Stuif's Adventures

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Portugal, September 2016, part 1
When Aric joins me on a trip to the Netherlands, we often organise a "trip within a trip". In 2014 we visited Norway, this time we chose Portugal. I had been there a few times earlier, mainly in the capital Lisbon, the last time was in 2004. For Aric it was a first and he had prepared an attractive itinerary, booked accommodation, etc.

We started with three nights in Lisbon, where we arrived quite late in the evening. Aric had booked a nice room in the Baixa, the heart of historical Lisbon. The weather was nice, we had dinner in the open air, just around the corner of our hotel. Seafood of course, grilled sardines, tuna and more. Much more, we could not finish it and during our trip we found that this is normal in Portugal, portions are huge.

THe next day we walked around in the Baixa. In 1755 the Great Lisbon earthquake destroyed Lisbon almost completely, with an estimated death toll of ~ 50.000. The town was rebuilt with wide avenues and beautiful squares like Rossio square and Commerce square. We had to queue for the famous Santa Justa Elevator, connecting the Baixa with the Largo do Carmo. The lift was designed by a student of Eiffel and construction was complete in 1902. From the upper level you can walk to the Largo do Carmo, or climb up to the top floor with a nice view of Lisbon.

In tne late afternoon we climbed up to the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, a lookout point with a beautiful view of Lisbon. We watched the sunset there, in the company of many other tourists. We had dinner in O Arco, a popular restaurant in the Baixa, famous for its seafood porridge.

Our hotel room in Lisbon
 

Our first (huge) dinner
 

Rossio Square
 

Baixa with monumental entrance arch
 

Wide avenues
 

Commerce square
 

Santa Justa elevator
 

Climbing to the top
 

View of Lisbon
 

Rossio square
 

Walkway to Largo do Carmo
 

Ruins of Carmo church
 

Largo do Carmo
 

Buying a souvenir
 

A steep climb uphill to...
 

.. the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte
 

The view was worth the effort
 

The next day we visited Sintra. The small town of Sintra is located about 30 km West of Lisbon and can be reached by train in half an hour. It is one of Portugal's top tourist attractions and there will be crowds of visitors, even off-season. Main points of interest are the 19th-century romantic palaces and mansions, but there is also a medieval castle.

We started with this Castle of the Moors, constructed during the 8th and 9th centuries. It's a steep climb up, but worht the effort. Beautiful views of the surrounding landscape.

On a walking distance from the castle, there is the Pena Palace, built in the 19th century. When you first see it, you can not believe your eyes. Is this Disneyland? Actually it is considered one of the seven wonders of Portugal and one of the best examples of 19th century Romanticism. Built on the remains of a monastery (destroyed in the 1755 earthquake) by King Ferdinand II, it served in the 19th century as the summer residence of the Portuguese royal family

Our last stop in Sintra was the Regaleira Palace, built in the beginning of the 20th century for Carvalho Monteiro and his family. We were especially interested in the gardens, where you could spend hours. exploring the folly-like buildings, the tunnels and caves and much more. Hightlight is the Initiation Well, not a real well, more an inverted tower, where you walk to the bottom and from there enter a maze of tunnels and caves. All artificial, apparently Carvalho Monteiro was interested in mysticism, tarot, etc.


Dinner in O Arco
 

On our way to the castle
 

The castle walls
 

To the top
 

Impressive
 

View of the surroundings
 

Entrance of Pena Palace
 

One of the 7 wonders of Portugal
 

19th century Romanticism
 

Almost Disneyland
 

Brings you in a good mood
 

Entrance gate
 

Many tourists
 

Quinta da Regaleira
 

A "folly"
 

The Initiation Well
 

Looking up
 

Artificial lake
 

Tunnels and caves
 

A maze of tunnels
 

You can easily spend a few days in Sintra, but we wanted to visit Belem in the afternoon, so we took train and bus back. The Tower of Belem and the Jerónimos Monastery also belong to the seven wonders of Portugal, but that was not the main reason for our visit...:-) We came for the Pasteis de Belem, a shop where they bake and sell the famous Portuguese egg tarts. We ordered a few and they were so delicious that we ordered more.

