The Retirees go Abroad – the Iberian Peninsula – the Rivera of Portugal at Cascais

We did not make it out Monday night and the following morning we changed plans – we decided to go to the beach. The Rivera of Portugal is at Cascais about an hour outside of Lisbon. We caught the tram then walked along the river. There were three liners docked and one was supersize. We then caught the train from Casa Sorde and travelled along the river bank until reaching the mouth and the coast of Portugal.

On arriving at Cascais we strolled down to one of the beaches and wet our feet in the Atlantic Ocean. The town is clean and appears prosperous with a number of examples of Moorish architecture. We found a cafe on the beach which served artisan ice cream so one banana split and a crepe for Kerry became lunch. While eating lunch Kerry saw a fishing boat returning to the port accompanied by a flock of gulls – obviously the trip was a success. We strolled through the village which overlooks the beach, there were boats on the beaches, some derelict buildings made presentable with street art, laneways filled with restaurants, an Irish Pub, and a fort (called the Citadel) which became the Royal residence of King Carlos I until his death in 1908 and then Ferdinand II until the revolution and over throw of the monarchy in 1910.

The Citadel is an art gallery today but stands out as once the bastion of the town. Behind the Citadel is the Parque Marechal Carmona. We decided to stroll through and noticed that there was a tree uprooted immediately inside the gate. On closer examination there was storm damage everywhere – the storm on Sunday had caused a number of tree falls and many fallen branches as someone decided to plant eucalypts in the gardens. The storm must also wrecked the hen house as there were chooks running free with the ducks the gulls the peacocks and pigeons.

Out of the park and back into the old town we saw small alleys with tiled houses, arched alleys and police on scooters. Around the corner we found the Town Hall (Rathaus) which included a history of the county and its flag. Outside of the council building stood King Dom Pedro II right in front of O’Neil’s Irish Pub. Time has flown by and we want to head back to Lisbon. So now to find the railway station. Up one alley and I wonder if this could be the way? Number 5 and 5A look a bit worse for wear.

Arriving at the Lisbon end, we go across to the Time Out Markets for our last dinner in Lisbon. First course – fresh oysters and fried prawns with a glass of Portuguese white wine followed by a tapa plate (three actually – a serious error on quantity) and a glass of Portuguese white wine recommended by the proprietor. Yes three different sausages and a ham with three varieties of cheese – protein overload. Stuffed we staggered to our tram stop and made our way to the apartment. The last time we will have to ride those bloody trams.

Tomorrow we travel to Madrid. Ole!

The Retirees go Abroad – the Iberian Peninsula – Queluz Belis

After breakfast we walked down to the Rossio train station (about 45 minutes) as no trams came once again. The queues we very long for tickets to Sintra probably because of the storm damage last week but we queued and bought our ticket to Queluz Belis (on the way to Sintra) to visit the National Palace of Queluz.

In 1654 King Joao IV created the house of the Infantado which King Pedro III transformed into a Summer palace in 1747 for the royal family until Napoleon invaded and the royal family fled to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. They returned to Portugal and the Palace in 1821. There followed a civil war (1832-1834) between members of the royal family and finally Portugal became a republic in 1910 and the Palace was declared a national monument.

We arrived in Belis train station and found our way to the Palace (some 15 minutes walk). From the outside it looked pretty shabby so first impression was disappointing. Inside however was a different matter. Fronting the road is a two story building with a large half circle driveway at one end. In the driveway is a statue of Queen Maria I. To the right hand side of the driveway is the Escola Portuguesa de Arte Equestre, a school to train horses and rider in classics equestrian performances and exercises. Behind the statue and to the left is a further wing of the palace running at 90 degrees to the front wing. This joins the chambers in the centre from which the wing continues until it turns at 90 degrees to form an open ended square in which the formal gardens are set and surrounded by the gardens and canal. On entering the palace you enter the throne room followed by the music room and the chapel. In the chapel they are renovating the organ which is spread across the floor of the chapel.

After the chapel there are a series of rooms forming the apartments of the lesser royals. Then follows the Tiles Corridor displaying the Portuguese love of tiled murals and then the royal apartments. After those apartments comes the Hall of the Ambassadors with its two royal plinths so that visiting royalty was at the same level as the Portuguese King and Queen. More apartments follow until you arrive at Dom Quixote room – a room with the allusion that it is circular and bedecked with scenes from Cervantes novel “Dom Quixote”.

From there we left the palace and made our way to the gardens. It is here that you understand the layout and the beauty of the palace. It is difficult to photograph in any detail due to its sprawling design and depth of the gardens.

