Once I had a rough outline of my plans for my trip to Portugal last month, I set about organising accommodation.
I wanted to spend most of my time in Porto, and settled on 6 nights there. An Airbnb type place is my normal preference for that length of a stay, and it has the added advantage in current times of minimising interaction with other people. In turn that eliminates both the chances of picking up the virus from another hotel guest and the inevitable frustrations of being subjected to other guests failing to follow the local pandemic rules. More on that later…
In Porto, the good news is I chose extremely well. The studio was quiet (very important), spotlessly clean (also very important) and comfortable (ditto). It is in the Cedofeita neighbourhood, about 15 minutes walk north of the Torre dos Clérigos and 20 minutes from the São Bento railway station.
It had local shops – the bakery was vital to my wellbeing first thing in the morning – within 400m and several excellent little restaurants too. I tried 3 restaurants which are within that radius, and all were excellent.
The Airbnb managers arranged a car to pick me up at the airport – usually public transport is my preference, but it was a late evening arrival and a quick, comfortable transfer was €25 well spent.
One feature of the studio was a shared garden and swimming pool! I did not use the pool, with it being late October, but in the summer months it must be an excellent facility to have. I did have my sandwich lunch in the garden one day. Very pleasant.
The studio cost me €57 per night, and was excellent value for money.
In Coimbra I stayed at the Hotel Oslo for 2 nights, partly because it has good reviews on You-Know-Where. I also liked its location just around the corner from the city centre railway station and on the edge of the old part of town. It was relatively expensive because I opted for a superior room – more space and a good view. I paid €145 per night, and that included an all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast.
The only time I encountered any difficulty with Covidiots in Hotel Oslo was at breakfast. As usual with these things, 95% of guests did what was required. Since my impression was that locals were very good at mask compliance, it is tempting to assume the Covidiots were foreign. Fortunately most of them were on the other side of the room from me, so all I had to do was avoid them at the food stations. A Russian speaking group at the table next to me were trying to comply, but were a bit half hearted or just not good at it. Have you seen Russia’s death figures?
In those situations I feel sorry for the hotel staff who are spending their whole working days in masks, and otherwise trying their best to ensure the environment is safe for the guests. We owe it to them to play our part.
The hotel’s breakfast was excellent and for me was a pleasant change from having to run around the streets of Porto in my pyjamas to buy breakfast and take it “home”. I used the hotel bar both evenings (drunken sotter* that I am) and had a burger there one evening. I had scoffed a huge lunch that day and could not face going out for another meal in the evening. The burger just hit the spot.
The hotel has a rooftop terrace (6th floor) which becomes part of the bar at night – great views of the city to help encourage the guests to use it. One of my golden moments was sitting there in the dark enjoying a glass of vinho verde while taking in the sights.
I had one night in Lisbon, and chose the Tivoli Oriente in the Parque das Nações locality. Neither the hotel nor the location would have been my optimum choice, but I knew I would be arriving by train from Coimbra to catch my flight home, and the hotel is across the street from the Oriente railway station just 10 minutes (€8.50) by taxi from the airport.
I paid €128 for a superior room, inclusive of another gut busting buffet breakfast.
The hotel turned out to be ideal for my purposes, although its food and drink prices brought tears to the eyes of this parsimonious Scot used to the good value in Porto and Coimbra. It is an expense account type of place.
As in Coimbra the staff were working very hard to make things safe for themselves and the guests, with support from 95% of us. They were friendly and efficient too. The highlight for me was heading to the hotel’s Sky Bar on the 16th floor about 5pm for (yes, another) glass of vinho verde and a salad. It was 25ºc that afternoon, so it was a delightful experience (apart from the size of the bill).
Looking back at a distance of a few days, I made good choices about where to stay and enjoyed all three of them in their different ways.
* Scots. Perhaps best translated as “A mess, a muddle…”
ⓒ iain taylor, 2021