Sunday Photo: Lisbon

Lisbon

Lisbon, Sept 2014

It was a wonderful honeymoon exploring Portugal’s capital and a few other nearby towns. It’d be great to visit again Lisbon for some anniversary. To read more about our time in Lisbon check my old posts by starting here. 

 

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Unexpected places (June Travel Link Up)

in Stockholm

It’s been a month of travel for me: a short weekend break to Stockholm, Sweden with my husband followed by a trip to London on my own and then another business trip to the South of France last week. It sounds great but honestly I just feel exhausted now. Not because of all the travelling I did but because of all the work that I’ve been doing lately. And I still haven’t written much about my travels (especially about Stockholm). So, when I saw the new topic for June’s Travel Link Up I didn’t really know whether I’ll have the time or the energy to write anything but since I really like the topic I decided to give it a try.

What makes a place unexpected? Our expectations, scenery, people or something else; it’s hard to say really. I rarely go somewhere without the exhaustive preparations which include hours spent online (and offline:guidebooks) reading about the sights/landmarks/interesting things to do and to see in a city/country. But sometimes I don’t have enough time to do my usual travel preparations or I just book something almost on a whim and decide not to explore the place too much before the actual trip which usually results in being pleasantly surprised by such a place.

Stockholm
Stockholm

So what places have surprised me lately?The most recent city that I’ve found to be extraordinarily beautiful is Stockholm. My husband and I arrived on a Friday evening (in April) and left on a Monday morning so in reality we only had 48 h to see Stockholm. That’s why I didn’t want to over-plan our stay and I’ve decided to focus mostly on the Old Town (Gamla Stan) and to visit a few museums. Anyway, I was very pleasantly surprised by Stockholm since I really didn’t expect to like it so much.

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From beach to beer

no, not a Jesus Christ sculpture from Rio de Janeiro, this one's in Lisbon
no, not a Jesus Christ sculpture from Rio de Janeiro, this one’s in Lisbon

I have never swum in the ocean until our week in Lisbon in Sep 2014. I have seen so many movies where people just surfed or lay at the beach but nobody seemed to be swimming. I always wondered why was that and just thought that maybe those people  just aren’t such great swimmers, unlike me. Well, little did I know. We had seen a lot of Lisbon and even manged to do two day trips ( Sintra area and Evora ) so I also wanted to spend some time at the beach and chose one that seemed to be the nearest.

Alas,  it wasn’t the most beautiful beach even though it was sandy and seemed to be stretching on forever but I didn’t like the sight of the buildings so near it. However, it served its purpose and that was to try to swim in the ocean. Yes, try being the operative word. The people at the beach were mostly just standing in the water or walking or sitting at the beach apart from a few surfers. Nobody was really swimming. And then I tried to swim and nearly drowned. Ok, I’m just exaggerating. I just swallowed a lot of ocean 🙂  Swimming in the ocean proved to be a lot more difficult that I’d ever imagined and the waves just kept crushing and throwing me down. I couldn’t swim properly so I just jumped and played around a bit until I got bored and went out to dry. n.b. I can swim pretty well and have swum in different seas.

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Colourful palace&ocean&fado

Sintra
Sintra

During our week in Lisbon we took two day trips. I already wrote about our day trip to Evora where we saw the ancient Roman temple among other landmarks and where we had a wine tour as well.So this post is about our second day trip.

It was a warm & sunny day when we visited Sintra & its surroundings. Firstly, we saw the Roman aqueduct and then we continued on the motorway to Sintra which is roughly an hour away from Lisbon. At the entrance of Pena Palace grounds we left our mini bus and boarded another crowded mini bus which takes tourists to the gates of the colorful Pena National Palace. I have never seen such a palace. It’s a mix of all styles and yet it’s fairly modern; it dates from the 19 th century but it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It looks more like something from a fairy-tale and yet it was a home of the Portuguese royal family. Our guide told us some basic facts about the palace at the entrance and then we explored it at our pace. It looks more like a proper palace once you get in with the huge chandelier-decorated rooms, lots of beautiful furniture and modern-day amenities such as a fully functional bathroom. The kitchen was amazing too with all the giant copper pots. I like visiting castles and palaces and this is definitely one of the most interesting I have ever visited.

