Azulejos (painted ceramic tiles) in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Lisbon, Portugal, and Home

On my final morning before flying home, I woke up, turned over, and went back to sleep. Sleep seemed more important than touring—a sign it is time to go home. I love to see the sites in foreign countries, learn the culture, and absorb new international trends. For everything to see and do, I leave so much more than I have time to accomplish. There will be another time, and my mind can focus on only so much. Now, after completing my hike of the Camino de Santiago, I am anxious to go home, be with family, and take on needed responsibilities.

I took a final half day of sightseeing in Lisbon. I stopped for an espresso and pasties de belém, a delicious Portuguese pastry. I walked many of the city center streets, enjoying the window displays of elegant shops. I admired the culture of this lovely city, and I enjoyed looking at the azulejos (painted ceramic tiles), which you can see in my photo at the top of this blog post. I returned to my hotel in a grand square of the city, checked out, and took a cab to the airport.

At the international airport, the craziness began. I was taking a SATA flight, an airline that was unfamiliar to the locals—even the management at the grand hotel was unfamiliar with this Portuguese airline. I learned it was bought out as a recent merger and the name had changed. I entered the terminal, which was crowded with travelers, and walked around, trying to get oriented.

I came to long lines for ticketing for Swiss Air, Delta, British Air, and Lufthansa, but no signs for S.A.T.A. International. I kept walking, over in an area of construction, I happened to see several people with luggage going into a back room of the terminal. I decided to check it outand followed them. Back there was this one terminal for S.A.T.A.! There were 14 people in line waiting for the terminal to open.

We waited half an hour before an attendant came. By then, the line for this international flight was very long. Two more attendants came and worked the counter, but the line just kept getting longer. Finally, two more staff joined in behind the counter, and by then I was able to get my boarding pass, and was given the okay to take my trekking poles with my carry-on backpack. The attendant said I was the last person to secure a seat. It was an expensive trip home, but I had no regrets.

I headed through the crowded terminal to security and boarding. Every airport in every country is different. At one point of the terminal, passports were checked. The waiting lines were very long. There was no problem until after I checked through security.

A supervisor spotted my trekking poles and stopped me. He was emphatic, “No!” He took them off my pack and told me to go to a special S.A.T.A. office. I said, “Where?” He walked me a few yards and sent me off with an attendant. He opened several gates, and we kept moving in the opposite direction of all the hundreds of passengers waiting to go through security and on to their boarding gates. He passed me on to another attendant and we continued through the terminal to the small unmarked office in an area I would never have found by myself.

We went to three places before we got to the right place. I was left at the window, and after waiting for a woman and daughter to take care of their lengthy business, I presented my problem of the trekking poles. The office clerk had no idea and went for help. Meanwhile, I was becoming about missing my flight.

I thought about leaving without my poles, but they had been around the world with me to seven continents! They had a lifetime guarantee, had been sent back to the company for new parts, and they had personal meaning. The woman returned and asked for my boarding pass and left again. Now I had to wait! She came back with the supervisor and the supervisor came out in the hall to help me. Together, we walked to the oversize baggage department. She waited with me in line.

I was practically jumping up and down with worry about missing my flight. The attendant wanted to charge me $200.00 for taking the trekking poles on board. Fortunately the supervisor was there and she said, “No.”She was pleasant and a blessing to me. Now my poles were to be picked up in Boston. I thanked the supervisor, hurried off again through the passport line, and then the security check.

Now I was late! The same security supervisor recognized me and told me to take off my boots. I was the only person in sight that was asked to do so. Never before have I been singled out in such a manner, but I passed the security check. Now I hurried to my terminal, hoping there would be no more obstacles. I was anxious to go home.

(posted August 4, 2015)