Lisbon – a must if you like small laneways

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I have never been checked-in so quickly as with TAP at Newark. After a 6 hour flight, I already landed in Lisbon, Portugal. Hello Europe, long time no see!

I took the metro to Sao Sebastiao station, where mom already waited in our hotel room.

We enjoyed breakfast in one of the street cafés around our hotel and then bought a ticket for the hop on hop off tourist bus with Graylines for 18€ for 48h. We didn’t know that other companies existed too but afterwards it seemed to us that the more colorful Portugal Sightseeing buses were driving more frequently and were friendlier too.

Sometimes, we had to wait over an hour to hop back on, since there were no timetables at the stops and sometimes, there wasn’t even a clear sign. Some improvements could be done but otherwise, it was a very comfortable way to see the city. Plus, there was wifi on the bus.

First, we rode to Belem. It’s an area with pretty buildings. We took a nice walk along the river (It’s so big, we thought it was part of the sea.)

Everywhere, there are cute restaurants in the alleys and on the squares. When we looked for the restaurants where the Portuguese people ate, we always had the most delicious and really cheap food.

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When we completed the circle of the red line, I felt the jet lag kicking in and I first needed to sleep for two hours.

Afterwards, I was fit enough again, to go look for some dinner.

We found a restaurant in the center and the friendly Portuguese owners even offered us free port wine.

Good that after that big meal we had the possibility to walk the 40min back to our hotel.

The next day, after we waited an hour at the stop, we finally boarded a blue line bus. It took us to the Orient area which is impressive but not necessarily pretty.

Lunch we found in one of the cute laneways close to the main train station.

Then we continued the blue bus line and again landed on a hill from which we had an amazing view over the city.

Afterwards, we took another red bus to go back to the Docks in Belem for Happy hour. We calculated that the last bus should come by at 7.50pm. However, we missed it by a minute because I saw it drive off (although we were there early). Luckily, a bus from the other company came after that and took us with him although we didn’t have their ticket. A little luck comes in handy from time to time 🙂

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Back in the city, we had dinner in a steep alley from where we had a beautiful view on the houses and the castle that was lit up on the opposite hill.

Since the temperatures were climbing, we attempted to take bus 161 from Plaça España to Costa di Capricia for a beach day. It’s a cute beach town with the typical tourist beach shops and markets. The water was totally clear and there were nice waves. I wished I had a surf board. Even in October it was still hot. We stayed there the whole day and returned at 22.40 with bus 153. Even at that time we were wearing short clothes at 20 degrees 🙂

On our last full day we bought a 24h public transportation ticket.

We walk along the river in the city and then took tram 28 up to the castle where we found more cute laneways and more nice views.

Then, we took the tram back to the other side of the city, where we relaxed for a while in the shade of trees and palm trees. On the way back, the small tram was really crowded and unfortunately, we couldn’t sit anymore. We got off to try one of the historic looking cable cars as well. It brought us down a steep street while children were running along next to it. Once we arrived at the bottom in another small street, we had no idea where we were and the tiny printed map didn’t help us either, so we just took it back up again.

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At 7pm we were supposed to meet some Swiss friends for dinner but before that we had time to enjoy an appetizer consisting of olives, cheese and sangria in another restaurant with view on this pretty city.

Right on time, we walked to our meeting point and our friends were right behind us. We hadn’t planned to be in Lisbon at the same time. It’s funny how things sometimes work out. And it was nice to already meet some Swiss people before returning to Switzerland. Gradual acclimatization.

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Unfortunately, we let us drag in from one of the touristy restaurants. The food wasn’t as good as at the other places and had been more expensive too. It’s really worth it to look around a little. Therefore, we decided to go back to the place from our first evening for dessert, where for the second time, we enjoyed perfect food and service.

Afterwards, we said goodbye to Kurt and Ursula, they will be spending a few more days in Portugal. Mom and I took the metro back to the hotel, where I had to pack my suitcase for the last time.

