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.

Old Fig Trees and Bull Rings – Portugal 2004

Saturday, July 31, 2004 8:30am, Portugal

Missed last night, so up early this morn.  Have to walk down to the 2,000 year old fig tree when I’m done here.

We’re now back at Monte Branco.  Took advantage of our last mon sans kids.  Yesterday had  breakfast over looking the hills again.  Before we left we got the key to the chapel and bull ring (only used at Easter).  Turns out it is the oldest in Portugal 17xx perhaps.  There were horses stabled there, along with the mandatory dogs to greet you.

It was very interesting seeing all the corrals and rigging for moving the doors etc.

Sitting here fending off ants.  They are incredibly invasive.  The powder from Jane works wonders.  The goat bells are ringing non stop right now – sounds like a large wind chime.

After bullring, we headed back here.  M & GL are heading out on Saturday (their anniversary) for 3 nights @ a Pousada.  Saint Isabel that we saw in Estremoz.  They then have their last 3 nights booked right in Lisbon (smaller place – Green shutters or something – I need to get the name).

Mike hopes to get more film in Evora today – he got 2 rolls of slide film in F da F – see if he can get it here).

Boys chose to stay back and munch for lunch.  We took M&GL for lunch – local in S.Pedro do Corval.  Mike and I had rabbit – very tasty (50E for all 4).

Then to Regeungos for shopping 44E?  Back for a dip in the pool, game of cribbage (I won just) and then to Monsarez for dinner – unfortunately Alcaiede in closed for vacation till August 7 – no dessert (almond torte) and no dinner for us there!

We tried No Torno instead – ok, very large portions.  Kyle (and Pat) are tired of the same meal selection – bata frita, grilled or baked meat, rice.  Kyle wants pizza as soon as we are home – should get more (35E).  Variety in Sintra/Lisboa I expect.

After dinner Mike took some more photos, we returned for liquors by the pool and chatted with Jane.  She has had many travel adventures also.  Machu Picchu and the amazon before it was popular.

We slept in the small room last night.  Mikes legs hung out the end of his bed about a foot!  Tonight we steal the double back for sure.

Today we plan to head to Evora – pack a picnic I think.  Have to see M&GL off however, so hopefully we got away at a reasonable time.

Vila Vicosa – Portugal 2004

Thursday, July 29, 2004 9:55pm Sousel, Portugal

Just came back from dinner, having some more almond liqueur – very nice.  Michael had goat jaw for dinner, I had the lamb again – back in Estremoz to the same restaurant.  I had meant to order the grilled but got the “o forno” – think it is baked in the oven slowly, still good.  Had some olives tonight also very salty and fresh.  We had to putter around a fair bit til 7:30 when dinner was served.

To start at the beginning … back to buffet breakfast.  Another good breakfast.  Next off to the pool for tan and swim and relax.  I was a bit of a chicken and took me awhile to get in – but eventually got there and did beat Mike in – so who’s the real chicken?  The view from here is very unique, top of a hill surrounded by olive groves.  Very peaceful.  We are both surprised how few english speaking people are around.  Mostly Portuguese even at the Pousada.

Around noon we finally headed out to Vila Vicosa.  Got to the local castle just as it was closing.  But we managed to look around outside.  Cool moat and wall outside.  So we went for lunch.  I had a ½ serving of grilled chicken, Mike had calamari.  Both quite good with a bottle of wine.  I think it came to 13E.  Michael thinks 17E.  At any rate it was very reasonable.  After lunch we headed to the Palace.  Met our first (or at least one of the few) other English speakers – from US.  I think the entire tour was in Portuguese – got small pieces of it.  Lots of painting portraits of Dukes and Queens and Kings.  Some Japanese influence as well as strong Moorish.  The paintings on the ceilings were of mediocre quality – but the furniture and tapestries were outstanding.  The kitchen was very impressive also with hundreds of copper pots.  From the size to bathe in down to individual serving molds.  Would not like to do dish duty.

The bedrooms were also interesting.  The Queen’s rooms had two small vestibules for the baby and young children.  I would have expected them to be cared for by the nurses – not in with the royalty.  The tour ended rather suddenly and we were off.  Next to Estremoz – been there for dinner but not to tour.  Arrived latish (4:30) expecting everything to be closed – but we caught a museum open.   Again religious – opened on to the bell tower with a great view from the rooftop.

