After flying at 7am from Bristol to Crete last year and getting the 2am bus from exeter, this year I decided to splash out £70 on a B&B not to have to do that. It definitely made leaving Exeter for Bristol a lot less stressful - unfortunately the airport experience was my worst yet!! I didn't leave as much time as I would normally do, because of staying so close and I arrived at the airport 2h15 before my flight to queues out the door of the terminal. I had to queue 40mins for bag drop, then the bag drop machines weren't working; queued 50mins to go through security - a 6 lane concertina the length of the arrivals hall, it was well organised but only 4 security points open and the sheer volume of passengers was just way too much for the facilities.
I got through into departure at 6:15 when my flight was leaving at 7. My boarding pass said gate closes 6:30 so i stopped only to go to the loo and fill up my water before running to the gate, I was desperate for a coffee but chose not to stop - thinking I'd be furious with myself if I missed my flight because of stopping to get a coffee, after the queues so far I was imagining another 40min queue at the gate, only to find no queue at the gate - went straight through, it was practically empty with no facilities- no coffee! We didn't board the plane til 7:45 anyway and it was over an hour after scheduled departure time before we took off. I got a coffee on the plane - was crappy instant but anything tastes good when you are in caffeine withdrawal haha. Well done easyJet for having sachets of oat milk! Not so well done Bristol airport for being understaffed for the volume of passengers or easyJet for not advertising the flight was an hour delayed, which would have removed the stress in the security queue and allowed me to stop for coffee.
I landed in Lisbon around 10:45 and got the metro into the city, it was very easy and extremely cheap - just €1.50 for a 45min journey. My accommodation was a short walk from the Santa Apolónia metro stop - I knew this from maps, what maps didn't show was that it was a very steep hill and cobbles!! I can't say I didn't expect this at all as I'd read in guidebooks that Alfama was very hilly and completely cobbled, I decided to take my case with wheels anyway, it was fine as I am fit and strong but I would feel sorry for anybody with less strength or limited mobility - it would be unmanageable and they would need to take a taxi.
I had an hour wait to get the keys to the apartment - it was a bit stressful as the owner was not replying to my messages or phone calls so I I was catastrophising that maybe it was a fake listing or whatever, it would be fine as I could find somewhere to stay, I was more worried about the cost of finding somewhere last minute. In the end they got back to me, the owner was unwell so her boyfriend came to give me the keys, I left my luggage and set off to explore.
Lisbon is definitely the hilliest city I have ever visited! It's built on 7 hills. Lots of hills means lots of great views and lots of exercise for the quads and thighs, I don't think I've seen a single overweight person so far since I've been here? Also not many cyclists, a few on e bikes but it's really not a city set up for cycling because it's so hilly. You walk quite slowly by necessity because of the hills; my manager at work is Portuguese, has a flat in Lisbon, and she walks REALLY slowly (she's probably the slowest walker I know), I wonder now if it's a habit developed in a city where you can only walk really slowly unless you are super fit.
In my first afternoon I just wandered - this is my favourite thing to do on my first day in a new city, not worrying to much about where I am or looking at the map, just wandering around to get a feel for the place. Lisbon has a wonderful vibe, a lot of character, it's unique and alternative. I am often struck by the absence of chain stores and proliferation of independent businesses in European cities compared to in the U.K. - at home, chain stores are the norm, here the norm is independent small businesses - at least in the parts i visited so far. Maybe that's driven by govt policies that favour big chains in the U.K.? If I had to compare it to another European city of the others I've visited I'd say it's most like Naples or Rome. In the U.K. our cities are much more re-built, we have a lot of ugly 60s and later modern buildings compared to here where the buildings look a lot older, maybe because we were bombed so much in the war?