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The next morning, we took the metro into the city center again to buy some of these delicious cream tarts but then returned to our breakfast café, where the waitress already knew us and knew what we wanted 🙂

Before we took the metro to the airport, we had time to go buy some Port wine in the biggest mall in Lisbon. From the outside El Corte Ingles doesn’t look big because it only has two floors above ground. Eight more floors are below ground.

At the airport, the line for check-in was pretty long but moved quickly. In the end, we arrived at our gate right when they started boarding. The last flight on this trip passed quickly and finally, I saw the Swiss mountains approach from the air and then we landed on the familiar airport surrounded by trees.

That’s how fast you’re suddenly back in your own country. I had my train ticket, I already got used to Swiss German in Honduras and Lisbon again and the weather was still nice too.

So far, everything here still seems the same. Which is very different from long empty beaches, palm trees and waves. But I guess I’ll get used to it again. At least we have really delicious sausages and yoghurt 🙂

Lisbon's Golden Gate Bridge

Lisbon’s Golden Gate Bridge

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Honduras

View on San Pedro Sula from behind the Coca Cola sign

View on San Pedro Sula from behind the Coca Cola sign

My trip journey to San Pedro Sula from Newark started a bit slow because there was a technical problem with the plane and they had to change the tires. So, after boarding the plane the first time, we had to leave it again and with a three hour delay, we were finally boarded again and ready to fly towards Houston. I didn’t mind the delay, since I had to pass the night at the airport in Houston anyways and this delay made the night a little shorter. It’s a mystery to me why all airport chairs have handle bars. It’s impossible to lie down across them, although there are very few people there who occupy them at night. Plus, loud TVs were playing the same thing the whole night. It was quite impossible to sleep.

At 11am the next day, I finally landed in Honduras, where a hot, tropical air greeted me as soon as I stepped off the plane. My friend Dimitri from university picked me up. He moved back here because his parents are from here and without him I’d probably never have visited the most dangerous city in the world, with 20 deaths a day. This number is not really a surprise if you see how little boys juggle balls in front of cars at red lights to perhaps gain some money. The cars drive like crazy and there are holes in every street. But apparently, you can be safe. You just need to live in the right neighborhoods, have your own car and take the expensive tourist transportation. In short, you need money.

That aside, Honduras has places that are worth visiting too. San Pedro Sula is nestled in green jungle mountains that are always covered in clouds at the top.

Coca Cola sign in the hills

Coca Cola sign in the hills

So, after I punctually arrived at San Pedro Sula airport, Dimitri was already there to pick me up. We drove to his house which is right near the school his parents opened. I had the chance to have a look at the Europaschule and even observe some German classes during the week.

In the evening, we also had the first power loss. I hoped that it would only last for a short time because there was no way I could sleep in this heat without a fan (mostly only public places have a/c). There usually was one short power loss every day.

The day after my arrival however, we already had to get up at 4am to catch a bus (15$) at 5pm and then a boat (25$) that would bring us from La Ceiba to Utila. Luckily, there are street vendors everywhere that sell all kinds of fried things and fruit, so that we didn’t have to do the trip on an empty stomach. At around noon, we arrived in Utila, where it was even hotter than on the mainland. We walked along the narrow main road where we always had to watch out that the tuktuks and motorcycles wouldn’t hit us. I thought I was back in Koh Tao, Utila looked so similar!

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It’s a pretty island with a nice coast. There are a few really small sand patches where you can hang out along the beach and go swimming but this island is also mostly for snorkeling and scuba diving.

So, that’s what we did. On the second day, we took a taxi boat out to the Cays. Now, that’s the picture of paradise islands that pops up in my head when I am daydreaming.

From beautiful dark blue water we approached Water Cay through light blue water and finally reached the white sand of the small island. There were only palm trees, a few hammocks and about 5 people on the island. I really felt like Robinson.

Snorkeling there was mediocre. There was a lot of grass and only one part with nice corals and amazing fish but therefore, that was really awesome. And since the water wasn’t even refreshing, we could stay in it all afternoon.

