I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

from London to Lisbon

I wanted some time away, a new passport stamp -- not literally, but to notch up another country visited -- and a 5 day weekend. So I booked the Thursday and Friday off before the May Day bank holiday weekend, and fucked off to Lisbon.

The flight was about a hundred quid. The hotel was 36 quid a night. This was not an expensive holiday!

Got a bus to Heathrow. It was quicker, cheaper, and less racist than getting a cab. Generally I'll get a cab if I've got a bag I'm checking in, but for a 48hr trip I was rucksack only and thought paying 25 sheets or so to get to the bloody airport, considering the cost of the trip overall, would be a bit fucking profligate even by my ridiculous standards.

I'd printed out my boarding pass at work the day before, so I pegged it straight through security and into the BMI lounge. This is the lounge I'd dismally failed to sample when I flew with Air New Zealand to Auckland back in January, thinking that the generic "Star Alliance" lounge was good enough. And, I mean, it was, I guess... except I now know the BMI lounge has a bar area called "The Local", which stocks bottled London Pride. BOTTLED LONDON PRIDE, d'you hear? A drink of majesty. So I had me one of those, and a bunch of shitty lounge food, while waiting for me flight.

The BMI lounge is near gate 5 (this is in Terminal 1). My flight was from gate 49. This is, quite literally, the furthest gate there is from gate 5. The complete opposite end of the terminal. I left the lounge in plenty of time, in true-to-form bit-nervous-about-arriving-late fashion, and was just about to tweet from the gate about being too bloody early when boarding started. In fact we were all boarded about 10 minutes before the scheduled take-off time, except for ONE woman. She looked proper sheepish as she got on.

I'd never flown TAP before. Here's my impressions of that first flight (since I'm writing this while waiting for the return). Service, pretty friendly. Legroom, not the best. Plane interior a bit tatty. They made some announcement about a Portuguese law limiting the consumption of alcohol onboard, but they went into no more detail and I've not looked it up yet. They were dishing out booze though, so I guess you're only allowed a certain amount or summat. Either way I didn't have any. The food they served wasn't bad, and they did 2 drinks runs (mind you, it was a 3hr flight near enough).

There are no personal screens for entertainment, but there are dropdown screens every 3 rows or so, much like most of these sorts of planes. The picture looked much better than any I'd seen before though, and the moving map showed not only major towns and cities, but shipwrecks, along with their years! WTF? It cycled through the map, some Portugal tourist board stuff, some hidden camera trick the public skits, and a bunch of Charlie Chaplin shorts. Very odd mixture.

The landing was one of the bumpiest and SLAM THE BRAKES ON style I've ever experienced. Most people were gripping the headrests of the seat in front of them. I was giggling. Heh.

As I was disembarking I let a girl go in front of me. She had a bag.

Landside, I went straight to the tourist information desk and bought a Lisboa card. This is like a travelcard plus entry to loads of museums and shit, plus an awkward size and shape pamphlet thing explaining all what it gives you. I got the 48hr version, and went outside to the Aerobus stop.

The girl I let in front of me was there. Without a bag. She got on the same bus, alone (ie no-one else with her carrying her bag). Odd.

As far as I could remember, my hotel was near Campo Pequeno, and actually the bus stop confirmed this, because it listed nearby hotels for each stop. Campo Pequeno was only 2 stops into the journey. Cool. I had no maps of Lisbon, street or bus or metro or otherwise, but I figured, meh, the hotel must be easy to spot, right? Anyway I knew the name of the road it was on. How hard could it be?

Got off the bus stop right opposite the bullring (that's what Campo Pequeno means) and couldn't see the hotel. In fact I couldn't see any hotels. I was on Avenida da Republica. Without a map. So I just picked a random direction, then turning, and ended up getting to my hotel by the shortest route possible. It was 2 blocks away from the stop and round a blind corner, but score one for mapless, unprepared tourism!

The receptionist at the Holiday Inn seemed to go to great lengths explaining to me the rate I'd already paid, as if there was an undercurrent of "you motherfucker, our economy's in the shit and you scored a 2-nights-for-the-price-of-1 deal, and I'm supposed to be happy to serve you, well FUCK YOU". Oh well.

My room had a view. Of a hospital and a train station and some tower blocks. It also had a TV whose channel guide was kind of sort of vaguely accurate. BBC World was indeed on Channel 44, but BBC Prime was nowhere to be seen and Channel 22, instead of being something Portuguese, was the previously unheard of (by me) "BBC Entertainment". Also there was PPV porn. Of course. It's a Holiday Inn!

I chilled briefly, drank my free water, and went out.

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