Back down for a beer and water.  Then walked around – ended up at the Pousada da Rainha Santa Isabel.  The church was open – so Mike went back down for his camera while I puttered around.  Only ½ of (or less) the building is restored for the Pousada it appears, but the gardens and pool look quite nice – and the menu looked better than our Pousada – but who knows what it tastes like – can be deceiving.  Finally back down and cruised around killing time til 7:30pm.  still have not found any earrings – not sure I’ve convinced Mike that I need them.  If not soon, then in Lisboa!

Story of Saint Isabel – she used to go out to the peasants and give them food by hiding it in her dress folds.  When the king tried to check, she opened up her folds, and it was full of roses – so all the statues of her have a lap full of roses.

Think thats it for today.  Oh just remembered Michael asking about the restaurant in Estremoz – used to be a winemaking shop.  The arches are very large and strong.  Waiter explained that wine used to be stored in much larger vessels than today – so they needed a much larger space.  Boa Noute 10:30pm

Dem Bones Dem Bones Dem Bones – Campo Maior – Portugal 2004

Wednesday, July 28, 2004 11:10pm Sousel, Portugal

The days are sliding by now!  Finally mailed some postcards still need to send more tho.  Started the day early @ 5am with Mikes broken bed – he had to join me till proper morning.  Lucky these are “larger” single beds and we are still thin enough to fit 2 to a bed!  The girls at the front desk was embarrassed, but also could not help but laugh.

Breakfast on the patio was very nice.  Good selection and very tasty.  Headed to Campo Maior first.  Mike took some photos along the road.  Nice view of our Pousada and some cork trees.  The drive up the road to Campo Maior has some forest fires where they were cutting down burned trees at the roadside.

In Campo Maior we parked and walked around.  The first find was a church (iglasias) which turned out to be a religious artifact museum.  The girl was very helpful and supplied us with maps and directions (they don’t allow photos in museums and churches generally, so Mike was not allowed.  The robes and gowns and paintings were mostly from the 17th and 18th centuries.  One paintings was quite recent – 20th Century (1992) and was interesting – although nails were through the hands, Jesus was very detailed – every hair follicle visible.

Marble is everywhere from street side to door steps to bathroom walls.  Mostly pink and white from around here – grey is not generally found here.

Next we went to the castle – again we were the only one there (1st try was actually a school house).  History was interesting.  First building around 12-13oos with most fortification in 1600s.  There was a lighting strike into the powder magazine in 1732(?) and 1500 (according to the guide book) people died.  That is what sparked the chapel of bones. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campo_Maior,_Portugal

The walls around the castle were similar to the ones in Elvas.  Pentagonal shape with outcrops at each point which made for great visibility.  The walls here were not as complete as those in Elvas (supposed to be one of the most complete in Europe) – but we decided to tour this one – more convenient in our day.  Also smaller and less popular.

Next to the Capela dos Ossos the church beside was open – very typical I expect.  The organist was playing – it was quite nice to sit in the peaceful surroundings.  Mike took a couple of photos – Lots of marble again – some Michael thinks would have been imported since it was dark grey.  The chapel beside was locked, no one around but you could see in – it was larger than I had expected.  Except for the floor, the entire inside was human bones.  Around the bottom, up to about 3 feet was skulls, plus more skulls in the ceiling and at the front.  Very morbid – not sure who would have had such a vision and actually make this chapel.  I get the impression the town folks play it down.  Although there are photos in the flyer, there are no directions or explanations.

Next to lunch – as recommended by a local.  Was quite good – Michael had the Pork (taking over for George) and I had beef with spaghetti.

Then off to Elvas Mike stopped enroute for some shots of the fire areas (I napped).  At Elvas we parked outside the wall and walked in.  Went through the shopping area – very good prices for bedding and towels.  Not sure if will buy some.  Cutlery seemed reasonable also. Went to the tourist info both got directions to the aqueduct (decided that was enough getting late).  Went for a cafe then saw the aqueduct – huge – only one piece remains here, but used to be 5 miles long – no wonder it took 124 years to build.  Bought some wine, beer, fruit liqueur.

Then back for our Pousada.  I broke the wine – big mess of shattered glass.  Dinner here 23E for complete meal – pricy, but expected it to be – quite good – wrong!  Soup (gazpacho) was good but no better than last night.  My pork tenderloin was anything but tender.  It was awful dry and tasteless.  Mike had venison ribs – I didn’t like the taste, but he thought they were okay.  Accompaniments were nothing great either. Dessert cheeses were nice – all very strong.  Other desserts were so so.

