Thursday, May 28, 2015

Portugal Quick Work Trip

I (Dan) had the incredible opportunity to travel to Portugal for business recently.  Unfortunately, I was only given a few weeks notice, which didn't give us enough time to consider or plan to extend this trip for personal travel.  Marcela would have had to jump through hoops to get a tourist visa, take time off from work, plus flights weren't cheap and mileage redemption options were very limited given the short lead time.  So I went by myself.

SFO-LIS roundtrip

I flew Air France (Delta codeshare) because they had the most preferred flight times and only one layover at Charles de Gaulle Airport.  Since Delta was not my preferred airline, I didn't have status and so flew Economy at the back of the plane.

I must admit that since we started more seriously earning and redeeming miles, I've been spoiled flying business class for nearly all of our international flights (for vacation).  Luckily, the flight from SFO to CDG was not full and there was an empty seat next to me.  The return flight (CDG to SFO), not so lucky.  It was fully packed.

Extra Seat SFO-CDG

Air France's carry-on luggage weight restrictions were very strict for Economy (max 12 kg / 26 lb).  So I had to check in my carry-on sized roller board.

Thankfully, the flights both ways were pretty uneventful, no major delays.  On-board service was fine, meals were alright, and the entertainment system was functional.

Interestingly, passport control/immigration was at CDG, the port of entry into and departure out of Europe.  I suppose because France and Portugal are both part of the Schengen Area in the EU.

Penha Longa Resort

Upon arrival at the Lisbon airport, I picked up my luggage from baggage claim and took a 30-minute cab ride to the Penha Longa Resort, where I would be staying for my business meetings over the next few days.

When the taxi turned into the entrance of the property, there was a gate guard who asked for my name, confirming I was checking in, before letting us through.  Then upon arrival at the hotel, I was warmly welcomed by name, given a cold towel to wipe my hands and face, and directed to the check-in counter.  What a great first impression!  Overall, I felt service was noticeably very good throughout my stay.

The resort was extremely beautiful with gorgeous, scenic greenery and hills.  The hotel appeared very clean, well kept, and had a business/professional vibe with a little European historic flair.  Not surprisingly, the Penha Longa is a Ritz Carlton property with all the amenities--golf course, gym, spa, pool, restaurants and bar/lounge, and even a kids play area.

Lobby Entrance

The room was nice, too.  I stayed in a standard room with two double beds on the second floor.

Entry way
Flat screen TV

Modern Bathroom
Dual Sinks
View from Balcony


Work meetings lasted two and a half full days, including dinners and networking at the bar afterwards.  On the last day, we wrapped up by lunch time, so a group of us went to a nearby town called Sintra that afternoon to sight see for a few hours.  It was about a 10 minute cab ride from the hotel.

Once we were dropped off in town, we somehow stumbled upon the (public transport) bus that would take us to the castle on top of the hill called Castelo dos Mouros.  The views were absolutely amazing from the top.

View from the top

We then walked a few kilometers to Palácio da Pena, which was interesting...and colorful.

Afterwards, we took the bus back down, and then taxi from Sintra back to the Penha Longa Resort.  I stayed that night and flew out early the next morning.

Concluding Thoughts
  • I'm glad I got the opportunity to visit Portugal for the first time, and even got a tiny bit of sightseeing in
  • The Penha Longa was a very nice resort
  • The food was fine--nothing jumped out as super spectacular or unique (not picture worthy), though all meals were at the resort.  So, at least in my mind, I didn't really get to try true "authentic" local Portuguese cuisine.
  • If I ever come back, I'd like to spend some time checking out downtown Lisbon

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