After breakfast, Lynne made a packed lunch for me and then drove me into Lagos so that I could catch the 10.15am bus to Lisbon. The journey took about 3 1/4 hours and was extremely smooth and comfortable.
We headed east along the coast towards Albufeira and then straight up the motorway to Lisbon through, I would have to say, some fairly flat, dry and boring countryside, with the occasional field of sunflowers to relieve the brownness. The motorways are all toll roads in Portugal and are relatively empty, particularly in the Algarve, as the locals refuse to pay the toll to use them.
We arrived at about 1.30pm and, as I was going to be walking with my back pack, I had planned my route via bus to the Pension I had booked. Initially, it proved a little tricky to find the correct bus stop but this was eventually achieved after a little wandering around and discussion with people. It was also a little confusing finding the actual street, as the map I had was slightly inadequate, but I made it!
At first, I thought I had actually got the wrong one as the house (and indeed a number of houses in the street) looked somewhat run down and not quite what I was expecting. However, after ringing the doorbell, I was greeted by Paolo and taken up a very basic run down staircase to their apartment. This proved to be very deceptive from the exterior as it was light and spacious and I have an enormous room with very high ceilings and a balcony overlooking the street. It was most unexpected!
After dumping my bag and receiving a briefing and map of Lisbon from Paolo, I spent the next 4 hours wandering the streets. Lisbon is now probably one of my favourite cities! It is beautiful, with a great mixture of old, shabby, renovated and new buildings as well, of course, the castle, churches, museums and squares with fountains and statues. The Tagus river is very wide and has catamarans and ferries plying across it constantly and there are many narrow and cobbled streets through which you can meander, particularly in the Castle and Alfama areas.
On my way back to the house, I stopped at the supermarket for a few supplies and spent the remainder of the evening, such as it was, in my room, eating and researching accommodation so that I could stay a bit longer. At about 10.30pm there appeared to be a herd of elephants moving furniture in the apartment above and I thought I was in for a noisy night but it all soon quietened down again.
I was cold in the night, so didn’t sleep well and consequently I didn’t rush this morning. I had decided to join a walking tour from one of the hostels, which began at 10.30am, so I zig zagged my way through the maze of streets to Rossi station, where the hostel was situated and the tour began. I was worried about being late, but, as it happened, the guide, improbably a young Australian, was also late, so I needn’t have rushed after getting myself lost.
The tour was not quite what I expected, in that it was more geared to young hostel guests, but was interesting nevertheless. It went to the Castle and Alfama areas in which I had walked for miles yesterday but we were still shown a number of places that I hadn’t seen, including a memorial dedicated to the Jews who were massacred in 1506 (anti-semitism being rife even then) and a Fado mural.
Most of the group were European, including one Portuguese chap, who assisted with the explanations of Portuguese history when the guide floundered, but there were also a couple of other antipodeans, who had just arrived. The guide, whose name I never knew, had arrived from a small town on the Ocean Road, 5 months ago, never having been out of Australia, and had so far, had only had 3 weeks out of Lisbon. So much for the big O.E.!
Afterwards, I walked back up to Graca to the Flea market, stopping along the way for a much needed coffee and pastel da nata (egg custard tart) at a small cafe and the Church of Graca.
The Flea market was chock a block full of junk, so I just wandered through it and then back down to the commercial district. By this time, my feet were aching but I couldn’t decide on where to go for lunch so I sat in the Rossi Square for a while, people watching and then headed back to my room.
By then, it was too late for lunch in a local cafe, so I had a snack in my room and a bit of a rest then went out to dinner in a tiny cafe along the street. The lady was very friendly and the cafe only had about 3 tables. There was no menu and she gave me a choice of meat or fish. I had fish, not knowing what I was going to get with it or how much it was going to cost! By the time I was nearing the end of my meal (fish of some variety + potato and salad), her family had arrived and she had started cooking for them. Seemingly, they all wanted something different! It was all quite entertaining, watching them and not understanding a word. By the time I had walked back to my room (all of 200m), I was well ready for bed even though it wasn’t particularly late.
