July 3, 2008
The trip started fairly uneventful. Lily and I flew out of Reagan National on Thursday evening—set to arrive in Lisbon on Friday morning. I exchanged my US dollars for Euros and nearly wept at the poor value of the dollar at the airport. Unfortunately for us, we flew USAirways. NEVER FLY THEM INTERNATIONAL. The seats are small; they do not have individual screens for each seat where you can watch whatever movie you want or look at the map and see where you are and how much time is left in the trip. It’s a disaster. I swear it was like flying America West for 8 hours. Boo. The flight was so uncomfortable, that even with Tylenol PM I found it difficult to sleep. As I eventually started to doze, the plane did a sudden drop. I don’t mean the regular turbulence bump—I mean an actual drop that made my heart race and me look around in concern. Since listening to Sean Paul wasn’t going to calm my fears, I immediately switched to my gospel playlist on my Ipod and said a quick prayer. Then the pilot flashed the “fasten your seatbelts” sign and told the flight attendants to take their seats. He didn’t even say what was wrong. Can a sista get a “Hey, we’re experiencing some rough winds, but we’ll be passed it in 20 minutes?” Major joker. The rest of the flight remained pretty rocky, so I stayed up and alert.
July 4, 2008
We arrived in Lisbon around 8:30 in the morning. We grabbed a cab to the hotel and prayed for an early check in. We arrived at the Pestana Palace at roughly 10 am—of course it was rather early for check in and our room wasn’t ready. The front desk representative Aneesa (hereinafter “The Rat”) was extremely courteous. The concierge recommended a great little place for breakfast Pastais de Belem and we headed down there for croissants and pastries. Then we walked around a bit to kind of get our bearings. It was then that we noticed that even though the sun was out—Lisbon was blessed with an AMAZING breeze. Clear blue skies and a refreshing wind? It was like summer and spring combined. Unreal. Of course since we’d been up forever we decided to go back to the hotel and kick it by the pool and wait for our room to become available.
When we got back to the hotel we started to walk the grounds. OH MY GOODNESS. THE HOTEL GROUNDS WERE RIDICULOUS! Pestana is a 19th century palace with tropical gardens, an amazing pool area, spa, etc. We went down to kick it by the pool and an attentive waiter/bartender Flavio came and took our drink orders. We relaxed and had our first alcoholic beverages of the trip and waited for our room to be finished. As the time stretched on, Flavio offered us beds to sleep on by the pool. Increasingly exhausted from being up forever, we reclined on the beds and fell asleep. Around 3 pm, we woke up and the front desk still hadn’t brought down our keys. We were like WTH? We went into the spa and called up to the front desk. They said they were swamped with a group of tourists and would get back to us. It was then that I began to have concerns about them giving away our room. The spa desk lady was extremely nice and gave us a tour of the spa. Afterwards, Lily was ticked and decided to go to the front desk and complain. I was too exhausted at that point and left it to her to fight the good fight. When Lily arrived, the Rat, who had previously been nice to her, snapped at her like she was talking to a child. Lily was furious. What’s worse is that Lily noticed that all of the white tourists who had JUST arrived had keys even though we had been there forever. Lily told the Rat she had never encountered such difficulties and given that we had traveled from another friggin’ continent, a hotel, let alone one of the leading hotels in the world, should be more accommodating. The Rat finally found us a room and showed it to us. That heifer took us to a crappy room on the 1st floor by the pool, with no view. The room was old and decrepit. This section of the hotel was remote, separate from the main hotel. I swear it was the Jim Crow quarters! Worse, the room had only one bed instead of two as we requested and she said a change couldn’t be made until that evening. We were repulsed and the Rat apologized profusely and said she was extremely embarrassed about the situation. She should have been.
