Lounge Review: ANA Lounge, Lisbon, Portugal, 26 Dec 2015

ANA Lounge Lisbon

After navigating the labyrinth of Duty Free shops (there’s no escape, people, NO ESCAPE) after security check, you’ll enter a big square (Lisbon Square). If you look up, you’ll see the ANA Lounge. It is obvious, it is just right there.

ANA Lounge Lisbon

It is a comfortable lounge with fast wifi – this is probably the fastest wifi I got in Portugal to date. I had to print out a boarding pass for my Ryanair flight, and the receptionists at the counter were happy to do it for me gratis. If you want a shower, it costs ~15 EUR.

ANA Lounge Lisbon

The lounge is spacious. To the left is where the food/drinks are. The center seating area generally has the power outlets, and comfortable individual lounge chairs. To the right, there’s a darker area with a TV screen if you want to just hang back and relax. There is also a flight information panel in the middle of the room.

To the edges of the lounge, they also have lounge chairs orientated towards the tarmac. These do not offer power plugs.

The food selection looked decent, though I was too stuffed at this point to eat anything. The food seemed to be mostly sandwiches, and some fruit, and was restocked with regularity. They also have some wines, and your usual suspects. The soda fridge was kinda not cold, though. They do have the Nespresso machine, which made me excited.

ANA Lounge Lisbon

Overall, this is a nice lounge with fast wifi, and decent food/beverage offerings. It was pretty busy in the morning.


Hotel Review: HF Fenix Urban Lisbon, 24 – 26 December 2015

HF Fenix Urban

An Indian OTA, Make My Trip, had a promotion, whereby people using their App, would get a 60% discount (up to 2700 INR/40 USD) on all hotel bookings. The sale lasted around 48 hours, and I was fortunate enough to get in on the sale. As this was an OTA, I figured I won’t be able to get credit on the various hotel loyalty programs, so I ventured outside the chains I’ve been staying at. As my time for this trip is rather short (~48 hrs per city), I wanted a hotel that was central enough to cut down on my travel time. Enter HF Fenix Urban.

HF Fenix Urban

The HF is a Portuguese hotel chain. They have a collection of hotels, e.g. HF Lisboa, HF Fenix Garden located around the Marque de Pompa area. They also have other hotels in Portugal. I chose the HF Fenix Urban, because it is across the street from the Parque metro station, and also because I was attracted to the modern, minimalist (think IKEA) design in their pictures. For the dates that I was staying, the rates were ~60 EUR, but because of the massive discount, I wound up paying 30 EUR, and the rate included breakfast.

Check in/Check out

It was fast. After checking out my passport, and linking my reservations, I was good to go. The check out was quick, too. I was asked if I took anything from the mini-fridge, and after saying no, I was good to go.


Located across the street from Parque Metro station on the Blue line, it is easy to reach from the airport. Also, the blue line serves downtown, so it’s a 5 min ride from Parque to Baixa. It is also possible to walk from the waterfront to the hotel. I am not sure how long it really took me, but it is not a super long walk. It is also located beside the very large Parque Eduardo VII, so it’s great for those who want some park-outdoorsy goodness.


I was given room 1201, which contrary to your expectations, it’s actually on sub-2 level. Thankfully, it was not underground, as the hotel is built on a slope, so the sub-zero level rooms are actually on the street level, or slightly above street level. My room had a small window overlooking the street – not sexy, but at least it wasn’t underground.

I love the minimalist design of both the hotel, and the room. It features very clean lines. They designed the doors such that it neither protrudes, nor recedes. So the doors blended into the walls. The hotel and room are also designed to be environmental friendly, so it utilizes motion sensors to light up corridors.

The bathroom has a single vanity, a toilet, and a bidet. It also featured a tub. I thought the hot water was rather sensitive, and tended to be really hot. So the fine point between hot and scalding was rather minute. They provide a wall-mounted Dove-brand shampoo/shower. While I was happy to use that, it ran out before my first shower, so I wound up using their house brand soap and shampoo. The shampoo was pretty nice, actually.

I did hear my neighbors, so I am guessing the wall is rather thin. But generally, it wasn’t horrible, and I had two nights of excellent rest.

HF Fenix Urban


Served from 0700 – 1030, it is on -1. The breakfast spread was excellent, even though the hot stations were rather disappointing. They serve about three types of juices, and if you’re the type who likes an alcoholic drink with breakfast, they also offer pink moscato.

HF Fenix Urban

Their cold spread has cheese, cold cuts, cereals, yogurt, fruit, quiche, and assorted pastries. Their pastries/breads are actually in a different part of the breakfast room, so do walk around. They have four hot stations, and on the day that I did eat it, they had hash brown, cocktail sausages, scrambled eggs, and waffles.

