This is the blog post that should never have been written up as a blog post. It’s about our experience staying one night in Lisbon on our way from Ponta Delgada to Aix-en-Provence. We were just passing through; nothing to see, nothing to say.
We landed in Lisbon at 7:00 p.m. and got in a taxi at the airport. We told the driver the name of the hostel I had booked and he gave us a totally blank look. I showed him the hostel address and he plugged it into his smart phone. Problem solved, right? Wrong. He began to drive and John, ever resourceful, plugged the address into his own phone as we watched the driver go totally in the wrong direction. John ended up navigating the entire cab ride, with the hapless cab driver continuing to say “obrigato, obrigato” or thank you, thank you. He told us (in Portuguese, which we don’t speak) that he had been driving a cab for “seis anos” (six years), and no one had ever directed him to this address. But we had arrived.
The hostel was the Lisbon Hostel Terminal 3. The name makes it sound as though it’s practically in the terminal, but it’s a 5 to 15-minute drive, depending on traffic. It’s tiny – only two rooms in the whole hostel – and it’s a fraction of the price of the other private room accommodations close to the airport. When we arrived, at around 7:45, there was a note on the door instructing arrivals to call a phone number. We did so, and the host answered and (remotely) buzzed us in, without further instruction or elaboration. We assumed that she was inside, but soon discovered that we were there alone. We called again. No answer. And again. No answer.
I pulled out my phone to refresh my memory on this hostel. I had booked lots of accommodations back in January and February. Had I missed red flags on this one? But the reviews were glowing, singing the praises of both hostel and host. Their Booking.com rating was a whopping 9.6 out of 10. And the reviewers loved this host. One said she had driven him to the airport so that he wouldn’t miss his flight. Another talked about the host getting up extra early to make sure she had breakfast before she had to leave. Everyone seemed to have a wonderful story. But, the Mother Teresa of hostel hosts had failed to show up for us.
I called again and she answered. I explained that we needed, at minimum, a door code to let ourselves back in after we went out for a bite to eat. Hadn’t I received her texts with the door code? she asked. I checked my phone. No texts. “I’ll be back in ten minutes,” she said.
Fortunately, she was back in ten minutes, by which time we had spent a full hour waiting, at the end of a long, tiring travel day. She gave us a perfunctory tour of the hostel and then we asked her where we could find dinner.
And that was when the evening took a turn for the positive
She sent us to a little Portuguese restaurant called “Nico’s” a little neighborhood restaurant. It was a five-minute walk away. From the outside, it looked like a sketchy convenience store, but we peeked inside, past the exterior and could see nice tables of diners inside. We walked in and were guided to a table. The waitress, a lovely, young Ukranian woman appeared, and suggested that both the beef or fish are excellent choices. We agreed the fish sounded good, and the waitress suggested that we go up to the front and Nico would “help us select a fish.” Just as I was leaning back in my chair and deciding to have the soup instead, John was on his feet, following her to the front of the cafe for the audience with Nico. What could I do but follow? We ended up selecting a very large Mediterranean sea bass, which looked like enough food to feed the entire restaurant. We went back to our table to enjoy our wine, cheese, bread, and olives, and, soon enough, the fish arrived. And it was heavenly. Perfectly seasoned, grilled fish, light as a pillow, and deliciously moist. It was accompanied by boiled potatoes, broccoli, and greens, all fresh and sublimely delicious. Nico came out to our table to see how it was going. “You like?” he asked. “Oh, yes” we replied. “You see,” he said, “you will now go home and say ‘we must go back to Lisbon to have Nico’s food!’”
We will probably never get back to Nico’s, but I will wish for his food in the future.