Here we go, off into the magical hearth of South America! For so long, we’ve been planning this trip, it feels somewhat surreal that everything is coming together. I sit here, writing this post on a flight from Lisbon to São Paulo.
Our plan was to go straight from Lisbon to Fortaleza, a city in the north of Brazil. However, fate would have it that we would instead trundle about Lisbon for a few hours…
We were all set, packed our bags for the gazillionth time this year, making sure we hadn’t forgotten anything, and off we went to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Hurtling down the highway at what felt like 1000 km/h (yes, Fem’s dad is somewhat of a maniac on the road), we got to Schiphol with enough spare time for a coffee and a few final goodbyes. Checked in, we made our way through security, had a bite to eat and jumped into the queue to board flight TP673. As we entered the tunnel to the aircraft, it came to our realisation that the wind was whipping the tunnel back and forth. “My god”, I thought, “how on earth are we going to take off in this wind?” Surely all we needed were sails to get up? Jeepers!
The pilot confirmed our suspicions. “Good day ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard today’s flight, I am your captain Vasco da Gama jr. Traffic control is keeping us grounded here for another 10 or so minutes, we have a couple of cross winds, disrupting the smooth flow of all outgoing flights”. Fair enough, we wouldn’t want to be scattered across some tarmac in the middle of wind-swept Holland.
Let’s go to Lisbon instead!
Half way through the flight, Fem realised that we weren’t going to make our connecting flight. It was leaving at 16:30, and we were scheduled to land at 16:10. Okay, don’t panic (what’s the point, it’s not like the pilot would say “oh they’re late, let’s put this peddle to the metal, and crank this up a notch”). We called the hostess over. To our bewilderment she seemed confident we would make it. “Na don’t worry, it’s a small airport, you’ll totally make it in time”. The Portuguese seem to have a relaxed approach to any predicament. Her colleague confirmed her answer. So we just looked at each other, shrugged, and decided to just play it by ear. After all, wasn’t our fault we would miss the flight, and I’m sure we would be reimbursed.
We sat a little while longer, anxiously looking at our watches. 15:50. 15:55. Still no landing strip in site. 16:00, okay there’s Lisbon in the distance. Touch down – 16:15. I swear I saw our flight take off in the distance. Nevertheless, we bolted toward what we thought was the connecting flight area. Lisbon Airport has the strangest layout. We ran right first. Then left, then back again. It was an absolute frenzy, akan to the Amazing Race.
We found a sign, 10 minutes to the gate. Gate closed. Yup, we had missed it. Insert grumpy faces. Now what? We asked one of the connecting flights agents where to go. To our despair, the queue was endless, and there was one service agent on duty. Turned out we weren’t the only ones with a missed flight. And so we stood. “You missed your flight?” piped a german lady in front of us. “Don’t worry”, she said, “you’ll get everything reimbursed. Happened to me a few times. And you never know, maybe the flight you’re were supposed to be on crashed, and you’re the only two survivors. Look at the bright side”. Ah, okay. Dark thought, but I see your perspective, I think. She went on to tell us about a flight that crashed in the 70s with a whole bunch of farmers and their wives (apparently they won some competition, or something along those lines). Anyway the crux of the story was that the entire village just lost all of its parents, except for one, who was too sick to travel. So instead, he opted out and stayed at home. Turns out karma sometimes also works in mysterious ways. Fem and I looked at each other, and shrugged.
The queue wasn’t moving. “Amsterdam? Anyone here from Amsterdam?” YES! Us, we quickly quipped. “What are your names?” Ben and Femke. “Is this you?”, pointing at the ticket. YES it’s us. “I’m terribly sorry about this inconvenience. Unfortunately your flight has already taken off”. Yeah no shit. “We would like to put you on another flight leaving later this evening. Would that work for you?” Phew, we thought we would have to stay the night. Of course that works. “And for the inconvenience, we would like to give you two meal vouchers to the grand total of 16 euros” (oh yippee, can’t wait to munch of something gourmet).
23:20. That was to be the next flight out. But not to Fortaleza. Turns out we’ll only be arriving in the afternoon, a day later than planned. Oh well, make hay while the sun is up we thought. We gathered our thoughts, and searched for the best possible way to get to Lisbon city centre. Metro, €1,30. Done! Lets go. And off we went.
We got to see a bit of Lisbon. Beautiful city. Really reminds me of Rome, or some parts of Maputo. Architecture of grandeur, a keen reminder of what a city it used to be in the late 1400s. The Portuguese were sailors, after all, getting to South Africa and Java islands long before the Dutchies rocked up. But falling from grace, after the Portuguese were too stretched for cash, as Spanish waged war on their home turf. I could be talking out me arse at this point, but I do remember reading this bit of history somewhere.
Anyway, we decided to spoil ourselves with a nice dinner in the city centre. In this part of the world, people love tiny food, on tiny plates. Tapas is the name of the game. We found a cozy little restaurant in downtown Lisbon, called Meson Andeluz. We sat back, relaxed and ordered our first caipirinhas. Okay, we thought, lets get on this flight…