The next morning, we had a trip booked with Ecco Diving. Their dive shop is cool with a nice pier where you can snorkel around, sit in the shade or jump from a rope into the sea. Plus, everybody was really friendly.

We boarded a really small boat and I was glad the sea was quiet because I couldn’t imagine that small thing in big waves. The calm water was our chance to see whale sharks but unfortunately, we didn’t encounter any. After I left Utila they saw them for the following 3 days!!!

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However, we did have a few dolphins that followed us for a while on our way to the north side.

The first dive was ok. I saw a lion fish and one of the divers killed one with a spear because they are a plague here.

The second dive was really cool!!! Next to the usual variety of colorful fish, we saw stingrays, a big turtle and crabs.

The next day, I went diving again. This time, we went to a ship wreck that was down on the sand at -30m. Now I could actually use my new advanced diving license. It wasn’t as creepy as I expected it to be. I don’t think anybody had died there. It was actually rather cool because people had put props like bicycles down there to take pictures with. I saw a lobster, a big moray eel, a huge barracuda and all the other small fish.

Back on the island, I walked to the end where Coral View and Neptune hotels are located. Wow, snorkeling there was exactly like going diving, there were so many fish and corals and that as soon as you step into the water.

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Other than that, I found it too hot to do anything more during the day. There was no a/c in any places I’ve been on the island and there were so many mosquitos and sandflies that I was forced to hide out for a siesta under the fan in my room for a big part of the afternoons. In the end, I counted about 210 bites on my body. I looked as if I had a severe case of the chicken pocks :S

To crown it all, there were tarantulas (eeewww) in every hole in the wall or ground and still there were so many mosquitos.

After the sunset it was more agreeable with mosquitos and the heat. We usually went out to a bar. Cocktails were only about 3$ and smoothies 2.50 🙂

The seahorse bar was amazing. Everything is decorated with all kinds of objects. It’s like a small Park Güell.

Then, there was another cool bar that was on the water on a pier. They left a hole in the ground where you can sit around and look down into the water and watch the fish. The bars were really quiet and so was the whole island. Utila is usually a party place but now in off season we were almost the only tourists.

Lion fish

Lion fish

The last evening, we spent at our hotel because we met a couple from Chile. They were really nice and invited us to a bbq. Vladimir had slow cooked meat ALL afternoon and all we ate was meat but it was one of the most delicious steaks I’ve ever had.

Then we started an early journey back to the mainland again, where Dimitri had to go back to work and I look for more jobs.

One evening, we went to the cinema (4$ which is quite expensive for Honduras :)). It was a HUGE screen and Dimitri said that it wasn’t even the biggest.

I also could visit Dimitri’s mom’s social project in Oruga, where she had built a kindergarten and an auditorium for the community.

The grounds and facilities were very pretty and the kids extremely cute.

On my last day in Honduras, we walked up to the Coca Cola sign that hangs in the forest above the city, like the Hollywood sign in LA. Although it was just a concrete road through the forest it was quite a workout in this humidity. But at least I could stretch my legs a little before my long flights back to Switzerland.

Seahorse Café

Seahorse Café

I had to be at the airport at 10am the next day. Dimitri and his friend Hector kindly waited until I did everything I had to do (including paying 40$ departure tax) and waved once I disappeared on the escalator. I still haven’t completely realized that university will be over when I get back to Switzerland. That my friends now are in different cities all over Switzerland – or the world and that it’s time to open a new chapter again.

But first it will be SAP-Houston/Houston-Newark. A night at an airport hotel (to which my seat neighbor from the plane and her friend that picked her up, spontaneously drove me to because they wanted to make sure I got there quickly and safe at midnight. Such nice people everywhere!!) and then an evening flight to Lisbon the next day, where I’ll spend four days with my mom 🙂

Switzerland is approaching.

Boat docks in Utila

Boat docks in Utila