Saturday, 25th

Just had a real p*sser with iPhone synchronisation! Something about making notes in each day of the Calendar repeating entry and then synching it I lost the original repeating entry and a day and a half’s worth of journal entries! Argh! Technology.

Friday, 24th

Today was our last stoking up breakfast. We had planned last night to pack ready for this morning but decided at the time to have another Portugese brandy instead! So it was quick showers and down to breakfast at 7:30. Breakfast over we then got packed in 30 minutes and headed for Reception at 8:30 where I paid the bill for the extras. It was half what I was expecting (and less than twice what we had paid at the Crown Plaza at Manchester Airport) considering we had dinner in the hotel each of our four nights, with a good bottle of wine; Vinho Verde and drank at the bar three nights. Our taxi, booked for 9 am the evening before, was waiting; in fact it was the taxi I’d spotted from the window at 8:30 am when we got back to the room to pack. The journey was much shorter and cost only ‘‚¬10, stark contrast to the ‘‚¬25 journey of the unmetered cab when we arrived on Monday.

So we arrived at Lisbon Airport with loads of time to drop the bags off, the Fast Bag Drop being carefully ‘policed’ by a charming young man. We then had time to do shopping and finally get a cuppa. Boarding was smooth but we were ‘pushed back’ about 15 minutes late due to loading standby ticket holders. We then were held on the taxi way before take off and got put in the Heathrow ‘stack’ for 20 mins. Then to top it all the buses from the plane to the terminal took nearly 20 mins to turn up! In all we were nearly an hour late at Heathrow. Good job we had nearly four hours between the flights as we needed most of it. We got the bus from Terminal 3 to Terminal 5 without any real problem but at Terminal 5 we hit the full weight of the Government’s Homeland Security. We had to queue three times to get onto the Departures concourse. Can’t remember now what the first one was for? The second was at big signs stating “Border Control”; there were four desks for EU passport holders but only one staffed so the queue grew and grew. Then we got to security: obviously the security you go through at Lisbon Airport is not good enough. You have be be security checked before you can be allowed onto a British domestic flight. The queing system was actually quite effective but the security staff at Heathrow Terminal 5 are appalling. Rude, abrupt and dismissive. They wanted everyone to take off their shoes and belts off (even thought the sign says only belts with LARGE buckles) I challenged them that at Manchester Airport I was not made to do so and I was told it was national policy, to which I asked “then is Manchester breaking the rules?” A most unpleasant experience and one to make me want to avoid Terminal 5 at all costs. We decided as it was still holiday and about seven hours since breakfast that we’d have a proper meal in the terminal and the café called Giraffe were very good about Lynne’s needs so it was a very pleasant and welcome meal. The flight from Heathrow to Manchester only took 40 minutes compared to the one hour ten minutes on the way down and was over in a breath! So it was call MAVP and wait for the car. We were sat down in the Club at 8:10 pm starting our first drink. Our holiday was over.

Thursday, 23rd

Again we stoked up for the day with hotel breakfast before setting off on our sight seeing bus day.

We went to to the neighbouring hotel where I had spotted the sign for tickets only to find that it is a different company, CitySightSeeing. So we decided we would go with that. When we get to the big circle Marques de Pombal there is a thirty minute wait so we go to get a cuppa to pass the time.

The plan is to get the ‘blue line’ and get off at Praça de Comerçio and walk up to Lynne’s posh frock shop and she spends an arm and a leg on the top the lady in the shop showed her on Tuesday and she hadn’t stopped thinking about. We then went to Brown’s Cafe and used their free WiFi to complete the online check-in but the MacBook Pro died again without warning before I could print them to PDF! 🙁

Undeterred we went back to the plaza to get back on the ‘red line’ bus and had a lovely trip around Lisbon to get to the museum. And we timed it perfectly, we waited only a few minutes before it arrived.

Had a salad lunch at the museum before going into the exhibition, the Berardo Collection Museum. There was a permanent exhibition and three temporary exhibits. One of which was HUGE! We really were all kulcha’d out after two hours. We had a cuppa before getting the bus back and saw even more of Lisbon. A perfect third day! Found a bar near the ‘ Marques’ for a pre-prandial ‘wet’. We agreed to give the bar a miss after dinner and go straight up to pack before going to bed.