On our way around we stopped to eat our sandwiches (homemade egg sandwiches) and take in a cup of tea. We were soon to walk off this repass as after returning to Lisbon we then walked to the City and the Church of St Dominique (Igreja de Sao Domingos in Portuguese). The church was dedicated in 1241, was once the biggest church in Lisbon, home of the Inquisition in Lisbon and saw Jesuit missionary Gabriel Magagrida executed for treason. It was destroyed by earthquake in 1531 and in 1755 and destroyed by fire in 1959 after which it has been restored with much of the fire damage still in place and visible.

We then decided to ride the number 28 tram to the end to find out where it went. Apparently all but a handful of passengers were doing the same thing so when we reached the terminus the tram was still as chock-a-block as when it started. Everyone was forced to leave the tram and join the queue for the return ride – the queue was 100 metres long. We knew that we could catch a number 12 tram so we joined that queue of 10 to 12 people but when the tram arrived it was full and passed the stop. I convinced Kerry we could walk up the hill and home before any tram came along so we did approximately 1 hour up hill and 700 + stairs. She is resting now so that we can go out tonight.

The Retirees go Abroad – the Iberian Peninsula – the Tile Museum of Lisbon

Surprisingly the next morning was fine and clear. Everything looked fresh. We walked to the tram stop and waited and waited finally deciding to walk down to the old city. As we walked I saw a young girl in a window and thought a picture would be nice. When we finally arrived in the old city the reason for no tram became obvious. The city was closed due to the marathon being run that day (we met some Americans who mentioned they were participating in a marathon on Sunday) but we arrived just in time to see the lead runner and the next three runners enter the old town. So with the old town closed we decided to stroll through Chiado and up to an old church that was damaged in the 1755 earthquake and kept as a reminder of that time. We went there for another reason – the back door to a viewing tower of the city just to show we had found it. Alongside is the Garda Museum closely guarded but with free admission.

We were following the trail of the wine and food tour to revisit some of the highlights. We stopped at the oldest bookshop and then the first coffee shop and past one of the many chestnut vendors in the street. Around the corner and past Camao’s square and into the lane where we found Grapes and Bites. Then down the hill again through the restaurants onto the main square Praca Dom Pedro IV. The runners were still coming through so we decided to take a walk along Averigo do Campo Grande up to the statue to Marquess de Pombal. We returned to the old city by the Metro to Station Apollonian planning to go to the Tile Museum. However the bus did not turn up so I took a photo of the Museu Militar and we decided to walk back to the apartment via a new direction. And we stumbled across the Panteao Nacional and some new graffiti.

After lunch at home we returned to the bus stop and caught the 795 to Museu Nacional do Azulejo – the National Tile Museum. The museum is located in an old monastery and is a fabulous display of Portuguese tiles down through the centuries. We had some idea of the use of the tiles from the houses in the street from St Vincent’s Monastery and the fact that there is a museum about it. But we were not ready for how much of a story they told. Nor were we ready for the chapel in the old monastery. Decorated with paintings depicting the story of Christ’s life It is the most decorated chapel I can recall. And it is the place where I have seen the most relics. The most famous piece is the panorama of Lisbon a tile mosaic of the city (the featured image above). After the museum we went to the cafe and its courtyard and the courtyard pond with its turtles.

It started to rain as we waited for the bus to return to town. Fortunately it stopped as we left the terminus to catch the tram to the apartment. Despite being crowded (there were three trams in a row) we caught the third tram and got off at our stop which requires that we press flat against the wall to allow the tram to leave the stop.

Our apartment has one opening on the world – a door to a balcony no bigger than a window ledge. We find it necessary to open the door at night to allow air to circulate but this also allows noises from the neighbours and the garbage truck but Sunday night/Monday morning I was woken by the sound of gushing water. I thought it was heavy rain at first but as it was incessant I got up to check it out. Here was a bloke in his reflective jacket with a fire hose washing the street. Now the street is barely 1 car wide and this bloke went on and on and on. So neither of us got a full nights sleep.

The Retirees go Abroad – the Iberian Peninsula – the new city of Lisbon and our Fado Tour

On the way home it started to rain – ominous for tomorrow. Through the night the garbage collectors found that some idiot had parked his car awkwardly so at 1.00am they had to spend 30mins + trying to manoeuvre their truck through our street all the time yelling and screeching tyres.  Despite this we got some sleep and awoke to stormy weather. Despite the weather we trekked outside and found that the car remains there and another has parked near it so tonight will be worse. Umbrellas open we caught the tram to the underground and from Baix-Chiado we travelled to Oriente in the new city. The weather was now dreadful with high chilling wind and rain. We found a shopping centre attached to the metro and re-evaluated our plans. Today would be best spent at home in bed with a book. So after snapping some of the modern buildings in this area (the exact opposite of the old town) we retreated home.


