In and around Porto

 

Porto

12 July

View from my balcony in Porto
View from my balcony in Porto

I had breakfast in a cafe this morning, trying out one of the local specialities called ova moles. It wasn’t very impressive. The size of an egg, the outer casing was like polystyrene and the filling like lemon meringue pie filling without the lemon and with a lot more sugar. Luckily, I had also bought something that was between a brioche and a croissant to go with it, so I didn’t starve. (Not that there is any danger in that!)

I walked the few minutes to the station, where I met Carolyn for the short train ride to Porto. Once at Sao Bento station, we went our separate ways to check into our respective accommodation. I was literally around the corner from the station in, what proved to be, an excellent location. The first room I was given was in the old part of the building. There wasn’t any internet in the room, after a chat with the receptionist, I was offered another room that had obviously been refurbished and was much nicer.

Sao Bento train station in Porto
Sao Bento train station in Porto
Porto vista
Porto vista
Narrow street in Porto
Narrow street in Porto

Typical view in Porto
Typical view in Porto
View of the port houses
View of the port houses
Roof top garden and the river in Porto
Roof top garden and the river in Porto

After a short time in my room, I went out for a walk. Porto is beautiful with a real mixture of buildings side by side, although all with the red roofs. There are also blue tiles on hundreds of buildings, including churches and train stations.

I wandered around the Cathedral area and then up and down through the narrow streets to Ribeira, which was really tourist central. It is right on the river front, full of cafes and restaurants, and is where all the boats start for the river cruises. I meandered along and then took random streets back up towards my hospedaria, stopping at a supermarket for lunch and breakfast supplies.

Boys playing in a fountain
Boys playing in a fountain
The Cathedral in Porto
The Cathedral in Porto
Tourist town!
Tourist town!
River front in Porto
River front in Porto
Ribeira in Porto
Ribeira in Porto
Cafe on Ribeira in Porto
Cafe on Ribeira in Porto
Houses in Porto
Houses in Porto

Once I had managed to gain entrance to the guest house (I have obviously not got the right technique for the door bell and have had to wait for someone else to come and ring it before I can get in), I had a quick bite to eat and then went to meet Carolyn at the Majestic Cafe, which she had read about in her guide book. This turned out to be something like the Ritz on a lesser scale and was somewhere people came for Afternoon Tea. I had a very nice Earl Grey, but all the food was too expensive.

Majestic Cafe in Porto
Majestic Cafe in Porto
Praca da Liberdade in Porto
Praca da Liberdade in Porto
Dancing in the street - some sort of promotion
Dancing in the street – some sort of promotion
Street observer!
Street observer!

Afterwards, we strolled up to a well known bookshop called Livraria Lello, which is particularly famed for its architecture and staircase. Well, there were so many people I couldn’t cope! There was a non stop line of bodies going into the shop, up the staircase, down the staircase and out again. I lasted 5 minutes before I had to come out.

We continued to wander the streets at random, having a look at a small market in one street and, once we had returned to the area in which Carolyn was staying, we found a small restaurant and sat outside for dinner.

Market stall
Market stall

Porto

13 July

I fiddled around in my room for quite some while this morning before setting off for the National Museum. However, once I arrived, I found out that it is only free on the first Sunday of the month and I didn’t want to see it enough to pay €5.

View of the Douro
View of the Douro

After consultation with the map, I realised that there was a cycle/walking path right out to the river mouth, from where a number of beaches stretched to the north, so I decided to make my way to the river and follow it.

Nice leafy road
Nice leafy road

I zig zagged down through the streets until I was at sea level again and reached the cycleway, which, it being Sunday, was being quite well used by both cyclists and walkers. Next to the last of the 5 bridges of Porto, I stopped for coffee to give my feet a rest and then continued on, passing lots and lots of fishermen as well as the aforementioned walkers etc.

Plenty of derelict buildings in Porto
Plenty of derelict buildings in Porto
Douro river bank
Douro river bank

When I reached my target, there was a somewhat unappealing beach set between two piers, one of which I walked on to. However, the wind was wild, as was the sea, and the fishermen at the end of the pier were certainly risking life and limb to be there, as the waves splashed and surged over the walls. I didn’t even make it to the end as it was too windy.  I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be in any of the sailing boats that were out on the water.

Enjoying the shade!
Enjoying the shade!
Not sure about the appeal of this beach!
Not sure about the appeal of this beach!
Very windy and rough sea at the river mouth
Very windy and rough sea at the river mouth
There is no escaping angels
There is no escaping angels

I decided (or rather my feet and legs decided) that I didn’t want to walk any further up the beaches, so I turned round and started walking back towards the city, stopping at a couple of benches, one in a park and the other along the promenade, for a rest and to people watch for a while. It was certainly very pleasant, out of the wind and yet with a gentle breeze blowing and a much more comfortable temperature than the heat of the city.

Wild waves on the pier!
Wild waves on the pier!
Park near the river mouth
Park near the river mouth
Not all churches are grand!
Not all churches are grand!
Path alongside the river
Path alongside the river
Worst part of the walk back along the river
Worst part of the walk back along the river

I arrived back in town at about 5pm and tried to find a supermarket that was open but to no avail, so I had to make do with the food that I had already got in my room for my evening meal (not that that was too much of a hardship!).

Porto

14 July

Today I met Carolyn at 8.45am at Sao Bento station, a 5 minutes walk from my hospedaria, to catch the train to Pocinho, which is at the end of the line on the Douro Valley line. The trip took 3 1/2 hours and passed through beautiful scenery and along the river.

View from the train through the dirty window
View from the train through the dirty window

As far as Regua, which is where a lot of the cruise passengers alighted, it was mainly verdant countryside and not much view of the river. However, from then on, the train track hugged the river bank, stopping at many small stations along the way, most of whose buildings were covered in the typical blue tiles of the region.

Pocinho station
Pocinho station

A number of people got off the train at Pinhao, but we continued on for the last part of the line, where the scenery became far more rocky and rugged, although the steep hills were still covered in vineyards and olive groves. We had half an hour in Pocinho.  Here, we stepped out of the train into a temperature that resembled an oven on a hot fan bake. There was very little in the village, apart from a few houses and a couple of cafes, in one of which we had a much needed cup of coffee.

View from Pocinho station
View from Pocinho station
View of the vineyards from the train
View of the vineyards from the train

The train left again promptly, and we retraced our steps back to Pinhao, where we then stopped for 4 hours, catching the 18.20 train back to Porto. Pinhao was a small town with one main street in which some fairly hideous music blasted from loud speakers throughout the town. We discovered that a festival for the local saints had finished the day before and this was a relic of that. We had wondered if some sadist enjoyed inflicting such noise on to unsuspecting tourists normally!

