My trip folder names are boring. 2014 Fall – Japan, for example. I broke the pattern with 2015 Fall – Slovenian Splurge because it just fit. The trip formerly known as 2017 Spring – Portugal has become 2017 Shoehorned Sandwich.
May looked good for Portugal because it warms up and dries out as Spring progresses (duh, just like most places). My stopover city on the way home, Paris, is less desirable in late May because the French Open adds demand for accommodations. Who knew Springtime in Paris was a thing?
Google Images of Paris parks in Spring http://bit.ly/2kWhnSw
So I shoehorned the trip between the start of the Open, and a date reached by subtracting the number of nights I wanted in Portugal and Paris. I can’t remember doing such precise travel date setting since retiring, except when traveling with a friend from the US of A.
What about the Sandwich? I’ve kept trying and failing to add more unplanned days to my trips. Actually, more nights without booked places to sleep. I started planning this trip with the best of intentions: book 1 night before and after flights. Immediately remembered budget places near metro stations in Paris sell out early. Booked all nights in Paris when I bought the airline tickets in early Dec.
OK, so first night Lisbon will be easy – but – the next day is a public holiday, so first 2 nights. The more I read about Lisbon, the less it seemed like a relaxing place in which to recover from let jag, uh, jet lag. Lisbon has an extensive light rail system. One line ends at Cascais, a former fishing town that became a weekend and day-trip destination from Lisbon. It shouldn’t be warm enough for beach goers in April, so I’m in.
Google Images of Cascais http://bit.ly/2lEIzoD
The last night is in Porto. Easy. Done. Except the oldest part of the city, the one of most interest to tourists, is on steep hills.
Google Images of Porto http://bit.ly/2lEv2xE
Damn, my knees are older than the rest of my body. The best value budget sleeps nearest metro and bus stations were down to their last few rooms. I added 2 more nights. My knees thanked me.
Good, that left many unbooked nights – but – while putting the bookings on a calendar I saw I’d noted May Day when deciding on flight dates. Not just a big public holiday, a 3 day weekend. Plan was on the 3rd day to head south to the Algarve region on the Southern coast. It’s the warmest and driest part of the country. Plan was to stay 3-5 nights, but that meant moving on during a 3 day weekend. No thanks. I needed a Plan B.
OMG. Sintra is a 30 minute bus ride from Cascais and it’s on a rail line to the Algarve via Lisbon.
Google Images of Sintra http://bit.ly/2lEqO8T
I had figured to hit it in mid trip as I meandered north to Porto. It works better making it the second stop then doing a base camp over the long weekend in Faro as the third stop. Faro is a good transport hub for day trips in the Algarve and interesting in itself.
Sintra is on steep hills, budget sleeps in or near the flat area by the train station… you know the rest. Booked 2 nights in Sintra, 4 in Faro. Aargh.
Adding Faro and Sintra to my calendar removed the aargh because then I saw the filling of the sandwich: Ten unbooked nights in a row in a relatively small country. Woo hoo.