HF Fenix Urban

I loved their offering of pastries – they had both sweet and savory options. I made many croissant sandwiches for myself, by stuffing the regular croissants with cheese, and their excellent cold cuts. I loved finishing my breakfast with their egg tarts. While I am not quite the type who can do dessert for breakfast, they also have muffins, brownies, and cake. Their fruit selection was extensive as well.

HF Fenix Urban

I also liked their caffeine selection (this is rather important to me). They have a Nespresso machine, and offered the ristretto, lungo, and decaf pods. I made myself many café au laits with their machine. They also have drip coffee, hot tea, and hot milk, selection of tea bags, and hot chocolates.

HF Fenix Urban


It wasn’t great. I kept getting logged out, and when I was on it, it was painfully slow. But I shall just blame this on Portugal, and not the hotel.


Well, considering I paid 27 EUR a night for this hotel, I got excellent value. I loved my stay – it was in a good location, featured an excellent breakfast, and I love the modern, minimalist design. They probably could have better wifi.

Portugal: Lisbon, 25 December 2015

Lisbon Christmas Day in Lisbon.

Most of the shops are closed, including international fast food chains like McDonald’s and Burger King. I mention this mostly because I was surprised – on major public holiday in Singapore, usually the only thing that stays open are fast food establishments. I was trying to take some of the funiculars, leveraging on my 24hr day pass (it is accepted on the funiculars, too). I dropped off at Restauradores this time, actually got out of the wrong exit, and somehow ended up at the Gloria Funicular, which was ready to depart in 1 min. I wound up being the last passenger on board, which meant that I had a glorious view behind the driver, once again. There was a lot less to see in terms of street scenes, because this street is just served by the funicular, but there is some pretty cool graffiti to the right, if you like checking things out!


After getting to the top, I did not exactly have a plan. I just decided to wander. Since the funicular brought me up to a hill, all I really had to do was to slowly walk my way back down to town. Wandering does come with its perks – the hills offer some really nice panoramic views of Lisbon. I really like how the city is surrounded by the sea. I ended up at the ruins of Carmo, where the Museum of the National Guard is located. If you walk towards the restaurant over there, you can get some pretty nice shots of the city. If you are willing to pay some 5-6 EUR, you can go up to a viewpoint, take in unobstructed panoramic views of the city, and take their ancient elevator back down to town. Well, I didn’t pay, but I was happy with my zero euro views, haha! The restaurant prices seemed pretty decent for its location (10-15 EUR for entrees), but I also didn’t try the food.


As I slowly made my way down to the main strip, I wound up at the train station again. I decided to get a coffee at Starbucks (argh! I did try looking for other cafes, but most of them are closed), and get a couple of hours of work in. At around 4 pm, I finally decided to take a walk. I wanted to walk up the Avenida da Liberdade, the grandest boulevard in Lisbon, and supposedly home to all the upscale shopping. The weather was a nice cool, 20 degree Celsius, and as I strolled along, before I knew it, I actually wound up in the vicinity of my hotel, as the boulevard terminates at Parque Eduardo VII. So it turns out that my hotel is a lot closer than the metro ride suggests (and I saved 1.40 EUR)!


I spotted a kebab place that was open on Christmas Day, so I wound up eating a kebab platter combo for dinner as my Christmas dinner (6.50 EUR).


Coffee: 2.50 EUR

Dinner: 6.50 EUR

Hotel: 27 EUR

Total: 36 EUR

Portugal: Lisbon, 24 December 2015



I somehow survived the overnight in Madrid without changing a single Euro. But now that I am in Lisbon, I did need some Euros. Since it is the holiday seasons, and my trip in Europe is rather short, I didn’t have too much time to compare prices, and just sucked it up, by changing my money at the airport. I got a rate of 1 USD = 0.86 EUR. There were no fees. For what it’s worth, when I went by the Western Union at the Russio train station, the rate was 1 USD = 0.93 EUR. I am not sure if they charge fees for doing the change. But if you have some time, it might make sense for you to change a minimal amount at the airport, and change more money when you get into town.

Getting in

Getting into Lisbon via public transport is easy. The airport is connected to the metro system, and it takes about 25 mins to get into town. The metro system has machines for you to buy their ticket (Viagem, 0.50 EUR), and there’s an English menu. You have a few options, you can choose to do a pay-per-trip (I think it’s 2 EUR). In my case, I knew I was going to hit town right after check-in, so I bought a day pass (6 EUR for 24 hrs). It probably took all of 30 mins for me to hit my hotel, since I had to change to the Blue line, and exit at Parque station. The metro stations are actually pretty cool – there is a lot of public art in the different stations. Parque station had a nautical theme, with some ghoulish sea creatures.

