INTERVIEW

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HATC Lisbon Escape

Alice Gee | 03/08/2022

Fresh off our short-haul flight to Lisbon we collect our bags and swiftly move towards the front of Lisbon's Humberto Delgado Airport to take a short taxi ride into town. 

 

Having left Luton late evening, we arrive feeling pretty relaxed following our flight with Wizz Air. The flight itself arrived bang on time, with the organisation of the stewards being seamless. Having premium seats with Wizz we were able to check in our bags ahead of time with the possibility of up to 3 bags, one in the hold, and two small carry on’s perfect for a laptop. The space itself was pretty roomy for your average airbus. Holding a premium ticket allows you to board first, which is always helpful if you’re an anxious flyer or want to get settled quickly. For me, especially flying midweek, the first thing I want to do is board, and organise myself to be able to do some work. Being able to board easily, any questions answered and the attentiveness of the stewards is a must, something that didn't disappoint when flying with Wizz for the first time. Soon after takeoff, you could find me typing away with a drink in my hand, comfortable and well looked after.

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Having arrived we jump in a local taxi and move towards the 1908 Lisboa Hotel in central Lisbon. Something great about Lisbon especially for those visiting for the first time is that the airport is so close that the journey whether you travel on public transport or in a taxi is incredibly quick. Within 15 minutes of us leaving the airport we pull up alongside the 1908 building emulating a much smaller New York Flat Iron. On our arrival around 10 pm, the staff welcome us with a smile, checking us straight in before taking us on a grand tour of the hotel. The 1908’s downstairs is glamorous whilst boasting bohemian vibes from the hotel bar to your right on arrival through to the restaurant (where you’ll find breakfast) filled with trendy aesthetics and greenery in every nook. As you fly upstairs in the hotel's elevator you get the chance to catch glimpses of the beautiful murals painted on the side of the hotel. As we arrive on the 4th Floor in the attic space, we were pleasantly surprised at not only the communal lounge but the height and space that our room boasted. The room fitted with three sailor portholes provides the room with bright light when the shutters are unbuttoned. Our room is, in one word, ginormous, almost the size of my flat in London with a minimalist aesthetic. It boasts a lounge area, bar area, large king bed, which by the way was so comfortable I never wanted to leave, built-in wardrobes, and a huge bathroom which includes a rain shower, beauty areas, and a plinthed tub to die for. We take a few moments to feast on some welcoming snacks, Portuguese port, and of course Lisbon's legendary Pasteis de Nata (Famous Portuguese custard tarts) before having one last nightcap outside on the bar terrace. 

 

As we awaken on Friday pulling down our shutters to the blue sky we decide to have a slow morning, with the hopes of us getting into full swing relaxation mode post-work. But before I swing my focus away from the half day of work, the only thing on my mind is the tub and a long bubble bath. We head down to breakfast that includes not only a loaded continental spread but also a broader set of choices for hotel chefs. Feeling full we move back to our room to set up for a half day of work. One of the best things about our room is that I can separate daily chores from where we sleep. The lounge although there’s no separating wall still feels removed from the bedroom meaning I can focus sitting up at the table. 

 

As the clock ticks one, we keenly pack up our work and get ready to leave. For lunch, we decide to stay local, and when I say local I’m talking about the highly recommended (which was packed last night) restaurant Palma Cantina across from the hotel terrace. We chose to eat outside in what is now around 27 degrees. Briefly shaded we analyse the menu filled with treats from their wood fire oven. We both choose the pulled pork burger and a side of fries. With the first bite, it’s easy to see why the bar was packed last night, with quick service, fair prices, and food to die for its one to visit.

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Arriving in Lisbon we endeavour to relax, explore and enjoy everything the city offers, but for me there’s a second agenda, a complete bonus, being able to see one of my closest friends who I haven’t seen since I last visited in 2019 before the pandemic. Although this is the 3rd time visiting the city, one I've fallen in love with, my friend decides to take the reigns for the rest of the day firstly taking us down to the seafront for a tour on electric bikes. If you’ve never been to Lisbon before, I need to let you know about the hills. And when I mention hills, they will give you a good run for your money, so bring a pair of trainers. Since coming in 2019 the city has embraced other methods of transport including electric bikes and scooters with Locals able to access them through a council program at a fraction of the price. Having changed into something a little more bike-friendly we head down towards the famous Commerce Square and seafront passing The Praca da Figueria a large square and Arco da Rua Augusta an ornate triumphal arch completed in 1875 with detailed sculptured figures. Once you funnel through the Arco da Rua Agusta you’ll cross into Lisbon’s famous square, a hub for restaurants and movement. We make our way towards the riverfront in search of three electric bikes. The riverfront is full of life, with tourists taking pictures and purchasing pineapple cocktails. The bikes are comprised of several companies including Bolt. All you have to do is log in to the app and scan the QR code on the bike, just as you can in the UK. Once you choose the bike and set the meter going the bike will unlock, telling you the mileage remaining in the battery (I advise you to pick the bike before unlocking with the highest mileage, which will pop up as you scan the bike). I’m a big fan of hired electric bikes, often using them around London. They can get to speeds of around 30 and are frankly thrilling all whilst feeling safe. Lisbon has adapted perfectly for the bikes with bike lanes running the entirety of our journey through Alcantara towards our final stop at Torre de Belem, a medieval defense tower. Over the 40-minute journey, you’ll ride through what feels like a party number with several bars. We pull up to another monument on our list Padroa dos Descobrimentos carved with maritime explorers before we stop for a drink and patisserie at Café do Forte. The café overlooks the fort and the sea with a range of desserts, drinks, and coffee to take your pick from. We spend some time venturing up close to the monuments, leaving us impressed at every minute detail carved, and still preserved. 

