Lisbon, Portugal

When you depart a hotel with fond memories, even though you have none of the luggage you’d packed for a month’s travel, you know you’re on to a good thing. Heritage Avenida Liberdade, in Lisbon, is just such a hotel.

Lisbon 5268 Copyright Shelagh DonnellyThe sense of delight in landing at Lisbon Portela Airport for our first trip to Portugal diminished with every rotation of the luggage carousel, as it became increasingly clear that only one of our two suitcases – my husband’s  – completed the journey from Vancouver to Lisbon via Heathrow. To this day, we still don’t know whether it was Air Canada or its partner TAP-Portugal (which offered the superior in-flight service of the two airlines) that misplaced the luggage before returning it, damaged, once we’d reached the third city of our travels. For that matter, it’s now more than a few weeks since we submitted the requisite claim to TAP-Portugal and, despite sending all the receipts and details not only by Canada Post, but also by PDF via TAP-Portugal’s online system, we’ve yet to receive a single word of acknowledgement beyond an automated email response.

But I digress; after travelling more than 9,000 kilometers or 4,400 miles, we spent another hour or so in a lineup to report the missing luggage. I came away with the consolation prize of the goody bag described in an earlier article, and we made our way by taxi to what was ultimately a much appreciated respite from travel woes.

Lisbon 52733 Copyright Shelagh DonnellyWe arrived in Portugal at the peak of that country’s series of festivals celebrating assorted saints; for information and photos, see Shelagh’s Lens. In Lisbon, we arrived at the tail end of the Festival of Santo António, also known as Saint Anthony of Padua. With the hotel situated in a prime location on Avenida de Liberdade, the main boulevard of this capital city, we were in the heart of festival territory. This meant, naturally, that the street was closed to traffic.

Which meant, naturally, that the latter portion of our seven kilometer ride from the airport included a series of creative detours down incredibly narrow cobblestone roads which not even the most determined mini-van- or SUV-driving North American soccer mum would be tempted to navigate, let alone at the speed with which we progressed.

Endeavouring to keep my eyes in their sockets, I braced for impact with some (wise) pedestrians who, seeing our car approach, literally turned and pressed their backs to buildings in order that the car could proceed without inadvertently bringing them along in our wake. Following a friendly conversation with a police officer a block away from our destination, the cabbie was permitted to pull past a barricade and up the side street alongside our hotel. I left the car with a giddy sense of having participated in a gratuitous car chase movie scene.

Accommodation and Service

Imagine our relief, then, to round the corner by foot and enter the gracious atmosphere of our hotel, Heritage Avenida Liberdade. We stepped through the doorway fronting an elegant 18th century building to find a pleasing interior that married modern touches with elements of the 1700s.  We were greeted by the gracious Patricia, whom I hope is much appreciated by her employers. Independent of her stellar service, she has a lovely, calm way about her. Both Patricia and the Concierge offered professional, helpful service, including periodic checks for the missing luggage.

We settled in room 20 with complimentary glasses of port, and found ourselves in a generous space overlooking Avenida Liberdade. The quarters were initially peaceful, but less so upon throwing open either of the sets of doors out to the balconies. It was akin to amping up the voltage on a powerful speaker but, on the other hand, it did provide a complimentary concert.  All was well, though; the city was enjoying the final hours of its annual festival, and we had accurate assurances from Patricia that the evening would bring quiet.

Our room was beautiful, and we found it reflective of the service: welcoming and elegant, yet understated. There’s much to be enjoyed in this 41-room hotel which, along with parent company Hotels Heritage Lisboa, is a member of Historic Hotels of Europe. The hotel was last renovated in 2006 under the oversight of architect Miguel Cancio Martins, and so you have all the creature comforts to be expected of a four-star hotel.

Rooms come outfitted with individually controlled air conditioning, as well as double glazing that comes in handy on festival days. Satellite television and Wi Fi are the norm, and you’ll find a safe inside the wardrobe. The finishings throughout were truly lovely, and our bathroom was also spacious, with a separate tub and shower, double sinks and heated towel racks. Slippers and bathrobes (so much more attractive than the oversized t-shirt that came in my airline-provided goody bag) were much appreciated, as was the tasty breakfast provided in the lobby.

Despite overheight ceilings that are exceedingly generous by North American standards, we found our room to be on the dark side. This was the case in both Portuguese cities we’ve visited to date and I suspect it reflects not technical issues, but local preferences.