Dinner was as good as usual and we consumed our usual bottle of Vinho Verde. The remanents of which we took to the bar while I got the boarding cards printed out from the PDF’s I had to create. Fractalia, the hotel’s internet provider, could no more print out these than it could the Lisboa Card voucher! 🙁 We met with Jari from Finland again and he was pleased with way he had delivered his paper at the convention. So we had one more drink and decided we could pack in the morning.

Wednesday, 22nd

Another ‘stoke up for the day’ breakfast and then off on our ‘culture-vulture’ day. The plan being to do the Museum of Modern Art and the Gulbenkien Museum. We passed a huge El Cortes Ingles and Lynne pronounced that we had to go in on the way back!

First stop the modern art gallery. Whilst the exhibition itself was pretentious we enjoyed a lot of the pieces that had been contributed. We bought combined tickets for both museums and the Darwin Exhibition.

We then walked through the park that the two museums are in. Lots of photo opportunities of flowers, other plants and ducklings. Sarah Houlton had told Lynne this was a must do.

The Gulbenkien was impressive but a lot of the stuff was not to my taste, but I loved the two Turners and the Renoir portrait of Claude Monet’s wife.

We shared a smoked salmon salad while our feet settled down from throbbing, taking extra time over our tea. We also agreed to give Charles Darwin a miss. This went further by deciding to give Sintra a miss too and get all day tickets for the City Line buses. A hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus service that circles Lisbon taking you between the major sight seeing places for one price.

So we wandered back through the park, with more photo opportunites. Then went into El Cortes Ingles and had an good oggle at the loads and loads of high priced fountain pens from the likes of Mont Blanc and Cross. We also each bought an 8GB Kingston Memory Stick for just ‘‚¬22. Vowing never to be without a pen drive again after Monday. Lynne has another good day hewing at the seam of life. 🙂

Rather than go back to the hotel we found a cafe on the main drag behind the hotel and had our apperatifs sat outside on the street watching the locals go by. Very relaxing before going to get dinner and cheaper than the hotel bar.

Tuesday, 21st

Breakfast was the usual continental affair with lots of the local styles of breads but with a twist; the most delightful freshly made scrambled eggs too. The loaf of GF bread I baked for Lynne had survived the journey so she had two slices of that with breakfast and we both stoked up for the day.

The first job of the day was to get down town to the Praça de Comerçio to the tourist office and redeem our voucher. A taxi got us there quickly enough and we got a good look at the centre of Lisbon into the bargain. The taxi driver spoke good English and said we must go to Sintra, a village that like Saltaire is a World Heritage site. We agreed to call him on Thursday to take us. When we got to the plaza he directed us up a pedestrian side street to find the tourist office. After wandering about for a bit and enjoying the sights we eventaully realised that the kiosk in the middle of the street was what he had meant. In the process Lynne had spotted a posh frock shop and bought a beautiful designer ‘safari-like’ outfit. As we were leaving the shop the lady showed Lynne a lovely top and from that point on I could hear the gears whirring. We asked at the kiosk about the Lisboa cards and were directed back to the Praça de Comerçio to the proper tourist office. But the lady in the tourist office would not redeem the voucher because it did not look right. She double-checked with her manager in the main office and this was confirmed. They would not give us our cards for fear of not being paid by Neoturismo, the Spanish company behind the cards. Apparently this had happened several times before and they were not prepared to risk not being paid again.

We found a nice café called Brown’s that had free WiFi so we sorted out e-mail on the iPhones over a beverage and I e-mailed Neoturismo saying that we had lost more than half a day of our three days because the voucher would not print out and asking for a full refund.

We came out of there having looked at the map and decided to gently stroll back up through the city towards the hotel. This turned into a four hour sight seeing walk with lots of stops for cuppas and to look in all sorted of shops. We saw several of the city’s large squares, the biggest theatre, a delightful arabian influenced building that turned out to be one of the city’s main stations, the elevator that connects an upper area of the town with the lower area and one of the city’s three funiculars.

