We learned a hard lesson on our inbound journey out of Portugal and back to the US – and that was: DO NOT FLY TAP! We had a split ticketing itinerary from LIS-EWR on TAP and then the final leg of our United flight from EWR-DEN. We experienced a 3 hour delay out of Lisbon (after we already got to the airport early in the morning and boarded the flight, of course) on flight TP201 with no explanation of the issue by the TAP staff. Pockets of flight attendants went around informing individuals, but there was no official message. Then, we were told to disembark with no explanation or instructions of what to do from there. It turns out, there was a significant medical emergency on the flight which caused the delay, but we only found out after sitting there for 2 hours. There was absolutely no attempt to try and get us to our final destination (DEN), stating that it was essentially not their problem because we had booked a split ticket. I even tried to use my 1K United status to no avail. They were some of the least helpful and compassionate airline employees I have ever dealt….
We decided to take the Bairro Alto and Chiado Free Walking tour (Discover Lisbon) at 330PM, which meant we had a little time to grab lunch. Starbucks was the easiest so we paid for 2 caprese sandwiches and rested for a bit before meeting our guide at Rossio Square (where the Christmas market from the previous night was held). We had just enough time to grab a treat from the market. The meeting point was easy to find – we just had to look for the yellow umbrella and yellow shirts. Our guide, Eduardo, was a PhD cultural anthropology student doing his dissertation on the Thai islands of Phi Phi and its unique expat lounge culture. He was full of energy and a bastion of knowledge. Brendan previously has mentioned that the best guides he has had on these free walking tours (offered by many cities) are usually university students. Eduardo did not lead us astray as we headed to Bairro Alto. We learned about the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 and how it devastated the city on a Sunday and All Saints Day to boot, when everyone was in church (except for the Muslims and the Jews) lighting candles. The….
We woke up at 8AM to have plenty of time to get to the meeting point in Praça dos Restauradores to explore Sintra through a TAP stopover free tour, with more time in Bairro Alto later. First we had a quick bite to eat at a cafe on the square. After a tasty breakfast, we met our guide Henrique at the Tourism Office on the Praça dos Restauradores for a 1015AM departure. There were only 3 other people with us on the van, making it a much smaller group than we expected. Our driver and guide provided information in both English and Portuguese (for the Brazilians on the tour) as we made our way to the coast on a main Lisbon highway. This free stopover tour was literally the ONLY good thing about TAP airlines. We made our way first to the resort beach town of Cascais (pronounced Cashcaish) and had a quick stop at the inspiration for the James Bond movie Casino Royale. We then drove another few minutes and parked outside the Cascais fort, which was now turned in to an artists’ village of sorts with a fancy hotel in the middle. We had a brief walk around the….
Lisbon, named by Ulysses, means friendly bay (Alisubbo) and NOT good air as we previously thought – and we were very warmly greeted in to the embrace of this city, much like reuniting with an old friend. Everyone here was nice, including the immigration agents, the Uber driver, the airport information staff – everyone but the Enterprise desk agent who we asked for help looking for the uber pickup point. He pretended like they didn’t exist at the airport and was a total dick. That’s what happens when you ask someone in a technologically irrelevant profession for help finding his replacement. Soon after we were in an Uber that cost 10 Euros and whisked us to a within a block of the pedestrian area in Baixa that we were staying in less than 30 minutes. We were in to our Air BnB by 630PM.The place was great – right in the middle of the pedestrian Baixa area, which is the heart of Lisbon – and within easy walking distance to every other neighborhood including Bairro Alto where we spent most of our time. The place also had a hipster, funky decor – with the bed upstairs in a loft style….
Our journey to Casablanca began at 9AM on our final long bus ride with Gate 1, which took us about 3 hours with one small stop to complete. There was absolutely nothing to see along the route until the city of Casablanca emerged. We first went through the fancy California district and eventually made it to the corniche for a pizza lunch at La Tropicana (some of the blander fare we had encountered). We took a quick stroll on the boardwalk after lunch and then got back in the bus for a 3 hour city tour. We started by driving by Rick’s Cafe, the one used in theory in the movie Casablanca (the real restaurant was a set in Hollywood). It had been purchased by an expat American and turned in to the restaurant with the same namesake. Casablanca was Morocco’s economic capital full of expats and the place where business was done. As such, it was the most modern of all the cities we had visited thus far. If you blinked you might have thought it was Santa Monica. Our first stop was the Hassan II mosque, the largest mosque in Africa and 5th largest in the world. It….