It is always hard for me to complain about a flight or Airline when redeeming miles. However, I spent a lot of miles on this redemption, and the product delivered was ‘not competitive’. I was genuinely concerned that my American MD80 from AUS->DFW was older than I was. My Strategy for 2014 had been to build the AA and BA miles balance. Lets just say that has changed for 2015 & 2016. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m way behind on this miles and points game for frequent flyers. In the future, I will most likely to stick with Southwest, were the loyalty program is simple to earn and simple to use.
We landed in Madrid at around 9:30 am… after a 9 hour flight from Dallas, I’ve been here before in 2011 or 2012… “I sure don’t remember it looking like this…” I think the fields of hay had been harvested, and what was left was the patchwork of brown and tan fields. MAD is a fairly large airport, and we had about 90 minutes to get to the other terminal to catch our BA flight to Lisbon. Contrasted with the AA redemption, this was a great value redemption on BA, it cost me 9000 avios and $45 for both of us to fly one-way MAD->LIS.
Descending into Lisbon, everything was lush and green. Once we landed in LIS, we opted for the Taxi to get to the Hotel. I had researched other options like the subway, and Uber… I still have yet to pull the trigger on Uber, but I have read enough to feel comfortable with it. Last time I did the subway thing, I think my wife was ready to kill me… so I opted for the most convenient option of a Cab. The cost was around $12-$14. We got a real dud as a driver, who claimed not to speak any English, that’s ok, we got to our hotel just fine.
The weather forecast turned out great, we had some off and on rain showers our first day in Lisbon, but after that, it was mostly dry and warm during the day, but cool at night. Our plan A was to spend a few days in Lisbon, and then rent a car and head north to Porto if the weather was good.
We love staying a boutique hotels, there is just something about them that we like. I had debated about several places, after reviewing TripAdvisor and looking at different areas of town, we settled on 3 nights at the LX Boutique Hotel (www.lxboutiquehotel.com) located in the south-west lower Baixa area very near the river, and close to the historical central area of Lisbon. This turned out to be a great Hotel, the staff was outstanding, and the restaurant was fantastic. More on that later. The Hotel itself is old, but Modern and renovated, with fancy glass walled bathrooms and elaborate room murals. One of the most impressive things about the hotel was how friendly the staff was, I know this can be an overused term, but everyone we dealt with was super nice, and very welcoming… they demonstrated a sense of pride which reflected in their attitude. Reception informed us that we should check out the restaurant “welcome hour” at 6pm for a free drink.
At this point we were tired, but excited… our goal was to quickly change clothes and head out to explore. If we laid down on the bed, we could have easily passed out. So off we went, generally walking east along the river. we soon stumbled into a large square, the Praça do Comércio. At the opposite end is the Ru Augusta Arch which was built in the 1870’s to commemorate the reconstruction of the city after the 1755 earthquake.
Continuing east… we wandered thru the small streets and ally’s of the Alfama district, the oldest district of Lisbon. We made our way up the hill, dodging the quick rain showers, to the Moorish castle, São Jorge Castle. The views were worth the Hike.
After exploring the Castle, we made our way down into the main shopping area of the city. As part of my planning, I knew that we would need to get to the Rossio train station to take the train to Sintra the next day, so we walked by it to get an idea of where it was, and how far it was.
Then we found Ru Augusta, which is the main pedestrian street that runs from Rossio Square down to the Ru Augusta Arch. There are lots of shops and restaurants and people. The smoke and aroma from the many roasted chestnut vendors lingers thru the streets. It reminded me of a smaller version of Barcelona’s “La Rambla” with street performers and selfie stick vendors. By this time, the sun was settling on late afternoon, and our feet were tired, so we decided to stop and try some interesting and delicious Pastel De Bacalhau (codfish cakes) and some white port wine at Casa Portuguesa do.
We made it back to the Hotel in time to check out the Welcome Hour, which is held in the attached sushi restaurant at the Hotel. It was phenomenal, a small sushi appetizer and a glass of sparkling wine greeted us. I can’t say enough about the cozy atmosphere and the very nice staff. We added on to our appetizer with another plate of sushi, and a glass of Portuguese red wine, and called it a night, retiring to our room. We were exhausted but excited about visiting Sintra the next day, which we wanted to get there fairly early to catch the first train, and hopefully get ahead of most of the tourist.
NEXT – a train tour of the Lisbon suburbs and a full day of hiking in Sintra.