The Rat then left and called the room a few minutes later and said she had a surprise for us—she sent water and stale pastries to the room. Was that joker serious? I was disappointed and exhausted, but I was like—let me just take a shower and pull it together. When I went to take a shower, the friggin drain was clogged and the water stacked up. I was like, oh heeeeeeeeeeeeeelllll no. So I called down to the office and the Rat sent a handyman up. He was incompetent—instead of bringing Drano, that fool brought a showerhead—to unclog a tub? And then he sat there with a straight face and told us that a half a tub full of water was normal. Lily then called back to the front desk and said the room was completely unacceptable and we wanted a new room. I waited 20 minutes, and then I called for a status check. It was then that I was told by another hotel staff member that the hotel was sorry for our inconvenience and wanted to make up for our troubles. She said she was upgrading us to a suite with a garden view—but the suite didn’t have a balcony, was I okay with that? As coolly as I could, I said, “That is acceptable.” I calmly hung up the phone and then squealed! Lily was like, “WHAT?” I said, “Girrrrrrrrrrl, we’re being moved from a regular room to a suite!” We were like YES!!!!!!! Shoooot, we went from a regular room to a million dollar suite at one of the best hotels in the world. HAAAAAAAAAAAA! That’s what’s up. We felt it was just settlement for the hotel’s blatant discrimination against us. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time a luxury hotel has underestimated us because we’re young and black and booked on Expedia. And as always we came out on top!
A bellhop came and showed us to our new room. It was sick!!!!!!!!!!!!! So sick we had two chairs at our door—a lovely foyer, bedroom, a well-appointed living room, and a plush bathroom with a heated towel rack and no fog mirrors. When the bellhop left Lily squealed and literally ran across the bed. WHAT A DAY. We had gone from the servants quarters to a fab suite in one swoop. We felt our luck had definitely begin to change. Sadly we were exhausted from being up for over 24 hours, so we decided to just go out and have a nice meal. We decided to check out an Italian restaurant Casanostra in the Bairro Alto recommended by some guide. We grabbed a cab and headed out. Lisbon could use more street cleaners, but it is a pretty cool looking city. Lots and lots of hills and cobblestones. Well, as we headed to Casanostra we noticed that the area was a little seedy. There were a lot of shady looking characters just hanging around. The cabbie drove us up one of the steepest hills we’ve ever seen and then dropped us off and showed us that Casanostra was down a little alley. We reluctantly got out of the cab and walked over to the restaurant. Unfortunately it was closed and didn’t re-open until 8. We walked down a little further in search of some place to eat. Lily spotted a Thai restaurant called SukoThai and we headed in there. The waitress was gracious and we sat down to eat. As we sat though, every manner of shady character walked by the restaurant and every man that walked by white, black, whatever-- leered in at us. I was like—how the heck did we end up in the Portuguese hood on our first day here? I told Lily we needed to eat quickly because the sun was setting and I was not trying to be in the Bairro Alto when that happened. We wolfed down some incredibly delicious thai food and hit the streets. Problem—I, being me, was trying to look cute so I wore heels despite the travel guide’s warnings regarding steep hills. Because we were in a back alley restaurant area the only way to get to a cab was to walk down a steep hill comprised of slippery, uneven cobblestone. What the heck? I literally had to hold on to the wall and slowly make my way down the hill. People were looking at me sideways because I looked like a first class fool holding on to a wall while walking down a hill; and I had no one to blame but myself and my vanity. LOL. When we got to the bottom of the hill, we took some pics in some random square and then headed back to the hotel exhausted from travel and content to just enjoy the suite for the night.
July 5, 2008
After a LONG night of the sleep of the dead, we woke up to get breakfast at the hotel—it was included in the hotel price. We headed into the breakfast area—which was ridiculously fab by the way, and grabbed some food. Every single patron eating did a double take. Negroes? At the Palace? Whaaa? People looked at us with expressions of shock, confusion, curiosity, awe, fascination and in some cases disdain. We were literally the only black people staying at our hotel. Literally. I think they thought we were famous, rich or had some serious sugar daddies. I don’t want to besmirch anyone or offend blog readers, but Europeans are the rudest people I’ve ever encountered and they stare. I don’t care about being looked at but didn’t people’s parents tell them that staring was rude? I swear, I know what it feels like to be a celebrity in that regard. You can’t do anything without people looking at you. It’s wild. Most times we ignored it, but if it was particularly blatant, we’d stare the people down or scowl.
