Arrival In Lisbon, Portugal: A Week In Portugal V.1

Sunset over downtown Lisbon

Oh, yes. We have arrived! It’s fair to say that actually getting to Lisbon, Portugal was a bit of a mess, but all turned out well in the end. And we have a full week ahead of us to find all the fun things to do in Lisbon. (And in the country.) Sigh. Yes, it’s true. I fell in love with Portugal when I visited the Azores. And then again on this trip. I’ll definitely be making my way back there and exploring more. One day, one day…


The Way To Lisbon, Portugal

It’s safe to say that my dad and I arrived at the airport earlier than intended. DC traffic is literally some of the worst in the country and, sometimes, when it says it’ll take you an hour to get somewhere, that time turns into an hour and a half while you’re physically on the road. With that, I padded our commute time and, of course, it didn’t end up being nearly as bad as expected. That’s okay, though. We sat at an airport restaurant for dinner and I got my usual pre-flight libation. 

Airport restaurants are so crowded (the one we were at in particular) and I wondered if it was a fire hazard. We were seated across from one another at a table for six and, while a guy two seats over from me was mid-meal, the hostess asked him if he could move over so they could seat three more people at our table. Much to my satisfaction, he declined.

A couple was later seated next to us and we overheard they were visiting a friend in Michigan who was a crew coach. The guy who didn’t move mid-meal stated that he used to play Ultimate Frisbee, which I thought was meant to be a cheeky reply. As it would turn out, he competed at the world championships in 2001 or something. Before it was cool.

Sunset at Dulles Airport on our way to Lisbon, Portugal

Flight Shenanigans

While we’re sitting there, we get notice that the first leg of our flight was cancelled, so I went to get re-routed at the customer service desk. They were initially telling me there was nothing available until the following day at 3 pm, so I requested (twice) they book me on another airline and they finally did. (Know your flight rights, people!)

A family of five next to me was trying to re-route the same flight. They’d driven down from Philly, only to fly back through Philly and have the flight cancelled. Of course they couldn’t just wait for the Philly flight because that would be skip-lagging and airlines don’t look kindly on that practice. So dumb.

Customer Service was re-routing them on a BWI (Baltimore airport) flight and I wondered if they could even make it up there in time with traffic. That, plus they had to go get their bags back beforehand. I now feel kind of bad I didn’t say anything to them, but I’m sure it all worked out one way or another. 

I Think This Means Two Traditional Pre-Flight Libations…

Our booking was a direct flight out of Dulles later that evening, so we got a free shuttle from Reagan to there. (Does this mean two pre-flight libations? Please let it mean that.) The shuttle driver was the worst driver ever. He didn’t maintain a consistent speed, so there was a sort of constant rev and acceleration back to a higher speed after the van slowed down.

Couple that with the fact that he had a Christian radio station playing the whole time and it was just a generally annoying ride. (I take no issue with Christianity of course, but my personal preference is not to listen to a Christian radio station for an hour and a half when I’m already flustered about my whole flight situation. …Or ever, really.)

Having a direct flight was nice and the end result was that we landed only an hour after we were originally scheduled to. I had a window seat next to a super cute old couple with some wicked thick New York accents and fell asleep watching an impressive lightning storm from the plane window. 

View of Lisbon, Portugal from Castelo de Sao Jorge

An Introduction to Lisbon, Portugal

Our pick-up driver from the airport, while late given arrival time confusion, was really nice and told us all about Portugal on the ride to the hotel. She was also a tour guide, she told us. She told us all about Portugal’s green energy initiatives (some of the best in Europe), their fish consumption, their cork exports.

I was quickly reminded the Portuguese pronounce their “S’s” as “sh’s.” So, Cascais (a place we’d be going on a tour) is pronounced “Cashcaish.” When we went to the Azores, the locals pronounce it “the Azorsh.” 

Our hotel is just “eh,” but that’s fine because it’s a budget trip. A whole week with flights and lodging included for $1,100. Not too shabby. Par for the course, I was getting a little hangry so we set out to find a place to eat lunch/dinner. It was tough to find a decent place in our area and, ultimately, we never did. Lots of bakery-style places and run-down sandwich shops.


If you’re a first-time Gate 1 customer, you’re eligible to receive $50 off an escorted tour to Portugal. (Or any other country they offer escorted tours in.) Just provide them my name and account number when booking and voila! Reach out via the Contact form, if interested, and I can provide you the necessary info.

Bad Sandwiches & Lots of Noise

They sold a lot of fish, but… I’m not going to eat fish at one of these joints, sorry. I was getting aggy walking around and finding nothing, so we just picked a place and had some bad sandwiches. What can you do? We’d later learn that, for all our hotels faults, the location was actually pretty decent. We just didn’t know it at the time. It was actually probably one of the best neighborhoods to stay in in Lisbon.

It was easy enough to fall sleep early, but the noise from a couple of rooftop bars was pretty loud. My dad read the hotel reviews and that was one of the major complaints. He was happy we were facing the interior courtyard because he thought it wouldn’t be as loud, but… nope. They also don’t have irons or coffee in the rooms, so we’ll see how that goes. I have no use for an iron this trip, but the coffee could be tricky…

Good Morning From Lisbon, Portugal!

