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Published: June 30th 2019
Most of our group left Ireland yesterday, most heading home, but a few of us were venturing on to new places, continuing our travels. I flew on TAP from Dublin to Lisbon, a two and a half hour flight that ended up taking much of the day. Hurry up and wait, as the saying goes; I waited a lot on Wednesday, first at the airport (of course), then longer because the plane arrived late, then more waiting on the runway since we had lost our slots in the flight patterns for both cities, and then, finally, the last waiting of the day for the Trafalgar transfer to our hotel. It could have gone much more smoothly, but at least I made it here at last.
The first good thing about this "Best of Portugal" trip was the weather. No rain! Actual sunshine! And a bit of warmth with evening temps about ten degrees (Fahrenheit) better than daytime highs in Dublin. But Lisbon is a busy city, complete with traffic, something we hadn't experienced in Ireland. Meeting forty-seven new people is fun, although it will take a few days to identify who all is in our group. I've made that mistake in the past, followed the wrong group while totally wrapped up in a museum's or castle's paintings, rugs, or sculptures and not paying attention to who was in front of me, just following along with any old group. So far it's always sorted itself out in the end though, once I figure out that I don't recognize any of the people in that particular line and hustle to find even one familiar face. A few times over the years I have chosen to stay with a different group for awhile, but only when the guide leading their tour speaks a language I can understand, and is more interesting than the one I had been with.
Our welcome dinner was exceptional. The Irish don't seem to really know how to feed a vegan, and the wines we were offered at meals were consistently poor. So again not expecting much in the way of either good food or wine here on this trip either, upon taking a sip from a very generous pouring I found myself smiling. This was a good red wine! What a lovely welcome to Portugal! Dinner was also very good, so many courses of local specialties for the omnivores, and an equal number of wonderful vegan courses for me. What a welcome! After the first large glass of wine I hardly even noticed the tram cars whizzing by only a foot away from the restaurant's open doors. And after a rather boisterous and happy dinner, getting acquainted with a long table full of new people to meet (from six different countries), enjoying the food, the wine, the warm atmosphere, dinner ended. It was a challenge trying to walk straight on very narrow, winding cobblestone sidewalks and streets beset with trams passing so very closely by, to be taken to our terrible hotel in Lisbon, the Turim Av Liberdade Hotel.
This hotel reminded me very much of minute rooms we've stayed in in New York City. There was one elevator, one very small, very old elevator. Only four people could fit inside, and if the weight was too much the doors simply would not close until somebody got off. It took forever to reach the eighth floor, where my room happened to be. This room was so small! There was the bed, and if one was very careful there was just enough room between the wall and the bed to squeeze by so as not to have to crawl in from the foot (which we once had to do in NYC). The bathroom was also tiny, but a marvel of spacing in that all three necessary things were actually in there. And there was a closet too, which I appreciated, since except for the little desk and chair there was nowhere else to put my backpack and luggage in that room. But we weren't going to spend much time in any hotel; showering and sleeping were about it. I placed some clothes on the chair, pushing it to fit snugly against the wall under the window so it could become a useful little shelf. Two nights were scheduled here in Lisbon, and during the second afternoon there was a potent rainstorm. (So unfair! I had had too much rain already in Ireland. Portugal was supposed to be sunny.) When I returned to my room I found that someone had opened my window, the rain was blasting in, and the clothes that I had carefully put on the chair were sopping wet. Everything in that part of the room was soaked. Where would I hang things to dry? I called reception to let them know about the housekeeper's mistake in opening my window, and they apologized profusely, but that really didn't help anything. I was happy we were leaving the next morning, heading off to the Algarve. Much as dinner had been pleasant, this hotel experience was not the best way to be welcomed to Lisbon.
After stopping for an amazingly delicious lunch at a stud ranch in the Alentejo (an extraordinarily beautiful part of Portugal, where I truly want to retire), by the next afternoon we were in the Algarve, another incredibly gorgeous part of this country, but better known, on the southern coast, and thus a much more expensive place to live. Madonna lives in Portugal, having places both in Lisbon and in the Algarve, as do some other famous singers and movie stars, all having chosen to live in the Algarve as well; that's very telling about the beauty and quality of life here. For our next two nights we stayed at the Agua Hotels Riverside Portimao, the total opposite in terms of size from the hotel in Lisbon. I wandered through my suite just exploring: there was a very large, bright room with sliding door windows, couches and tables, a good-sized bathroom, even a kitchen, and then I saw another door. Upon opening it I found still another huge room, this time with a bed, more sliding door windows, more closet space, even more ambient light. This apartment was enormous! Space to put everything, space to dance, space for four or even six people to live! What a fantastic difference after our hotel experience in Lisbon. After today I knew I'd like touring in Portugal very much.
Tot: 2.215s; Tpl: 0.042s; cc: 12; qc: 52; dbt: 0.0436s; 2; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.4mb