After a fantastic breakfast with the most delicious bread I’ve ever had—EVER—we headed into town to El Cortes Ingles. I needed to buy a new camera—because on my previous first trip day from h*ll, I had dropped and broke my camera! I managed to find a camera and we hit the streets in search of some tourist sites. We walked for hours! We went to Parque Eduardo hoping to find a beautiful park. Unfortunately, it was kind of old, poorly maintained and filled with homeless people. Hmmm—I was starting to have doubts about Lisbon. Then we continued to walk down Avenida de Liberdade and take in the sights. It was fab. Lots of high end shops, people and excitement. We took lots of pics, grabbed some gelado. Then we decided to head back to the hotel and lounge by the pool. Why stay in an oasis in the middle of the city and not enjoy it? LOL. During the cab ride home, our cab driver played us his fado music cd and tried to sell us a copy. We were like—huh? Is he serious?
When we got back to the hotel, we kicked it at the pool with drinks and appetizers. The menu was a little limited and Lily decided she wanted a side of bread with our appetizers. Since everyone had been so accommodating, we figured it was a go. When I placed our order, I said, and “can we get a side of bread?” The waiter looked at me and said, “No.” (What he meant was, no fool that’s not on the menu.). And you know Lily and I had the nerve to be stunned? Lily turned to me and said, “Can he say that?” I was like, “I don’t know…” HAAAAA! We were in full on diva mode—used to our every need being catered to, so in our minds, his response was supposed to be, “I’m not sure, but I’ll check on it.” HA! We were trippin’.
That night, we ordered room service, and then took power naps before heading to the club. We were extremely excited about going to Lux, a club rumored to be owned in part by John Malkovich. Much to our chagrin, Lisboetas don’t party until super late. So when we got there at midnight, there was hardly anybody there. The club was right on the water, so we walked around and took a lot of pics. The music was kind of weird, so I asked one of the waitresses when the DJ was going to play some hip hop. Much to my chagrin, she said the DJ wouldn't play hip hop until 3 AM. I guess this is acceptable since the club stays open to 7—but darn, how were we supposed to wait that long? I felt bamboozled, led astray, and run amok! We waited until one something, but the music was so craptastic we just cut our losses and headed back to the palace. So far, Lisbon was turning out to be only so so—but with a plush hotel.
July 6, 2008
We decided to hit the Park of Nations that day. We knew the day was going to be fabulous, we looked great, there were clear blue skies and every picture we took early on was good stuff. We hit the Oceanarium which is one of the largest aquariums in Europe. SPECTACULAR. The sharks, the exotic fish, the seals, the birds, the colors. Unreal. Funny thing, we were like another exhibit the way those jokers were staring at us. LOL. We had a blast. We then hopped on a cable car over the Park. Craziness—it gave us an aerial view of Lisbon and the Park. It was full of people and cool architecture. When we got across to the other end of the park we decided to rest our feet and grab some food at one of the waterside cafes. We saw this hot Cape Verdean waiter at a café—so of course we went there for some drinks and food. Lily was enamored. But sadly, he did not speak a word of English—it was not meant to be. LOL. We did have an African waitress and Lily asked what the hot club was for tonight and the waitress directed us to Musulou. We were like—bet—we had plans for the night! We then hopped on a cable car back to the other side of the park and grabbed our daily helping of ice cream. (Yeah, we had ice cream every day). While we were eating ice cream we noticed a couple making out. Now—it was like 4 or so in the afternoon. Families, little kids with ice cream cones and the elderly were everywhere; and this African dude and a Portuguese woman were straight going at it. I don’t mean kissing—I mean jamming the tongue down the throat, hands moving over body parts, neck kissing, head thrown back—moaning. Now, I don’t generally mind public displays of affection, but these fools were acting like they were on their d*mn couch at home. They drove other people away from the area. Lily and I ate our ice cream and shook our heads at their shenanigans. I should not have seen what I saw in broad daylight. Get a room losers. Get a room. After we finished laughing at those jokers, we headed down the park and came across a café with a life reggae type band. This was living! Relaxing, sitting on the water, listening to live music. Good times.