My intention today was to go to Cascais with side trips to Cabo da Roca and Guincha beach, which, having left the research until the last possible minute (i.e. this morning), I thought I would be able to manage. Whilst in the kitchen for breakfast, I chatted to an English man that had been staying here all week but I hadn’t seen before. The apartment is quite different in that the owners don’t live here and it has been difficult to tell who is actually in residence apart from the Portuguese man in the room opposite. Talking delayed me a little, so it wasn’t until 9.45am that I set off for Cais de Sodrai train station, which luckily, is only about 10-15 minutes walk.
I caught the 10.20am train, which left about 5 minutes after I had arrived and purchased my ticket. Sitting next to me were 3 Australians, one of whom lived in Paris, the other in Portugal and the other, older man had been their music teacher in Canberra and was here to accompany them whilst they did gigs on a tour with a couple of Portuguese musicians. They were a bit nervous as they hadn’t all played together before and I had quite a chat to them, with the very loud background noise of about 50 Primary school children that had landed in the carriage just as the train left.
On arrival in Cascais, the weather had turned a bit nasty. It had been cooler in Lisbon this morning but had obviously poured with rain in Cascais and the wind was cold. I spent the rest of the day regretting that I hadn’t brought a cardigan, having got somewhat complacent about the warm weather.
I wandered around for a while before finding the bus terminal and the bus to Cabo da Roca, which is the western most tip of Portugal. (In my limited experience, bus terminals seem to be sign posted only once out of the train stations and after that there is an assumption that you will find them. Not so! I had to wait a while but the bus eventually arrived and I joined the other horde of tourists, who were heading that way.
The road was quite windy once we had left town and would have been spectacular, but the clouds were descending and the rain had started again. I was beginning to regret my choice of destination for the day! However, once we had wound our way down to Cabo da Roca, the weather cleared a little and patches of blue sky appeared. There was half an hour before the bus returned to Cascais, (enough) so I walked round the lighthouse and down the path to view the rugged cliffs and wondered at my motivation at visiting it!
Back in Cascais, again, I decided that the weather was not particularly conducive to beaches today so didn’t go to Guincho as planned but wandered into Cascais itself. I quickly realised that it was very much a tourist town, so took some steps up an alley and found a cafe for re-vitalising coffee and cake.
After that, I meandered through the backstreets until I found some quite large gardens in which the museum, Conde Castro Gumaraes was situated. Here, I was given a free guided tour by a rather elegant French lady, who volunteered at the museum. Inside was quite a mix of Irish, Portuguese and Chinese furniture and the building itself had Moorish and European influences where it had been remodelled and added on to.
The tour took about an hour, after which I walked across the road to the Santa Marta House and then along the coastal path to the Boca do Inferno (Mouth of the Inferno/Hell), which is a hole in the rock where the sea surges in and, in the morning, the sun shines on the ochre cliffs giving the appearance of an inferno. Late in the afternoon, however, the same effect was not quite achieved! It also appeared to be the time of day when the tour buses that do day trips to Sintra and Cascais arrive at that particular spot!
I walked back into Cascais and had my first view of the bay, where fisherman worked alongside the tourists. In town, the tourist aspect was even worse than I had first thought and the entire town seemed to be cafes, restaurants and tourist shops. By this time, my feet and back were aching considerably and I just wanted to get on the train. Luckily, they are very frequent so I did not have long to wait.
Back in Lisbon, tired and very hungry, I chanced upon a huge shed that housed many small food outlets, rather like a very up market food court, so I stopped and had a slice of excellent pizza before walking back to the apartment.
Today should have been a good day, but somehow it wasn’t. I had decided to go to Sintra, a Unesco World Heritage site, which everyone had told me was very beautiful. The first obstacle was trying to get out of the apartment block, the door of which, for some reason, wouldn’t open with the normal push button (anyone familiar with European apartment blocks will know what I mean) nor with my door key. I had to resort to asking for help from the Englishman, who managed to force it open.
