Sunday, June 21, 2009

Day 13- Queluz

Well, it is our last day here to see things. We hadn't really planned on a big day, but it turned out that way.

We had to drive over that bridge again, and it wasn't as bad as yesterday, but still crazy. Our Pousada today is an 18th century palace, located across from the Portuguese "Versailles".

Our choice of sightseeing today was Sintra- but first we took a little side trip to a little quilt shop in Oeiros. I follow their blog online and wanted to see if I could get something Portuguese to take home. The shop is little but full! The owner was great and I enjoyed looking around- but they only carry American fabric, as many of the Portuguese textile mills are no longer in production- and the ones that are, don't product quilt-quality fabric. It was fun to go there anyway!

Sintra. Wow. Turned out to be a pretty exciting day! We tried to find this palace but the GPS just couldn't. We ended up parking in the old part of town, having lunch, and walking around the quaint shops and homes. Then we took an open-air bus ride to see the town. It was then we found out that we could take a city bus up to not only the palace we had been looking for, but a Moorish castle too! You can walk up- but it is a 90 minute walk and it was dreadfully hot and humid.

The Moorish castle was probably the highest up we climbed on our whole trip. Just amazing. You could see for miles in every direction.

The palace is pretty amazing too, but in a different way. It is huge, garish, and way too full of outlandishly expensive and over-the-top pieces of everything you could possibly imagine. It was something to see for sure.

We had a delicious dinner at the Pousada and it was a terrific evening to end a terrific vacation.

Day 12- Palmela

Today our next Pousada is close; these last three days are all within driving distance to Lisbon. This pousada is part of a medieval castle built by the Moors.

We had to cross the 25 de Abril Bridge into Lisbon; it crosses the Tagus River. What a horrible drive into it! Stop and go traffic for 40 minutes- 16 toll lanes to get on to the bridge and just three lanes each way...

We chose Belem as our destination for today. We (amazingly) found parking at the Torre de Belem, and were able to stay parked there for the rest of our day.

The Torre de Belem is really something to see and we enjoyed being up high again to see the views of the city and the river from there.

Next stop was the PadrĂ£o dos Descobrimentos. It is about 50 m high and celebrates, as said by its name, the Portuguese who took part in some way to the age of discoveries. Very cool- and very detailed. We later had lunch close by.

Our last sightseeing of the day was the Mosteiros dos Jeronimos and the Chapel of St. Jerome. I have never in my life imagined a place that every single surface was carved or decorated in some way. It was really something to see.

We had a nice light dinner at the Pousada and another wonderful day came to a close.

Day 11- Setubal

Another long drive today, this time northwards up the coast. The road along the coast is not straight, but goes dipping in and out towards the coast- or you can go more inland and drive the highway, which we ended up doing. The driving is very assertive here- but they are good drivers. They have to be.

The Pousada de Sao Filipe in Setubal is located high up on a cliff overlooking the Sado Estuary and the Troia peninsula and the Atlantic Ocean in the distance. Stunning views from pretty much everywhere- our room, the patio, and the restaurant. It is a former 17th century fortress and has lots of places to explore right on site.

We took a small drive along the coast after checking in and then decided to take the ferry over to the estuary, hoping to find out where we could see the dolphins and rare birds.

We took the ferry and drove a long way in both directions, but saw neither signs directing us to, nor the wildlife we were looking for. Saw more storks though. They are so huge!

Day 10- Sagres

We had a long drive today, as we were headed down to the southwestern coast of the country, to Sagres. This is beach country down here, so we didn't make plans ahead of time. We wanted to check in and see what was there. Sagres is referred to as "the end of the world".

We drove by a lot of farms; not seeing many vineyards anymore, though some people still have them on their own property.

Yesterday we saw a lot of these big trees that had the bark stripped off of them from a certain point down and we didn't know what they were. I looked it up and found out that they are cork oaks- it just so happens that Portugal is the world's leading supplier of cork.

We arrived at Pousada do Infante in Sagres with no trouble and what a location! Right on the Atlantic Ocean- the only thing between the Pousada and the ocean is a sheer rock cliff! Our room had a beautiful view and the ocean breeze made it great to sit out, even though it was still hot.

We walked around some, took pictures of the Fortaleza de Sagres, and tried to decide where to have dinner later.

We visited Praia da Mareta (Mareta Beach), where we walked around in the water and I found shells, and Praia do Tonel (Tunnel Beach) which is a surfer beach- just to watch. We had a fabulous dinner at O Telheiro, which overlooks Praia da Mareta, and watched the sun go down. There are just so many beautiful things to see here!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Day 9- Evora

Today we had a short drive between Pousadas so we had plenty of time to do some sightseeing in the morning. And since it has been so hot, doing things in the morning is a good idea.

So our first stop was out in the country, to see the Menhir of Alamendres, a 13ft cylinder of sorts that they figure was erected some 3-4 thousand years BC.

The next stop was just down the road, the Cromeleque of Alamendres, a stone circle from the same time period. It is supposed that it was used for religious practices and as an astronomical observatory. It was kind of neat to see. It was Sunday and very busy- hard to get photos without people in them.

Our guide book said that there was a partially standing Roman temple somewhere in the area and we decided to try and find it after we checked into our Pousada at Evora.

Imagine my shock and sheer delight to find that very temple standing not ten steps from the Pousada we were staying at!!! Very thrilling, to say the least.

We did some exploring of the city; we saw a really long Roman aqueduct, which houses have been built right into! We had lunch in a park and dinner out again, since there were lots of things within walking distance.