After dumping all my stuff at the hotel, I headed back to the metro station, and from Parque, it took about 5 mins to get to Baixa-Chiado, which is the tourist-y part of town. Walking down the Rue Augusta, I hit the tram station in front of Praca do Comercio. The timing was perfect, as I saw Tram 15 pull into the tram station, so I made a quick dash, and hopped onto the tram. The tram ride from Baixa to Belem probably took about 15 mins or so. It was one of the modern, un-sexy trams, but had greater capacity for passengers.


I was hoping that the Jeronimos Monastery would be open, but unfortunately, it appeared closed. The cathedral part of it was open, and I think it is home to many of Portugal’s greats, poets, etc. Architecture was pretty gothic. The sad thing about many tourist attractions is that it’s hard to find peace even in sights of worship. Once the selfie stick comes out, it all goes to hell. I did sit in a pew for a little bit. I’m guessing this place is more of a madhouse in the summer months.

The neighborhood of Jeronimos is pretty nice. There are many large squares and parks around, so if you want to hang around after visiting Belem Tower, the monastery and museums, it’s not a bad spot to grab some pastries, or have lunch.


On the way back, I managed to get on one of the older trams, which is included in the day pass. It was a slow ride, obviously, but I’ve always liked standing behind tram drivers, and seeing the city from that viewpoint. I do find the haphazardness of Lisbon to be charming. I am guessing that navigating those crazy hilly streets on a daily basis would be a bitch, but for a 48-hr whirlwind tour, it is actually quite a bit of fun! After ending back in Praca do Comercio, I decided to explore Baixa. Well, if you are into shopping and tourist traps, it’s not too shabby. I did really want to eat, but I couldn’t bite. I think every fiber of my being resists walking into a tourist trap.

After strolling around for a bit, I eventually wound up in the Confiteria Nacional. They have a fun ticket system, where you grab a ticket, and wait to be called before you get your pastries. It seemed very popular, and claim a century-old history. I can’t understand Portuguese, so I didn’t do the ticket thing. But they do have a little snack/cafeteria thing on the upper level, which is less busy, and offers some amazing views of Rossio Square. I went with the patented pointing method, and got myself a Portuguese egg tart, and a latte for 2.40 EUR. I also lucked out, as a lady vacated a prime window spot, so I colonized that, and did some reading for an hour.



After an early dinner, I decided to just stroll around, and ended up walking up Chiado, much of it was closed due to it being Christmas eve. As I slowly moved down Chiado, and ended up on a tram stop, I saw tram 28 (a recommended tram) pull into a tram station. I had designated it for the next day, but what the heck? I jumped onto the rather empty tram 28, and enjoyed the ride, as it wound up Alfama neighborhood. I enjoyed how closed in the buildings are, and how narrow the streets are.


It being the holidays, the trams are actually on shortened service, so before I knew it, I was making my way back to town on foot (I was actually waiting for a tram down, but after 20 mins, I gave up, walked from station to station, and before I knew it, I was back in town). The leisurely stroll probably took about 40 mins. The stroll down was actually quite easy and enjoyable, but some poor tourists were actually making their way up, and one lady was actually walking up the uneven streets barefoot, while her husband carried her heels. I hope their accommodations aren’t too far up!



Metro Day Pass: 6 EUR

Coffee Break: 2.40 EUR + 3 EUR

Dinner: 4.30 EUR

Accommodation: 27 EUR (I stayed at a 4-star hotel)

Total: ~ 43 EUR

Hello Iberian Peninsula: Spain, Portugal, Morocco, 23 – 31 December 2015

I got in on the British Airways premium fare sale last week (transatlantic business class for ~1000 USD, without Avios discounts), and while I actually had no plans of flying again this year, this mileage running opportunity (more on that later) was a bit too good to pass up.

23 Dec: Madrid, Spain

24 Dec: Madrid, Spain – Lisbon, Portugal

25 Dec: Lisbon, Portugal

26 Dec: Lisbon, Portugal – Madrid, Spain – Rabat, Morocco

27 Dec: Rabat, Morocco – Casablanca, Morocco

28 Dec: Casablanca, Morocco – Marrakesh, Morocco

29 Dec: Marrakesh, Morocco – Madrid, Spain

30 Dec: Madrid, Spain

31 Dec: Madrid, Spain

While others with bountiful British Avios managed to get their out-of-pocket costs down to around ~300 USD for a transcontinental Business class flight, I don’t have any Avios. Nevertheless, this trip makes a lot of sense to me. I get to fly to Europe in Business class comfort at Economy class fares (Seattle is generally not a great market for fare sales to Europe), and in addition to that, because of a OneWorld deal, flying transatlantic in business or first class will give me 25,000 bonus miles in AAdvantage. As a result of this ~$1000 trip, not only will I get to visit three countries I haven’t been, but I will get around 45,000 miles, which is good for either an economy round trip to Central America, or a one-way business class ticket to South America.