Afterwards we decided to head over to St. George’s Castle. It was pretty crazy getting up to the top—our extremely friendly cabbie took us up a series of winding narrow streets that man really is not supposed to be on. As we were headed up, we were praying we’d find a cab to take us back down. When we arrived at the top, we paid the cover and headed in. Unbelievable. From the castle we could see the whole of Lisbon—amazing! What’s great about the city is that the Tagus River runs along most of the city—so when you see the city from high up, you see fabulous architecture, slopes, water and mountains all in one swoop. It was breathtaking! We then headed back to find a cab. Much to our dismay—there was not a cab to be seen. And then we did it—we started the perilous walk down narrow hills, cobblestones and certain death. Lily declared that we would probably be spending the night on the street somewhere lost. I thought if we could make it partly down we’d be able to do it. After about 20 minutes or so—we stumbled into good fortune and a flat area with cabs. SAVED! Then we headed back to the hotel to get some rest.
That night we had to get up at 2 AM to go to zouk club in African Lisbon. Have you ever tried to wake up at 2 AM to go to the club? It was not pretty. I started to think—I’m not that pressed to go out….. Lily said angrily, “What’s wrong with them? Why do they party so late?” HAAAA!!!! However, after she finished her rant, she got up and eventually I dragged my carcass out of the bed. We headed down to the hotel lobby and told the desk clerk we were headed to Musulou—he happened to be black—I can’t be certain of his nationality. Anyway, he said it was going to be jumpin’ that night because it was an album release. He then said he would have a friend look out for us if we couldn’t get in. We were like—umm okay whatever—but didn’t think much of it. We got to the club and it was pretty packed. Great news—ladies were free AND got three free drinks. Suddenly, the 2 am wake up was not so bad. Americo Gomes from Guinea Bissau was on the stage performing and the mood was high. Granted, I had never heard of this dude, but the beat was jumping, so my immediate “heeeey” response kicked in. Then some random guy came up to Lily and asked if she was from America. Lily’s automatic “get away from me joker” stance went up, until the guy said that someone from our great hotel had called and wanted to make sure we got in. Lily then smiled and was like—ohhhh. He told us whatever we needed, all we had to do was ask. I love the Pestana Palace—we got a hook up from the hotel? What?
Lily and I then began to notice that a lot of the women were scantily clad and not in a sexy way—in a cheap skanky way. Little did we know that Sunday nights at Musulou are apparently frequented by Brazillian prostitutes. (hmmm—that wasn’t in Fodors...). Go figure. We got a lot of once overs from them—I guess they didn’t like the competition. Whatev. We danced and enjoyed the show. But I will say that Americo, while his music was good, was arrogant and annoying. Between every single song, he stopped and talked about how great he is, and people are saying this this and that. I’m all for false bravado, but put it in a rap song—I don’t want you to actually say it. Just sing joker—Just sing. He was so arrogant, Lily said, “Who does he think he is? Jay Z?”. I responded, “The Jay Z of Guinea Bissau.” A couple of other acts performed. And then around 4 AM, the DJ started—and wouldn’t you know it—the hip hop started. FINALLY. Good times. A couple of jokers tried to dance but we were disinclined—just wanted to dance and have a good time. Anyway, I don’t know exactly what time the club closes, but I can say at 5 AM on a SUNDAY night, locals were rollin’ up into the club on dates. ON DATES. Do they work? What in the world? We had a fantastic time that night.
July 7, 2009
Chilled by the pool. Had the hotel make reservations at a lovely Italian restaurant, where the waiters ended up all being hot North African guys. Ola!
I think that’s enough for now—but I have one day of Lisbon to recap and then we head south. Let’s just say, if you remember the cats from my Jamaica trip—I met there gangsta Portuguese equivalent….