Sunday, January 26, 2014

Off to Lisbon...

We had a morning flight out of Lajes to Lisbon and we needed to return our rental car.  Fortunately, the Lajes airfield and the tiny commercial airport are situated right next to each other.  It was a simple matter to drive to the airport, park the car in the rental lot, and drop off the keys at the rental car office.

We flew to Lisbon on TAP Portugal.  We had a surprisingly nice flight.  The nice thing about Portugal's airline is that they don't charge extra to check bags.  They also don't charge for the surprisingly edible snack or wine they give you on the flight.  After we checked our bags and went through a very laid back security checkpoint, we sat down to wait for our flight out of Lajes.  I turned on my iPhone and was delighted to note that the airport offered free WiFi.  In fact, the cafe and bar we visited on Lajes also offered free WiFi, which was pretty awesome.  We did not find that anywhere else on our trip.


Probably one of the best food offerings I have ever had on an airplane.  Everything tasted good and we didn't have to pay extra for it.  The sandwich had lettuce and hummus on it and the bread was very fresh.  There was a small bottle of mango compote, and of course white wine and water.  Bill enjoyed the red wine.

We were slightly delayed getting out of Lajes, but our trip out was pretty nice.  TAP Portugal used an Airbus 330 and it was only about half filled.  Unfortunately, the wind was high on our descent and some poor lady sitting two rows ahead of us ended up puking.  I didn't see or hear her do it and thankfully, I didn't smell the evidence, either.  Bill witnessed it, though, and said it was looking pretty serious for a moment.  I wondered why her companion was so urgently ringing for a flight attendant.  I think it was because she was about to fill the barf bag.

As we were flying east, I read the airline's magazine, which had an article about a very interesting program TAP Portugal offers in conjunction with healthcare professionals.  The airline has a program for people who are afraid to fly which includes therapy and even a flight to and from Lisbon and Madrid.  I thought that was a very innovative way for them to help people overcome their fears and score some new customers.

Magazine article about flight anxiety program.

The flight lasted about two hours.  We left sunny skies in The Azores and arrived in Lisbon to clouds and drizzle.  Bill and I were briefly separated when he was prevented from getting on the same people mover bus I got on because it was full.  Then, once we arrived at the terminal, I had to visit the ladies' room, so he ended up getting ahead of me.  Lisbon's airport is surprisingly large and I felt like I had to walk my ass off to get to baggage claim!  You end up walking through a very glitzy mall like area, too.  There are many restaurants there and lots of very high end retail stores, including an airport version of Harrod's.

Once we picked up our bags, we got a taxi and went to the Tivoli Oriente Hotel.  This hotel is part of a chain and located in Lisbon's business district and the area of the 1998 Expo.  Though it was a nice enough hotel, it's important to remember that you won't see old town Lisbon if you don't hop on the metro and seek it out.  This area of the city is nothing like the older part, which we found to be a hotbed of activity.  Also, because the Tivoli is a business hotel, there are surcharges galore.  We had to pay 30 euros for two days of Internet access.  I did read that you could join Tivoli's loyalty program and get those charges waived, but no one at the hotel told us about that and I never got around to asking.

These were all over the area near our hotel.

The Scorpions are coming to Lisbon!

The first night, we walked around the Oriente area and ended up in a huge Portuguese shopping mall located very close to our hotel.  We went all the way to the top level, where there was a "beer deck" and several restaurants.  It was still kind of early, so we went into a place that looked kind of like a Portuguese version of Legal Sea Foods.  There was only one other couple in the place.  They appeared to be German.  

It was a good thing I had read a couple of Epinions reviews of Portugal before we sat down.  It was one reviewer's negative review of Portugal that clued me in on a local practice that some Americans may find odd.  In Portugal, when you sit down at a restaurant, the server will often bring entradas without being asked.  These are starters and if you look in your menu, you see that they have prices next to them.  When we sat down at this restaurant, sure enough, the waiter brought bread, crab dip, and octopus salad.  If you don't touch these items, you won't be charged for them.  But if you do dig in, there will be a modest charge.  We didn't find dining out that expensive in either Portugal or Spain, but we did find that in Portugal, there aren't any freebies.  You pay for everything, including the butter.

Anyway, neither Bill nor I were interested in the crab dip or the octopus salad.  What we wanted was beer.  I was also hoping for a local dish that had something in it that couldn't be considered "junk food".  I ended up ordering Portuguese bread soup with shrimp, while Bill got salted cod with potatoes and spinach.  Both portions were huge and we ended up eating them "family style".  The bread soup was really not like any soup I've ever had.  The bread in it gave it the consistency of porridge and it was loaded with garlic.  It tasted good, though I couldn't eat a lot of it because it was very filling.  The shrimp was delicious and a nice treat after all the fast food.  The spinach on Bill's dish was good, too.


Bill enjoys the first of many Sagres beers we had on this trip.


Dinner…  The bread soup (asordo) was in the little copper pot.  





We did save room for dessert.  I had some delightful cheesecake and Bill had ice cream made with a beer reduction that was surprisingly excellent.


After we were finished eating, we wandered around a little more, then went back to the Tivoli Oriente to turn in.  I had big plans for the next day, which turned out to be pretty full.


If we hadn't had fish, we could have hit the brewpub...


Or enjoyed some seafood...

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