That afternoon I did some research on a trip to Sintra. Surprisingly the roads to the attractions in Sintra were closed and yet the day before the Tourism office had recommended we travel to Sintra. That night we had arranged to meet Joanna for our Fado and dinner tour. We waited in the square for Joanna and the other 11 on the tour and I took pictures of the Hard Rock Cafe and the Averido do Campo Grande. Right on time Joanna arrived and whilst we waited for the others she told us that the storms that morning had brought down trees and flooded roads in and around Sintra. The others arrived except for one couple so we waited in the square whilst Joanne told us more about her city including a tip about the best roof top bar in town in the hotel on this square. She also told us that the monument in the square represented the wars against Spain to throw off its occupation in the 17th century.

As we were on the Fado tour she then took us into a back street to show us some graffiti commemorating their Princess of Fado Amalia Rodriges. Then we made our way to the Jingjiha bar to try this liquor again. Graffiti is evident in most places of Lisbon and in my previous blog I showed the Fado graffiti along some stairs. Joanna took us there as this is famous as representing the Portuguese way of life and it love of Fado. We had seen it in the daylight when it was far more impressive but as we travelled down the stairs there was another piece of graffiti mural I had missed the other day but I have included here. This is in the old Moorish sector of the city. She took us down a narrow lane where portraits of elderly residents of the sector were posted on the walls. She also showed us how some of the images in the tiling on the footpaths showed different things about the area – like this outline of the church it surrounds.

Then we boarded a number 12 tram to travel up the hill to the Alfama area which she said was the area where Fado had its true origins. We got off the tram very close to our apartment. Joanna showed us the new mosaic of Amalia. From there we walked to the viewing platforms in Alfama near St Georges Castle down some never ending staircases to our restaurant Pateo Alfama. Inside we heard Fado being performed and watched a stage show of dancing and Fado music whilst eating a traditional potato soup, tapas and a custard desert whilst consuming local wine. The performance was good but I am not a Fado fan.

We got away at 11.00pm and home was but a short and steep walk away. I tumbled into bed and was out to it fairly quickly. Even so I heard the rain that came all night long – not much promise for tomorrow.

The Retirees go Abroad – the Iberian Peninsula – Food and Wine of Lisbon

We returned to the square to meet our guide for the evening guided walk. Whilst there we watched a street performer “blowing bubbles”. Right on 4.30pm we found Andre our guide. We were joined by Paul and Catherine from the west coast of Canada and later 7 others all from the US of A – two of whom were from Texas and were there to run in a marathon on Sunday.

This was a food and wine walk which started at Tendinha (little tent) for traditional cod fish cakes and “green wine”. The majority of cod used in Lisbon is salted and dried cod (the same as the cod used by her sailing explorers over the centuries) so the cakes are naturally salty. The wine is made with a grape originating in Portugal and grown in the colder higher altitudes. It is light white and spritz – a good wine with the salty fish cakes.

Leaving Tendinha we went across to the Square do Figurea with a statue of Cortez on his horse. In this square is one of the oldest continually operating delicatessen in Lisbon – Manteigaria Silva and beside it the fish shop named after the cod fish – Bacalhoaria Silva. From the deli we tasted sheep’s cheese with quince paste and a tawny port – yum oh.

Our tour then continued in the Chiado district up the hill from the old city. Kerry met one of Portugal’s famous poets, we saw Portugal’s oldest coffee shop where expresso was first drunk in Portugal, and we made our way to Grapes and Bites for some tapas and red wine. But we are not finished yet.

We head back down into the old city through the tables of restaurants with the view which epitomises Lisbon to the first “Jingjinha” outlet in Lisbon. It is a sour cherry liquor first sold as a medicine but at 25% proof it soon became too popular to be a medicine. Our last port of call was a restaurant epitomising the cuisine of southern Portugal and having the most fabulous ambience – tiled walls and Moroccan styled court in the centre of the building, they served bbq choriso with salted mushrooms and a scrambled egg. I don’t think the egg was all that special but the other two dishes and the red wine was great.