Pinhao station with blue tiles
Pinhao station with blue tiles
Tiles depicting the wine trade in Pinhao station
Tiles depicting the wine trade in Pinhao station
Main Street of Pinhao
Main Street of Pinhao
Bougainvillea in Pinhao
Bougainvillea in Pinhao
View from the river
View from the river

We spent an hour in an air conditioned cafe (it being like an oven in Pinhao as well), and then ventured out again into the heat. Having strolled through the main street and across the bridge, we wandered along the promenade where a number of boats offering cruises were tied up. We found one that did an hour trip for a reasonable price, so we had a very pleasant ride, travelling up the river on an old port carrying boat, with only two other people. I would hardly have thought it was economic for the owner! It was interesting to see the vineyards (all owned by large port houses), from a different perspective.

Boat jetty at Pinhao
Boat jetty at Pinhao
Lots of port company wine signs on the hillsides
Lots of port company wine signs on the hillsides
Reflections on the river
Reflections on the river
One of the larger tourist boats making waves
One of the larger tourist boats making waves
Reflections of a winery
Reflections of a winery
Our boat was an old port carrying one
Our boat was an old port carrying one

Afterwards, we adjourned to a bar on the quayside for a very welcome beer and then it was back up to the station (inevitably up a hill) to catch the train. There was quite a crowd waiting, as there are many companies that offer cruises to/from Porto with a train ride in the opposite direction. These were way beyond our budget, however, and we were very pleased to have taken the train and gone to the furthermost point of the line.

We arrived back into Porto at about 8.40pm after a long, but very enjoyable day.

Pinhao from the bridge
Pinhao from the bridge
The bridge at Pinhao
The bridge at Pinhao

Porto

15 July

When I awoke this morning, it was to the sound of dripping water. Yes, it was coming through the ceiling but, luckily, into the shower and not on to my bed. I felt obliged to get up and tell the owner.

View from the bridge away from the city
View from the bridge away from the city

Afterwards, today was a much needed lazy day. The weather turned a little strange, being gloomy to start with, then sunny, then a fog seemed to drift over the city and then it was back to blue sky from lunch time.

Porto in a gloomy morning
Porto in a gloomy morning
Metro along the top of the bridge
Metro along the top of the bridge
Looking down from the bridge
Looking down from the bridge

I pottered in my room in the morning, went for a coffee and then did a little trying on and shopping in C&A, which is conveniently located around the corner. I have inadvertently picked a very good place to stay here. Sometimes it is hard to tell what a hotel is going to be like until you get there and you win some, you lose some. This one is definitely a winner in terms of the room itself, price and the location.

In the late morning, I wandered down towards the river with the intention of walking across the most well known bridge in Porto, which was designed by the same engineer that did the Eiffel Tower. The top part is for the metro and pedestrians and the lower part for vehicles (and pedestrians).

Backs of port warehouses looking somewhat derelict
Backs of port warehouses looking somewhat derelict
Crochet decoration on a balcony
Crochet decoration on a balcony (no idea of the significance!)
A bit of refurbishment was going on!
A bit of refurbishment was going on!
A brighter view of the city
A brighter view of the city

I walked along the top, observing Porto through the gloom and, on the other side, wound my way down and through the port warehouses and shops. Although I didn’t stop to taste any port, I did have another coffee before strolling back along the river, where there was a great deal of renovating/refurbishment/repairs underway. By this time, the blue sky was back and it was hot again.

Funicular going to the top of the bridge
Funicular going to the top of the bridge
The river side going away from the city
The river side going away from the city
The road underneath the metro track on the bridge
The road underneath the metro track on the bridge

After making a few essential purchases (fruit, bread and wine) at the supermarket, I returned to my room, where I spent the rest of the day being lazy. Carolyn, who has now moved to the same hospedaria, came in for a chat for a few minutes later in the evening but otherwise, it was a quiet night.

Porto

16 July

It was a very full day today, as I had decided to go to both Braga and Guimaeres, both of which are north of Porto. I caught the train to Braga first, leaving at 8.45am. The journey lasted about an hour and went through some very pretty countryside, where, as I have noticed before, there is a lot of very healthy (irrigated) maize growing alongside the vines.

Gardens in Braga
Gardens in Braga

On arrival, I walked up to the town centre from the train station, stopping for coffee at a small stall/cafe in a park. Portuguese cafes are very impressive in that even the smallest one has an expresso coffee machine and they make the coffees exactly the way I like them, with regard to size and amount of milk. They even have a name for it, which is two of the three Portuguese words I have learnt!

Main square in Braga - the fountains started 2 seconds after I took the photo!
Main square in Braga – the fountains started 2 seconds after I took the photo!
Decoration on top of a bandstand in Braga
Decoration on top of a bandstand in Braga
Cathedral square in Braga
Cathedral square in Braga

Afterwards, I strolled through the very attractive, historic centre of the town. It wasn’t too busy and there weren’t a huge number of tourists, so I whiled away a very satisfactory 2 1/2 hours, wandering the streets and going into one or two churches, including the Cathedral where I had hardly got my camera out of the bag before a Portuguese equivalent of Mrs Overall (pink one) wagged her finger and instructed me “no fotos!”. The building itself was an extraordinary mix of baroque, renaissance and modern, so there was some spectacular gilt, especially round the organ, as well as some fairly plain stonework. The town seemed to be full of churches and, I suppose not surprisingly, there was a corresponding abundance of shops selling religious ornaments etc.

Very un PC model outside a coffee shop in Braga
Very un PC model outside a coffee shop in Braga
Old city walls blending in to the Braga skyline
Old city walls blending in to the Braga skyline
Gardens in Guimaeres
Gardens in Guimaeres
Church bedecked in lights reminiscent of a Hindi temple!
Church bedecked in lights reminiscent of a Hindi temple!

I then caught the local bus to Guimaeres, a much larger town and a Unesco World Heritage listed site. It was packed with tourists and all round the centre were cafes, bars and souvenir shops. I should know by now that this is what it is going to be like and not to visit one of these listed sites. After my picnic lunch sitting in a park, I had quick look round the centre. You would be forgiven for thinking that you had landed in France or Switzerland with the window boxes and balconies. However, it is unlikely that you would be allowed to hang washing from the windows in an equivalent site in those countries!

It might be a Unesco Heritage site, but washing must be dried!
It might be a Unesco Heritage site, but washing must be dried!
Head of a crusader in Guimaeres
Head of a crusader in Guimaeres
Some interesting guardians of the rooftop!
Some interesting guardians of the rooftop!

Having noticed there was a cable car going up the hill, I decided that it would be an excellent idea to escape the masses up there. What a good decision, as the funicular was scarcely being used and at the top, where, unsurprisingly, a church was perched, there were a lot of Portuguese, who were mostly at the extreme ends of the life span i.e. very old or very young. The young were racing around, shrieking and playing amongst the large rocks in the park and the old were generally sitting under trees or cafe umbrellas watching and waiting (presumably for their buses or families to reclaim them!)

The cable car in Guimaeres
The cable car in Guimaeres
There are old people parked under the umbrellas!
There are old people parked under the umbrellas waiting for their bus!
Church at the top of the cable car
Church at the top of the cable car
View from the top of the cable car in Guimaeres
View from the top of the cable car in Guimaeres
View from the park at the top of the cable car in Guimaeres
View from the park at the top of the cable car in Guimaeres
Detail on the Cathedral in Guimaeres
Detail on the Cathedral in Guimaeres

Back  in the town, I thought I’d better look at the Cathedral, which was now open (all churches are now becoming a bit of a blur!) and then had another coffee before heading off for the train station, which was a little way away.

