Laughter in Lisbon
With Christmas and New Year out of the way and January looking positively bleak in the UK (not only the weather but so many friends had COVID), of course we were off to sunnier climes. I possibly was a bit of a bore though at work, trying to clear the decks, and one of my lovely colleagues said “yes, you did mention your annual leave coming up. A few times actually.” Oops. Oh well. So, our first trip of 2022 had been in the planning for some six months having booked a deal with TAP Air Portugal to Cancun, Mexico, via a free stopover in Lisbon. The total cost including 8kg of hand baggage each and one paid for 23kg checked bag, plus one random seat charge was £692.06. An absolute bargain. Shout out to Jack’s Flight Club which is how I heard about the deal.
The last few days of work were mental as I struggled to tick everything absolutely critical off my to do list. Tiger, in contrast, had a slightly easier ride of it all and didn’t even know we were going on holiday until 12th January when I popped over to the Randox test center at the Raddisson Edwardian on the Bath Road at Heathrow to get my ‘professionally administered’ lateral flow test 48h before our flight. When I picked her up from nursery and told her we were going on holiday she all but demanded we drive straight to the plane there and then! Funnily enough the lateral flow test was only required by Portugal along with a passenger locator form - perhaps in a bid for tourism, Mexico don’t need anything but a health questionnaire.
Finally, on Friday 14th January, we were off in a taxi for £80 (cheaper than airport parking!) to London Gatwick Airport at 7am. Interestingly, we are still using cots and this could have caused a few difficulties with the bags but thankfully my Baby Bjorn lightweight travelcot fitted into my big silver travel case and although I did have to stuff every available space, we managed to then fly with only one suitcase weighing just over 20kg. Go me!
We arrived at Gatwick with plenty of time to spare and after a long wait at the TAP desk to drop the big bag, then moved onto family security which really was hands down fabulous. Tiger went through in her yo-yo buggy but had to walk through body scanners. It was all so well done, I take my hat off to the security team doing an amazing job! We had a quick breakfast at the Red Lion JD Wetherspoon pub (same food as usual in a Wetherspoons just more expensive being inside the airport!) before boarding for the quick 2h40 flight to Lisbon. We had a window seat (Tiger) and a middle seat (me) but got to spread across 3 seats and the time went in a flash! It was the first time we had travelled with the iPad properly and the downloaded Netflix together with the blue tooth kids headphones were a definite hit. On the short-haul TAP Air Portugal flights there's no complimentary food, but I paid £8.36 for a coffee, orange juice, chocolate cake and waffle which was passable and gave us something to make a mess with!
At the other end, Tiger was sparked out and asleep in the buggy, and we were picked up by Sarah from the Airbnb (transfer 29 euros) who dropped us to the apartment in Alfama. It was a really wonderful Airbnb with 3 bedrooms (I hadn't read the small print and thought it was only 2 so I took the main bedroom and Tiger had her travelcot in the bunk bed room!). As well as of course making sure she got into every bed available! I shut off the other double room so as not to destroy it. For three wonderful nights we paid £180.59 and it was a really brilliant base in the Old Town and right beside the stunning Portos do Sol view point. I had vaguely wondered about booking a car but the streets are so narrow and parking is really not at all easy so in the end if was far easier to bomb around with Ubers!
We mainly self-catered and bought provisions from the Pingo Dolce supermarket. There were other small mini markets around but that was the best bigger shop, even though it was a 15 minute hard push of the buggy uphill, at least it was downhill on the way back and I could carry all the shopping in the bottom of the buggy.
On Saturday 15th we walked down lots of steps to the Fado Museum as a meeting point to meet Maria, who gave us a private tour in a bright pink tuktuk. It was an electric one, made in India. I had booked via Airbnb experiences for £57.61 but you can also find their Facebook page here. We started at the Fado Museum, visited Sé Cathedral, Portas do Sol and Senhora do Monte viewpoint, the flea market, National Pantheon, and just bombed up and down the cobbled streets which was so much fun and worth every penny!
On Sunday 16th we met up with photographer Phelipe who I had booked through Airbnb experiences but you can also see his Facebook page here. We booked for one adult and one child so a total of £66.80 and we got amazing value from it. It think in theory this was not the 'private tour' price but it we were lucky as it was quiet in Lisbon and nobody else with us. We met Phelipe at Placa do Comercio facing the harbour, had a little play on the sand and a walk around the main square, finishing with a coffee and a 'pastel de nata' (or, in English slightly less elegantly egg custard tart!) and Phelipe was with us close to 2 hours, even though it was only supposed to be one hour!
In the afternoon we caught an Uber (£6) to the Pavilhão do Conhecimento (Science Museum) making a slight mistake as we were actually headed for the Oceanario do Lisboa (Aquarium) which is right next door and went in the wrong door. Nevermind it was a fantastic place to go with kids, only cost 10 euros (free for Tiger) and conveniently had a McDonalds right outside it for dinner! It's also so close to the Old Town and just 6 euros in the Uber each way.
On our last day, Monday 17th January, we were supposed to be checking out at noon but in the end we headed out in another Uber at 11.30am and visited the Oceanario do Lisboa (Aquarium) before getting back to the flat for 2pm and being transferred back to the airport by Sarah's husband, Pedro (29 euros). They had kindly allowed us to leave our luggage in the apartment whilst we went out. I was so pleased we actually managed to see the Aquarium as it was really amazing. Entry was 19 euros for me and we were still getting away with Tiger for free, being (just) under 3.
Back at the airport, I had a very sleepy girl and a bit of a break from all the madness as she crashed out in the buggy before our 5.30pm flight to Cancun. So long Lisbon, it was a wonderful weekend, and I am sure we will be flying TAP Air Portugal again to get the stopover!