€200 that I almost had, but didn’t 🙁

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A gorgeous sunrise view departing from Lisbon.

5am! It was a horrible time to wake up a few days ago, and it’s even worse this time because I’m doing it to fly home. After a quick shower and packing up the few things I couldn’t last night, it was time to say goodbye to Yes! Hostel. I couldn’t have found a better place to spend my few days in Lisbon.

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This was the only time during my whole trip that it was quiet and empty.

Since it was so early in the morning, public transport wasn’t really an option. I requested an Uber and made it to the airport in 15 minutes travelling along the deserted streets and paying €7 for the privilege. I did wonder whether this would have been better getting to the hostel at the start of my trip but, knowing my luck, the traffic would have been horrendous and it would have taken longer than the metro.

I walked up to the check-in desk to pick up my boarding pass, and was asked if I had any bags to check in. When I said no, the agent told me that the flight today was incredibly busy and that they were looking for volunteers to be bumped to the next flight. She then said that they were offering €200 for any passengers doing so, and I immediately volunteered. So she put a note on my booking and said they’d sort things out at the gate should they need me to be bumped.

As it turns out, €200 would cover almost all of my expenditure in Lisbon, so I was starting to get pretty excited about it. A three hour wait for the extra money seemed pretty reasonable. I made my way through security, brought the obligatory bottle of aged tawny port at duty free and made my way to the gate.

What caught me off guard a little was the hoarde of Japanese tourists at the gate. I did wonder whether I was at the wrong gate or if they’d changed it at the last minute, but the screen definitely had my flight on it. I guess Japan to Lisbon via Heathrow is more popular than I expected. I joined the queue and waited what seemed like forever, but I eventually got to the front. I presented my passport and boarding card, and just got waved through.

I was gutted.

I never thought I’d catch myself being disappointed about making a flight, but I was. I guess they had a few no shows and didn’t need the seat, but part of me thinks I should have asked them if they still needed me to be bumped in case they didn’t see the note.

Suffice it to say, the flight was extremely busy. My seat was all the way at the back of the plane in the penultimate row of seats with no overhead luggage space to be found nearby. I had to walk back about halfway before I found any space to stow my bag, but I did find some space. Others weren’t so lucky, and I’m sure the crew spent the last ten minutes of boarding having to explain to passengers that there was no space and apologise profusely that their bags would have to be put in the hold.

Anyway, my flight left on time and I got to enjoy one last look at Lisbon before whizzing through the air back to the UK.

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I think my British Airways plane might have been the odd one out in this lineup!

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One final look at their “fake Golden Gate Bridge” before going home!

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I don’t care how meager their offering is; I’m still going to miss the free food and drink. Can you tell I’m looking forward to paying £5 for a sandwich?

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Flying over Windsor Castle on final approach to Heathrow.

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The flight was really full and my bag was about halfway down the plane from my seat… but I was lucky enough to get my bag on the plane at least!

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Terminal 3 done… Terminal 4 is now the only one I haven’t travelled from.

About three hours later, we arrived in Heathrow. Our arrival caught me a little off guard because I was expecting to arrive at Terminal 5, but we taxied away from it and towards Terminal 3. It turns out that not all BA flights use T5 yet. This does mean though, that I only have Terminal 4 left to conquer. Although I’m not sure I’d quite stoop to the level of booking a holiday solely because I can fly there from Terminal 4!

The weather in Lisbon was pretty mild, and a bit warmer than the UK, but the weather seemed to have taken a turn in the few days I was away. While walking off the plane and into the terminal, I was met with an extremely chilly draught from the gap between the plane and the jetbridge. I’d have to face that cold later when I eventually emerge from the Underground at Victoria, but at least I had a bit of a reprieve until then.

My journey back to Cardiff was nowhere near as exciting as the journey to London. Just a boring coach. It was a more straightforward journey though because there’s a National Express stop about 30 seconds walk from my house, so there’s that at least!

4 months to go until my next trip! 😂

Macho Tour

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Rossio Square, and another Christmas tree.

It’s my last full day in Lisbon today, and I’m starting it in the same way I started the day yesterday – with another one of Rui’s walking tours (his second ever tour!)

