After 16 hours of flying and a 6 hour layover in Dubai, we (my sister, tita, and I) finally landed in Lisbon.
“It’s your first time in Europe?” asked the immigration officer.
So many firsts for this trip: first time to take an Emirates flight (nice plane, good food, excellent service), first time to get a Shengen visa, and first time in Europe. Yeah! I wanna say that again with a fist pump in the air. It’s my first time ever in Europe! Last year, it was a bit disappointing that after a USD 1300 flight and 15 hours, landing in Baku in Azerbaijan, I was still in Asia. Heading to Turkey after, the closest I got to Europe was crossing the Bosphorous Strait and setting foot on the European side of Istanbul. So, this time, it’s the real thing! I really am in Europe!
This trip was the most heavily prepared for in all my years of travelling. With just 14 days including the 3 for the conference (the primary reason for this trip), I had to make sure everything was so well-thought of so as not to waste time and money. So here’s what I did.
1. For first time visits to any place, I always craft an itinerary just so I get a bird’s eye view of my trip. We were doing Lisbon-Madrid-Granada-Seville-Lisbon. Yeah, too many places but I so much wanted to go to the Museo Nacional del Prado to see Velasquez’s Las Meninas and Madrid was just an overnight train ride away. Granada also deserved an overnight just so we could relive Washington Irving’s magical Tales of the Alhambra. The Google Trips app was so helpful in planning my itineraries as it indicated the walking time to one sight to another.
2. Bought all the museum and sight fees online to save us from the long queues at the ticket booth. Also, some sights such as the Alhambra and the the Royal Palace in Madrid have limited slots, so I needed to make sure we had reservations on the days we were there.
3. Budget! We’re talking Euros where the exchange rate is 1 Euro to Php 58. Surprisingly, pricesreally wasn’t that exorbitant as I found out, at least with food.
4. Typed “what to wear in Europe” in Google and discovered the following donts: shorts, rubber shoes, and baggy clothes. True, my first impression on seeing the locals was: “so fashionable” and that included the little old ladies having their pasteis de nata at Confeteria del Nacional or the bookworms at Livreria Bertrand.
So for the next 2 weeks, I get to find out if all my preparations were all right. In the meantime, I’m gonna enjoy every minute of this trip.