Trying to buy a ticket seemed to be a problem that required a phone call but it turned out that, unknowingly, I had bought a day return to Braga from Porto and the ticket man was just checking if I could use it from Guimaeres. Given that the fares are very cheap anyway, I had expected to buy another ticket. It meant that the grand total for my rail trips today was €3.60. I couldn’t get much better value that that!

The trip back was about an hour and a half so it was about 7pm by the time I was back in my room after another most enjoyable day.

Porto

17 July

It was a very grey and miserable day when I woke up. I was intending to have coffee with Carolyn this morning, as she was returning to England today, but she didn’t wake up and I was catching a train at 9.45am to Barcelos, so I had coffee on my own at the station.

NZ kiwifruit in the market in Barcelos
NZ kiwifruit in the market in Barcelos

The trip took about an hour and a half, with a prolonged change of trains at Nine. Barcelos’ main claim to fame is a very large outdoor market, reputedly the biggest in Europe. I arrived at the station about 11.30am and had to walk some distance, following the signs to the town centre and then the trail of people carrying full shopping bags, before I found the market (although it wasn’t actually that difficult).

Barcelos market
Barcelos market
The cake stall!
The cake stall!
Very smelly salt cod in the market
Very smelly salt cod in the market
Strange ornaments in the market
Strange ornaments in the market
Outfits for Portuguese children
Outfits for Portuguese children

The market was certainly very large and, apart from the usual fruit, vegetables, flowers, bread and clothing, there was also a wide variety of souvenirs and household goods, some of which one had to wonder about!

Having had a wander, I then strolled into the historic part, which was OK but nothing special and was wondering why I had bothered to come. I dithered about going onto Viana do Castelo, which is a little further along the train line on the coast, and decided that as I had come so far, I would.

Ornamental chickens in the market
Ornamental chickens in the market
24 hour clock in Barcelos
24 hour clock in Barcelos
Gandhi in Barcelos
Gandhi in Barcelos

I was glad that I did as it was a very attractive town and, with hindsight, which is a wondrous thing, my time would have been better spent if I had just gone there and spent the day rather than bothering with Barcelos.

The main street of Viana do Castelo
The main street of Viana do Castelo
Fishing port at Viana do Castelo
Fishing port at Viana do Castelo
The river at Viana do Castelo
The river at Viana do Castelo

Viana do Castelo has a castle perched high on the hill above and, apparently, also has some lovely beaches extending further up the western coast towards Spain. However, I didn’t see either of those. Instead, I walked along the river towards the its mouth, where there were a lot of fishermen, as well as a fairly active looking fish market. (At least, that is what I assume it was as there were a lot of white vans and people with crates moving around.)

Someone made a lot of effort with the flowers!
Someone made a lot of effort with the flowers!

Decoration round a men's clothing shop
Decoration round a men’s clothing shop (hope they appreciate it!)

Blocks of flats typical of Portugal
Blocks of flats typical of Portugal

Viana do Castelo
Viana do Castelo
Spot the man reading the paper amongst the linen
Spot the man reading the paper amongst the linen

Afterwards, I walked through the old part of town which, whilst not particularly stunning or historic, was very appealing (and there weren’t too many other tourists!)

Former Hospital ship under repairs in Viana
Former Hospital ship under repairs in Viana
The port at Viana do Castelo
The port at Viana do Castelo

I caught the train back to Porto at 4.30pm, changing again at Nine, and was back in the city by 6.30pm, where the blue sky had made a miraculous reappearance.

Porto

18 July

One of the main shopping streets in Porto
One of the main shopping streets in Porto
Some of the flowers are even real!
Some of the flowers are even real! (but not many)

I was very tired again today, so it was a very slow morning. The weather didn’t help as it was a lot cooler, very grey and threatening rain. I sorted out some things in my room and then went in search of an internet place, so that I could print my boarding pass.  A  mooch around one of the main shopping streets just around the corner from the hotel, completed my morning.

In my mooching, I chanced upon a covered market in which there were some thronging cafes. However, the stalls around them were mostly closed. I assumed that this was because it wasn’t a particularly busy day but found out afterwards, when I did The Worst Tour, that it was because the Council was trying to privatise the market and was attempting to block traders from going there.

Market cafe where I had lunch
Market cafe where I had lunch
Lots of wooden spoons in the market
Lots of wooden spoons in the market

Having observed the bustle for a while, I decided to have lunch, as it appeared that the cafe staff were running off to the fish stall to get supplies, almost with each order. I ordered salmon and watched proceedings, whilst I waited for it to arrive. And very entertaining it was too. There were quite a number of tourists, particularly French, so it must be in some guide book or other, but there were also a large number of Portuguese which, to me, is always a good sign. Unfortunately, whilst very tasty, the salmon didn’t seem to agree with me and, as this had happened the last time I ordered it, I must try and remember to choose something else in future!

This afternoon, I had booked on The Worst Tour, which was set up and run by 3 unemployed architects, who wanted to show tourists what Porto was like away from the tourist area or ‘Bermuda Triangle’ as they called it, into which tourists disappeared never to emerge in another part of the city.

Old hat factory in Porto
Old hat factory in Porto

I met the tour leader, eventually, by a fountain in a square at the beginning of the poorer area. I had to wait awhile and realised I should have asked what an unemployed 30 something architect looked like as there was nobody obvious! I was joined by a young couple who happened to be sitting on a park bench where we started but who hadn’t booked on the tour at all!

Community garden in Porto
Community garden in Porto

We all had a very enjoyable afternoon, starting in a squat (the only legal one in Porto), which was home to a community centre, visiting a community garden, hidden away behind the facade of a large run down house and going to an old ruined hat factory that had been taken over by artists, mainly graffiti ones. We also went to some ‘islands’, which are houses within houses built in the time of the Industrial Revolution to provide homes for the workers that were pouring into Porto at the time. These are scattered around the city and were 4 metre by 4 metre boxes, some of which have now been extended and many of which are still occupied. Lastly, we passed through a large cemetery to visit an old disused shopping mall where young musicians practised.

Large cemetery in Porto
Large cemetery in Porto

Our tour leader was a young activist of the extreme left, who is horrified at the poverty now in Porto, concerned about the welfare of older people in particular, and the fact that large amounts of E.U. money is being spent to build 5 star hotels when there are 50,000 unused and derelict buildings around the city that could provide homes and businesses for people. Politics aside, the extent of the dereliction is certainly horrifying and there seems to be no life on the streets away from the central tourist area.

At the end of the tour, we went to a small bar for a beer before going our separate ways. We all felt that we had been shown a part of the city that we would never have found on our own and it was excellent to obtain an insider’s, if somewhat radical, view of the socio-economic and political view of the place at the moment.

