Have you ever blinked twice and two moths were gone? That’s how I feel. It’s March already and a new post is long overdue. So here it is!
One of the most pleasant things to happen so far in 2017 was a recent trip to Lisbon, Portugal. I have to say, going to a sunny place in February while living in Ireland, is a brilliant idea. Even if it’s for a few days, getting away from this cold grey weather feels luxurious. It also shows that following the advice of ‘less stuff, more experiences’ from my gift guide is totally worth it!
On top of that, I tried to make it a valid sustainable trip and here’s my rundown.
Thanks to booking.com I chose an ‘eco’ hotel for our stay. It wasn’t necessarily my preference but it did have the second best customer rating and offered a good deal so why not! Hotel Neya Lisboa market themselves as a sustainable hotel in the heart of Lisbon and they deliver on that promise. Room design using mostly natural light, no single-use toiletries, towel/sheet washing on request only, low-pressure water taps and recycling receptacles in the bin. Very little waste in the breakfast buffet also – almost no single packaging and they claim all unused food is distributed daily to a local charity.
Lisbon is very accessible. We were close enough to the city centre, not quite walkable but the public transport system in the capital was clean, frequent and reliable. Despite it being recommended in every single guide, we didn’t take the historical trams, they were pretty cute though! We did take the occasional taxi – lazy Sunday mood and all. But the best part was the bikes hired in the hotel for free. We spent an afternoon exploring the city like pros… (Note: Lisbon is a properly hilly city. Also, there is a fair amount of not-so-cyclable steps in the old city.)
Shopping & Eating
There weren’t many big supermarkets in the area we stayed in but a few small independent shops which were great for getting loose produce, basically any fruit and veg you can think of. They had the basic groceries and even though these were mostly packaged, there were olives and pickled fava beans (I think) to be had and also unpackaged local cheese. They insisted on a plastic bag but I was quicker with my Frusack and used it instead.
We also visited the famous ‘Thieves’ Market’ Feira da Ladra. I can promise you if you were looking for any odd, random and peculiar thing, this is where you would go. Have a look yourself…
There were lots of famous Portugese pastelerias and basically any cafe you go to sells a variety of pastries and cakes – anything a pastry-lover could wish for. I’d love to include some pics but the food was always gone before I could take out the camera!
We had no problem getting tap water in the restaurant. Only once did I get a plastic bottle. In comparison to that, all the juice bottles were made of glass. Lesson learned, juicy refreshments consumed.
One of the highlights of the trip for me was a visit to the local bulk store, Maria Granel. I found it through this handy website. Coming from a city with no package-free shops, I came excited and equipped. I brought a few cotton bags and even some jars as I planned to stock up on spices. Let’s just say that once you become aware of the obscene amount of packaging in a normal shop, walking through all the bulk bins is very soothing. So I stocked up! On lentils, spices and snacks. Because, why not. The lovely girl in the shop kindly helped me with the Portuguese names and also let me take some pictures. Have a look!
Since we live on an island and ferries to the continent take ages and aren’t very cheap, we flew to Portugal. I offset our carbon footprint which cost €6 for both of us. It’s less than a pint each and I felt better.
The one thing I found lacking were the organic waste bins. I loved them in Barcelona and even though I’ve seen glass banks in Lisbon and bins for paper, plastic and metal, there were none for organic waste. I was reluctant to throw out our organic waste (mostly fruit ends) in a general bin. I was going to ask the restaurant staff to put it in their organic bin but somehow I felt they might not bother and it would end up in a general bin anyway. I was probably wrong but I ended up bringing it back home. Yes, I realise I might be slightly weird.
The only other ‘downside’ was the constant presence of plastic bags in all shops and kiosks. I really liked the compostable bags we came across in supermarkets in Sicily and would love to see more of them in other countries. Portugal is a coastal country and I am sure they are aware of plastic ocean pollution. Hopefully it’s just a matter of time until they either ban them, tax them or make them biodegradable.
All in all, it was a nice couple of days spent in a country where no one seemed to be too rushed or under stress but instead smiled and enjoyed the life.