Saturday, May 27, 2017

Europe 17 Day 6

Not too many photos today, so I will slip in these two photos. The first is a cheap box of tissues we bought in Lisbon for less that €1. It seems tissues are not supplied in Portuguese hotels, at least the two we stayed in. Note the cardboard bits at the top to keep the tissues flowing without the leading tissue collapsing into the box. Here in Australia, we have some complicated arrangement on the underside of the box that I have tried twice. The first time it worked. The second time.......well, the box was wrecked. This system in this photo works. The box is in my ensuite and is now almost empty, but still the tissues keep coming.

Both of our hotels in Portugal used this system of dispensing soap and body wash. You press the plastic container against the metal part at the back and out comes the soap. I wondered if they are refilled or replaced. 

Goodbye to our pleasant hotel roof garden. I am not sure what happened to the smokers stand but overnight it was broken. 

Our train to Porto was to depart at noon, so no great rush. We caught the metro to the Santa Apolonia train station, Lisbon's main country and international station. As always, we at the station early. During our travels I saw a number of people in running panics at stations and airports. That is not how we travel. 

It was a bit interesting to look around outside the station. Why is the London Tube roundel up on the wall of this building? Looking at the photo full size, it says so far as I can make out, IRAN-SH-SA.

No, this is not our train. 

This is our train, a high speed tilt train. It was quite comfortable and with phone charging ports and power points. We had a table in front of us with two local people sitting opposite. As I mentioned though, I managed to have us facing backwards on the train. It departed on time and at one point did reach quite a high speed, but 'things' just kept slowing it down. 

An interesting station platform along the way. On the outskirts of Lisbon we saw quite an industrial area and a lot of highrise accommodation. 

Good old Aussie gum trees along the way, sans koalas. 

Oh my goodness, what is Porto like? Don't tell me there are hills............please. Our train arrived in Porto very late but it did not matter too much to us.

Our hotel was some distance from the old part of town, which we drove through on the way in the taxi from the airport to our hotel. If I was a sole traveller, I would rarely use a taxi, but rely more on public transport, but R does not have the patience or stamina. If we have to change trains when dragging suitcases, he does not want a bar of it, and fair enough. As you can see, our hotel room was quite nice. As we checked in, staff asked us for the credit card, an AMEX card, that we had used to make the booking. What? Our travel agent made the booking. Staff did not seem to believe us and repeated, an AMEX card ending in such and such digits. We were perplexed. We had to pay for the room with a credit card, even though we had already paid our travel agent and now after a week of being home, our travel agent has refunded us the money. That was awful. I had to take a photo of receipts using my tablet, which I have never used to take photos. Somehow email them to our travel agent. Our travel agent has a young baby and only works three days a week. We really felt sure we would be double paying for our room.

We went out to buy wine and nibbles at a nearby supermarket. Later we went out for a long evening walk and found a nice enough place for dinner. There were hills, but not too steep. It seems there was not a smoking area within the hotel, even though there was a large and deserted outdoor seating area. However, there were ashtrays outside the front door. At worst count, there were nine people out there smoking as we left the building through a cloud of smoke. It seemed so silly that the outdoor area within the hotel was not utilised. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Euro 17 Day 5

I have some of the days a bit mixed up because I did not change the time on the camera, but no matter. Almost all the footpath paving in Lisbon is small flat tiles, sometimes in patterns but mostly not. They do really look so nice. In some places they are highly polished.

What on earth??? I snapped this from the bus tour the day before.

Sentries guarding the Presidential Palace.

Belem Tower. My goodness, it was popular with tourists and there was a jam up of cars and buses in the parking area.

In the distance is a religious statue, similar to Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.

The statue of Marques de Pombal. Our hotel is on the right in the middle of the taller buildings.

To the park for a wedding photo shoot.

The park across the road from our hotel. It looks to be a ceremonial park. The asphalted area is an area for the tourist coaches, hop on hop off buses and regular buses.

They are dummies, you dummy.

One of those aqua buses, first seen by me in Budapest. Note the fixtures to keep cars off the paving. All sorts of bollards are used all over Europe to keep traffic off walking areas. I am not sure if this is to do with terrorism or just disobedient drivers.

Lisbon has many squares. The hill does not look so steep, but it was.

Saint George's Castle overlooks old Lisbon.

Up and down the narrow winding streets we went.

The Marquess de Pombal, again.

We left the station by the wrong exit. My offline maps on my phone helped us get to very near where we wanted to be, but we just could not find the elevator, the Santa Justa Lift. I think we were looking for the bottom of it, rather than the top. We eventually found it, with an attractive cast iron walking bridge to the lift. But above was a viewing platform.  

Inside the lift was a ticket validator where we could pay for the ride using our transport cards. Obviously the lift and the funiculars are considered to be public transport.

Isn't it just fantastic. You can't see the walkway at the back in the photo but the lift platform at the top is level with the ground behind.

