Monday, July 3rd, 2017

zimena: (Misc - Doll-like woman)
I'm back from Portugal!

In fact, I got home Saturday evening, but this is the first time I'm on a computer since before leaving. There is so much to tell from this trip, but it's probably easier to split it by category instead of trying to write a long and coherent post. This might be rather long anyway, though.

Are you ready? Do you have coffee/tea/something else to make your reading experience nicer? Good, then let's go:

Flights: This was only the 4th flight in my adult life (of course not counting multiple flights during the same trip separately). As I'm not used to travelling this way, I find it (mostly) exciting. I'm not sure it's that fun to sit in a narrow seat with limited space for my legs and even more limited space to the person in the next seat for 4 hours, though. Seriously, the plane to and from Lisbon was so cramped. I had another flight to get home from Oslo yesterday as well, and that plane was slightly more spacious. I mean, shouldn't that have been the other way around, considering the fact that the flight to Lisbon is much longer?

Hotel: We stayed in an absolutely awesome hotel in Lisbon. Almost everything was perfect there. Our room was nice and spacious, the beds were comfortable, we got free bottles of drinking water every day (very nice when you get home late, as we usually did). Also, they gave us four pieces of hand-made chocolate daily. On the day we arrived, they brought that to our room quite soon after arrival, while on the other days we found a plate with chocolate in the room when we got home. Did I mention yet that this chocolate was absolutely delicious? Well, it was. Especially the white kind.

What else? Yes, the hotel had a pool in the basement, as well as a slightly smaller (outdoor) pool on the roof. We tried both, but the coolest experience was definitely when we went swimming in the rooftop pool at 11:30pm once. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to stay there for long, because you weren't supposed to swim there after 8pm - only, there was no info about this anywhere. The woman from the staff who came to ask us to leave was very nice about it, though - she even gave us some extra soft towels because we were apparently not supposed to use the ones from our room that we had brought there (supposedly due to the high amount of chemicals they would put in the water for the evening/night-time cleaning process). Even though that was a short and kinda illegal swim, it was awesome, and much cooler than swimming in the same pool in the daytime would have been.

City: First of all, Lisbon is NOT an ideal city if you are a wheelchair user or if you otherwise cannot walk perfectly. It's very hilly, and those hills are mostly very steep. That, coupled with streets covered in mini-cobblestones made of some slippery, glass-like material, makes for a big challenge. Our hotel was located at the top of a hill, and we actually had to take a bus just to get down from there in a reasonably comfortable way - because strangely enough, the two nearby metro stations were also located at the bottom of the hill.

Other than that, what I saw of the city was very beautiful, though. My favourite spot was probably the Parque das Nações - a huge park with a long promenade along the river Tejo. This is also the location of the MEO Arena - which could possibly host next year's Eurovision Song Contest. Apparently, this whole area was made for Expo '98, and it was cool how there were also flag poles with flags and info about every country in the world.

Another place I liked was the Praça do Comércio square. It reminded me a little bit on Prague's Staroměstské Náměstí. We also saw the only rain during our trip while we were here - it started raining enough that every restaturant around frantically moved all sorts of stuff indoors. By the time they were done with that, the sun came back out. HEH.

... and that brings me to:

Weather: We had perfect weather all week. Perfect as in about 22-25 degrees and slightly cloudy much of the time. There was a slight breeze most of the time, too - apart from one evening when it got very windy and almost chilly (maybe mostly because I was just wearing a thin singlet-like shirt that had been enough all day, though). Strangely, I know that there was a heatwave with temperatures up to 40-45 degrees the week before we were there, and there's a forecast of up to 50 degrees for next week, so that makes the weather we had even more perfect.

Metro: I'm madly fascinated with metro/subway systems. There is of course no such thing in my town, so perhaps that explains why I find it so cool. Lisbon's system was very cool when it was working, but also badly marked and with limited info available when something was out of the ordinary. For example, lifts to get into the metro were often located in strange places far away from the stairs to the same station. I mean two streets or so away, for example. Also, half of those lifts were either out of service or only available to one line and not the other at the points where you were supposed to switch between lines. Luckily, I can walk at least a bit, and the stairs were often quite good, so with some workarounds metro travels worked kind of okay.

Seriously, though, Lisbon metro people, I know you were super-helpful and friendly and everything, but one thing: MAPS! How about putting a map near the stairs, showing where lifts and other stairs to the same station are? That would have been extremely helpful.

That reminds me:

Maps, signs and tourism: Getting around Lisbon on foot if you don't know the city can be somewhat difficult, because the signs with street names are either too small to read from a distance or simply not there at all. Especially near the hotel, lots of streets were simply unmarked. Also, the city does not seem to have much of that typical "tourist-y" stuff that other big cities do. I did not see a single souvenir shop, for example. (I'm sad about this, as I would have wanted at least something that said Lisbon or Portugal on it).

I don't mean to complain, though, because I had an absolutely amazing time. Very much thanks to:

People: I'm impressed by Portuguese people, really. They're so friendly and helpful, and I'm amazed at how they seem to genuinely care about you even if you are a total stranger. For example, sometimes we we were just standing around for a while because we got confused about where we were or where to go. My experience was that if we did that for more than a few moments, someone would stop on their own accord and ask if we needed help, or simply just try to resolve the issue if it was obvious what was up.

For example, we had some trouble at a metro station because 1) there was no lift even though there was supposed to be one, and 2) the ticket barrier refused to work, even though we had valid tickets, and 3) there was no station assistant to be found anywhere.

Well, a random Portuguese woman just stopped and tried to help out. She was very sorry that the info about the lift was incorrect, and that we were having problems. She also called the station assistant and waited for him to resolve at least the ticket barrier issue. Then she proceeded to tell him off for our problems, for not having info in any languages other than Portuguese and for a number of other things that I didn't understand clearly. The point is that she took the time to stay with us and make sure we were okay, even though we had never seen her in our life until then. We were total strangers to her, and she still got so emotionally involved in this whole situation.

What's more - she wasn't one of a kind. People everywhere were just so friendly and caring and helpful. I don't think I have ever seen this general attitude in other countries, so it was amazing to see.

I don't know if I feel like going back to Lisbon in the future, though. I had a fantastic time there, stayed in a wonderful hotel, and I'm very happy with having been there. However, the city is more than a little impractical from my point of view, and I would rather visit a new place next time I'm going to travel by plane; not go back to one I have already visited once.

PS: I posted some photos from the trip on my Instagram account.

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