Lisbon to Aveiro

 

Lisbon

6 July

Decorations outside a florist shop
Decorations outside a florist shop
Some of the 86 arches that go round the Terreiro do Paco
Some of the 86 arches that go round the Terreiro do Paco

My plan today was to get the ferry over to Cacilhas again and then catch a bus to Sesimbra and lie on the beach all day. It was pouring with rain when I woke up. There was no Plan B. Consequently, I did very little in my room all morning. I did make eye contact and exchanged smiles with the lady in the lime green dressing gown in the attic opposite when we were both standing at our respective windows staring out at the rain. However, there was no point in venturing out, as I would have been soaked within minutes. When it started to brighten up at about 2pm, I went for a walk.

Mural on a dilapidated building in Lisbon
Mural on a dilapidated building in Lisbon
Assortment of Lisbon buildings
Assortment of Lisbon buildings
Statue in Terreiro do Paco in Lisbon
Statue in Terreiro do Paco in Lisbon
Segways are a popular way to get around in Lisbon
Segways are a popular way to get around in Lisbon

This took me along the waterfront and into Paco do Terreira, the centre of all Lisbon activities, where I visited the Lisboa Story Centre. This was excellently presented and well worth visiting. I was given an audio set, which automatically played a narrative, as I moved from room to room. There was also a rather realistic audio visual of the 1755 earthquake, which certainly would unsettle anyone who had actually experienced one (and my mind was on Christchurch at the time).

Afterwards, I meandered slowly back, inevitably stopping for the daily dose of Pastel del Nata and coffee at a small cafe. Hopefully, I will be able to find them further north and they are not just a specialty of Lisbon!

Terreiro do Paco - centre of Lisbon
Terreiro do Paco – centre of Lisbon

Coimbra

7 July

View of Coimbra from the University
View of Coimbra from the University

This morning dawned bright and beautiful, naturally, after thwarting my plans for the beach yesterday. Today was a travel day and I was off on the next stage to Coimbra, in the Central Region, which meant catching a bus from Sete Rios bus station, except of course, none of the signs call it that and the metro goes to Jardim Zoologique, not Sete Rios. Some things really should be more straightforward!

View of Coimbra
View of Coimbra
View from my balcony
View from my balcony
Organ in Santa Cruz church
Organ in Santa Cruz church

I arrived at the bus station in good time, queued for the ticket (fastest moving queue I have been in so far) and boarded the very comfortable bus for the two hours or so, non stop service to Coimbra. I was lucky in that, on a very full bus, I had no one sitting next to me.

The countryside was fairly flat and uninteresting to start with but, as we travelled further north, it became much greener, with tracts of pines and eucalyptus trees.  The contour also became more undulating and hilly.

Street scene in Coimbra
Street scene in Coimbra
Fountain in Coimbra
Fountain in Coimbra

I walked into town from the bus station and immediately liked the feel of the place. My hotel/guest house, when I found it, was in a narrow cobbled street lined with small local shops. My host couldn’t speak English, so we conversed in French, with me racking my brains for the French I haven’t spoken for donkey’s years. It was very convivial! My room is quite basic, has a balcony overlooking the street, which I love, and my own ensuite bathroom (something of a luxury these days!)

Paco das Escolas at the University
Paco das Escolas at the University
Nice sunny spot for coffee!
Nice sunny spot for coffee!
It's not all pretty!
It’s not all pretty!

I ate the roll I had made before I left Lisbon and hit the town. ‘Hit’ may not be quite the right word but I did my usual, and wandered right, left and centre until I found myself up in the University area.

This was beautiful and I even paid the entrance fee to go into the old library (one of the main attractions of Coimbra), the Chapel, with its organ with 2,000 pipes, and some other rooms. There were 2 or 3 French groups of tourists, but otherwise, not too many people, which was bliss after Lisbon.

Port Ferrea at the University in Coimbra
Port Ferrea at the University in Coimbra

View from the Balcony at the University
View from the Balcony at the University

D. Joao III in Paco das Escolas at the University
D. Joao III in Paco das Escolas at the University

Library entrance and Tower at the University
Library entrance and Tower at the University

Roof above the Porta Ferrea of the University
Roof above the Porta Ferrea of the University

View from Minerva stairs at the University
View from Minerva stairs at the University
Balcony of the former Palace/University
Balcony of the former Palace/University
Bit of a mixture!
Bit of a mixture!
Slogans and some interesting paraphernalia hanging from student flats
Slogans and some interesting paraphernalia hanging from student flats

Afterwards, I walked down, past the aqueduct and through some botanic gardens. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my way down through them and ended up walking rather a long way in the wrong direction before being able to head in the right one. My feet did protest! There was lots more to explore but that will have to wait until tomorrow.

Back near the hotel, having had a restorative coffee and Pastel da Nata, (thankfully, they do have them in the north) I hunted for a supermarket. Unbelievably, there was none to be found! Plenty of shoe shops, (Portugal’s third biggest export), pharmacies, fruit and veg and meat shops, but no supermarket. I was forced to buy my wine in a wine shop, which was another novelty.

Ancient and modern!
Ancient and modern!
Buildings in the modern part of the University
Buildings in the modern part of the University

'Modern' University building
‘Modern’ University building

Aquaduct
Aquaduct

Bill board at the University
Bill board at the University
Botanic Gardens
Botanic Gardens
Aquaduct from the Botanic Gardens
Aquaduct from the Botanic Gardens

I had intended to go out for dinner tonight but, having put my feet up and having had the cake at 6pm, I wasn’t very hungry, so I ate the Pringles out of the mini bar instead. They went very well with the Rose Vinho Verde! Unfortunately, I thought this was going to be a nice quiet street, but as I am writing, there is music blasting forth from, what I assume, must be a bar or club. Oh good…..!

Coimbra

8 July

I awoke to yet another blue sky and the sound of a cockatoo screeching from a balcony on the other side of the street, which brought back memories of Harry, our poor, deceased (female) family bird.

At breakfast, I was pleased to note that I had not forgotten all my French, could follow the conversation between some French guests and the Portuguese owner and even discern the strong Portuguese accent when the owner was speaking. (I wasn’t sufficiently confident to join in though!)

Old bridge in Tomar
Old bridge in Tomar

I had decided to do a day trip on the train to Tomar today, so arrived at the station, which is a mere 5 minute walk away, and joined a painstakingly slow queue to buy a ticket. When it was my turn, I found out why. It took at least 5 minutes for the ticket man to go through the computer options to print out my ticket, something I would have expected to be fairly straight forward. After walking away from the office, I realised he had booked me on a train back at 18.15 which was much later than I intended but thought I would worry about that later. As it turned out, I ended up rushing for that train, as there was much more to do in Tomar than I anticipated.

River and weir in Tomar
River and weir in Tomar

It was about a 2 hour trip with a change of trains to reach the town and I was backtracking on some of the countryside I had driven through on the motorway from Lisbon. Once there, I wandered in to town and found the tourist office, where I was one of those tourists I used to so despise who arrive and then ask ‘what is there to see?’.