I walked to Rossi Station and was just in time to catch a very comfortable double decker train to Sintra, which took about 40 minutes. Needless to say, it was crowded with tourists. The day had dawned with clear blue skies in Lisbon but in Sintra it was quite cloudy, with the occasional blue patches, and this continued throughout the day.
My first stop was at Pena Palace, which is very high on a hill overlooking Sintra. There was a tourist bus that ran around all the sites (of which there are many) in and around town, for which you could buy a hop on, hop off ticket, so I caught this up to Pena Park. I certainly did not envy the bus driver as he negotiated his way through the very narrow, steep, one way streets and hairpin bends on the way up.
On arrival, I joined an excruciatingly, slow moving queue to buy a ticket. When another kiosk opened, I moved across and waited whilst an Israeli family decided what sort of ticket they wanted and then waited whilst the money arrived with another family member climbing the hill! When it was my turn, an extremely rude ticket seller told me that I had jumped the queue and upset the other people who were waiting. I obviously had not understood the system. However, the unpleasantness marred my entire visit to Pena.
Feeling somewhat upset, I walked up to the palace, where I discovered that my camera battery was about to run out. I should have checked it!
I joined the hordes in the Palace, which was probably lovely, and then tried to get my money’s worth out of the extremely expensive ticket, by wandering around the park for an hour or so. I then tried to get the bus back down the hill to the town. However, the first couple were full and when one arrived that had space, there was a lot of pushing and shoving from some fairly fat, European tourists. By this time, I was quite ready to get on a bus back to Lisbon, but forced myself to stay.
I had caught the bus back to the station, thinking that, as it was a circular route, it would continue on and I could at least have a little ride. Not to be! The driver discovered a nail in the tyre, so they had to wait for another bus. Consequently, I did the 15 minute walk into town instead, stopping for not one, but two, recuperating coffees and an egg custard tart, before setting off.
I wandered through the town, past the National Palace, and onto Quinta da Regaleria, where I queued once again behind a dithering family, to purchase my entry ticket. This, however, was well worth the money and restored my faith in Sintra. They are lovely gardens with lots of fountains, statues, grottoes, tunnels (some of which could have done with a little more light!) and edifices. It also had a large well, down which you could descend should you so desire. (I didn’t but it seemed to appeal to lots of teenage boys!) There was also a house in the grounds, which I had a quick look at as I was running out of time to catch the bus. I had almost gone into the gardens to fill in time but I was very glad I did and would have liked longer there.
I managed to miss the bus back to the station by 2 minutes (saw it driving off as I was trying to find the exit of the gardens) and ended up walking the 25 minutes back. I had purchased a bus ticket that would take me back to Cascais, from where I would get the train back to Lisbon. At this point, my feet were very tired and I was wondering why I had done that and not just caught the train straight back to the city from Sintra. Whilst I was waiting, I chatted to a young chap from N.Z. and a couple from Vancouver, who were most impressed that I was travelling with a back pack, as they couldn’t see their parents doing it. What a confidence booster!
It took an hour on the bus back to Cascais. This was the same bus that I had caught to Cabo da Roca yesterday. I then immediately caught a train into the city and was back in my room by 7.30pm from which I scarcely emerged for the rest of the evening. Today just had to be marked down to experience and the joys of travel!
Today was a blue sky day, both literally and figuratively. The place I was staying in was full over the weekend so I had to move to another abode. This was about 15-20 minutes walk (with my back pack) and closer to the city centre. Luckily, they were allowing me to check in early, although when I arrived the room wasn’t ready. Carlos, the very hospitable owner, was on his own trying to clean several rooms and he let me into one to wait whilst he cleaned mine. This was about a quarter of the size of the last one but had a much nicer atmosphere and I had my own bathroom, unexpectedly, albeit not ensuite. It was also on the 5th floor (no lift), so I have a wonderful view down into the street below and into the other attic rooms across the street.
