I'll be honest. I don't remember all that much from my trip to Lisbon.
Not because I spent every evening pub crawling or because I have selective amnesia.
But I think more because I saw so much within such a short space of time. This was not so much a leisurely tour of Portugal but more of a 'blitzkrieg' mission, if you will. We had four days to soak in the sights and sounds of the Portuguese capital, so time was at a premium. And I think because of that, I didn't have time, while there, to reflect on everything we had done. So, here goes.
Wednesday 25 October
We depart Joburg on a balmy Wednesday evening, the 25th of October, at approximately 5pm. The airline of choice is TAAG Airlines, the official carrier of Angola. The flight consists of two legs – one from Joburg to Luanda, and then a second, longer haul from Luanda to Lisbon. The first leg is approximately four hours of flying, with a four hour layover in the Angolan capital. From there to Lisbon is a further 8 or so hours, so we're expected to arrive in Lisbon at around 7am, GMT.
The flight to Luanda is relatively uneventful and we don't get to see much of Luanda from the sky, given that we touch down at around 11pm. The transit area at Quatro de Fevereiro Airport is by no means antiquated, but with most, if not all, of the airport shops closed, it's nigh impossible to draw foreign currency or find WiFi. Fortunately, I find a cafe with a decent connection which sees me through the early hours of the morning until we're made to wait for a good 30 minutes in the departure queue for Lisboa.
Another thing that strikes me is just how deeply entrenched Portuguese language and culture is in Angola. From just my limited time in this tiny space that is the airport transit area, I'm already dumbfounded at the lack of linguistic plurality, and can only imagine how deep this colonial thread runs throughout their society. This certainly isn't something that I've encountered elsewhere, and coming from a country as diverse as South Africa, is somewhat of a shock.
The flight to Lisbon is slightly fuller than the first leg, but the size of the Boeing 737-200 makes the flight a relatively comfortable experience. The fare is decent and the flight hostesses are friendly enough – something which I think speaks a lot to the culture of the country carrier that you're using.
Thursday 26 October
Some 8 hours later and we touch down at Humberto Delgado Airport. It's still dark as we trek from our arrival gate through to the immigrations counters, where we are greeted by some sullen Portuguese immigration officers.
After collecting our baggage we wait at the Starbucks near Terminal B. The weather is gloomy and grey, but our forecasts predict
Now it's probably worth mentioning at this point that this wasn't a personal trip, but a work trip with colleagues. Logistically, this did of course come with a few challenges, but for the most part
Our first task in finding our accommodation is navigating the Lisbon metro system. As a complete noob it makes no sense on first view, but after scanning the route map it seems to be quite an intuitive network that connects various parts of the city. It's also relatively cheap, with a double return trip costing somewhere in the region of 2-3 Euro.
The metro has a distinctly retro feel about it, with the subways ornately tiled and exuding a polished art deco aesthetic.
Our accommodation is located in the older section of the city, Baixa Chiado. At this point I am sticky, smelly and in dire need of a shower and sleep after approximately 16 hours of travel. We jump off at the Baixa metro station and navigate the steep, narrow cobblestone streets of Old Lisbon until we reach our destination, Doorm in Rua Fernandes Tomas, some 45 minutes later. As we exit the metro, the exhaustion makes way for excitement and we take in the architecture of the pristinely preserved buildings in the Baixa district.
Doorm is far from what I would call spartan – it has all the necessary amenities, is spacious enough and relatively well-appointed with a shared bathroom.
I'm tempted to sleep, but I'm up for organising lunch. So, I shower, change and gather the team at reception for a short walk to our lunch spot.
Now, as someone who is heavily invested in good food and the first one up on the team itinerary, I knew that I needed to choose the right spot. Fortunately, my choice proved to be a hit (the To.B burger bar in Chiado), a burger bar with a contemporary vibe and decent burgers to match.
Once the team takes in their sustenance, we head off in search of thrift shops, with my colleagues Dave and Simone responsible for organising this outing. We meander through the Baixa/Chiado streets passing a variety of shops before we make our way into the city in search of some bargains.
The heat is on the upper end of the 20-degree range and shows no signs of abating. Unfortunately the thrift shopping trip doesn't yield the finds we were looking forward to, but we move on to the next item on the itinerary, which is catching the ferry from Cais do Sodre to the Christo Rei statue, on the other side of the city.
It's immediately apparent to us that the ferry from Cais is less of a tourist attraction and more of a commute for workers who live across the bay. On arriving at Cacilhas, we walk approximately 2 and a bit kilometres until we reach an elevator which is meant to take us towards the status, via the old suburb of Alfama. We then find out that the trip to Christo Rei (which is essentially a doppelganger of Christ The Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro), is more of a day trip meant for fresh legs.
Nonetheless, we soak in the old world feel of Alfama, stopping off for afternoon sundowners and making our way down to the elevator gangway which serves fantastic views of the 25 de Abril Bridge; the connection between the suburbs and the mainland of Lisbon.
We make the trek back to the ferry, disembarking back at Cais and head back to Doorm. Dinner is a lowkey affair, as we enjoy G&Ts on the patio before heading out for a meal at the Time Out Market, a huge converted warehouse with a plethora of food vendors. I opt for a steak vendor and local brew and soon after head back to base while my colleagues party the night away...