Just back from Spain and Portugal

Dec 9th, 2000, 12:45 PM
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Just back from Spain and Portugal

We (my wife, kids & me) got back from a 10-day trip to Spain and Lisbon, Portugal.

We did most of our trip-planning from what fodorites had to say (and Rick Steve's), and I am glad to say that it worked very well. We stayed at the paradors at Segovia (highly recommended), Ronda (good view, recommended) and Granada (too expensive - but the most sought after parador. I would recommend Landaruzzi hotel in Granada).

In Spain we went to Escorial, Segovia, Toledo, Aranjuez, Ronda, Granada, Arcos and Seville driving in a rental (Avis). I realized that driving is the easiest way to travel in Spain (especially with kids) - since it gives so much freedom. However, when I had a flat-tire, it took me about 3 hours before I was back on road again. It was however a very interesting experience dealing with the policeman, and the car mechanic, since I speak no Spainish (but the dictionary was a life-saver). An interesting thing in Seville - the airport remains shut till 6 am. So it you have a 7.30 am flight to catch (as we did) - there is no point in getting there earlier than 6 am (even if you have a rental car to return - as we did - and by the way the car rentals open only at 7am. So we had to drop the keys in the key-drop).

We spent about 2 days in Lisbon and they were probably the most frustrating part of the trip. We were cheated not only by the cabbies there but also by limo driver arranged for us by Metropole - one of the most mentioned hotels on Fodors. We thought that Portugal derives so much of its history from Spain, that it might have been worth our while to spend some time in Madrid and/ or Cordoba.

One thing is common though - there is some corruption in both the countries and more than once the door-keepers actually sold us tickets which they had collected from other visitors (this was when I asked where to go for the tickets). I must admit that I readily fell for it - since that was a lot easier than the long walk to the ticket counters.
The weather in all the towns was great and around 55-65F.
If somebody wants more specifics, I would be glad to share my experience.
Dec 11th, 2000, 06:05 PM
Kay D. Beck
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Interesting note, we will be in Lisbon for a week after Christmas. What problems arose with the cab drivers, I thought they were quite reliable, what should we look out for? What were your must sees there? Thanks for info, Happy Holidays.
Dec 11th, 2000, 08:52 PM
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Cabs are normally cheap - but reliable is a different thing - especially if they sense that you are from America whose dollar is worth about 250 of theirs.
Some words of caution - Out of the airport - take a pre-paid voucher. we didn't know about it and eventually ended up paying 3 times the fare to the cabbie
We stayed at Metropole - a highly recommended hotel at fodor's. It has good sized rooms and large bathroom (helpful staff even), but the street leading to it is under heavy construction and as such it is a pain moving the lugguage from the cab to the hotel.
Upon the hotel's suggestion, we got a limo (unlike here - it is a larger Mercedes) for about $85. The driver was nice and I tipped him about $15 - a big tip as I was to know later.
After being dropped off - I was told by my hotel that the driver didn't do all that he was required to do -that is act as a guide to all the attractions that he took us to. ANd the hotel had some arrangement with the limo company under which the trip was not limited to 3 hrs as the driver told us.
I was so upset by all this - that I decided not to spend mopre money than it wsa absolute necessary in Lisbon.
On our way to the airport, luckily I had asked the hitel before leaving how much it costs to the airport. Once at the airport - the drive asked for about 20% more. But I was in no mood of parting with any more money and stood firm. Finally he accepted the money and left.
I hope you have better experience but I vow to never return to Portugal. I don't know if you are planning Spain as well - if you are the more time you spend there the better the chances of returning back with sweet memories.
Let me know if you need anything else.
Dec 11th, 2000, 10:05 PM
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We (my husband and I) were in Lisbon a couple of years ago. Due to a last minute change, my husband left one day after me. So I landed in Lisbon's airport by myself. The easiest way for me to get to our hotel in central Lisbon was a taxi. The driver did two things that I thought was most dishonest. First, he applied a surcharge to my fare even though I had only one piece of luggage (it was a carry-on)and he dropped me off across the street from the hotel instead of the front entrance. He pointed the hotel to me and said the price would be even higher if he had to go around the block. Anxious me, I said fine and gave him the money he asked for. I was already upset because from my map, I could tell he took the long and about route and he didn't drop me off at the hotel's front entrance because the hotel staff would have let him have it. So the next day, before my husband arrived, I found the local's way of getting to the airport and it was 1/20th of the cost of the cabbie's. The difference was so big that I ended up going to the airport to pick him up and finished writing postcards at the waiting lounge.
Dec 12th, 2000, 11:23 AM
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No wonder, Portugal doesn't attract as many tourists as its neighbor does.

But the fact that my hotel receptionist was deeply hurt on knowing that I was cheated, does re-inforce the fact the there are some proud people valuig their self-esteem also living there.

It just so happened that she was going gaga about the Portugues people and how we will love them more than the Spaniards even - only till she knew what happened to us....
Feb 1st, 2001, 12:47 PM
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i'm sorry you had some bad luck with the cab drivers but I don't see that as a reason not to travel to Portugal.