Back to bed about 11:30.  Star gazed a bit (saw a shooting star @ monte branco – but none here).  not as dark as I expected, but moon is getting full.

Thats takes me to this morning – time for breakie.  Mike has already been out photo taking (since 6:30am guess I need to get up – its 8:30 after all.  Boan Dias.

Pousada in Sousel – Portugal 2004

Tuesday, July 27, 2004  10:30 pm  Sousel, Portugal

 

Ah – nous sommes tout seul.  Funny how any other language pops into your head when in a foreign country – even if inappropriate!

We have left the boys with M&GL for 3 nights and we are now in Sousel in a Pousada (3 nights for the price of 2).  Very ‘americanish’ – soaps & TV & room style wise, but also very Portuguese.  We chose a modern rather than historic Pousada.  We wanted the pool and comforts.

They only had a double room available – no king suites.  Not too unreasonable at 113E per night – so a total of 226E for 3 nights.

We went to Estoril for dinner – very nice.  First we had 2 cerveza each at a local bar (total 3.80(+tip a bit more).  Then we found our restaurant from the guide book.  They (an older lady) cooked on the BBQ out front.  We both had soup – I gazpacho  which was very different than spanish style.  VERY tasty with onion, tomato, pepper, cucumber and sausage in a clear broth – not tomato.  Michael had asparagus soup- not a cream soup and also very tasty.  We both had lamb.  One grilled and one slow cooked and both were very yummy.  We also both had dessert – queguois (cheesecake) and one honey & nut cake.  Again excellent. We had a carafe of house wine and coffees for a total bill of 29E – wonderful.

We will have to revisit Estromel to see the sites tomorrow or the next day – seemed to be lots to see.

earlier in the day…

The boys played in the pool all morning.  We rose late and arranged the days.  M&GL left some stuff in F.daF. so they need to arrange courier / pickup – hope it works out okay.  G. was trying to arrange a complicated trip for their ‘alone’ excursion.  M. wanted to keep it simple and stay

closer;  hopefully she can convince him.  We also arranged with Jane to stay 4 days in Sintra for the 4 of us (P/K/M&I) with friends of hers – Diane & Carlos.  It is B&B style 10 minutes outside of Sintra.  Since we still have the car it should work out fine.  M&GL plan on staying in Lisboa.  We hope to meet them some time – we can take the train into L. from Sintra (or Cascais or Estoril).

 

The drive here from Monsaraz was very interesting.  We passed marble mines which are incredible.  SO much marble!

Oh yes…. I forgot to mention the forest fires yesterday.  we passed severl still smoldering and saw the remnants of more.  Very destructive.  At the restaurant tonight everyone was glued to the news of the ongoing fires – some seem to be set by arsonists and several towns have been evacuated.  The forests in Acc…?  near Lisboa are severely on fire.  All over there are more and more fires.

Mike is enjoying the soccer / football and also the tennis has been on TV from Toronto!  Agassi was playing – can’t believe he is still playing!

 

Well you can tell by my handwriting that I am tired.  Off to sleep – Bon Noite!

 

10:45

Olive groves around here are massive – as far as the eye can see with a very unique smell.  Also some cork trees along the edges. They are cleared of bark below ~ 6 ft and some are painted with clay.

We passed lots of very nice potter especially near Rugeinos de Monsaraz – will have to buy some.

Off to the Interior where its Hot Hot Hot – Monte Branco Portugal 2004

Tuesday, July 27 (re: Monday July 6)  8:30am Monte Branco – near Monsaraz, Portugal

 

We are now at Monte Branco- very different than Buarcos!  We are back in time to the basics.  Although the place is retrofit with water & power, the farmhouse is still very rustic.  Lots of slate – the counters and floors – that is well worn.  The fireplace on the wall is very large (10ft x 3ft?) with the round chimney stack above.  The place is quite dark – but very dry also, so not “dank”.

Once again, the sugar cannot be found – it’s in the fridge!  There are many ant which causes problems in F. da F. and even more so here.  So the sugar is in the fridge.

Yesterdays trip was an adventure.

We headed down on a minor road to cut over to the A1.  Of course that is where the car died.  It just stopped running.  It would not restart at first.  We waited a bit (concerned about what to do of course – and Marucia & GL are off in their own car, so not translator) and it started.  We found a

little shop which had everything from motor oil to bread and cheese.   They had a phone so we phoned the main rental office but with no luck.  We had to call RainHaus Tours out of Lisbon – no answer – so we tried the local agent in Liera – which was line busy of fax answering only.

