30 April 2014
I have been exceptionally laid back about preparations for this new, solo, adventure. Much helped by the fact that I had found another pilgrim who is planning to start from Lisbon on the same day as me. Eli is from Australia and she kindly agreed to me sharing the accommodation she had booked. Unfortunately plans went slightly awry when I realised I didn’t know the number of the street where we are staying and I couldn’t get hold of Eli because she was in transit from Aus. So I made a backup plan and noted some addresses of hostels in the area, and continued to feel un-characteristically unfazed.
As it happened whilst I was waiting to board my flight I received a message from Eli giving me the details I needed, so all was well.
I had booked a direct flight to Lisbon from Málaga operated by TAP airline, which I think is a new service because when I first researched flights this route did not appear as an option. It was cheap and included a piece of checked baggage so I decided to check in my backpack and carefully wrapped it in cling film to keep the straps from getting caught in the rolling mechanism of the baggage carousels. When I checked in it seemed a bit odd that there were very few people at the desk but I guessed I was either a little early or a little late and most passengers had either already gone through or were yet to come. At the boarding gate I counted the passengers to be 18 in number and thought that the plane would be very empty, probably due to it being a new service.
Well, I was wrong. Every seat in the plane was taken – it was an 18 seater, and I couldn’t have been more surprised. I was allocated a front seat which didn’t have a window, although I could have reached out and tapped the pilot on the back through the open entrance to the flight deck.
The last passenger to board was a very disabled woman who could not move unassisted and so I gallantly offered her my seat so that she didn’t have to negotiate the narrow aisle, and I moved back to seat number 6…….where I had a view from a window – so a win/win situation!
It felt rather like a fairground ride and I felt rather like a child in my excitement about this unexpected treat, including a lunchbox of filled roll and water.
When I alighted an hour and a half later I noticed that the passengers who had carried on hand luggage (which was taken from them on boarding because there was absolutely no room in the cabin for anything larger than a small handbag) were reunited with their luggage straight from the hold, whereas those of us who had checked their bags had to go through the normal process of reclaiming at the carousel.
Anyway….I arrived in Portugal at 15:30, and was greeted by blue sky and sunshine with a lovely cooling breeze and I took a taxi to the Bairro Alto area of Lisbon, a characterful quarter of steep hills and narrow roads with buildings dating back to the period after the great earthquake of 1755. We have a very compact and basic apartment booked through AirBandB which is perfectly adequate and very well situated for wandering around this enchanting city.
Eli and I spent the late afternoon and evening discovering some of the charms of the narrow streets and vast plazas, the waterfront views and the beautiful cobbled streets. And as night fell the youth came out to play and the tempo picked up as the city began to party.
All in all, an excellent start to my new adventure.