Space: Because there were more downsides than ups for this rental, I didn’t know if I should include a review of it on The Finicky Wanderer, but I decided to anyway. Perhaps I’m just being finicky, but depending on your taste preferences, and what you expect from a holiday rental, this little write-up can serve as both review, and buyer beware.
This split-level, ground floor apartment is very spacious, and if you like buildings with an old, somewhat austere European feel, and interiors that conjure a Fellini-esque mood, then this might make you happy.
I wasn’t particularly impressed because the space felt like the lacked a certain warmth, even though the entire living room had floor to ceiling arched windows that looked out to a side street (a narrow, and not very pretty one), it had a somewhat cloistered atmosphere. My main gripe is the overall maintenance of the place, as there was a huge leak in the bathroom ceiling – the plaster on one corner had peeled off, and the apartment felt tired, and worn. I’ll get to my other complaints a littler further along.
Amenities: The apartment has an open plan living room and fully equipped kitchen, a raised dining area, a television, a utility room, a mezzanine sleeping loft, a bathroom, and an entrance foyer with a bench where you can put on and remove your shoes, and jackets. There are also two fans and two heaters.
Location: Located off a lane that branches out from one of the main roads, the apartment is conveniently located near the downtown area, and an easy 18-minute walk to Rossio Square, an 11-minute walk to the Time Out Market and waterfront, and just 10 minutes to the nightlife district of Bairro Alto. There are cafes, restaurants, bakeries, and convenience stores close by, and the terrain is flat enough that you won’t have to tackle too many challenging hilly sections.
Service: I booked the property through Airbnb, then was contacted by Feels Like Home, a Portuguese apartment rental agency that listed the property through Airbnb. They informed me that I would not be able to go straight to the apartment, as is standard practice with Airbnb, but had to go to their downtown, office, pick up the keys, then make my way to the apartment, which was some distance away. They do offer an airport-to-office-apartment chauffeur service at an additional fee of €30 to be paid directly to the driver. I paid for this service, but would have been very displeased if I had taken public transport from the airport, and had to deal with the whole rigmarole without a driver.
Feels Like Home gives you a “gift pack” with packets of shower gel/shampoos, a dish sponge, and dish soap, which kinda makes you feel like you’re going on a school camping trip, not very posh.
I had asked Ines, the lady from Feels Like Home whome I corresponded with via Airbnb if I could check out 30 minutes late than the designated 11am, and she insisted that this was not possible. I did however, sneakily remain in the apartment till 11:30am, to see if someone from the agency would come for the keys, or send a cleaner, but no one came. So I actually could have extended my check out time, but I guess the Feels Like Home staff are simply “follow the book types” that refuse to break protocol.
Downside: Unlike a standard Airbnb, there was no one to greet me at the apartment, or give me an orientation on site. As mentioned earlier, there was a huge damp spot above the toilet, and some water on the ground. There was no actual leaking until day two, when I came back and found a puddle of water on the ground. There were three houseflies in the apartment, and I saw strands of hair on the floor, which also felt dusty. The apartment had a musty smell. The light fixtures were all very dim, and even with three massive windows opened (the windows are tinted), the apartment felt somewhat dark.
The apartment is on the ground floor, and the windows can only “unshaded” by opening, old-fashioned, wooded foldable doors. If you open these doors, people on the streets can look in, but if you close them, you have no light. There’s also no easy way to actually open the windows for ventilation unless you want to say hi to people on the streets.
At night, I could hear the heavy footfalls of the people living upstairs, directly above my bed, so I could not get a good night’s rest. In the wee hours of the morning, I also heard a garbage truck pull up near large window-wall, as well as pedestrians and cars on the street outside.
The bathroom was very poorly designed, with bad lighting. The towel hanger is about 10 feet away from the shower tray, and inside the shower stall, there are no soap or shampoo holders, so you have to put your toiletries on the ground.
You can tell that this place is operated like a business, not by an owner who takes pride in sharing a cosy holiday home. The mattress was not very comfortable, the sofa slightly sunken, and the corner of the carper was curled.
Upside: If don’t look too closely, this apartment appears very stylishly decorated, it’s modern, minimalist colour scheme and some very stylish furniture items give the space a very sophisticated look. The high ceilings give the apartment a cool warehouse vibe, and if not for the noise and low quality mattress, the bedroom loft is quite snug, with three chic lamps. The location is a big plus, as it’s easy enough to explore the main attractions from here.
Room rate at time of booking: Available through Airbnb from US$204 per night, inclusive of service fees and occupancy tax.
Address: Santa Catarina Modern Apartment. Rua do Sol a Santa Catarina 28, Lisbon, Portugal