The view from the palace is lovely too and you can see as far as the ocean (which isn’t that far away actually). If we did this tour by ourselves then we would have had time to visit the Moorish castle and the Sintra National Palace as well but then we probably wouldn’t have seen the other places on this tour because we would have just visited Sintra. Hopefully, my husband and I will return to Lisbon one day ( maybe for some anniversary?) and then I’d like to visit Sintra again but on our own.

Sintra, Pena Palace
Pena Palace

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Wines & Roman temple

Evora, Portugal

Do you enjoy wine? Do you like Roman ruins? If so, do continue reading about my day trip to Portuguese town of Évora.

During our week in Lisbon we took two organized day trips. Since it was our honeymoon I didn’t really want to spend hours and hours like I usually do trying to find the best way to get to a certain  place, making our sightseeing plan and doing all the other travel-related planning. One day trip was to Sintra region and for another I chose Évora. Why that town you might ask? Well, I’ve got this book called 501 must-visit cities which I got for my graduation from my BFF and I often flick through it and so in Portugal section I saw a photo of a big Roman temple and read about university town of Évora. So the decision was made to visit it while in Lisbon.

The tour company picked us up in front of our hotel. I was very pleased with the tour guide on our day trip to Sintra but this wasn’t the case on this trip even though both of the trips were organized by the same agency. The old gentleman who had to explain everything in multiple languages to our versatile group was however very strict and ununderstanding of the needs of his group. Nevertheless I didn’t let that ruin our day trip.

university, Evora
university, Evora

We arrived to Évora in about an hour and a quarter and were greeted by clouds and an intermittent rain. The first thing we saw were the remains of the medieval city wall and then we left the bus at the University building. Evora University is actually the second oldest university in Portugal since it was founded in 1559. I have a thing for university cities such as Cambridge and Bologna so I was pleased to start the sightseeing of Evora by a quick walk around its main university building.

We proceeded on foot and soon I felt like I was in a scene from a Mexican soap opera even though I’ve never been to Mexico. The white-washed houses on the streets really looked like something I had seen on TV. The only thing missing were men wearing sombrero and possibly carrying a machine gun too. Sorry for the prejudice but that’s how it looked like to me 🙂 The streets were half-empty and wherever you looked you saw beautiful historical buildings and monuments. Well, Evora is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Lisbon oceanarium

Lisbon

On the penultimate day of our honeymoon in Lisbon we visited the Lisbon oceanarium in  Parque das Nações,  where the EXPO was held in 1998. This is definitely a modern part of otherwise charmingly historic & romantic Lisbon. I enjoyed walking around the grounds of the former World Exhibition site which is nowadays a residential and touristic quarter. There are newly built hotels and a shopping mall, homes, offices etc. There’s also a very luxurious and Dubai-looking hotel in Vasco da Gama tower. We walked along the promenade and took photos of one of the longest bridges in the world (  Vasco da Gama bridge). We didn’t take a ride in the cable car so that’s definitely something we could do if we ever go back to Lisbon (I’d like that very much.)

Lisbon oceanarium

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Lisbon castle and other sights (Sept 2014)

 

Every princess needs a castle, right? Sometimes my mum calls me principessa which is Italian for princess :). So, if there’s a castle around I just have to check it out. My husband and I reached São Jorge Castle by tram number 12. To our joy it was an old, rickety, wooden tram and the ride resembled a ride in an amusement park. Perfect! I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. At some point if you put your hand out of the window you could touch the walls of the houses on the street. The tram had to navigate narrow streets and steep hills before it let us out near Largo das portas do Sol-a beautiful viewpoint. So, we took in the view of Lisbon and proceeded on foot to the castle. It’s a pity that we didn’t have enough time to explore more Alfama neighbourhood but I had a lot planned for that day and we had to move on. We got discount for the castle ticket because of our Lisbon card which also gave us free crazy tram rides 🙂 . In my opinion the best views of the city are from the castle’s observation terrace and the castle walls. Just look at the photos. Amazing, right?

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