Friday, 25 June 2010


The first class train journey from Lisbon to Albufeira was very comfortable. Lots of leg room. Also, the buffet car was conveniently next to out carriage. €40.50 return. Travelling tourist class would have cost me €35, so paying the extra €5.50 was certainly worthwhile. Crossing the Tagus river on the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge was an experience. A huge suspension bridge with a spectacular view of Lisbon and also of the Cristo-Rei statue at Pragal on the left bank of the river. Unfortunately my camera was in my suitcase so I didn't want to miss the view from the train so my camera stayed where it was.
Listening to an audiobook of Paulo Coelho's The Winner Stands Alone helped pass the 3 or so hours trip to Albufeira. The temperature when I got to Albufeira was a sweltering 31ยบ C. The taxi driver during the short trip to the Beach Club (
There was my mum sitting down by the pool in the shade. "Oh, he's here. He's early".

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Oh NO!!!!!!!!! The Portuguese and football

I have found this really quiet terrace to go for a pre-dinner drink. So off I go.

The place is packed. There be football on a screen. The atmosphere is electric. I won't tell you who is playing.
Now thinking about where to go for dinner.

Seeing Lisbon

Rome is being described as being built on "7 hills". Lisbon on the other hand is persistantly hilly. I decided that the best way to see Lisbon was by tram. So, I embarked on a city tour with the "red car tram 7 hills tour with the "Hop on hop off" system! The car was packed as we set off from the Praca do Comercio, earphones at the ready. The interior of the tram reminded me of the interior of the Glasgow underdround carriages of the 1960s and 1970s; premodernisation days. I stayed on the whole 90 minute tour as often when we stopped for passengers to disembark there were not enough seats for the people waiting outside to get on.
Boy oh boy, how the tram got down some of the narrow streets is a marvel. This tour is really fabulous. Not because I didn't my bearings of the areas of Mouraria, Alfama, Chiado, Sao Bento, and Estrela. I could never reach or find some of the sights again. Lisbon is just too big. The trip was worth it for seeing what I saw. Reminder... keep the tram ticket as I can use it for the next 24 hours for free tram travel.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Portugal again

After breakfast that first morning I went walking and went looking for the elusive Bairro Alto. I kept walking and walking and walking. The roads and pavements got steeper and steeper and steeper.. All of a sudden a wooden trolley bus (tram) cam hurtling round the corner and zoomed clankilly down the hill. I said to myself "I like that".

My mobile phone rang and the caller was the receptionist from the hotel to tell me that my luggage had finally arrived. "Mmmm", I thought, " I have to walk back down these steep hills to get back to the hotel". My All Stars were like ankle straps as I trundled down the hills.

My reunion with my suitcase was like a reunion with my wardrobe and bathroom accessories. I was so glad to see it. Tagged onto the suitcase was a discount voucher from KLM for €25 for the inconvenience I had been caused. That paid for the t-shirt, shorts, tooth brush and toothpaste.

I had read about Tram 28 on numerous reviews as "vintage trams taking passangers from the city centre at sea level up through the narrow maze of streets towards St George Castle". So I troop off to the tourist office to find out where to catch it from in the neighbourhood. "Third street after the archway", was the response. Oh no, not again, the verbal directions. I asked for a map and was given the same identical map I received from the tourist office at the airport. X marked the spot. X was nowhere near the mark. Eventually a tram driver who had stopped at a siding pointed in the direction of the Cathedral. Up there somewhere. I did find it eventually and had fun during the trip.

Did I tell you I found Bairro Alto?

The 28 tram stopped and the driver told us all to get off as it was the end of the line. End of the line? Where in Lisbon were we?

Friday, 18 June 2010

The old broad and her toyboy

There was me, outside, and having some sherry in the warmth of the evening when someone asked me, "Can I ask you a question?". I responded, "You already have". Now, that response always results in a pattern interrupt. After a few seconds she said, "Well if you are going to be like that I won't ask you the question". I told her to go ahead and here's what she asked, "Is the person you are with your girlfriend or your mother?"

More Lisbon

If only getting about the centre of Lisbon was as easy as the trip from the airport to the hotel and also from the hotel to Entre Campos; the station from which I caught the train to Albufeira. When I visit a new city I always like to walk around as I get to see much more and also get a real feel for a city.