I was feeling extremely tired today after all the walking this week so didn’t plan to do very much. I caught up with diary writing, did a bit of forward planning (bit of a novelty!) and then walked down to Cais da Sodrai station to catch a bus to Belem, which is an historic suburb of Lisbon and home of Pastel da Belem, the original egg custard tart that I have been sampling daily. I decided not to join the queue of tourists that were lined up outside the shop though.
I wandered around the area, going into the Jeronimos Monastery, viewing the Discoveries Monument and walking along the river bank to the Belem Tower. As it was lunch time when I arrived, I was also looking for somewhere to eat, but everywhere was crowded and I ended up in a tram cafe with outdoor sitting under some trees where there were only about 2 other tourists. The coffee and empanada were very acceptable and I took my Pastel da Nata to the park in front of the monastery and sat there for a while whilst I ate it.
I had not intended to walk far today but, naturally, I ended up doing so. From the Tower of Belem, I strolled back along the river front as far as the 25 April Bridge and then out on to the street to catch a bus back into town. Unfortunately, I was on the wrong side of the railway tracks and it took a bit more walking before I found an overbridge to get onto the road.
Luckily, it wasn’t long before a tram arrived. The journey was all too short for my aching legs and feet! It was then back up the hill to my street, a quick stop at a supermarket, and walk up 5 flights of stairs before I could collapse.
What a disastrous start to the day! I had arranged to meet Carolyn at Campo Grande station and go to Obidos for the day. Firstly, the metro station I started at was not the one I thought I had walked to, so I had to change lines, which delayed me. Then, on arrival at Campo Grande, I couldn’t find the train station and when I asked someone, they said the station was 2 stops back at Entre Campos (which I did think was somewhat strange). By the time I arrived there, there was no way I was going to catch an 11am train, of which there were none anyway and I was advised to catch an express bus from Sete Rios, the main bus station. At this point, I was totally confused, hoped Carolyn hadn’t waited for me and gave up all thoughts of going to Obidos for the day. (When I returned to my room, I re-read her email, and realised that we were going by bus not train. Why I thought it was a train, who knows? A seriously senior, blonde moment or hour!)
This left me undecided as to what to do so, after looking at the map, decided to walk through some gardens and then catch the metro back to my room. I hadn’t realised there was some sort of fountain/statue/memorial in the Park Eduardo VII that was obviously a Tourist Attraction, judging by the big yellow, Hop on, Hop Off buses with lots of people that kept arriving.
I had some lunch in my room and a bit of a rest and later decided to go to the LX Factory that I had been told is a converted warehouse with lots of little shops and, more importantly, a large book shop, where I was hoping to find books in English. However, having taken the bus there, it was somewhat of a disappointment with not as many shops as I had expected and no English books in the book shop.
So it was back to Cais do Sodro (main train/bus/metro/ferry terminal) to catch a ferry to Cacilhas on the other side of the river. Here, I topped up my transport card and went through the ticket barrier only to realise that I had been given change for €5 and not the €20 note I had handed over, so it was back through the barrier to the ticket office, where I was very pleasantly surprised to find the man had my change waiting for me, thus giving me faith in mankind!
I had only intended to go across on the ferry and back again, (still lacking energy and motivation), but, once in Cacilhas, I had a lovely wander around. The reason most people would probably go there is to climb up to the Christ’s statue on the top of the hill that is a replica of the one in Rio. There are some differences, though, these being that it is smaller by 13cm, doesn’t have the same name and is not in such a prominent position, all of which were the conditions placed by the powers that be in Rio before granting approval for the building of it. I didn’t go up to it and instead had a stroll along the foreshore and up the main street. It was very quiet and peaceful after the bustle of Lisbon, with a number of cafes and restaurants, mostly empty, lining the street.
I got the 6pm ferry back and was back in my room by 6.45pm, ready for another rest!