Lagos and Lisbon

Or: Slobbed in Lagos, robbed in Lisbon

I’d like to report on the cultural opportunities I embraced in Lagos, but I don’t think there are any, or at any rate I wasn’t interested in them. Lagos is like many coastal resorts. It was once a fishing village with nice beaches, then came tourism. The end result is a charming old town and rather less than charming new developments. These two parts of Lagos are separated by a river leading into the marina and it’s a good 20-minute walk from one to the other. Most of the bars and restaurants are in the old town, so I reckon it’s the best place to stay. There were four of us and we booked Henri’s apartments (he’s got a few, we were at Páteo de Santo António) for five nights. Good price, well furnished, and enough room to have a game of cricket.

Dona Anna beach

Dona Anna beach was nearby, and we spent every day there. It is quite a dramatic and pretty swathe of sand, backed by cliffs, and there’s a little café/bar to hand. Despite it being October, it was warm enough to sunbathe and swim, so I proudly presented my Olympian physique for the public to gaze upon. Alas, the expected wolf whistles never came, and now I’ve seen the photos I know why.

I suffer from what might be a unique aliment. Many people see themselves as being fatter than they actually are and consequently are ashamed of their bodies. I have the opposite problem. I’m happy to skip across the sand in my leopard skin thong because I’m completely unaware of my corpulence. The wind was up; the waves were crashing onto the sand; masking the screams, laughter, and retching sounds coming from my fellow sunbathers. It’s not that I’m ‘comfortable in my body’; I’m simply ignorant of the extent of it.

Boiling spume

On one windy day, the breakers were particularly fierce. The sort of waves that toss weeping children into the air for everyone’s amusement. The sort of waves that get Dad off his sunbed to jump in because he can’t resist the challenge. All the grownups played and laughed like joyous kids in the surf. My mate Mick, a burly chap, almost dislocated his shoulder when he was upended onto the sand. I fared rather better due to my extra ballast. I only left the water when a Greenpeace launch came by to check I wasn’t an orphaned beluga whale.

At two and a half miles long, the biggest beach in Lagos is Meia Praia. We went for a walk there one cloudy afternoon. It was empty and rather desolate. It’s probably great in summer. Lagos’ newer apartment blocks and hotels are sat behind this beach. Nothing too high rise, but nothing with any character that I could see. There’s a lot of accommodation there, however, and I’m guessing Lagos old town gets pretty overwhelmed in the high season.

Old Bastards

The old town has the ubiquitous ‘strip’ which has a very English feel to it. That’s not my bag. I didn’t go to Portugal to feel like I was in England; I can do that at home. It’s easy to escape that part of the centre however and there are some interesting restaurants and bars to try out. La Estrella specialises in Belgian beers. There’s plenty to choose from and it’s worth a visit. Imperio do Mar is a good restaurant specialising in seafood, but they do other stuff too.  

We do like to find a cosy place for a nightcap and it turned out there was one just down from our apartments. It doesn’t have a name, but it’s at number 29 Rua Doutor Júlio Dantas. Basically, some local guy got bored one day and decided to build his own bar in his front room. I got the impression he opens it whenever the mood takes him. Naturally, anything so whimsical is utterly charming, and if you’re ever in town, do check it out. It’s quite small but does boast two rooms. He’s built the bar stools himself and they’re bolted to the floor. The trouble is he’s placed them too close to the bar, so they’re very uncomfortable to sit on; you have to adopt a ‘legs akimbo’ position to manage this. I just about did it, no mean feat in the leather mini skirt I was wearing. His prices were good, his measures generous, and his conversation uninterrupted despite not speaking a word of English.

We had five mellow days in Lagos and caught the train north to Lisbon for the final weekend. Our apartment seemed fine and was well placed right in the city centre. Unfortunately, the feasting in Lagos had dtaken its toll on me and I was confined to bed on the first day.

Pastéis de nata

Sadly, I missed a little tour that afternoon; our friends know the city quite well. On the first evening, we had a splendid meal at the very highly rated ‘A Licorista O Bacalhoeiro’ which serves traditional Portuguese food. The next morning, we set off to ‘Pasteis de Belem’ to sample the perfect pastéis de nata (a Portuguese custard tart). The café was superb. It sold a wide range of confections, but, as it’s globally famous for its pastéis de nata, that’s pretty much all the punters wanted. In fact, the café is effectively a pastéis de nata factory. There were a couple of hundred of customers in and a lengthy queue outside. I can now say I’ve had pastéis de nata at the ‘source’; a bit like enjoying pizza in Naples, sipping port in Porto, or munching on a tart in Bakewell.

As we were out that morning, skulduggery was afoot! Our apartment was broken into and quite a bit of stuff was nicked. The scoundrels took cash and gadgets but ignored passports and credit cards which they could have taken. Our aging, coal fired laptop was robbed and initially we weren’t concerned because it was a rubbish one. An hour later, the truth dawned; potentially the thieving rapscallions had access to all our bank accounts and credit cards. The next 36 hours were spent making phone calls, freezing credit cards, closing accounts, changing passwords, and seeking reassurance. It was scary, it was grim, but it could have been worse. No lasting damage was done, fingers crossed, but the experience soured the trip to Lisbon for us. Before we left the apartment that morning, I paused in our bedroom. I had £500 in my wallet, there was no safe. There was no wardrobe, but a clothes rack had my shirts on it. I put my wallet in the front pocket of a shirt. They didn’t think to look there (my suitcase had been ransacked) and my money was not found. Hidden in full view.

Lessons learned? Don’t keep important passwords on anything that can be stolen. Make sure you are fully insured. Our travel insurance was useless; it covered ‘electrical items’, but mobile phones, Kindles etc are classed as ‘gadgets’ and they weren’t included. In fact, the only items we could have claimed for were dried fish, used tea bags and odd socks. The policy was only worth the paper it was written on, and that was an email. Thank God for Direct Line, our home insurance is with them and it turned out that this also covered us for holidays. They were absolutely brilliant.

We found another apartment for the last night and sensibly, we chose to drown our sorrows in some local bars. From there, we popped into a restaurant where I had a comically poor meal. It came with powdered, instant, mashed potato. Seriously. For mash get ‘Smash’. To demonstrate his gastronomic prowess, the ‘chef’ had skilfully left a thick disc of lemon poking out of the top of my blob of spuds. Had the waitress been any less attractive, I would have complained.

Should you go?

Lagos was really nice, and I’d go again but not in the high season as I think it could be very busy. My experience in Lisbon has put me off, but it’s important to take some positives from it. When you go to a new place, especially if there’s no safe in the room, ask yourself; ‘what would happen if we were robbed’? Thinking through a worst-case scenario can help you take some precautions to limit the potential damage. I’m certainly more cautious now and always pack an AK 47.

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I won a prize for my book!

If you liked my blog, there’s every possibility that you’ll like the comic novel I’ve recently published. As much as I enjoyed teaching, and respect those who do the job, there’s plenty to laugh at. I spent 30 years giggling 😊. It’s a bargain at £2.21 for the Kindle! Click on the image for the Amazon link.

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