It started late again, and we wandered over to Rossio Square for the usual introductions. Today, it turns out everyone on the tour is male – which is quite rare. Rui took the opportunity to call this the “macho tour”.

On yesterday’s tour, we headed east from the hostel and ventured out in the Alfama direction. Naturally, we’d be heading west today to Bairro Alto.

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Some more Lisbon streets

As we wandered through Rossio station, up the stairs, and continued upwards, I was once again reminded that Lisbon is not a very flat city! While we were wandering through the upper districts, the weather did also take a turn…

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To be honest, I am curious about what they were filming, but it’ll probably only be on Portuguese TV and I’ll never quite know what was going on!

We stood for a little while watching them film a number of people walking through the snow, and listened to a brief history of the area we were in. Once they’d finished filming, they were really quick to clean up after themselves, and it must have only taken about five minutes until there were only subtle hints of snow left.

We walked past the film set, and continued walking in a distinctly upward direction!

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Looking back down the street we just walked up. This is pretty standard for Lisbon.

We did eventually reach the highest planned point on the tour, and I don’t think Rui could resist a good vantage point… and neither could I!

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The view towards Alfama and the castle.

Soon we wandered back down towards the banks of the river. Obviously we stopped in a few places on the way back for brief history lessons. We did also walk past “pink street”, which I believe is where we ended up on my first night, and it’s where Music Box is located.

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My recollection of this street from my first night is a little darker and blurrier!

As we continued down, we made it to the banks of the river, and walked back in the direction of the Praça do Comércio, past a distinctly Portuguese statue…

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Despite what the cloud is saying, today was another beautiful day.

As we continued walking along the river, there was another sculpture, albeit a less permanent one. It looked really cool, and I feel like the artists took their time to make it perfect. As far as I can tell, it was to welcome Pope Francis to Lisbon, although I had no idea if/when he was visiting. Either way, it definitely deserved a photo.

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Pretty cool sculpture.

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Time for a group photo of the “macho tour”.

As we arrived at the square, it was suggested that this tour ends in a special way which nobody objected to – ginjinha… again!

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Well… who am I to say no!

Taking a walk

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One of the many tranquil gardens in the old town – all of which had spectacular views.

Surprisingly, I managed to wake up fairly early this morning. Maybe it was the hostel’s offering of free breakfast subconsciously working its magic, but I was up. What didn’t surprise me was that the people I saw at breakfast were not the same people I saw out last night! Well, they weren’t at least until one of them stumbled in clutching his forehead and looking a little worse for wear. Turns out he was suffering from a Jack Daniel’s-induced hangover!

Every morning, there’s a walking tour from YES! Hostel. It’s scheduled to start at 10:30, but it’s almost 11 by the time we’re ready to go. Apparently, this is the norm. Today, it was Rui’s turn to do the walking tour, and it turns out it was his first time doing it… no pressure then!

We walked over to the Praça do Comércio and had some brief introductions (our names, where we were from, and why we wanted to visit Lisbon). Rui also explained a few things about Lisbon for us and, in his own words; “I’m not telling you where to buy drugs, but don’t buy from these guys on the street. They’re selling you oregano and crushed sugar.”

Vantage points seemed to be a theme of this tour, and we headed uphill from the hostel (with some help from a couple of lifts). Pretty soon, we arrived at the first proper photo opportunity.

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The weather today was definitely better than yesterday! 🙂

As well as vantage points, another theme of this tour seemed to be hills. Rui explained that a few of his friends lost weight when they moved to Lisbon from the walking alone!

As we continued walking up, we encountered São Jorge Castle. If you visit Lisbon and don’t hear anything about the earthquake of 1755, then you’ve learned absolutely nothing! The earthquake was about 9 on the Richter scale and caused widespread damage all across the city. On its own, this would have been substantial but, out in the Atlantic, the plate shift displaced huge amount of water and a tidal wave headed straight for Lisbon. As if that wasn’t enough, this was followed by fires all across the city.

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One of the entrances to São Jorge Castle. Notice the post-earthquake date.

So because of this, buildings still standing since before 1755 are noteworthy in themselves. São Jorge Castle has been extensively renovated since the earthquake… which is more than can be said about some castles in the UK that haven’t suffered earthquake damage!