Portuguese people are friendly - but a little weary of Americans who go to Portugal and expect everyone to speak English and can be quite rude at times if they don't, I've seen it first hand. So they will take advantage of you if they can as a result. Imagine a bunch of people invading your home and telling you what is wrong with the way you do things, making everything crowded etc. How would you feel?

The month of August prices go up on everything as a result of tourists but not any different than many other countries who charge more for their high season.

The country itself is beautiful with a rich cultural and historical history. I am always amazed at how beautiful it is every summer when I return. Of sourse I stay away from touristy things except for Nazare and Fatima those are my only exception. At least in Aug anyways.

But if anybody is thinking of going there it is a fabulous country and would recommend it to anyone who was thinking of going there.
Feb 1st, 2001, 08:02 PM
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We had trouble with cabbies in Lisbon too. Although we were staying at a major hotel, the driver acted "confused" & ended up several blocks beyond it on a 1 way street (so we got out & carried our luggage back to the hotel). The desk clerk seemed embarrassed & apologetic, saying that they had "too many cabbies" (implication they're untrained?).
The next cabbie apparently didn't know where the bus station was.
Lisbon wasn't my favorite place.
Feb 3rd, 2001, 05:23 AM
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I've got to wonder about anyone judging a place by their experience with the cab-drivers.....I mean compared to the history,architecture,cuisine,art,music,climate/weather,wine,the sounds of the marketplace,the feel of the breeze off the mountains,etc.etc.etc.
Go to Fargo North Dakota... the cabs are great.
Feb 3rd, 2001, 05:41 AM
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I agree with the previous poster.
We had a wonderful time the three weeks we spent in Portugal.
But then, every place we have visited has been wonderful. I think it is because of our attitude. We try to "immerse" ourselves in the culture rather than make comparisons.

I was so embarassed to be sitting at an
outdoor cafe on one of the major promenades only to overhear the party of four at the next table (Who I understood to be from the same state as us!) denigrating Lisbon. They were comparing their hotel, food, transportations systems, etc. to the U.S.

We got up and left without ever saying a word to them.
Feb 3rd, 2001, 06:02 AM
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I too am shocked at how rude Americans can be. We are very selfish to assume that someone will speak English, why should they? Do we speak their native language? I also agree that Americans who insist on comparing hotels, service and food to U.S. standards should not even bother (and I do mean bother) to travel. Your bad attitudes and remarks embarrass those of us who enjoy the cutural differences, sights we see and friendships we make.
Feb 11th, 2001, 10:23 AM
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I wonder if Lisbon's Expo few years ago hasn't changed things, as we were all over Portugal in late summer '98 and had wonderful time. We used all of 2 weeks, used only trains and taxis, stayed in Pousadas (one a 12th century monastery in Guimares, one a recently built beautiful place in Condeixa) while outside cities, and small hotel in Cascais, large hotels in Lisbon & Oporto. We're going back to the Duoro valley (outside Oporto) in late September for the grape harvest, then to SE Spain for a week. But if we had time, we'd gladly return to the Lisbon area, too.
Feb 13th, 2001, 12:08 PM
Jean Paul
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I can't believe [email protected] has completely dismissed an entire country based on a bad experience with a cab driver.

The fact that you stated the following, shows that you didn't give the country a chance and really didn't take your time to understand or get to know it:
"We thought that Portugal derives so much of its history from Spain, that it might have been worth our while to spend some time in Madrid and/ or Cordoba."

Portugal is one of my favorite countries (right up there with Italy), and as a matter of fact, I prefer it over Spain. Anyone who doesn't see the beauty of Sintra, the charm of Obidos and Evora, the history in Coimbra and Conimbriga, the culture and traditions of Viana do Castelo and Braga, or the contrasts and uniqueness of Lisbon (I was impressed by the architecture of the Belem Tower and Jeronimos Monastery for example), really shouldn't travel because he or she doesn't know how to.

Feb 14th, 2001, 07:48 AM
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I agree that if you don't enjoy travel differences just stay at home. Please don't make the rest of us travelers look bad.
Jun 12th, 2001, 07:27 PM
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Yeah, all the bad cabbies are in Portugal...there aren't any in New York City or anywhere in the US, right?
Jun 13th, 2001, 11:55 AM
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Actually Portugal doesn't derive much of its history from Spain, being independent since the 11th century, even before Spain unified.
And Portuguese are very friendly in general, but you also have to try and be understanding. Your attitude does matter.

Luis, Lisbon,Portugal
Jun 13th, 2001, 04:24 PM
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Dear PJ,
We will be in Madrid June 23, please tell me how do I get a voucher for a taxicab to the hotel. We arrive too late for the hotel shuttle to pick us up. I wouldn't want to start out with have suspicion and mistrust about the people and their country due to a few bad worms such as taxi drivers.
[email protected]

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