Old Market under renovation in Tomar
Old Market under renovation in Tomar

I had decided that I would have a proper lunch today as I had been snacking for the last week. Consequently, my first stop was in a restaurant where I could observe no obvious foreign tourists. Unfortunately, the food was extremely disappointing with my choice of a local pork dish being some dry cubes of pork with some very, very small shellfish (like pipis in N.Z. but smaller), and fried cubes of potato. Not a vegetable or piece of salad in sight! The service was slow and the meal took over an hour which, with hindsight, I could have done without.

Renovations in Tomar
Renovations in Tomar
Face of a statue in Tomar
Face of a statue in Tomar
Lots of door handles like this one in Tomar
Lots of door handles like this one in Tomar

Afterwards, I vaguely followed the historic trail map, conveniently supplied by the tourist office, and wandered around the historic part of town and along the river. It was a very attractive town and, more importantly, there were not too many tourists. As in just about all the places I have visited, there was a large amount of renovation underway, not only in private houses but also in public buildings.

Street up to the castle in Tomar
Street up to the castle in Tomar
Water wheel in Tomar
Water wheel in Tomar

Renovation required in Tomar?
Renovation required in Tomar?

Praca da Republica in Tomar
Praca da Republica in Tomar

Entrance to the Convent in Tomar
Entrance to the Convent in Tomar
Walls of the castle in Tomar
Walls of the castle in Tomar
The Convent in Tomar
The Convent in Tomar

The main ‘attraction’ of the town is the Castle and Convent of Christ, a Unesco World Heritage site, set high on the hill overlooking the town. I walked to it up the steep cobbled streets, bought by ticket and mentally prepared myself to wander around yet another religious building for an hour or so. It transpired that it was massive and very well worth visiting.  The hour I had mentally allocated was extended, with the result that I then did not have enough time to visit the gardens in the town that I had left to last to explore.

Convent of Christ in Tomar
Convent of Christ in Tomar
View from the Castle in Tomar
View from the Castle in Tomar
Cloisters in the Convent in Tomar
Cloisters in the Convent in Tomar

Despite there being several groups of French and English tourists at the Convent, the place still maintained a feeling of peace and tranquillity. Architecturally, it was quite extraordinary, much of it being built in the Baroque style. There were cloisters going off in all directions on three levels, so it was very easy to get lost and there was an extremely ornate chapel in the middle.

Part of the Convent in Tomar
Part of the Convent in Tomar
The main part of the Convent in Tomar
The main part of the Convent in Tomar
More cloisters in the Convent in Tomar
More cloisters in the Convent in Tomar

Sunlight on some wall tiles in the Convent in Tomar
Sunlight on some wall tiles in the Convent in Tomar

The Chapel in the Convent in Tomar
The Chapel in the Convent in Tomar

Entrance to the Chapel in the Convent in Tomar
Entrance to the Chapel in the Convent in Tomar
Roof in one of the rooms in the Convent in Tomar
Roof in one of the rooms in the Convent in Tomar

It was nearly 5.30pm before I descended into town once again. I just had enough time to do a very brief circuit around the formal part of the gardens but had to miss the 2 or 3km woodland walk, as I then had to rush back to the station for the train and the 2 hour trip back to Coimbra.  As I rode along, the countryside was beautiful in the evening light, with the sun shining on the terracotta roof tiles and the white walls of the buildings.

Gardens in Tomar
Gardens in Tomar

Coimbra

9 July

The morning was allocated to domestic stuff. I first had a haircut at the extremely convenient hairdressers located, literally, right next door to the guest house.

Praca in Coimbra where we had coffee
Praca in Coimbra where we had coffee

The rest of the morning, such as it was, was then spent updating the blog, researching etc. I then headed off to meet Carolyn at her hotel, which was about 5 minutes walk away. Even I could not mess up this arrangement and it was good to catch up after missing each other (or rather me missing her) on Saturday.

Top of a bank building in Coimbra
Top of a bank building in Coimbra

We discovered that we had both been having a daily Pastel del Nata with coffee, so this is where we headed first. For both of us, this was the first really bad one we had tasted. We were very unimpressed! Having sat and chatted at the cafe for a while, we then wandered across the river and headed for some gardens where there were supposed to be some fountains of some historic importance, although I have already forgotten what. The fountains themselves seemed to be non existent apart from a bit of stonework (no flowing water) and having stood and chatted there for a while, I decided I needed to sit down, so we sat on the steps of an amphitheatre and that is as far we got!

Amphitheatre where we sat all afternoon
Amphitheatre where we sat all afternoon
University of Coimbra
University of Coimbra
Carolyn
Carolyn

The next time I looked at my watch it was 5.45pm and the afternoon had been spent very idly, talking, which I have to say, was most enjoyable and relaxing. We strolled back over to the other side of the river where I wanted to see the Centre of Portugal, which turned out to be a concert room called Portugal Centre and not the physical centre as I had assumed!

We had dinner at a restaurant that Carolyn had seen in one of her guide books and it transpired that this was a very good choice. After yet more chatting (neither of us had talked to anyone for quite a while) and arranging to meet in Aveiro in a couple of days, we went our separate ways, each returning to our respective hotels.

Bridge across the river in Coimbra
Bridge across the river in Coimbra
Pool in the river in Coimbra
Pool in the river in Coimbra

Aveiro

10 July

Lovely view from my hotel room in Aveiro
Lovely view from my hotel room in Aveiro

I left Coimbra today and travelled the short distance to Aveiro by train, where I had booked a hotel for 2 nights. The trains ran frequently between the 2 towns, so I didn’t have too long to wait for the next one. The transport here appears to be plentiful and reasonably efficient.

From the train, Aveiro did not look particularly appealing. I walked the short distance to my hotel, which was somewhat disappointing, the room being large and clean but otherwise totally devoid of any character. And there was no wifi in the room! I was already regretting booking 2 nights and wishing I had stayed an extra day in Coimbra. However, time soon passes and it could have been a lot worse.

Bicycles free to use in Aveiro
Bicycles free to use in Aveiro

Bicycles have interesting knitted and crochet adornments!
Bicycles have interesting knitted and crochet adornments!

Ornate house in Aveiro
Ornate house in Aveiro

Signs in Aveiro
Signs in Aveiro

Having spent an hour or so on the internet in the lounge area accompanied by the horrendous blast of a music channel on the television, I walked towards town, which was about 1km down the road, inevitably stopping for coffee and pastel del nata along the way. Thankfully, it was a vast improvement on that of yesterday!

Aveiro likes to think of itself as the Venice of Portugal as it has canals and gondolas of a sort (called moliceiros here, they were originally used for collecting seaweed). There were quite a number of these brightly painted vessels plying the waters, loaded with tourists.

Would be Venice!
Would be Venice!
Moliceiro on a canal in Aveiro
Moliceiro on a canal in Aveiro

I spent some time wandering around the shopping area and then followed the main canal through the park towards the lagoon, where the salt beds are located. There was also evidence of a fishing industry in the derelict buildings at the end of the road but all that is left now is a small marina for yachts and a repair yard.I spent some time wandering around the shopping area and then followed the main canal through the park towards the lagoon, where the salt beds are located. There was also evidence of a fishing industry in the derelict buildings at the end of the road but all that is left now is a small marina for yachts and a repair yard.