We didn’t spend any time in the castle and just admired it for a moment from the outside before we continued onwards. It was at this point that I noticed I was the only one wearing just a shirt (I was carrying my jacket). I felt a bit warm, but I guess this was cold by Lisbon standards! As we continued, we came to a patch of green in the middle of the old town (the one in the featured photo).

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Hashtag “Tree for a better world”

With this vantage point came another photo opportunity. I was impressed with the last one, but this one did also have its charms. It certainly felt very continental, and the weather today was just so beautiful (I’m from Wales, so I’m easily impressed!) Whenever you look back at photos, it’s so easy to forget that the body of water is, in fact, a river. The sea is a few miles to the west.

It’s okay. I did see the sea when I was in Sintra yesterday. We even stopped for a minute at a beach in Cascais… not that the weather was conducive to any beachgoing!

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Another beautiful vantage point.

As we continued, I noticed we were walking in amongst some narrow streets with houses on them. It’s sometimes so easy to forget, as a tourist, that there are people actually living here. They’re not decorating their houses and making them pretty for us to see – they’re decorating them and making them pretty because that’s where they live and they’re taking pride in their own home.

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Some classic Portuguese house decoration.

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It wouldn’t be a trip to Lisbon without seeing a tram.

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I love the contrast of the building against the clear blue sky here.

The tour actually went on for quite a bit. I know it’s difficult to get a sense of scale from a blog post, but this took us well over two hours. We eventually finished the tour at the Igreja de Santo António. It was at this point that some of us parted ways, but I headed back to the hostel, along with a few others, because I was planning to head over to Belém with one specific thing in mind!

Travelling in style… again!

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Flying over the snow capped Cantabrian Mountains of Western Spain.

Nobody should be awake at 5am!

I really shouldn’t be feeling sorry for myself because I’m off on holiday, and there are definitely worse reasons to be awake so early! At least this time, I was already in London and didn’t have to endure the three hour drive to the airport. All I needed was to make a short hop on the bus and I’d be there in no time. My friend walked me to the bus stop because I haven’t the faintest idea how to get around Kingston! The bus pulled up to the stop, I bid my friend farewell and hopped on the bus.

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Don’t you just love it when there’s a clock on the bus to remind you how early you’re awake!

It wasn’t too long before I could see planes parked on the apron, and I knew I’d at least made it to the perimeter of the airport. It wasn’t much longer before I was at the departure hall and ready to check in.

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Hello Terminal 2… I don’t think we’ve met before.

I approached the check-in desks and walked over to the empty business class check-in desk. The agent almost looked bored, and I think my approach towards the desk was welcome relief from the boredom. I was quickly checked in, handed my boarding pass and then asked “are you familiar with the lounges?”

Without even missing a beat, I instinctively responded “not at this terminal”. Good save Chris; wouldn’t want them thinking you never fly business class!

It was a short walk to fast track security, a short walk through security, and another short walk before I was presented with the Lufthansa lounge.

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As soon as I passed the scrutiny of the receptionist I was in, and there were two things on my mind… coffee and breakfast! There’s nothing quite like a decent breakfast in the airport lounge, knowing that you’ll also have a second breakfast on the plane!

I quickly made myself familiar with their coffee machine, and their cooked section with its endless supply of bacon. While I was there, I also found myself having a bit of a sad moment over how cool the ketchup was!

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Tiny pot of ketchup; where have you been all my life?

With breakfast out of the way, I just chilled in the lounge in the only way I know how…

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I don’t even care that it’s barely past 7 in the morning – it’s 7pm somewhere in the world!

Fairly soon, it was time for me to make my way to the gate ready to board my flight. I didn’t even have to walk far and it must have taken me two minutes at most.

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Not long to go now!

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There were no empty seats at all back in economy, but I was sharing five rows of seats with two other passengers!

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A little while later, I was all breakfasted up and it was just a matter of waiting while we cruised at hundreds of miles an hour towards Portugal. I took the opportunity to listen to some music – The North Borders by Bonobo was a perfect soundtrack to the flight. Soon, I  arrived at a drizzly Lisbon, deplaned and strolled past baggage reclaim because I only took hand luggage.

And now to to take the not so glamorous mode of transport into Lisbon old town…

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