Lisbon, We Hardly Knew Ye

Thursday, May 01, 2014 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Day 10:  Lisbon, Portugal

Another day with a start delayed by sniffles and snuffles, we left the hotel at 11, walking to the Rossio Metro station to catch a subway north in search of the lone letterbox we thought was viable in metro Lisbon.  Somehow our navigation went awry and we exited the Metro much too soon, but all was not lost.  We emerged near Eduardo VII Park, named for Edward VII of the United Kingdom, who visited Portugal in 1902.  Wow!  Now that we've visited, will there be a Road Junkies Park?  OK, not too likely.

But anyway, since we were in this major park, we thought it might offer a place for us to plant our Portugal letterbox.  We searched, and we searched.  Eventually we crossed over into Jardin Amelia Rodrigues, where, after much discussion and reconsideration, we found a home for our letterbox.  An urban area is a very challenging place to hide a letterbox in any country.  Like in the U.S., most cities have a significant homeless population, who are always looking for hiding places for their belongings so they don't have to carry every little thing with them 24/7.  As we have learned in the process of losing a number of urban plants in the U.S., the kinds of places that appeal to letterbox hiders also find favor with others who have possessions that need to be tucked away.

After much searching and agonizing, we finally settled on a shelter for the box under a handicapped ramp, that seemed to lead from nowhere behind a department store into the park (pictured above).  Wonderful spot?  No.  Exactly the kind of place where we like to plant?  No.  The best we could do under the urbanstances?  We thought so.  And again, we paid thanks to our wise friend Jane for carving a load of stamps for us to plant on this trip.

Leaving Jardin Amelia Rodrigues, we headed north in search of  a box hidden by Mr. Grinch in the 'burbs north of Lisbon in 2012.  Foolishly, we got our wires crossed and decided to walk rather than take the subway.  Very, very foolish.  It was hot, we were tired, and we were trudging along on uneven tiled sidewalks.  If that sounds like whining, it is.  After stopping in at the remote Lisbon Marriott for a lunch break, we finally tracked down the letterbox.  Though it would have been preferable to have a machete to bushwhack our way through the 2-inch thorns "guarding" the box planted in the depth of winter, we forged ahead and salved our cuts later.

Box found and stamped, we headed back south to catch a train along the coast to Belém, the location of some of Lisbon's most appealing sights.  Once we changed subway trains three times and arrived at the train station that would take us to Belém, we discovered that we didn't have the cash (in Euros) to buy the tickets.  And the ticket agent inexplicably refused to take our credit card.  No problem, we reboarded the Metro and headed back the way we came.

Along the way, we had tried to complete an online check-in for our flight on Royal Air Maroc to Casablanca tomorrow.  If you already know the score on this airline, our bad.  We are almost religious in our devotion to checking TripAdvisor reviews before booking hotels and often consult them for restaurants as well, but somehow never considered examining traveler opinions of airlines.  Otherwise, we would have known before booking what we saw this afternoon:  "Avoid Royal Air Maroc like the plague."  "Nothing royal about Royal Air Maroc."  “Violent customer service and poor management. The worst experience ever.”  Numerous reviews reported baggage missing for days with absolutely no concern on the part of the airline.  Encouraging, huh?  So here's our story.

At 2:30 this afternoon, 24 hours before our flight, we attempted on-line check-in with Royal Air Maroc for our flight to Casablanca tomorrow.  After we responded positively to a question asking whether we would be carrying any liquids or gels on board, the check-in process was immediately aborted and we were slapped with the dreaded E40 message:  "Customer not accepted:  Your luggage need [sic] to be checked by an agent, please proceed to the check-in desk."  Later when we returned to the apartment, we tried again and obtained the same result, so we were unable to print boarding passes.  A lengthy search on the Royal Air Maroc web site for a telephone contact produced no results.  Every search from Google and within the Royal Air Maroc web site's search engine led to 404/Page Not Found errors.

Finally on a third party web site, we found a U.S. telephone number for Royal Air Maroc (the airline flies into New York).  When I finally reached an agent, he seemed quite impatient from the beginning, barely tolerating answering my questions.  He insisted that no liquids, not one drop, are permitted in carry-on luggage on RAM flights.  My attempts to clarify that the airline's prohibitions are stricter than those of other airlines, that even limited amounts of liquids are banned, must have offended him.  He repeated his statement and asked if I would be willing to answer three recorded questions about the service I had received.  "May I ask you what other items are prohibited on board, please?" I asked.  He replied, "Have a nice flight, Madam.  Here are the questions," and disconnected from the call.

More than a little annoyed with this attitude and buttressed by the reviews we finally thought to consult, we toyed with the idea of writing off Morocco and flying from Lisbon to Spain or France.  We even searched flights and hotels before finally deciding to roll the dice.  What would Phileas Fogg and Passepartout do, we asked ourselves.  The answer was apparent.  They would forge ahead and deal with whatever came their way.

And that's what we decided to do also.  We'll make our way to the airport tomorrow and see what comes.  Meanwhile, we saw very little of Lisbon, much less than we wanted to explore thanks mostly to our ill health.  Sadly, what we've seen of the city has not ignited a burning desire to return.

P.S.  Meanwhile, a manager at the hotel where we stayed in Iceland has been persistently contacting us in an attempt to persuade us to remove our "Saturday Night in Hell" review from Trip Advisor.  $400?  Sorry.  We'll only sell our soul if the price includes actually fixing the problem.  We rely on others' reviews and feel we owe it to the greater TA community to notify them of problems like the one we encountered.