Sintra, Beaches and Home

Friday, August 6, 2004  3:50pm Atlantic

½ way over the Atlantic now.  Can’t say i’m anxious to be back to old routine.  Haven’t written for a while, so here I go.

Day after Belem we did Sintra after another great breakfast by Diane, took the steep and winding route up to Palais de Pena near Sintra.  Met M&GL just past 10:30 at the entrance.  Michael was very anxious to see this palace as it is quite diverse in it’s architecture.  A German Baron Von Ludwig von Eschwege designed it and it is most amazing.  The colours, styles and detail are all extreme.  There are parts where the mountains is built into the palace.  Every room yearns to have a view. No wonder there was a revolution – the decadence is so extreme, the palace was built starting in 1840 until 1895.  The carved stone -especially the clam shell with neptune who is holding up the arch and the entire wall has shells carved in minute detail.  Also the baskets of stone – each a different pattern and the detail in almost every external wall.  Inside the tremp l’ouliel were incredible – the queens room looked like panelling and another (can’t remember which one …) was so deceptive as carved stone, you had to touch it to believe it.

The furniture also – different themed rooms were oriental, indian, and more.  The carving of the furniture was most impressive.  Overwhelming.

From the castle we went for lunch in Sintra to Deanes favorite – Natalies (actually Sao Pedro do …) nearby.  Again great food and desserts.

By then it was late enough that M&GL headed off (train from Cascais back to Lisboa) and we headed back from the beach and photo opps @ the cliffs.

Had dinner nearby @ toca do Julio – wonderful surprise.  Boys had Brazilian, I had duck, Mike had goat.  All superb – Pats favorite dinner of all I think.

 

Thursday August 5th, We had our most stressful driving day by far.  Plan was to head to Expo site and Aquarium.  Took a wrong turn and wasted much gas (causing an extra 5E fill up) but finally got there.  Drive home messed up also but at the Sintra end turns out we should have gone via Cascais, not Sintra.  Oh well, we are all still alive and love each other.

The Expo ‘98 site was pretty vacant – the theme had been the sea – so the exhibits were quite limited apparently.  The gardens were nice and the overall site was impressive.  (We also passed a Marvel comics site where they were filming something).

The aquarium is the 2nd largest in the world – very well done with interesting video on the maintenance required.  The huge central tank is very diverse and full of many types of sea life.  Then back (hairy nasty drive) and pack (boo hoo).  Hope my pottery makes it.

Then for our last dinner we headed to Jane’s favourite – Priai Adrega.  Right on the beach.  Kyle had soup and salad, Mike and I had clams & shrimp, Pat had lamb.  Mike also had the seafood soup.  All had dessert.  First restaurant to check if we ate the cheese (didn’t) and then actually under charge us – had to tell them to charge more!

Had breakfast bit earlier and got away by about 9:20.  But not after several (75) calls from Carlos to make sure we had good directions to the airport, they are wonderful hosts.  They went to see a water mill yesterday and put in an offer – 350,000E, but they will offer 300,000E – sounds wonderful, but still needs work.  Will be interested to hear if it works out.

Got to the airport no problem – only to find out had to pay extra 130E for car rental (4 days more). After waiting 1 hour we were running late and paid it without much dispute.

Kyle did get a hat, but not his jersey – at least no time to kill in the airport.  And now we’re ½ through the flight – 2 movies down and 1 to go.  Time for a catch up nap me thinks.  So sad its almost over amazing trip that calls for a repeat.

Lisboa! – Portugal 2004

Tuesday, August 3, 2004  10:40pm Sintra

 

Ahhh, this is so idyllic.  We arrived here yesterday at Diane & Carlos’ in the early afternoon.  A bit tricky to get to given the coastline drive.  But beautiful once you get here.  The last little turn we could not find, but a local drove us to the driveway – as usual very friendly and helpful.

 

DIane & Carlos are marvelous hosts/hostesses.  After settling in we headed to the beach.  Quite a hike to get there, but well worth it.  (diagram in notes – shows sheer cliffs with amazing formations, lots of lovely beach with big waves and surfers, a natural inland pool and a hotel at the end of the beach with a pool where the waves crash into the pool)

 

The scenery was very attractive and surfers were everywhere.  With summer vacation for the locals in full swing the beach was packed.  We returned and had drinks on the patio with Diane & Carlos – pop for the boys and scotch & soda for Mike & I.

 

They are a very interesting couple.  She is from Rhodesia / Zimbabwe and he is Portuguese.  He has travelled widely – something to do with the shipping industry.  He and Mike compared stories of Russian experiences.  He told of a young guide, Iran, who worked with him and was in tears when they parted.

 

The gardens are lovely with large pine trees. Apparently 2 types grow here, 1 gives pine nuts, the other more wild (the kind here).  The cones are very large – 8-10 inches at least.   They have 2 lovely dogs; one German Shepherd and the other a Malamute (like a husky but larger), along with 5 cats (haven’t seen them yet) and rabbits (wild) on the back lawn.  The house is impressive – not many rooms apparently but all are quite large.

We went for dinner with only 40E in our pocket (still need to change our 500E bill!).  Managed ok and then withdrew some money from and ATM machine.  Got home about 11:30 and then to bed.

(oh yes – Kyle loves the sandwich maker and has gone partly vegetarian- just too much meat!)

Today started about 8:00am – breakfast was a lovely spread on the patio with warm croissants and breads and jams and cheeses and more.  Then we drove to Cascais (ended up parking at an expensive spot for 12E).  We took the train into Belem which was a lovely drive with views all along the coast.  Unfortunately the train we took did not stop in Belem, so we went further in.  We decided to try for the Brazilian cafes at the docks -but again no luck.  So we walked around a bit till we found a very nice health food restaurant.