At the café we stopped at in the Praça de Rossio Lynne insisted I try the local speciality, Pasteis de Nata; a sort of custard tart invented in the big Lisbon monastry many hundreds of years a ago, it was delicious. We also found a café that sold the port we had tried the evening before as recommended by Louise so we bought half a bottle each of Ruby and Tawny to bring home. It was a very pleasant experience but our feet were throbbing by the time we got back to the hotel. We had a little rest to still our throbbing feet then went of an evening walk in the park opposite. It turns out it is named after our English King Edward VII and it was a lovely evening so we took loads of photos as we strolled. We stopped for a couple of pre-prandial drinks at a bar near the hotel and then returned to the hotel for dinner.

We had decided the night before that the hotel was so good at feeding Lynne safely that it was not worth the grief in such a short break of finding somewhere else to eat. And we were proved right with another excellent meal and another bottle of the excellent Vinho Verde to wash it down. This time in the bar we got chatting with a couple of guys who were in town for a conference on ICT. One, a Finnish guy Jari, was particularly friendly. So a few Portugese brandies were had and we went to bed relaxed and tired again.

Monday, 20th

The Crown Plaza Hotel did us proud with Lynne’s breakfast. The duty chef like the guy the night before being meticulous about the detail of what was safe. So we stoked up for the day and got our money’s worth. But boy! The bill considering it was just extras; dinner for two, a few drinks and breakfast (this was not included in the Reward Points booking) made it surprisingly expensive! At a Crown Plaza I guess you have to expect that.

Found MAVP (what was Males) no problem. Checking in was a breeze before being taken to Terminal 3. The airport was nice and quiet so check in and security were easy. I have Titanium! We had time for a cuppa before heading for the Gate.

The flight from Manchester to Heathrow was 30 minutes late taking off but only 15 minutes late landing at Heathrow. The blurb about the transfer said to allow 120 minutes between T5 and T3 but in the post Easter quiet it only took 30 minutes. So we had plenty of time for another cuppa. The gate at Heathrow for the flight to Lisbon was posted early but we then had to wait as “there was a problem disembaking the previous flight”. I really wish Lynne had not read that e-horoscope saying she might take a circuitous route and arrive late! In the end we took off 30 mins late but landed at Lisbon only 15 minutes late.

On our way out of the airport we went to the Tourism desk to collect the Lisboa Cards only to find that with all the excitement of the payment failure etc that I’d forgotten to print the voucher out. We tried to e-mail it, find a working WiFi point (thank heaven I decided last minute to take my laptop with me) and buy a memory stick. All fruitless so an hour later we left in a taxi for the hotel.

The hotel turned out to be a quite quaint place with loads of character. We tried to get the Lisboa Card voucher printed out at the hotel but again failed. The version from the hotel lobby internet computer was missing all its graphics but appeared to contain all the relevant information. An attempt to print PDF’s from my external hard disk also failed. (It was the following day I realised that I’d given them a Mac format disk to attach to a Windows PC!) But we had the funny format voucher. It was now past nine and the restaurant was about to close so we decided to get into dinner. The staff were really friendly and the Maitre’d was really helpful to Lynne. So we had a great dinner, discovering a particularly nice label of Vinho Verde. We then had a few post-prandial ports, chatting with a nice Portugese guy, Louise, who was working on a MacBook Pro in the bar. When I dug out my MacBook Pro to look at the voucher problem again he bought us a 20 year old vintage port to try because we were obviously good people with a MacBook Pro and iPhones. We ended having a couple more of those as well before going to bed relaxed and tired.

Sunday, 19th

Spent the day quietly finishing preparations to depart. All the animals were subdued as if they knew what was happening.

Helga and Helmut trotted off to their holiday without looking back, and loose leads to boot! :-O. The cats were their usual indignant selves.

Had a good meal. The Crown Plaza gave us access to the Chef and he did Lynne proud. Plenty of booze and we have had a good chill out start to our holiday.

Lisbon April 2009

The original idea was to use up some of our Air Miles and my Priority Club Reward Points on a weekend break to a European capital, e.g. Budapest. But the more we tried the less we suceeded. Even at the end of April it’s cold! We decide we wanted warm and so we ended up with a mid-week break in Lisbon, Portugal. This is our diary of that trip, which I hope to update each day WiFi access permitting.