 

As we welcome in the evening we decide to jump into a taxi back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner. For dinner we wanted to have an authentic traditional meal, after all, we are in Portugal. We take a walk, or what could be said as a climb up through the city as the sun begins to set to O Trigueirinho a quaint little restaurant hidden in the hills. The restaurant although tucked into a nook amongst what seems a few bars still feels somewhat private both inside and out. After a short wait with.. being a popular restaurant, we study their menu taking the very tough decision to order 5 different dishes to cure our authentic Portuguese dinner dream. The food arrives as we sip red wine. We tuck into local types of fish with many traditional sides that are perfectly cooked with it quickly becoming one of our top recommendations if you are searching for a homemade, yet high-quality meal.

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After dinner, we decide to head for Miradouro de Sae Pedro de Alcantara, in my eyes the best place to view Lisbon at night. Having visited Miradouro de Sae Pedro de Alcantara for all three trips I’ve taken to Lisbon, it remains the most amazing views over the city, bustling with life. Whilst there you can simply take in the view or take a seat with cocktails served by local vendors. After spending a little time at the viewpoint we make our way back down to the hotel making a pit stop to look at Lisbon's colourful trams. If you are tired or not in the mood for an incline up to the viewpoint or some of Lisbon’s other gems the trams are the perfect method of transport as they move through and around the city to multiple destinations. But for now, we walk back to the hotel to settle in for one last drink before falling into our heavenly bed.

As the sun comes up, we head down for our last breakfast with 1908 Hotel Lisboa before checking out. Although we are slightly sad to leave 1908 Hotel Lisboa thanks to the incredible room, amenities, and staff we are excited to move on to what will be our final hotel stay with Lumen Hotel. We decide to be cheeky and get a quick taxi to Lumen with the heat already taking its toll. As we jump out of the taxi we are welcomed instantly by staff at Lumen who quickly whisk in our luggage, even offering to take them up to our room. The hotel is slightly north of Centro in a quiet neighborhood. As you enter and move towards the front desk you get to see their clean, airy, and minimalist interiors, with a large foyer of comfy chairs and sofas in their notable orange. As we take a little look around the ground floor we come up to a hotel bar and glass windows head to toe overlooking the garden where their legendary light show that we are due to watch that evening by local artists.

 

We open our room on the 3rd floor which overlooks the garden and terrace. The room is airy and bright, and rather large. The room orange theme continues throughout the room with a large chair in the corner of our twin beds. Space-wise, there’s plenty, a beauty area, desk, and coffee/bar rolled into one across the side of the room. The bathroom boasts another large rain shower and vanity area close to the room door. Something great about the minimalist approach of the hotel is how they use the space intelligently, with plenty of storage and multiple wardrobes built in. With there being two of us, there is no problem when it comes to storage and space to unpack. And whilst we are on things we love about the hotel; we quickly take the opportunity to change into our swimwear as we head up to the roof for their rooftop pool and bar overlooking Lisbon. The pool area, easily accessible is home to not only a bar but deckchairs and coffee tables. The pool itself is a great size, deep enough and long enough to have a short swim. We decide to spend the morning by the pool unwinding from the past two late nights. For us, this is time to soak up the sun and focus on our wellbeing as we take turns swimming and sunbathing.

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Newly rejuvenated we ready ourselves for the afternoon in hand, we suit up wisely opting for a pair of trainers before we leave the hotel to climb Castelo de S. Jorge, Lisbon’s historic castle. On the way, we plan for a few stops, including more custard tarts at Fabrica Da Nata to fuel our climb. You'll want to get some tarts from Fabrica Da Nata so you get a glimpse into the making of Portugal's famous tarts with staff moulding and baking the tarts as they move on a conveyer right in front of your eyes. After you’re done observing the baking process you can head outside to eat the very tarts freshly made. Sufficiently fed we walk towards Alfama, Lisbon’s old city, and begin the uphill ascend towards the castle. On your way up you’ll have plenty of chances to take a break firstly at the Church of St Anthony a Roman Catholic church dedicated to Saint Anthony before you continue up to take in the first of many breathtaking views at the Jardim Julio de Castilho. The garden not only boasts incredible views of Alfama but gardens in full bloom. Once you reach the top, you’ll be able to enter the castle and its grounds. Although it does cost a little bit of money (under €15) entry means you can walk around, get up close to the castle's beautiful inhibitors, the peacocks and climb its ancient walls, a little daunting for someone who’s not a fan of heights but well worth it as you cling on.