Tile mural of the bridge over the canal
Tile mural of the bridge over the canal
Bridge over a canal in Aveiro
Bridge over a canal in Aveiro
Salt beds
Salt beds
Man rolling salt bed
Man rolling salt bed
Down by the marina in Aveiro
Down by the marina in Aveiro
Fish museum seems to be closed!
Fish museum seems to be closed!
Interesting tiles on the sign for an old fish cafe
Interesting tiles on the sign for an old fish cafe
Fish cafe definitely closed!
Fish cafe definitely closed!
Gondola graveyard
Gondola graveyard

I turned around and strolled back to town, taking another branch of a canal and then going into the historic area then back to the main canal and my hotel.

Balcony in Aveiro
Balcony in Aveiro
Very colourful house in Aveiro
Very colourful house in Aveiro
Church square in Aveiro
Church square in Aveiro
Building with a nautical style in Aveiro
Building with a nautical style in Aveiro
Part of a series of tiles about Aveiro life
Part of a series of tiles about Aveiro life

Aviero

11 July

On the way to meet Carolyn at her hotel this morning, I stopped for my breakfast coffee. However, because they didn’t understand what I had asked for (so much for trying my Portuguese!), I ended up with 2 sips of espresso and a pastel del nata, which, whilst lovely, but not quite what I was expecting.

Old fishermen's houses in Costa Nova
Old fishermen’s houses in Costa Nova

Carolyn had just arrived from Coimbra, so she got a brief look at the centre of town, before I selfishly suggested we go to the beach for the day, so this is what we did. It was a half hour bus trip to Costa Nova, which is one of the two closest beaches to Aveiro, Barra being the other.

Looking towards Barra from Costa Nova
Looking towards Barra from Costa Nova
House at Costa Nova
House at Costa Nova
House in Costa Nova
House in Costa Nova
Houses under renovation at Costa Nova
Houses under renovation at Costa Nova

It was a beautiful beach set on one side of a strip of land, with the lagoon being on the other. There were not very many people there and those that were appeared to be Portuguese or Spanish rather than other Europeans. There wasn’t a town or even any shops that we could see, as these all seemed to be located in the more built up area of Barra. However, there were some very interesting houses that were either painted with stripes or, in the case of the more modern ones, covered in tiles in the same pattern as the traditional fishermen’s stripey houses.

We had a stroll along the board walks, much of which were covered in sand, and then went for lunch at a cafe nearby.  After this we spent the rest of the afternoon lying on the lovely, soft, fine sand, trying to escape from the wind by sheltering close to the dunes. Everybody else seemed to be well protected with wind shelters and umbrellas! It was certainly a good place fo the kite surfers.

Houses across the dunes at Costa Nova
Houses across the dunes at Costa Nova
Kite surf out of action on Costa Nova beach
Kite surf out of action on Costa Nova beach
Lots and lots of camper vans at Costa Nova
Lots and lots of camper vans at Costa Nova
Tiled houses at Costa Nova
Tiled houses at Costa Nova
There is a boardwalk under there somewhere!
There is a boardwalk under there somewhere!
Go carts and stalls on the lagoon side of Costa Nova
Go carts and stalls on the lagoon side of Costa Nova
Fishing boats on the lagoon side of Costa Nova
Fishing boats on the lagoon side of Costa Nova
View from the restaurant in Aveiro
View from the restaurant in Aveiro
By the canal in Aveiro
By the canal in Aveiro

Later, we caught the bus back to town and went for dinner at another place listed in Carolyn’s guide book. This was an upstairs restaurant that overlooked one of the canals. This was probably the best part about it as the service was slow and unfriendly and the food nothing special.

 

In and around Lisbon

 

Lisbon

30 June

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.

My house with rubbish sack outside
My house with rubbish sack outside
View towards the Castle in Lisbon
View towards the Castle in Lisbon

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!

House at the end on my street
House at the end on my street
View of Lisbon
View of Lisbon

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!

The Tagus river
The Tagus river
Tramlines in street in Lisbon
Tramlines in street in Lisbon
Graffiti in Lisbon
Graffiti in Lisbon
Fountain in a square in Lisbon
Fountain in a square in Lisbon
Tram and tuk tuk in Lisbon
Tram and tuk tuk in Lisbon

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.

Lisbon Cathedral
Lisbon Cathedral

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.

Building under renovation in Lisbon
Building under renovation in Lisbon

Red roofs and aerials in Lisbon!
Red roofs and aerials in Lisbon!

Flower garlands decorating walls of ruined building
Flower garlands decorating walls of ruined building
Building near castle in Lisbon
Building near castle in Lisbon
On the banks of the River Tagus
On the banks of the River Tagus
Square near the river in Lisbon
Square near the river in Lisbon
Balconies in Lisbon
Balconies in Lisbon
France v Nicaragua on the big screen
France v Nicaragua on the big screen
Cafe in Lisbon with World Cup match playing
Cafe in Lisbon with World Cup match playing

Lisbon

1 July

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.

View from my balcony
View from my balcony
View from my balcony the other way
View from my balcony the other way
16 April Bridge over the Tagus
16 April Bridge over the Tagus
View of Parliament at the end of the street
View of Parliament at the end of the street

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.

Memorial to the massacre of the Jews in 1506
Memorial to the massacre of the Jews in 1566
Fado Mural in Alfama
Fado Mural in Alfama
Church destroyed in earthquake in 1755
Church destroyed in earthquake in 1755

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.!

Very small library in Alfama!
Very small library in Alfama!
Re-roofing!
Re-roofing!
Barber's shop
Barber’s shop
Window in Alfama
Window in Alfama

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.

Typical Portuguese tiles on a house
Typical Portuguese tiles on a house
Buying clothes in the flea market
Buying clothes in the flea market
Lots of junk at the flea market
Lots of junk at the flea market
Shoe advertisement in Rossi Square
Shoe advertisement in Rossi Square

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.

Lisbon

2 July

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.

West coast at Cabo da Roca
West coast at Cabo da Roca
Rocks at Cabo da Roca
Rocks at Cabo da Roca

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.

Cabo da Roca
Cabo da Roca
Lighthouse at Cabo da Roca
Lighthouse at Cabo da Roca

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!

Tourist street in Cascais
Tourist street in Cascais
Cafe in Cascais
Cafe in Cascais

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.

Church opposite the Conde Castro Guimares Museum
Church opposite the Conde Castro Guimares Museum
Agapanthus in gardens in Cascais
Agapanthus in gardens in Cascais
Museum of Conde Castro Guimares in Cascais
Museum of Conde Castro Guimares in Cascais

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.

Conde Castro Guimaraes Museum
Conde Castro Guimaraes Museum
Tiles overmantle in Conde Castro Guimaraes Museum
Tiles overmantle in Conde Castro Guimaraes Museum
Cloisters of the Conde Castro Guimares Museum
Cloisters of the Conde Castro Guimares Museum

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!

Lighthouse museum in Cascais
Lighthouse museum in Cascais
Mouth of the Inferno at Cascais
Mouth of the Inferno at Cascais

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.

