By Gerald Soon
Have you ever been to Portugal? This beautiful country was a destination that my wife and I knew we wanted to visit and so we decided to visit Lisbon and spend some time in the Algarve.
We chose to explore Lisbon first. We chose not to have a car there so we could explore the city on foot using public transportation.
Do your research first and decide which area you would like to stay in. We chose a hotel near a Metro line for convenience. We thought we would be able to take public transit as it was inexpensive and would stop relatively near our hotel. Little did we know that the sidewalks all over Lisbon (and in most places in Portugal we discovered) were made of squares of marble cobblestone! Walking with large suitcases on wheels was a bit of a challenge!) I would opt for a taxi from the airport as I think it would be worth the cost. Lisbon is such a beautiful city, but all the walking areas are marble cobblestones with beautiful mosaic patterns – wear sensible comfortable shoes!
One tip: if you book your own hotel room using a credit card, and you plan in advance like my wife and I do, make sure that your card will still be current when you arrive in Portugal. Unfortunately, our card had changed and so when we arrived at the hotel, we were required to make payment again. Although the hotel clerk said we would be reimbursed in the next few days, in reality I had to contact the booking site we used, and provide proof that we had paid for the same hotel TWICE, once before the trip, and then once when we were there. It was only then that our refund was forthcoming.
We stayed in Lisbon for 8 days – originally choosing seven but extended by one day as our initial travel day on the seventh fell on a national holiday – we couldn’t find any information online about services on their national day. In reality it was pretty much a regular day.
The advantage of staying that long in one place was that we could take our time and really explore the city. The rapid transit was easy to use, and there were attendants at most stations.
Beware of pickpockets! Keep your valuables close to you and be aware. We had read this warning before in a travel guide, and when we were initially on the old tram, I thought to myself that it seemed quite safe when we started. Partway along, as more and more people climbed aboard, a Portuguese man advised my wife to watch her purse. A local person near us then was agitated and then left the tram. The man who warned us said, that that was a pickpocket who had attempted to rob us.
We took travel guides for Lisbon with us, and chose to explore one area at a time. The food did not disappoint us at all! We fell in love with the local pastry delicacy, the Pasteis de Belem, and had to make sure we stopped each day for our daily treat of them!
We chose to also visit the Algarve, and had arranged to have a car rental with GPS for our last week in Portugal. One thing I noticed when we arrived at the car rental office was that their documentation required an International Driver’s License. I did not have one, however, but that didn’t seem to be an issue. However – if you have one, bring it along!
The GPS was built into our car which was fairly new. Unfortunately, it wasn’t totally up to date, and so we were sent along some sketchy roads. One in particular was like a narrow laneway, which I thought was one way, until I saw a bus approaching us in that same narrow laneway! By the way, the option for total insurance coverage, just in case anything goes wrong, was well worth it!
We saw some wonderful scenery, and loved exploring some of the little towns . We even encountered a beautiful concert in a little church as one of the performing artists at an upcoming concert in the church just happened to be practicing that day!
I hope that if you visit, you too will encounter the charm and beauty of our small taste of Portugal .