as it was tart and not sweetened. It wasn’t a great cafe though, being one of dozens being run by disinterested staff along this heavily toured strip. While we were sitting inside, the rally that we’d seen up in Chiado marched along the street outside, with a band playing and people chanting slogans and waving flags. Some people really get into these EU elections it seems.

Done with our drinks we were feeling cooler and refreshed, and continued walking towards Rossio, then across past the Starbucks where I bought a Lisbon mug for Allison’s collection. I would have liked to get a Portugal one as well, but was conscious of the need to stuff them into our luggage somehow. I managed to get the one in after we picked up our bags, but two would have been a real struggle. From Starbucks it was a short walk to Restauradores metro station, then a few stations to Rato.

We walked back to collect our luggage via a different route, to see if it would be any less uphill on the way back with our bags. But both routes had up and down sections making them about equivalent, and the new one was along an unpleasantly busy road with very narrow footpaths, so we chose the first route, hauling our bags up a steep hill at the beginning and then easing downhill to Rato. Of course at Rato the down escalator was broken, so we had to carry our bags down about three flights worth of stairs to the station.

From here it was a short trip to the red line interchange and then several stations out towards the airport. I expected the airport line to be busy with travellers with luggage, but the train was mostly empty by the time we got there. We checked in and passed through security, then negotiated the enormous duty free shop by means of the Ikea-esque path that led us past everything they had to offer. M. bought a couple of lipsticks on the way.

We found a food court where we had some dinner. There was a sort of healthy food place doing salads and rolls and stuff. M. had a mushroom quiche thing that came in a paper pan rather than a pastry shell, and a bread roll, while I had a “low carb” dish that was essentially a chicken and vegetable curry, and I couldn’t help thinking the while time I was eating it that it could do with some rice. Mine was a meal special that came with a bowl of soup, for which I chose cauliflower (the other option being miso), and a drink (water). After this M. got a Toblerone and a cappuccino and we sat on comfy seats in another place that did roasts. Here there was a table of older French people waiting and drinking wine. At one point a man left to check the departures and returned to say their flight was running late, so they all got another glass of wine.

After eating, we headed towards our departure gate, only to discover that there was a passport check beyond the food court. For some reason the automatic gates didn’t like our passports and we had to go through a manual check. Then we were off to boarding and flight.

Friday 24 May, 10:07 Dubai time

We’re on board our second flight, awaiting departure. The first flight passed relatively quickly. Because we left late at night, I tried to snooze the whole time, and we missed all the food. We landed in Dubai just after 08:00 and had only a short walk to our next gate. We sat at a cafe and had toasted bagels with butter to eat as a quick breakfast and M. had a coffee. After brushing our teeth it was off to the next flight.

The departure gate waiting area was packed with people, with nowhere to go as more filed in behind them. Fortunately we were near the boarding area and got on board quickly thanks to my silver status.

Written later

We landed about 06:15 on Saturday. Sydney Airport wasn’t busy and we passed through immigration and customs very quickly, and were on a taxi soon after. We made it home within about 45 minutes of our plane landing, which is pretty good.

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