Coast at the Mouth of the Inferno
Coast at the Mouth of the Inferno (fisherman on the highest jutting out one!)
Why I don't go on tours!
Why I don’t go on tours!
Cascais
Cascais
Santa Marta Beach, Cascais
Santa Marta Beach, Cascais
Fisherman bringing in the pots
Fisherman bringing in the pots
Fig tree growing out of the castle wall
Fig tree growing out of the castle wall

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.

My dining hall!
My dining hall

Lisbon

3 July

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.

Pena Palace
Pena Palace

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.

Pena Palace
Pena Palace

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.

Pena Palace
Pena Palace
Courtyard of arches, Pena Palace
Courtyard of arches, Pena Palace

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!

Lake in Pena Park
Lake in Pena Park
Moorish Castle, Sintra
Moorish Castle, Sintra

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.

National Palace, Sintra
National Palace, Sintra
Window in the National Palace, Sintra
Window in the National Palace, Sintra
Sintra
Sintra

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.

Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira
Well of Initiation in Quinta da Regaleira
Well of Initiation in Quinta da Regaleira
Renovating a fountain in Quinta da Regaleira
Renovating a fountain in Quinta da Regaleira
Grotto in Quinta da Regaleira
Grotto in Quinta da Regaleira

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!

A statue in Quinta da Regaleira
A statue in Quinta da Regaleira

Lisbon

4 July

View from my balcony
View from my balcony

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.

Exterior of Jeronimus Monastery
Exterior of Jeronimus Monastery
Carvings on exterior of Jeronimus Monastery
Carvings on exterior of Jeronimus Monastery

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.

Carving on Jeronimus Monastery
Carving on Jeronimus Monastery
Interior of Jeronimos Monastery
Interior of Jeronimos Monastery

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.

Jeronimos Monastery
Jeronimos Monastery
Discovery Monument and Bridge
Discovery Monument and Bridge
Discovery Monument
Discovery Monument

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.

The Monastery through the fountain spray
The Monastery through the fountain spray
Tiling the pavement in front of Discovery Monument
Tiling the pavement in front of Discovery Monument
Pavement tiles in front of the Discovery Monument
Pavement tiles in front of the Discovery Monument
Belem Tower
Belem Tower
The grass must be cut!
The grass must be cut!
Amphibian vehicle full of school children
Amphibian vehicle full of school children
Ship sailing under the bridge
Ship sailing under the bridge
Marina
Marina

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.

Lisbon

5 July

Reflections in a pond
Reflections in a pond

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!)

No doubt something deep and meaningful!
No doubt something deep and meaningful!

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.

Parque Eduardo VII
Parque Eduardo VII

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!

LX Factory
LX Factory
Lisbon from Cacilhas
Lisbon from Cacilhas
Submarine in dry dock at Cacilhas
Submarine in dry dock at Cacilhas
Ferry on its way to Lisbon
Ferry on its way to Lisbon
View from the ferry back to Lisbon
View from the ferry back to Lisbon

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.

Cacilhas
Cacilhas
Cafes in Cacilhas
Cafes in Cacilhas
Square in Cacilhas
Square in Cacilhas

I got the 6pm ferry back and was back in my room by 6.45pm, ready for another rest!

Passengers disgorging from the ferry
Passengers disgorging from the ferry

Next stop the Algarve

Praia da Luz

25 June

Praia da Luz
Praia da Luz

I had an early start this morning as I had a flight from Bournemouth to Faro at 10.10am, so I left the Anons at 6.45am, which allowed me plenty of time. I dropped the car off at the airport and had a little disagreement with the security gate man, who apparently hadn’t understood that I was dropping a rental car off.  This meant I paid £2.50 unnecessarily for car parking  (which, unsurprisingly, did not please me!).

After I had gone through an excessive security check (Bournemouth obviously being under the illusion that it is a Very Important Airport), I was buying a coffee when I overheard someone say that the flight was delayed by 2 hours. Naturally, there were no announcements to that effect and the information was apparently supposed to be telepathically conveyed! The French air traffic controllers were on strike (just for a change) and most flights had been cancelled completely, so I was lucky that at least mine was still going.

I spent the next couple of hours reading and when they announced that we could board, there was still no plane in evidence, which I found quite interesting. Anyway, it arrived and we eventually took off at 12.30pm. The journey was uneventful, if noisy, and full of typical English people going to resorts to eat, drink and turn bright red after lying in the sun for a week or two. (And, yes, I am being snobby!)

View from Lynne's balcony
View from Lynne’s balcony
House in Luz
House in Luz

After arriving at Faro, I checked in with the shuttle company that I had booked with and then waited 40 minutes for the driver to turn up. Everyone else had left for their various hotels, so I was starting to get a little anxious when someone finally appeared. I was the only person on the bus and the driver didn’t speak a lot of English, so it was a fairly quiet drive to Praia da Luz.

On arrival at Lynne’s, we sat on her balcony for a cup of tea and chat, before going for a walk along the promenade and around the town. She then received a callout to one of the villas she manages, so I went with her whilst she sorted out the problem after which  we drove back into Luz and strolled down to a beachfront bar, where a litre of rather strong sangria was consumed!

On the promenade at Praia da Luz
On the promenade at Praia da Luz

More wine with dinner and a lot of chat made for an extremely late night. I can’t remember the last time I was still up at 1am!

Luz

26 June

Lagos marina
Lagos marina
Lagos street
Lagos street
Green tiled building in Lagos
Green tiled building in Lagos

After the rather late night, I was feeling a little tired today and Lynne put me to shame as she had already been working for a couple of hours (making curtains), when I emerged from the bedroom!

I had arranged to meet a friend, whom I had met in Panama, at 10.15am in Lagos, so after breakfast, I caught the bus into town. This took me on a little tour around the houses and arrived right on time at the bus station, where Carolyn appeared soon after.

First stop was the coffee shop to catch up on what we had each been doing since we last saw each other in Bocas del Torro and then we strolled along the promenade, had a look at the fish market and slowly progressed through the old part of Lagos.

Promenade along the estuary in Lagos
Promenade along the estuary in Lagos
Fish market in Lagos
Fish market in Lagos
No stopping obviously doesn't apply to scooters in Lagos!
‘No stopping’ obviously doesn’t apply to scooters in Lagos!
Street in Lagos
Street in Lagos

As she had already been staying there for a week (and had delayed her departure so that we could meet up), she was familiar with the area and suggested that we do the nearby coastal walk and have lunch at a cafe at the other end, so this is what we did.

Old slave market in Lagos
Old slave market in Lagos
View the city walls in Lagos
View through the city walls in Lagos
Old fortress in Lagos
Old fortress in Lagos
Rocky coast near Lagos
Rocky coast near Lagos
A beach!
A beach!

It was a beautiful walk, looking down at the rocky coastline with crystal clear, vibrant blue water and crossing lovely sandy beaches. There were quite a number of people on the beaches but, as it was not yet high season, there was still some space between the towels/sunbeds, which there wouldn’t be in a few weeks time.

There were also a lot of boats taking tourists on trips along the coast, through the rocky archways and into the bays that proliferated along the way.