Sorry….back to writing…..I keep getting distracted and looking for where Mike & I can stay for our 2 nights away.

Okay – so we had no luck phoning.  So we had to drive into Liera and find the rental firm office.  So first to the tourist info – Mike dropped me then had to find a parking spot – a driving nightmare of one way streets and no spots.  Finally after 20 minutes he picked me back up.  Tourismo had given me the wrong directions, but another kind gentleman helped out.  Alrenta was the place we had to find.  Also found out that Bank of Portugal is ONLY in Porto, Lisboa, and Coimbra!  Hopefully we can change at a hotel/Pousada.

We finally found the rental outlet.  They had NO replacement cars available, but after our suggestion of a refund, they found a Peugot 406.  Luxury – sun roof and all.  But it will suck more gas.

We finally arrived here about 5pm – stopped at a shopping mall (33E) and had some ice cream in the car right out of the tub (bought 4 spoons :-).

The boys and I had a swim, Mike had a nap.  Had a glass of wine with the owner and her friend who is looking at buying a farm around here.

We went for dinner at 7ish up to Monsarez.  Amazing town – all walled in – you have to park and walk into the town as there are no cars.  Sat on the patio overlooking the country side – wonderful view!

Off to University! – Coimbra Portugal 2004

Sunday, July 25, 2004  10:25pm Figueira da Foz, Portugal

One week since we left Canada – seems so long ago, yet so recent.  Tomorrow we leave the coast for the interior – where the fires are raging.  The A1 was actually closed today right at the section we will be taking tomorrow – just south, between here and Situbal.  Hopefully it will rain soon.

 

George changed 500E for us today – hopefully we can get more changed tomorrow.  We’ved decided to head for Evora rather than Coimbra since it’s more en route and should be a large enough city to have a Bank of Portugal.

We watched the Real Madrid vs. Benfica (Spain vs. Portugal) game.  Ended up a tie – B. scored in extra time to tie it up.  A “for show” game – Mike thinks it’s the 100th (could be longer?) anniversary for Benfica, so they are playing lots of exhibition type games.

We got away by about 8:30 am today for Coimbra.  We got there by about 9:20 (gas 52E) and parked for free.  We did LOTS of walking.  First had some breakfast then headed through the old town to the Santa Clara Eglise.  Passed a souvenir shop and picked up some tile and cork mats (2@5E) for Mum & Dad & Mr. Cameron and thimbles and cockerel for Natalie & Daria (prob. for them)

Mass was on at the church so Marucia attended, but we walked up further to  other old churches, both which were closed.  Then we proceeded to lose everyone.  Mike & Marucia w/o walkie / talkie – George with a w/t and the boys and I with a w/t.  After about an hour of serious steep climbing and descending to the university we finally met up.  Walkie / talkies don’t work very well between the old buildings and around all the wires.

The boys hold on to tour the university (13E).  We saw the exam hall – where they now hand out the doctorate degrees.  From there you walked around outside for a magnificent view of the city.

The hall was full of ornamental detail – very much like the Portuguese trademark.  From ornate carpets or tile mosaic or inlay floor, you move up to the tile wainscoting then to elaborate wall painting then to crown molding and painted ceiling.  Gold foil is very common and carved wood also.

Next we saw the Bibliotheque Joanina.  Again fine detail everywhere and still lots of old books kept on shelves (behind chicken wire).

The chapel was off limits as there was a wedding taking place – just like Mikey & I!  So we didn’t get to go in there.

While we waited for the library to open, 2 students (1 from Toronto, 1 from Brasil – both of Portuguese ancestry) spoke of being a student at Coimbra.  The robes have a great history. Friends can tear the robes.  You know who is available by the rear side.  A large tear is made by your ‘date’.  If it sewn back up, you are available again.  Hats used to be used to carry things and also filled with stones for protection during medieval times.  Groups of students also create singing groups and tour around the cities.

 

Next off for lunch – we were Very thirsty – food was ok but not great.

Then over the river to another church and the tomb of Queen Saint Isabella (late 1200’s – not of Columbus fame).

Mike wants me to go to bed now – so I’ll be quick.

Then another refreshing drink (Kyle could not resist giving a beggar money en route) and walk back to the car. Stopped to pick up water on the way home, but the food stores were closed.  Had dinner instead (20E) and Mike bought some more film (?E)

One last note – the smell of fig trees is unique – almost like Pina Colada’s

lights out…Good night I guess…