Business Travel

Business travellers will be comfortable here, with needs readily met inside the hotel or within a short walk. In the hotel library, overlooking the lobby, you have access to your choice of PC and Apple hardware, independent of the Wi Fi access provided in your room. Staff are multilingual and, apart from a fitness room and pool (which was closed for servicing when we were there), there is one room commissioned as dedicated meeting space. The hotel offers currency exchange services, and room service is available 24 hours a day.

Location and Architecture

We later learned that the hotel’s architecture, including the tiles, gorgeous balconies with wrought iron railings, and the overheight shuttered windows behind them, were indicative of Portugal’s Pombaline Era, so named for Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, also known as the Marquis of Pombal. This marquis was pivotal in the reconstruction after Lisbon’s catastrophic earthquake of 1775.

Once we settled in, it was time for a somewhat belated dinner. Patricia recommended Solar dos Presuntos (or click here for a translated version of the site), barely a minute’s walk away, and it did not disappoint. The restaurant is home to traditional Portuguese food, and a footballer lover’s paradise that’s apparently popular with more than a few professionals, including the up and coming Brazilian goaltender  (we were told his name is César but, no, it wasn’t Júlio Cesar), seen in one of the photos above.

Click here for a map of the hotel’s location. You’ll find everything a traveller may wish to find nearby, since you’re in the heart of what was originally a public park, Passeio Público,  created by Reinaldo Manuel, an architect of the Pombaline era. Leafy trees reach up to balcony height, and the grand shops of the city are in strolling distance. Bairro Alto, known for shopping and evening partiers, is a couple of minutes away.

Getting Around Lisbon

 

You need take only a brief walk to find Elevador da Glória, the cable railway also known as Glória Funicular, which carries passengers up and down hills. Electrically powered since 1915, and declared a national monument in 2002, the system began life in 1885 as a water-powered system, and was converted the following year to steam power.

We departed Lisbon for Porto by train, giving us the opportunity to see the much admired Lisboa Estacion Oriente, or Lisbon Oriente Train Station. The steel and glass roof, seen above, fulfills architect Santiago Calatrava’s vision of trees above the eighth platforms. Lisbon Oriente is comparable to New York City’s Grand Central Station, in that it moves 75 million passengers annually. Once we sorted out how to use the lower level storage locker so we could dash over to the nearby mall to purchase makeup and some other basics,  we found this leg of travel a breeze. Ticketing was straightforward even though we didn’t speak Portuguese, the train was clean, and service was friendly.

Sustainability

On entering your room, you’ll need to slip your card into a reader that will enable you to turn on lighting. There’ll be no case of leaving lights needlessly on, as they’ll automatically turn off when you remove the card to leave the room.

Rates

As with most accommodation, pricing will depend on the time of year, the type of room you wish, and how organised you are. While your preferences and date of booking can easily drive the price upward, a quick check online currently shows rates around the time of next year’s festival at 171.2 Euros nightly.

Don’t be misled by rates that may, for some, seem high. You could find yourself being penny wise, yet pound foolish if you select a hotel on the basis of nightly rates alone.  Some hotels, when publishing pricing, do not include additional charges that will appear on your final bill.  In our case, the quoted rate included Wi Fi, taxes and all fees, as well as breakfast. The breakfasts alone, had we made our way to a restaurant, would have easily added another 3o Euros to our daily expenses.

The hotel has won a number of awards from organisations such as Condé Nast, Expedia, Holiday Check, The Independent, Tablet Hotels, and one of my go-to sites, TripAdvisor. Also impressive is the scope of categories for which the hotel has been recognised: romance, excellent value, certificate of excellence, best city historic hotel of Europe, best four-star hotel, and Condé Nast’s Hot List.

Would We Stay There Again?

Sim, obrigado – yes, thank you!  It may be noticed that the majority of the images here represent Lisbon by evening. That’s because we spent most of our daytime hours in this lovely city either waiting to report missing luggage or shopping for basics that were contained in the missing luggage. A return visit to this Heritage Avenida Liberdade, or another in the Heritage company, is definitely in order.

A tip, now, for those who visit this hotel and, as was our case, enjoy it so much that you plan to return: Your receipt will be printed and provided you in a colourful envelope that highlights the hotel’s charms. If you do more than simply tuck it away, you’ll find that the envelope also represents a voucher offering returning guests free taxi transfer from Lisbon Airport to the hotel. You’ll need to be organised, and mention the dates of your previous stay when making your next reservation at the hotel, but so doing can represent the equivalent of lunch for two, or at least some great Portuguese wine.

Perspectives

Perspectives are entirely those of the Exceptional EA, who stayed at this wonderful boutique hotel in June 2014.

(Almost) Everything You Wanted to Know About Travel Planning (exceptionalea.com)

Travel Apps for Exceptional Assistants (exceptionalea.com)

 

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