Portugal, somewhere between Cabo da Roca and Cascais
Nearly two years ago I spent my honeymoon in Lisbon. It was a wonderful week! We also visited Sintra region and Evora. I’d like to go back to Portugal one day. I’d love to visit Porto and maybe even spend some time at Portugal’s coast. Have you seen my previous beach posts? I’ll be posting them throughout the summer:)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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?
On the second day of our honeymoon in Lisbon we took the tram no.15 from Praça da Figueira to Belém area. Unfortunately it wasn’t one of those old-fashioned rickety trams but a new one which was very crowded. Still, I enjoyed the long ride along the river Tagus from the center of Lisbon to Belém which is famous for several historic landmarks namely the Tower of Belém and the Jerónimos Monastery. It was cloudy but during the day the sun emerged from under the clouds and we got sun-burnt! I had planned to take a sun cream on this trip but I simply forgot so we bought one later in the center to prevent future sunburns.
We got off the tram at the grandiose Jerónimos Monastery but we first visited almost equally impressive Monument to the Discoveries. This enormous monument at the waterfront was built in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Portuguese prince Henry the Navigator who sponsored many expeditions. It was under his patronage that Portugal founded its first colonies and the Age of Discoveries began. The monument represents a caravel (ship) and it celebrates not only Henry the Navigator but many Portuguese heroes associated with the Age of Discovery such as explorers, cartographers, artists, missionaries, kings etc. We walked around it and then entered and decided to take a lift up the viewpoint. We had discount because of our Lisbon card which gave us free public transport and many free entrances. From the top of the monument we saw the Tower of Belém which looked small in comparison (the Monument to the Discoveries is 52 m high), the monastery, Belém cultural center, a football stadium and the beautiful red bridge (Ponte 25 de Abril ) that resembles the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, USA and the Christ statue which is a smaller twin of the Christ statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. When we got down we walked across the huge pavement compass rose and world map; a gift from the Republic of South Africa. Since it was already getting hot I needed a refreshment in the form of ice-cream (I had mulberry flavour) so that I could walk to the romantic Tower of Belém.