Only after this late lunch we had a look at the monastery and the tower. The monastery was already closed, we could just have a look inside the church, but the Belem tower looked beautiful in the light of the setting sun. After a long day we had a well-deserved dinner in the restaurant opposite our hotel.


Pasteis de Belem shop
 

Since 1837
 

The interior of the shop
 

Yummie
 

Jeronimos monastery
 

Church entrance
 

Late Gothic Manueline style
 

Beautiful
 

Eternal rest
 

Torre de Belem (1514-1520
 

Well-deserved dinner
 

Of course we could have spent much more time in Lisbon, but we had only ten days in Portugal. So the next morning we went to the Europcar office to pick up the car we had booked. Manual transmission and right-hand driving , we got used to it quite fast.

Our target for the day was Obidos, about 90 north of Lisbon. Obidos is one of the prettiest towns of Portugal, with cobbled streets, traditional painted houses and surrounded by its city walls. From the wall you have nice views of the town.


Our rental car
 

Main gate: Porta da Vila
 

Obidos
 

Cobbled streets
 

Painted houses
 

Colorful
 

The city wall
 

Walking around the town
 

Dominated by the castle
 

So picturesque
 

Nice courtyard
 

First we had planned to visit Aveiro, another nice town, on our way to Porto. But Obidos was so nice that it took more time, therefore we decided ot visit Aveiro on our way back and continue directly to Porto. Aric had booked a fantastic apartment in Gaia, on the other side of the Douro river. From our apartment we had a view of the spectacular Dom Luís I Bridgeand the Douro river.

In the evening we went out, crossed the upper bridge to old Porto, walked around a bit and had dinner in the Brasao Cervejaria. Our host had suggested that we should go there to taste the best Francesinha in town. A Francesinha is a Porto speciality, a kind of sandwich with meat in a tomata sauce, covered with cheese and an egg. It was nice and basically more than enough for two (hungry) people.

The next day, after a nice breakfast in our apartment, we walked down to the river, had a look at the many port caves and then took the cable car to the upper bridge. In earlier days both decks were used for road traffic. Now only pedestrians and the metro can use the upper deck. We visited the Porto cathedral, completed in the 13th century and one of the most important Romanesque monuments in Portugal. The cloister(14-15th century) is Gothic, inside the church there is much Baroque, you can easily spend hours here. In the cloister beautiful azulejos Then it was time for lunch, I had another francesinha..:-)


Our apartment in Porto
 

The Dom Luis I bridge
 

A room with a view
 

The Sao Bento station (1916)
 

Interior of the station
 

Nice azulejos
 

Dinner in Brasao
 

Room service breakfast
 

The Douro river
 

We took the cable car to the bridge
 

The port wine caves
 

View from the bridge
 

THe Cathedral of Porto
 

Interior
 

One of the chapels
 

Detail
 

Ceiling
 

Entrance of the cloisters
 

The cloisters
 

Azulejos everywhere
 

One for the album
 

Church of Saint Ildefonso (1739)
 

Lunch: another Francesinha
 

Busy streets
 

There is a lot to see in Porto, much more than I expected. For example Art Deco architecture, although often not in a very good condition. The famous Lello bookstore, where you have to buy a ticket to enter (but you can use it to buy a book), the 19th centure Bolhao market, the Praca Liberdade with monumental buildings.

And of course many churches. We visited the Carmo and Carmelitas churches, next to each other, but separated by a narrow house, apparently to separate the nuns from the monks...:-) I was intrigued by the many depictions of the crucified Jesus.

At the end of the afternoon we walked down to the river to enjoy a drink and relax.


Art Deco in Porto
 

The Majestic Cafe (1921)
 

Mercado do Bolhão (~1850)
 

Portuguese sausages
 

The fruit corner
 

Liberdade Square
 

Liberdade Square
 

Lello Bookstore (1906)
 

The famous stairs
 

First floor
 

Ceiling
 

Initiation of freshmen students
 

Carmo and Carmelitas Churches
 

Interior
 

The Dead Jesus
 

Many crucifixion images
 

Walking down to the river
 

Street art
 

Also street art?
 

Well-deserved rest
 

Liz wrote on Dec 3, 2016:
Portugal is on my list of places to go. So I will be able to refer to your blog (and ask you questions) when I decide to go!

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