With Lisbon, the map is most certainly not the territory. The receptionists directions to Bairro Alto were "at the top of the road folow the yellow tram". What yellow tram!!!!! So no dinner for me in a restaurant at the elusive Bairro Alto on my first evening. However, I did find a relaxing terrace bar for a few pre-dinner drinks before eating locally at an Italian restaurant (Valentinos) just a few metres walk from the hotel.

After breakfast the next morning the receptionist didn't want to show me on the map where the nearest shopping centre of supermarket were. She preferred to tell me because, in her own words, "it is easier". Now with directions I am a very visual guy. I want to follow the streets on the map. If I just hear directions they don't mean anything to me. The supermarket is just down the street from the train station. Did she mean metro station? Nope!!! Trainstation!!! The previous evening I never saw the train station she mentioned. Oh... here's another clue comming. "The train station is by a big clock". What big clock? If it's a big clock then surely I would have already seen it. I know what clocks look like. "And, the shopping centre is round the corner from the Marques do Rombal at the top of the Avenida de Liberdade. That one was easy. I could visualise where it was as the Avenida is a rather long road the Aerobus stopped at a few times on the way from the airport.

I eventually did find Bairro Alto, although that involves telling the story of the wooden trolley buses/trams.

It was 31 degrees celcius when I got of the train at Albufeira The 3 hour 1st class trip had been very comfortable. Mum was down by the pool in the shade. "Oh he's here. He's early" Mum was genuinely glad to see me.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

I'm in Portugal

Mum will be really excited now. Her eldest son is on the intercity train from Lisbon to Albufeira, travelling first class through the Portuguese countryside. First of all crossing the Rio Tejo over a large and long suspension bridge and getting a totally different perspective on Lisbon.

The flight to Lisbon was uneventful, well as uneventful as flights can be with whoever was flying the plane getting us to Lisbon at our expected landing time. Suitcases appeared at the carrousel and happy travellers left the airport to go where ever they were going. Well, except about 30 of us, that is. Having heard the announcement over the tannoy, I ran to grab a tiket, not wanting to wait in the anticipated queue.
The woman behind the counter spoke almost perfect English and was very apologetic that my suitcase had been left at Schiphol and should arrive sometime the next day. "Of course I can sell you a taxi voucher said the woman behind the woman behind the counter at the Tourismo de Lisboa. However, for €3.50 you can get the Aerobus to Restauradores. There you will see a green kiosk at the square and your hotel is just behind the kiosk, about a 100m walk.

I thought he was asking me if I wanted cock!!! In the middle of the shopping street of all places. Did I mishear him? No, I didn´t. He also offered me hash. I suppose one would have to be stoned to have sex with him. The rather chunky number wearinig the pink t-shirt caught my eye as I was eating dinner on the terrass. Everytime he looked at me he would rub his nose and make positive nods with his head. I thought my luck was in, even though I hadn't finished dinner. He hung around for a few minutes and then started to walk down the narrow street. He didn't walk very far, stopped and looked over his shoulder at me and again rubbed his nose. Very quickly he moved on and stopped 2 restaurants away from where I was and started to do the same with someone else.
Shortly afterwards a taller and slimmer guy was standing in the same place as the chunky number and doing exactly the same thing with his head and rubbing his nose. He didn't stay for long and moved away. I wondered if the 2 guys were prostitutes. Curiously I asked the waiter (who earlier on had called me senora as he put the plate of brushetta in front of me). I was wrong. They were, according to the waiter, drug dealers who sold fake drugs.

The woman was right about the Aerobus and the distance to the hotel. Once I saw the green kiosk I crossed the road heading for it and wasn't sure where to go from there. A few steps further forward and a not too steep street for Lisbon standards I saw a green light and the name Rossio.

By the next morning once I had showered I checked with reception and my suitcase still hadn't arrived. So, after breakfast I went in search of the elusive Bairro Alto and would go to a shopping centre to get a few more t-shirts in case my bag wouldn't arrive till later that day. I had already bought a cheap t-shirt the previous evening as I didn't want to be wearing the same sweaty long sleeved shirt I had been travelling in the previous day.