So… I hate it when I do this, but I’ve left all my journaling until the very end of this trip. It actually takes a long time—even for just one day of writing—and sometimes you’re just wiped out at the end of the day. Catching up is tough and I fail to remember some of the more entertaining details of my travels, but… it is what it is. I’ve been exhausted at the end of every day. Sorry, everyone! Here goes nothing, though…

The colorful streets of Lisbon, Portugal

How Do You Fare Without Coffee In The Morning?

So, yes. The not having coffee in the room was definitely “tricky.” In a word. At the time, I was actually pissed. My poor dad. I didn’t know if they offered it anywhere else in the hotel and I tend to be an early riser. Like… always.

I’m realizing now that I sound like a complete asshole when I’m hungry. And, to be honest, I totally am. I don’t know what happens to me; I kind of become unhinged. But I always give fair warning; like, “I’m not hungry now, but I will be in an hour or so…” …That probably doesn’t make it any better, though.

How About No Coffee And A Crowd Of People Pushing You Around?

Breakfast didn’t open until 7. They always have a thousand pieces of paper in a given hotel room with information about this or that. I usually think this is really wasteful and make it a point of collecting all the paper items and tossing them in a drawer, out of my way, and off the surfaces I’ll be using. But not this hotel. Nope.

This hotel provides you with a little info as possible in your room. I tried to call room service (which I would later learn completely sucks), but they don’t even have the front desk or room service number listed on the phone or on the menu, so I couldn’t get through to anyone. The room service extension turned out to be x2813. Because that’s intuitive. I guess they don’t want orders from people. I wouldn’t learn the extension until several days later and went coffee-less for hours that morning. Tragedy.

There was a mob of people waiting to get into breakfast. A little chaotic and, being that I hadn’t had my coffee yet, I was not in the friendliest or most patient of moods. Those who know me well know that I can’t stand crowds, so I was doling out snark to anyone who deprived me of my personal space, whether that meant touching my bag, touching me, pushing into me, etc. Do not touch me or my stuff. Back off. Just a foot. Even six inches. You will get there eventually. Until then—no touchy.   

Colorful tram in downtown Lisbon

Today was a hop-on/hop-off bus day, touring the incredible streets of Lisbon, Portugal. Figured we’d need something easy day one and could just sit and see the sights, assess what we’d like to do later. The bus line’s online route map was low res, unfortunately, and it was really hard to see the specifics of the pick-up points.

I thought I found a pick-up close to the hotel, but my dad saw a sign for them right out front of our hotel and I spent ten minutes arguing with him about it when the damned bus stopped right next to us. So… I stand corrected.

It also said online that the green line didn’t run this time of year and I thought we were on that line; I didn’t see our stop listed on any of the other routes. But the other color routes stopped here and the green line was indeed running. A mystery I’ll forever be wondering about…

The Neighborhoods of Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon is divided into a couple of districts and one of the districts—Belem—is actually separated from the others. It’s like how Bosnia cuts Croatia off right in the middle and then Croatia just starts back up again on the other side. Yup. In this example, Bosnia is just not part of the city of Lisbon.

Our bus went up Avenida da Liberdade, a bustling street with lots of trees and pretty buildings. All the tiles. Everywhere. Lisbon, Portugal is famous for its tiles and they’re on building facades everywhere. They even have a whole tile museum, which I heard multiple times was excellent. (I’m not much of a museum person, though.)

We went over to Belem, which has random sights on the water and a famous monastery right in downtown. Down by Praca de Comercia, an equally nice area closer to the waterfront. A big square with lots of cafes and restaurants. We stopped and had coffee here before standing in the blazing hot sun for what could’ve been a half hour waiting on a specific line to take us up through Alfama.

Alfama is Lisbon’s Old Town and the streets are hilly and winding. When the bus arrived, it was a baby bus and was completely packed. Fortunately, they had two seats available. Nice area and we planned on coming back for some more in-depth sight-seeing. 

The sun setting over downtown Lisbon

Global Debauchery On A Rooftop Bar… With My Dad

As expected, we were tired and jet lagged early afternoon and I we just ended up grabbing food in the hotel restaurant. The heat really takes it out of you, too. From the day before, we’d learned there didn’t seem to be any decent restaurants in our immediate hotel area and I was spent. Almost falling asleep on my food.

I think this day was also the day I figured out the rooftop bar that made so much noise was actually our hotel’s rooftop bar (which was supposedly one of the best in Lisbon, Portugal, by the way!). and we went up after a nap just to check out the view. Which was stunning. I didn’t take many photos today from the bus, but I did grab a couple of nice shots on my phone from the rooftop.

Also of note is that it’s pretty much like a club, with rave blasting from fifty speakers, and my sixty-year-old dad who doesn’t drink came with me. He’s a good sport.

Always Some Drama

Some side drama… I always print a copy of my itinerary because some places request hard copy tickets. In this case, the bus driver wanted my actual ticket, which was unfortunate since tomorrow’s tour tickets were printed on the other side. Part way through the day, I had to email the hotel and ask them to print a copy for me. After some confusion on the hotel’s part, I was able to track down the printed tickets.

Tomorrow, we have a full-day tour of Sintra (with ticket!). It’s super touristy (“touristic” as the locals say), but you kind of have to do it. It does look pretty beautiful.

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