Portugal and Spain- December 2016

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I’ve been wanting to visit Portugal for years! It was on the top of the list of places that I wanted to visit but for some reason, it never made it into my travel plans.I had planned on being in the States for holidays, but my plans changed and I ended up coming in a week earlier then planned. I love my family, but 3 weeks, especially at the holidays was just not going to happen.

As much as I love European Christmas Markets, I was not willing to bear the cold weather. And the best ones, in my opinion,close on December 24th. I had fun trying to find a location that would not be too cold and that I could also get a decent flight. Oh and I need to fly on American Airlines or at least a One World partner because I need to the miles to keep my status. Madrid and Barcelona, ticked each box. I had been to Barcelona a few years, so I opted for Madrid. But then I realized I was so close to Portugal. I decided to just book another ticket, wise use of my British Airways Miles, and headed straight to Lisbon.

Best idea, ever!  Here is the part that I should say it was awful, that I had a horrible time and I would not recommend it at all.  I would say this so it stays amazing and does not become over run with tourists.  I just felt relaxed. Not paranoid about pickpockets like I was in Spain,  or ring scams in Paris. The skies were blue, albeit a little chilly. The streets were clean and while there were tourist there were not everywhere. They had the fun pedestrian paths in the middle of the busy streets, like in Barcelona.

I made an interesting hotel choice. I did not, gasp, stay at a Hilton or Hyatt. I stayed at a Marriott property, Fontecruz Lisboa.  It’s more boutique then large chain hotel. The location was great, located on one of the major streets. I  headed out to take in the sights. I opted for the Hop on Hop off bus. I find they are a great way to orient yourself in a new city. I tend to do the loop first and then hop off.

Lisbon is quite walk-able, if you can handle the cobble streets and some hills. Ladies, bring your sensible shoes. In fact, just bring an old ugly pair so you have an excuse to go shop. I did… at Moskkito. It was quite an adventure trying to get my stuff home.

I took sidetrips to Sintra and Fatima.  I booked the tours last minute and ended up on a big bus one. I wish I had done better research and gone with a smaller tour company.  I probably could have done them on my own. Something to redo on the next trip.

There was situation with a nutella crepe in Sintra. Let’s just say I learned my lesson about trying to eat messy street food. I am still finding nutella on stuff.

I headed back to Madrid for New Year’s Eve. I had high hopes of doing all this sightseeing, specially checking out the Prado Museum.  All those plans changed drastically when I arrived and it was freezing.  I was tired and cold and so basically I did nothing in Madrid. Well nothing that I am willing to admit doing on this public blog. There may or may not have been a potential meal at a American chain restaurant.

I really enjoyed this trip, I just wish I had more time. And I probably go back when the weather is warmer. I also think if I had to do it again, I would suggest doing Madrid first, then Lisbon. Two totally different cities with different energies.

Until next time, safe travels!

 

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Singapore-December 2016

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I first visited Singapore back in January 2001, but accident. I was working for United Airlines at the time. I had a block of days off and itch to travel. I foolish thought I would make a fligh to Australia. The holy grail of stand by travel. Silly me. I made it as far as LA only to have the flight go out with open seats, but weight restricted. I spent the night at a random airport hotel and went back to the airport in the morning.  Given that I only had a warm weather clothes, my options were limited. I ended up on a flight to Narita  (Toyko, Japan) where I was able to connect to Hong Kong. I begged a ride with the crew to the crew hotel and crossed my fingers they had a room. Luck was on my side.  As I was entering the elevator I saw a familiar face, Captain Ron.  I had met Ron the previous summer, on a trip to Tokyo. Poor Ron rubbed his eyes and said “Am I drunk or that Flo from Chicago? ” I said your probably drunk and yes it’s Flo.  He was working, flying a flight to Singapore the next night and would I like to come along?  Sure. Hence how I ended up in Singapore.

This time it was a bit more calculated. I am trying to visit more of this side of the world, while it convenient.   I vividly recall the clean streets, the crazy rain and the colonial British architecture. This is not the Singapore I found in December 2016.  This time, it gave a bit of a Vegas feel. In fairness I was staying near Orchard Rd and well that does not define all of Singapore. Previously I stayed near Raffles hotel that appeared to be stuck in time.

Then there was “Vegas” side of town.

I did a lot of walking around, visited a few museums and caught up with some friends. It was nice place to visit for a few days. But not a place I would go out of my way to visit again.

Happy Travels.