Last night we returned from Lisbon, Portugal where Aaron took me for my birthday. I really wish I could have appreciated it more but I was pretty sick before we left and still on the mend. Not helping matters is the fact that it seems to get harder and harder to fly anywhere no matter what you do to try and make it easier on yourselves.
In the past year I have learned a few lessons since we have been able to travel again. First and foremost Aaron and I will do everything we can to never take Ryanair again unless we have absolutely no other choice. For some unknown reason Ryanair has some crazy rules. They will never give me a boarding pass except at the airport. So in addition to having to wait in line to go through security I have to wait in line at the ticket counter despite their willingness to sell me a ticket months in advance. Since we have been traveling again we have probably flown 5 other airlines and it is only Ryanair that does this. You would think that once they see my passport they would allow me to get a boarding pass for my return flight but no I have to go through this on the return also. I have also come to terms with how the airlines now nickel and dime you on your ticket so what you think is going to be a deal ends up being nothing of the sort. But on Ryanair even after you buy preferred seating and priority boarding you still have no guarantee of priority boarding since just about everyone else on the plane buys it. They say never say never but I hope I never fly Ryanair again.
My next complaint. I would love to know what the problem with the Dublin Airport is. To catch our plane to Lisbon we had to get to the airport by 4:15 AM. Even this early in the morning the security lines were out the door. This in itself is not so bad but the fact that it is June here and I am still wearing a winter cold makes me bitch about it. Dublin has had I don’t know how many months to fix this problem which was going on even in the Spring when we went to Spain. It makes traveling during Covid seem like a dream which it was.
Enough complaining Aaron and I have both been lucky to get out of town as often as we have. We are also lucky that we had a lounge at the airport to use that was open at 5:00 AM so we could relax in a peaceful place and eat some food before our flight. Our flight left on time and we arrived in Lisbon about 10:30 and hopped a cab to our hotel.
We were staying at Browns Hotel Central which was in the center of lower Lisbon in a very historic district near the Tagus River. The hotel was in a renovated 18th century building. The rooms were actually decorated very nicely and made great use of the space. I had two major complaints. The bathrooms had nowhere to put your toiletries except below the sink which is really inconvenient forcing you to bend down and look for whatever you need. Also it seemed every time I bent down to grab something Aaron somehow managed to find his way into the bathroom and I guess you might say harass my behind. A shelf next to the sink would have been nice. My other complaint and I see a lot of hotels doing this kind of stuff now is the lack of lighting. The hotels will tell you they are doing this to save the environment but they are doing this kind of stuff to save money. So everywhere you go basically it is dark until you step into the hallway or lobby bathroom etc. Even eating breakfast I felt I needed my flashlight to read. Browns was not guilty of this but I also hate hotels asking you to reuse your towels to save the environment. Maybe there is a little truth to this but the bigger truth is they want to save money, in which case they should pass this savings on to the customer.
We had three and one half days to stay in Lisbon and make the most of it we did. I think I came home more tired than when we left and I was still a little sick. Before we left for Lisbon we asked just about everyone we knew who had been there what to do. They all loved the city but no one had anything specific to say other than it was a great relaxing place to visit and a place you could just about walk everywhere. Taxis are pretty inexpensive and buses are supposed to be good, incase your not a great walker.
Walk is what we did and more walk until we couldn’t. Tripadvisor had a list of the 10 best walks in Lisbon and we must have done at least 8 of them. It really is a charming city and walking is one of the best ways to see it. Be aware, it is quite hilly. The one walk you have to do is the Alfama. It goes through the oldest neighborhoods of the city and will offer you great views at almost every turn. We spent about a day doing different city walks. On another day we took a taxi out to Belam. There we went to The Belam Tower, an old fortress amazingly beautiful and the monument the Padrão dos Decobrimentos. If your smart which we weren’t, buy a ticket to see the fortress in Lisbon and go early. There are long lines and you really do want to go inside. From Belam we almost took off more than we could chew, we walked to the LX factory which was an old factory that they have turned into restaurants and stores. Very cool. On your way to the LX Factory you will pass a monastery that is worth seeing. Give yourself a full day to do Belam and the Factory. Be sure to hold off lunch and have at the Factory where there are about 40 places to eat at.
After 2 days of walking we decided to take it a bit easy and take the train to one of beach towns Cascias about 40 minutes from Lisbon. The village is small but worth walking through, walk to the harbor where you will find some interesting galleries. There were also a few nice beaches and we spent a few hours enjoying the sun, sand and getting burnt.
On our final morning we took our last walk on Avenue de Liberdado. It is definitely one of the most beautiful boulevards in Europe. it was modeled after the Champs Elysees. It is about a mile long and in the middle is a beautiful parkway lined with trees and gardens. The best stores in the world are all located on the street along with numerous great hotels and many embassies. Despite enjoying the part of the city we stayed in, our next trip to Lisbon we will definitely stay somewhere on the avenue. I found it to be more relaxing and civilized and not filled with tourists. I was really glad we did not discover this part of town on our first day as I would be irritating the hell out of Aaron as I would be trying to change hotels.
We ate at a few good restaurants in Lisbon. But first, my favorite food in Lisbon was a desert called Pasteis de nata. It is basically a custard tart that you would sprinkle with cinnamon. You would have thought I would get tired of them as I had them for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but I did not. Our first two nights we ate dinner at 2 good Portuguese restaurants. The first was called Sacramento and the second was called Cafe no chiado. Fish and meat are both specialities in most restaurants so you have your choice. The fish most served is cod and you can have find it cooked 100 different ways. Aaron really enjoyed it. I tried to stay away from the heavier food as I wasn’t feeling great. I did have great gazpacho, which I know is Spanish and plenty of tomato and mozzarella and carpaccio with arugula and parmesan cheese, also not Portuguese but easy on a tenderer stomach. Another night we had sushi at a great restaurant called Yakuza. Aaron has never really been a fan of Sushi but he is now. It is kind of an East meets West fusion and everything was delicious and expensive. The restaurant has a famous chef Olivier da Costa who also has restaurants in Paris and Algarve. One day we had lunch on the water on Lisbon's biggest public square called, Praca de Comercio but I don’t recommend the food there. It was pretty cheap cookie cutter greasy food. If you want to sit and have a few drinks there to enjoy the view go ahead.
Unfortunately we can’t tell you much about the nightlife as I was a drag not being well. From what we read Lisbon is a pretty great city for a gay vacation The people are easy going and anything pretty much goes. Aaron and I never felt uncomfortable anywhere we went, even when we were being affectionate or maybe overly affectionate. We did manage to hit two neighborhood gay bars which were quite nice. Sorry we can’t give you any reports on any of the clubs, but from what we read they go from mild to wild.
To sum it up. Go to Lisbon for a nice, relaxing 4 or 5 day mini vacation. It won’t disappoint. If you are there during the summer I do recommend finding a hotel with a pool. To me nothing is nicer when you are running around all day than coming home and being able to relax and chill lying out at a pool in the sunshine. It was a big mistake on my part not realizing how much I would miss having one, Our hotel did have an outdoor area to have lunch and drinks but not the same as being able to lay down at a pool. Also be aware if you stay in the touristy part of town as we did every 5 minutes some guy will try and sell you drugs. Tell them to get lost and ignore them. I understand the police cannot stop them because if you buy something it won’t be real. Have fun. We are in Dublin now until September.