 

We ate well for 5E each all inclusive – even with beer and dessert.  Mike & I had turkey rice, Kyle veggie meal and Pat had lombos de porco – all yummy (I ate Pat’s spinach!).  It turned out that we were across the street from M&GL so we popped over and they had just arrived.  we hooked up and headed to Belem finally. (we had rain for the first time!)

We first did the Musee Marinha which was quite impressive.  There was lots of interesting art, statues, maps, models and stories of everything from fishing, exploring, warfare, trade routes and royal barges.  (bought some souvenirs).

 

Next to the monument to the discoveries – the view from the top of Belem was very good – but it was quite foggy (more souvenirs).  Finally to the Tower of Belem – which used to be in the middle of the rio – now is near the edge due to the landfilling over time.  Once again the carvings in the rock were incredible.  I can’t imagine how many people must have done that for a living.  It was built in 1515 (-15xx) – the gargoyles and sentry post were very interesting also.

 

Then to dinner – I had wonderful smoked salmon and seafood bisque.  Michael had a misto of pork and turkey.  Kyle had a mushroom omelette and Pat had roast chicken.  Boys had dessert – all was very good (55E).  Next door for more dessert – great place with fresh custard tarts.  The pace was very large and had lots of their own antiques – cash registers, fountains etc. all on display.

Then the train home & the now typical challenge to find our way home in the dark -but we always manage!  So here I sit on the terrace sipping port in the cool evening breeze – oh I will miss this place.   Time to head in…

We head back East – Portugal 2004

Monday, August 2, 2004 1:30pm en route to Sintra, near Lisboa

 

We are approaching Lisboa en route to our B&B near Sintra.

Yesterday we did pretty much nothing but relaxing.   Sat by the pool and lounged and chatted most of the day.  Michael spoke with Nane most of the day.  They exchanged email addresses and got his phone # in Cascais.  He went back today also.  He may want to come to Canada some time – we can help him plan for sure.

We’re now experiencing the true Portuguese driving as we get nearer to Lisboa!  Kyle is navigating while Pat naps.  I’m just along for the ride as I keep saying.

 

We did go see some more ruins yesterday.  One stone circle which has not been excavated that Jane knew of and a second one that was marked approx. 3,000 B.C.  This one was covered as a cave or dwelling.  Incredible that rocks this size could be maneuvered into position.

 

Now it feels like a modern city.  We are about 10K from Lisboa and it is already densely populated and diverse.

7,000 year old Phallic Symbols – Now that I have your attention – Portugal 2004

Sunday, August 1, 2004 9:15 am  near Monsaraz, Alentejo, Portugal

Slept in a little later today – the larger bed helps.

 

Once again sitting under the Alentejo’n sun as I write me notes – as I’m visited by ants.  Very peaceful out here.  It would be amazing star gazing if the full moon weren’t here, but that’s nice also.  I am sure the photos won’t capture the overall effect of sitting by the pool at night sipping wine with Monsaraz i the distance beyond the palms with the full moon shining over it all.

Yesterday morning we rose fairly early, but no success on getting off quickly. It was almost noon by the time we left.  M & GL were waiting for the fresh bread for breakfast.  Just when we had given up, it showed at 11ish.  so we had to have fresh bread;  still warm sourdough at 1.05E / loaf.

We didn’t get the phone # for our B&B in Sitra to give M&GL since Jane had gone to town, but we know where they are as of Tuesday so we will contact them.

At this moment Michael is photoing a very large grasshopper (locust) right up close – within 6 inches – that is sitting on the chair across from me.

My ankle rash is back – and Marucia has it also.  Not sure if it is heat rash or due to some plant.

 

First we stopped by and bought some pottery.  We arrived just as he was about to close for lunch.  I hope it all makes it back to Canada intact.  I really like – wish I could take even more home.

 

Then off to Evora.  We parked right next to the aqueduct.  The houses are now built right into it.  Would be a really neat place to live – in a Roman aqueduct!  We walked up to the Se (accent aigu) – you can always find them since they are on the highest ground.  It is very interesting since it is asymmetrical.  One tower is typical square peaks and the other triangular.   The cathedral inside was very impressive.  The building was large, but the best was the alter area.  All marble with many different colours and patterns all used systematically and matched.  Next you can go to the museum with the religious artifacts.  Then up to the rooftop (56 steps up the spiral) for a great view of the surroundings.  Quite cool to walk on the rooftops.  Finally you can go through the cloister.  Again you can go up onto the minor roof and look down into the halls around the fountain.  Bishops from as recently as 1966 are entombed here.  And oh yes…. we first visted the Roman ruins in behind the Se.

We went to the tourist info to ask about film -Mike needs even more!  Tried the photo store downtown which was ridiculously expensive (14.30E for one roll).  We walked back to the car and stopped for ice cream/ coffee / desserts (7E and decided to head for the antiquities beyond (west of) Evora.  We found them easily by following the signs.  First a little hike took us to the vertical single stone – we expect it is a phallic symbol used in fertility rights.  Then we continued on to the circle of stones.  There are currently 96 of them which are dated between 5 & 4 thousand years B.C.  They mark the equinoxes and perhaps were used as crude astrological markings.  Some stones are carved – but I’m not sure how they know when the carvings were done.  One stone appeared to possibly have been a sacrifice stone, but I suspect that it may just have fallen over.

Then back to Monte Branco for dinner & pool & wine around the pool.  Michael chatted with Frances who attends school in Lisboa for communication Technology.  Jane is a real estate agent I believe and has sold a couple just this week.

Anyway, time for breakfast.  No real plans for today as yet – a first I think!

Bon Dia.