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As for our descent instead of walking the route, we came we decide on something a little different, a true Lisbon treat, a ride on a TukTuk. As we’ve spent our long weekend wondering and even cycling around Lisbon, we’ve had a chance to see firsthand a swarm of TukTuks taking tourists around the city with it seeming to be the most practical way to see the city and cover the most ground whilst still being up close. For the journey, we’ve booked in with the best in the business O Tuk do Joao.

 

He picks up by Jardim Julio de Castiho where you can either book to be picked up or ride several others waiting. We decide to tour Alfama Lisbon's oldest town to see the architecture and some of Lisbon's famous murals. Although the journey is a little bumpy thanks to the cobblestones it remains good fun as you zoom around every nook and corner of the city. As we move around the city we are allowed whenever to stop and get out to take a closer look. The journey includes the church of Mosteiro Sao Vincente De Fora the famous place of rest for many of Lisbon's famous names. Carrying on through the original streets of Alfama we move through Lisbon's fashion streets, home to some of the worlds leading fashion houses before we reach the hotel.

 

For dinner tonight we have a special treat lined up thanks to Lumen Hotel. Tonight we dine in the hotel's restaurant with a special personally designed chef's menu as we wait for the light show to begin. The menu comprises seven courses from entrees to dessert, a tasting menu of some of Portugal’s finest delicacies. As we wait for the first course our mixologist creates a personal cocktail for the whole table featuring flavours of mint and cucumber with vodka, with a cooling, light, and tropical feel to it. Our first dish arrives with warm fresh bread, crudities, and fried handmade onion rings. We move on to sweetened tuna before tacos filled with fresh tuna and seaweed. Next on the menu is tuna tartare, before we tuck into a homely risotto mixed with tuna and pickled onions beautiful topped with floral touches. As we finish up our last courses the chef comes over to the table to present the finishing touches to our desert, a traditional Leite Crème Caseiro, velvety rich with smooth custard with contrasting caramelised sugar alongside vanilla ice cream. For me, it wasn’t just mouth-watering and delicious but the presentation and the thought that went into it for making it next to none. The chef is a literal genius. An experience I couldn’t recommend more for those staying with Lumen.

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As we finish dinner the lights begin to be projected onto the hotel's wall with a count down to the show. We gather ourselves and take our seats in the garden. The light show promises to honor the lights of Lisbon with an immersive experience both visual and audio. The lights light up the interior garden of the Lumen hotel daily showing Lisbon charms and inspirations inspired by the city itself. As the show begins, you are engulfed but music and lights moving you through the beauty of Lisbon from the famous tiling patterns to the personal stories behind those who live in the beautiful city. You can watch the lights from the garden, restaurant or the rooms above if you're fancying a bit of privacy.

 

Following the meal which I can only describe as out of this world, we gather ourselves (needing a good 10 minutes following how much we’ve eaten) and we head out for one last hurray before we leave the next evening. Tonight we head back into Alfama the party hub of Lisbon. We move through the packed streets towards a retro trendy townhouse with a bar and window balconies. We stay for an hour or so chatting away the night before the clock strikes 2 am and we call a cab back to the hotel.

 

The next morning I wake early, much to my annoyance. But instead of heading back to bed, I decide to take my Sunday gym routine downstairs to Lumens gym. The gym as far as hotel gyms often go is well equipped with machines both for cardio and lifting alongside yoga mats and weights. It's so well equipped I don’t have to particularly deviate from my usual routine. Thankfully there’s aircon as I work up a sweat before a full breakfast spread for our last day in Lisbon.

Following breakfast we quickly get ready leaving our luggage secure with the hotel. This is key for me to know I can leave luggage secure when I have a late evening flight back, allowing me to explore the city one last time. With our flight back at 9 pm, we chose to spend the day in the city visiting the oldest book shop in Lisbon and taking a famous short tram ride up to Jardim do Torel to see the fountain and take one last look over Lisbon. As we make our way back down on the tram we move towards the square by the seafront to have one last lunch at Nosolo Italia. We take the last few hours at a slower pace seeing my friend for the last time before we make a quick stop at Lumen to say thank you before heading back to Lisbon's airport. With the flight being late evening it leaves us two hours to move through security before going to town at duty-free, buying some of the best foods and drinks the country has to offer to take home. We take our space in the premium line to board with Wizz Air who organise us quickly on the plane before looking after our every need throughout the flight as we finally land in London’s Luton.

 

Although we feel tired driving back into the city, we also feel elated to have had such an incredible long weekend not only recharging our batteries but exploring so much of Lisbon's beauty. If you’re looking for a city to explore, and relax at any pace you want, don’t overlook Lisbon. Close to the UK, it presents incredible traditional food and culture throughout, but remember to take a sturdy pair of trainers as the hills aren’t to be messed with.