From the bus the day before we had noticed a large flat area near the river. I had already worked out that a tram would take us there but first I wanted to ride on the route 28 tram that goes up near St George's Castle. We walked to where we had seen it and found a tram stop. When I say walked, we climbed some very steep hills. I was tired and R was exhausted. Here it was single line. A tram arrived but it didn't seem to be going the right way. Nevertheless, we climbed on, along with every tourist in Lisbon and the tram ground its way along, at times reaching quite a high speed in the narrow streets. Ok, I definitely knew we were going the wrong way, so we left, crossed the road to the tram stop on the other side. There were two tracks here at least. We sat as policemen roared up in cars and motorcycles and blocked the intersection, diverting cars into a side street. We sat mesmerised by the chaos. The traffic was banked back down the hill and it would take an age to clear and the tram to arrive. The reason for the blockage became clear as protesting comrades marched towards us.

Unrelated, the street in one direction remained blocked for these performers to walk from the square where we had seen them earlier.

After about half an hour of waiting, we looked for an alternative. R was in no mood for a longish tram ride up to the castle, so we hired a so called tuk tuk to take us to the large flat area for the outrageous sum of €10. We should have bargained him down, but we did not have the energy. Traffic began moving again, and we passed where we had boarded the tram and I saw that one track diverts for a short distance at that spot. I needed to concentrate better, but I was quite conscious of R moaning that he was having a heart attack.  

The tuk tuk drivers are mostly women, I think, but ours was a friendly young male student who was inquisitive about Australia. He delivered us to the flat area, Commerce Square. Look, no hills!

Through the arch is Rua Augusta, with many outdoor cafes and shops.......a tourist hotspot. We stopped for lunch and then wandered along. 

As we crossed about the sixth street, we looked to our left and there was the blasted lift we came down on earlier. We could have just walked this way after leaving the lift. Segway tour guides in the square, with the river beyond.

Near the river was a closer metro station, Terreiro do Paco, so we caught the train back to our hotel from there. I'd never seen escalators before that rise, flatten out and then climb again.

We had a nice Italian dinner near our hotel and in the morning we were off to Porto.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Nasty old woman

Here are a couple of snips from the article. It seems a tennis court has been named after where the Australian Open tennis is held.

The Margaret Court thing? Her comments that she refuses to fly Qantas anymore in protest at Qantas CEO's advocacy of same-sex marriage? Simply sad. She embarrasses herself. Her remarks are consistent with other homophobic comments she has made over the years - "To legitimize what God calls abominable sexual practices that include sodomy, reveals our ignorance as to the ills that come when society is forced to accept law that violates their very own God-given nature," – and no great surprise.
"I am disappointed that Qantas has become an active promoter for same sex marriage," Ms Court said in a letter to the editor published in The West Australian on Thursday. "I believe in marriage as a union between a man and a woman as stated in the Bible. Your statement leaves me no option but to use other airlines where possible for my extensive travelling."
Blogmate Gattina once opined that in Australia we use a lot of English place names, and we do because of our heritage. However there are quite a number of places with foreign and Aboriginal place names and so why not call the tennis court, Goolagong Court, after our most famous female Aboriginal tennis player, a Grand Slam winner at home and overseas.

Tennis is an inclusive game, and ever more inclusive in the 21st century. Does Melbourne Park really want to have an arena named after someone who stands so firmly against such inclusiveness, who is becoming a byword for bigot?
Personally, I know of no finer person, no more generous and inclusive than Evonne Goolagong-Cawley. I run into her about once a year in airports around Australia and she is always on her way to do something to help someone. How bout the Evonne Goolagong Arena, as a name that tennis can be proud to put up in lights?

Of course, there are no dykes who are or have been top tennis players.

Europe 17 Day 4 the second half

The next morning we took two more short hop on hop off bus trips, much of which was repeating what we had already done.

As you may have noticed in previous photos, the area where we were staying and the areas we visited were big, wide and open. Not so in the old part of Lisbon.

To town, please driver. Well, we caught the metro train actually. We queued briefly and bought stored value Viagem cardboard tickets at Marques de Pombal Station to go to Baixa-Chiado Station using the Blue Line. The train system was clean, well signed and easy to use. By luck we exited from the station at the right place for tourists.

Small trams were running around, but my goodness, were the streets steep. The area is known as Bairro Alto or the Gothic Quarter.

R noticed the funicular and pointed it out to me. Please daddy, can we have a ride? We did, down and back up. We used our stored value train tickets to pay. I did know about the funicular and had every intention of riding it. It was lucky that we just came across Elevador da Bica. There are two or three other funiculars.

One comes up as the other goes down.

Small Bar, the smallest in town.

We were going to have a proper early dinner, but after bread, olives and wine, the moment had passed
Because we had ridden on the funicular, there wasn't enough credit left on our transport cards to travel back to our hotel. The ticket seller had left for the night so we tried to use the ticket machine to top up our cards, but failed. There was a  button on the machine to press for assistance and as someone answered, a staff member came to the machine and pressed the necessary buttons.

The train seats don't look so comfortable, but they were and had great lumbar support.