Portugal has been on our bucket list for quite some time, but life kept getting in the way. After reviewing our travel calendar for the year, we found a week and a half gap between plans we had in the UK and a meet-up with friends in Ireland. Although we preferred more time, a week was better than nothing. We hoped to do a road trip, but with the limited time frame, we chose to base ourselves in Lisbon and explore the surrounding cities and towns.

Our First Flight with TAP

We found great rates on flights between London-Heathrow and Lisbon on TAP Air Portugal. We had not flown on TAP before and found the plane and crew similar to any major US carrier. The flight was on time and uneventful. The customs process was organized; agents in the main hall directed us to the correct line (based on your passport country).
Airport departure sign
View of Lisbon from above
Building in Lisbon

Our Arrival

We found great rates on flights between London-Heathrow and Lisbon on TAP Air Portugal. Although we had not flown on TAP before and found the plane and crew similar to any major US carrier. The flight was on time and uneventful. The customs process in Lisbon was organized; agents in the main hall directed us to the correct line (based on your passport country).

Our hotel, Be Poet Baixa, was a small boutique property on the main pedestrian area in the older part of town. We chose this hotel based on its proximity to public transportation, local attractions, price, and nearby dining. We were welcomed with a pasteis de nata, or Portuguese custard tart, and a small glass of wine along with our room key. After unpacking, we set out to find dinner.

Pedestrian street
Hotel room safe and coffee
Hotel room bathroom

Dining

It was not hard to find a place to eat; the area was full of options. The restaurants can be relatively small, but they set up tables and chairs on the pedestrian walkway. Restaurant employees were eager for us to look at their menus and have us take a seat. Some places were better than others, and the food overall was good, but the service was incredibly slow. Slower than other countries we have visited in Europe. Another thing we found interesting; tipping is generally not expected in Portugal, but the wait staff at restaurants in tourist areas actually asked for a tip when the bill was presented. We were seated next to a couple from a different European country; they were not asked to add a tip.

Meals were more expensive in the tourist areas than they were just a few blocks away, so we tended to wander down side streets and eat at little local cafés. We’d not developed a taste for coffee in Europe, so we were thrilled to find a McDonald’s that served American coffee style.

Dining venue in Lisbon Portugal
Jim with a glass of wine
Pasta dish

Time to Explore

Early the following day, we found a ticket office for the metro and purchased a multi-day pass. We planned to explore the city using public transportation and then take the regional trains to towns nearby. The next couple of days were spent exploring all the attractions in the Lisbon city area. We rode trams, trains, and buses and saw incredible artwork and architecture.

Tickets and map
Inside tram
Decorative wall with posit it notes on it.

One afternoon we climbed the Rua Augusta Arch to check out the view. Finding the entry was tricky; it was just a simple doorway leading to a small ticket counter. You can take an elevatore ride up several stories for a small fee, but you must climb a narrow staircase to get to the top. There is a light (green or red) that will indicate if someone is already on the stairs, as there is no room for more than one person. This climb is not for you if you are claustrophobic or afraid of heights. The views were stunning, however.

Wandering off the beaten path, we found a cute little area called LX Factory. It was an old textile factory that had been converted into a modern and creative space. LXF has reused a neglected site and transformed it into a great area away from the crowds.

Arch and square
View from the arch
Shopping area

After being on the road for quite some time, and I really needed a haircut. The hotel suggested a place about 2 blocks away, and they were able to work me in. Although only one person in the shop spoke English, she was happy to act as an interpreter for my stylist, and I was pleased with the outcome.

We had also located a DIY laundry store that we intended to visit, but our plans changed abruptly.

Stylist cutting hair
Narrow walkway by tram tracks
Rua Augusta Arch

Devastating News

As we sat in our hotel room after a long day of exploring, I received a text from a family member back home. Our beloved niece Holly, who had been battling cancer for 2.5 years, was only given a few days before she would transition to her heavenly home.

Holly was only 32 years old but filled those years with exploring the world, volunteering in remote areas of Africa, working with autistic children, and being an incredible wife and mother to her husband and son.

We quickly changed our plans and flew back to the States the next day.

Rest in peace, my beautiful angel.

Holly and Matt
Holly
Holly

Paperwork

Travel insurance has been part of our travel planning process for many years, but we have never used it. We filed a claim after our return home and submitted the necessary documentation as required. It took about a month and a half for the check to arrive in the mail, but I will admit, we were overcome with grief, and filing the necessary paperwork was not at the top of my list, so that could have slowed the process.

Someday, we will return to Portugal to explore the country further. We truly enjoyed our time there.