When you travel a lot you can expect things to go off plan every once in a while. Luckily, Lisbon is a place where gems can be easily recovered from the ashes of a bad experience – it’s such a great city to visit.
My flight was due to arrive in Lisbon on Wednesday at 11:20 and I had arranged through my hotel for a car to meet me. It was not until after I had made my booking that I discovered that the hotel was not a hotel nor even a guesthouse but was an apartment with limited reception facilities. Not a major issue, or so I thought.
After collecting my bag I sent a message to the driver to alert him as planned. As I left the baggage area I remained standing on the exit ramp of the arrivals area for 30 minutes facing a host of waiting drivers with placards advertising various passenger names. My messages had not been read accirding to the greyed-out ticks on Whatsapp. I rang and messaged the contact number that I had been given, to no avail. But no stress yet, just mild annoyance.
As the weather was pleasant I decided to walk down to the “hotel”. It was less than 15 minutes away on foot – ten if the traffic lights allowed me to cross the roads without waiting. However, when I arrived there was clearly no way of getting into the building or the apartment without some form of concierge. I really have no idea what I was expected to do even if a driver had been there to meet me since checkin was advertised as being available from 4pm. At other hotels and guest houses one can at least leave ones baggage and go out, or at least wait to see if another room becomes available sooner.
On returning to the airport I had a coffee. Despite the four-hour time difference between Portugal and Brazil I felt the need to have snack lunch so I also ordered a salami sandwich and a “bom bocado”. The term bom bocado translates as “a good bite”. The one served at Padaria Lisboa at the airport was a custard tart of a type between the traditional Pastel de Belem and a traditional English custard tart, but without nutmeg. (see my earlier post). It was of the same consistency as the English version, perhaps a bit more solid, though more subtle in flavour. This pastry differed from the Brazilian bom bocado that I had tried a few years ago, made with shredded coconut. The one I tried at the airport was nice but nothing to rave about.
Bom Bocado at Lisbon Airport
While I sat at the airport I phoned the travel agent through whom I had made the booking. They were helpful but, to cut a long story short, there was nothing I could do till 4pm. Four hours wasted.
I walked back to the hotel after eventually making contact with the very apologetic “manager” (probably a student) where I eventually got checked in at a little after 4pm.
At a quarter to five, after taking a quick shower, I walked down to Parque das Nações on the bank of the River Tagus. The walk was a pleasant one that took less than 30 minutes. The sun was still hot and quite high in the sky. The pavement, decorated with the similar small black and white mosaic blocks that one can see in Brazil, was lumpy while the cycle paths running alongside were smooth and asphalted.
Roof of Oriente railway station
At a little after 5pm I passed the bus station and then under the rail bridge before crossing Avenida Dom João II. The architecture in the area is world class – the Oriente bus station and the rail station of the same name are great example of mixing function with art. Once into the Park of the Nations there are other examples of fine architecture: the Vasco da Gama tower, the Altice Arena, the Pavilhão de Portugal and the Oceanarium being among them.
The Portugal Pavilion (top) Exhibition Centre (bottom)
One could quite easily spend a whole day relaxing at Parque das Nações (Park of the Nations).
The area, a major redeveloped project, includes a promenade with green spaces, restaurants, cafes and bars as well as the large Lisbon Oceanarium.
A few metres away from the Oceanarium is the cable car station. One can take a ride along the riverside, looking down on the treelined promenade (Passeo das Tàgides) arriving near the Vasco da Gama building (the tallest in Lisbon) – a tall white building/tower that is now a hotel. The ride is a gently swaying pleasant trip with great views.
Cable car station near the Vasco da Gama tower on Passeo das Tàgides
I decided on just a single journey rather than a return as I wanted to walk back to the Oceanarium – a walk of a little over a kilometre. Beyond the Vasco da Gama tower is a green area known as Parque de Tejo. As time was short I had to give this area a miss and as it wasn’t possible to go up the tower I continued my walk back along the promenade.
The tree-lined promenade (Passeo das Tàgides)
The Parque das Nações has gardens, water features and pavillions for events. One of its more interesting water features is its “volcanoes”. There are several of these tall conical structures, decorated with coloured ceramic mosaics, with water flowing from the top and down the sides. Every once in a while the volcano will erupt with water bursting out of the top, followed by a period of silence till the water begins to flow again. Lovely feature.
A “volcano” on Caminho da Água waterway on the main Alameda dos Oceanos – before erupting
Before leaving the park I wanted to have a glass of wine. An artisanal burger restaurant, Honorato Rio, caught my eye. I took a seat outside on the parasol covered deck on the promenade and was given both wine and food menus. I ordered a glass of Silica, a Douro red (€3.50), and a Picanha burger, sesame covered bun sliced in three layers with strips of beef (picanha*), gorgonzola cheese and tomato, served with garlic mayonnaise and a serving of “mata-bixo” (chips / French fries) (€11.50). Nice food, but not outstanding.
* Picanha is a cut of beef called sirloin cap in the United States or the rump cover or rump cap in the United Kingdom and, in Brazil, is regarded as the best piece – especially in BBQ restaurants.
I then walked back to the apartment. End of day.
If you fly on TAP Portugal airlines to any destination via any city in Portugal there is a promotion that allows you to stay for up to five days with no additional cost. Lisbon and Porto are popular cities with plenty to see and do. The airline is well-managed, comfortable, and has a mileage program. I have travelled with TAP in both Executive Class and Economy and have always had great service from cabin crew as well as their contact centre staff where, on one occasion, I had an issue that they quickly resolved (internet issue).