On the coastal walk in Lagos
On the coastal walk in Lagos
Boat going through rock arch
Boat going through rock arch
Beach cove near Lagos
Beach cove near Lagos

We arrived at about 2pm and decided on the local speciality of sardines for lunch. These were extremely tasty (and filling) but the meal was marred by the large quantity of flies buzzing around so I was forced to adopt the Australian wave throughout the meal!

View of coastline near Lagos
View of coastline near Lagos
Coastal view
Coastal view
One of the many rock arches near Lagos
One of the many rock arches near Lagos

We then spent the entire afternoon sitting in the cafe and chatting. As Carolyn spends her life travelling, having sold her house in London, she had plenty to talk about. She had just returned from Nepal, Japan and Hong Kong and was now spending an indefinite time in Portugal. She had been on the road full time for the last 5 years so had plenty of advice to give me and now I am wondering “where to next?”!

We eventually started our walk/stroll back to Lagos at about 5pm and it was nearly 6.15pm when we arrived, by which time I was thinking Lynne would be wondering where I had got to so I caught the bus back to Luz and returned to the house.  Lynne returned a little while later.

One of the many small bays near Lagos
One of the many small bays near Lagos
Looking towards the south western tip of Portugal
Looking towards the south western tip of Portugal
Late afternoon at the beach
Late afternoon at the beach

She suggested we go to Lagos for dinner at the Blue Doors, (not it’s actual name but what it is known by), which is a popular restaurant with both tourists and residents. I took Lynne’s advice and had the excellent corvina (halibut), washed down with the house vinho verde. The restaurant was very full and had a lovely atmosphere, so it was a most enjoyable meal. It was about 11pm when we returned to Luz and, as I had been yawning throughout dinner, I was certainly ready to retire when we arrived back.

Luz

27 June

Doorway in Luz
Doorway in Luz
A house in Luz
A house in Luz

The morning went somewhere and I’m not sure where! By the time I woke up, Lynne was hard at work. She had various tasks to do, including cooking, shopping and sewing for clients, so I pottered around for most of the morning and then went out for a stroll along the promenade and around the back streets of Luz.

Promenade in Luz
Promenade in Luz
Roman remains in Luz
Roman remains in Luz
Street in Luz
Street in Luz
Lighthouse at the south western most point near Sagres
Lighthouse at the south western most point near Sagres
The big chair in Sagres
The big chair in Sagres

Once she had finished what she had to do and we had had a sandwich, Lynne drove me out to Sagres, which is the south western most tip of Portugal. She called at a couple of clients’ houses along the way to measure windows for curtains, and we also made a short stop at Burgau, another small town along the coast.

Sagres was extremely windy and the coastline very rocky, rugged and beautiful. There was a lighthouse at the point where the two coasts meet, with a very large chair, seemingly placed for no reason other than for tourists to have the photograph taken in it! (So I did.)

Lynne at Sagres
Lynne at Sagres
Plates on a wall outside a ceramics shop
Plates on a wall outside a ceramics shop

After stopping at a ceramics shop, we went into Sagres so that I could see the town and the fishing port, and then continued on up the western coast where there were a number of surf beaches, including Amado and Carrapenteria. There were a few surfers out in the water but the waves were not particularly spectacular today, although I have seen photos of these beaches when the waves are positively huge!

Sagres fishing port
Sagres fishing port
Sagres port
Sagres port
Amado surf beach
Amado surf beach
Beach at Amado
Beach at Amado
Cove on the west coast
Cove on the west coast
Amado Beach
Amado Beach
Carrapateira Beach
Carrapateira Beach
Fox near Carrapateria beach
Fox near Carrapateria beach
Doorway of the old railway station in Lagos
Doorway of the old railway station in Lagos

Our last port of call for the day was at Spinnaker bar overlooking the marina in Lagos. This is owned by Peter, Lynne’s ex-husband and my ex-husband’s cousin (so sort of in the family!). Lynne met up with a number of friends and I met Peter, whom I hadn’t really met previously (unless you count attending their wedding many, many years ago).

It was an extremely enjoyable evening but, somehow, we ended up having a little more wine than we intended and I was very glad it wasn’t me that was driving home. We got takeaway chicken on the way back to Luz and it was quite late by the time we arrived back and ate dinner. All this socialising is almost getting too much for me!

Luz

28 June

Lynne was busy again this morning, so I went with her into Lagos, stopping to drop off some food at one client (who just happened to own a kiwifruit orchard near Whakatane!) and picking up the maid, who was going to clean one of the villas Lynne manages. I spent a couple of hours wandering around the back streets of Lagos, having a coffee and delicious custard tart, a speciality of Portugal, in a small cafe, which, by chance, happened to be one of the better ones in town.

Stork nest on top of building in Lagos
Stork nest on top of building in Lagos
Bouganvillea hanging over a street in Lagos
Bouganvillea hanging over a street in Lagos
View down a street in Lagos
View down a street in Lagos
Lagos
Lagos
Church spire in Lagos
Church spire in Lagos
Lagos city walls
Lagos city walls

Lynne picked me up again just after 12 and we drove into Portimao for me to have a look at C&A, which, for some reason, still exists in Portugal but went out of business in the UK years ago. With the aid of my personal assistant, who was probably a bit wary about what might come out of my back pack to wear to dinner this evening with her friends, I came out of the shop with 3 dresses, which was a little excessive to say the least!

A square in Lagos
A square in Lagos
Churches in Lagos
Churches in Lagos
Statue in Lagos
Statue in Lagos

After this, we returned to Luz, had lunch and then a couple of hours rest and recuperation on the beach in preparation for yet another social evening. Although it was getting late in the afternoon, the beach was still reasonably busy with families and it was most enjoyable to lie down and do nothing for a while.

River front in Lagos
River front in Lagos
Doorway in Lagos
Doorway in Lagos
Street in Lagos
Street in Lagos
World Cup fever!
World Cup fever!

We met four of Lynne’s friends for a pre dinner drink in a bar in Luz and then walked down to the restaurant that was just opposite Lynne’s house for dinner. We were able to sit outside, even though it was quite windy, the food was excellent and, yet again, the wine flowed. And so another very pleasant evening passed!

Luz

29 June

We had a very relaxed day today, pottering about the house in the morning, before Lynne drove me up into the Monchique mountains from where we could see the Algarve from Faro to the west coast. Unfortunately, there was quite a sea mist, so it was very hazy. It was also extremely cold (hard to believe!) at the highest view point, so we admired the view and came straight back down to the warmth again.

View of the Algarve from Monchique
View of the Algarve from Monchique
Windmills at Monchique
Windmills at Monchique

Once home, Lynne made some lunch, which we then ate on the beach whilst chatting to a friend of her’s, who owned the restaurant we had eaten at last night. We stayed on the there for a couple of hours and then it was back to the house so that she could prepare food for one of her client’s for the next day. My contribution to the effort was to peel and de-vein a bag of uncooked prawns! Lynne made enough of the one dish so that there was enough for us as well, so it was a very tasty monk fish and prawn curry for dinner. There are advantages to staying with a professional caterer!