The Retirees go Abroad – the Iberian Peninsula – Lisbon and Mosteiro de Sao Vicente de Fora

Next morning there was no sign of rain. Our planned tasting tour for tonight remained promising so what to do for the day. Kerry had been wondering about twin bell towers which appeared to be nearby. After breakfast we headed up the hill instead of down to the old town. Within five minutes of walking, we found the Church of St Vincent de Fora- a grand building but the church seemed to be only a small part of the structure. Also there was a bridge across the road connecting it to who knows what. Inside the church seemed to be higher than any other (probably not just appeared to be) and strangely one of the statues was dressed like a barbi doll.

After leaving the church I noticed a gateway with a sign “Mosteiro de Sao Vicente de Fora – Welcome”. So we went in. Inside the wall was a garden and another doorway leading into another part of the building. It was now clear that the Church was part of the Monastery. The Monastery ceased to be a monastery in the late 19th century with the abolition of monasteries throughout Portugal but now it is open to the public to view the roman remains on which the monastery was built. This was to prove to be a hidden gem of knowledge and history.

For 5 euros each we visited the roman cistern which was adapted by the Augustinians to catch the rain water to provide for the whole of the monastery. From there we walked up into the monastery itself. The walls are tiled with frescos of life in every room with each tile hand painted to make up the Fresco. The ceiling has been painted by an Italian master and this is the only remaining piece of his work. Even the bannisters had tiled posts that had been hand painted. From here we could look into the entrance courtyard and even view the coffin of one of the past residents. Then followed a treasury of gold and silver ecumenical gowns and ornaments (which I was not permitted to photograph) along with a history timeline giving the progression of the site from the Romans to the present.

Out in the courtyard in the centre of the monastery the tiled frescos continued until we found the Sacristy (where the canons would robe). The ceiling is painted with a vivid mural whilst the walls are covered in tiles with the robes contained in jacaranda chests. The in the next courtyard is the mortuary of the kings – a mausoleum of the last Kings and Princes of Portugal.

Up to the next floor we find a display of items from archaeological digs around the monastery and Lisbon items going back to the Phoneticians. On the same floor there is a display of La Fontaines’ Fables in tiled frescoes. La Fontaine published 3 collections of fables commencing in 1688 – a total of over 240 fables using animals to portray morals and ethics of the 17th century community.

After viewing a number of the fables we found the doorway to the bell tower so up we went – over 50 stairs. From this point we could see the castle do St George, another domed church nearby and the enormous roof of the monastery.

We left the monastery after 3 hours to head toward the castle. On finding the castle I read that it was made up of the ruins, a small museum and the community living within the castle walls. We chose to spend the money on lunch not the castle so we found a restaurant under the castle walls in the back streets. Lovely lunch – quiche and salad for Kerry and a toasted sandwich topped with olive tapenade for me coffee and two cakes.

Now we headed down the hill to the city via a different route. We found some interesting graffiti leading us to the major square in Lisbon. Later on our Fado tour we were to learn the reason for the graffiti.

Moving from the square we found the train station in the Manueline form of architecture (a mixture of renaissance and Moorish architecture favoured by King Manuel). Near the train station we found the official tourism office and learned more about Portugal before buying our day passes and catching the funicular “Grace” up the hill. On top of the hill we found more parks, views to the castle and some quiet places to watch the world go by.

The Retirees go Abroad – the Iberian Peninsula – Ferry Across the Targus

The sky is clear and blue as we leave the apartment. The apartment is in an old building where the door is wide enough for one slim person and the stair case very steep.

We caught the tram down this morning, arriving at the ferry terminal. The wind carries a chill and Kerry is already complaining about not having brought her coat. We visit the Metro station to plan for future trips whilst we wait for the ferry to open. Finally the gates open and the crowd rushes in – unbelievable the attitude of some French tourists pushing their way through as though they are the only people of importance. There is another cruise ship docked in the river and we are able to make out the 16 kilometre bridge crossing the Targus just west of us.

Our first port of call is Almada and we have no idea what we want to do. Most people come here to walk for an hour and visit the Christo Rei a towering Christ statue on the southern bank of the Targus. But not us. I spot the masts of a three masted man-of-war in dry dock and head straight for it. The Frigata “Dom Fernando II E Gloria” a wooden hull fifty gun frigate of the Portuguese Navy launched in 1843 after being built in the Portuguese colony of Daman India and was the last navy sailing ship in the Portuguese Navy. It has been restored to its fit out as at 1850 and is open to the public. Excellent restoration and brilliant historical descriptions tell you the story of life on board as you traverse the deck and below decks of the ship. The powder room was a surprise – lined in brick it was illuminated by lamps in the adjoining room to save an embarrassing incident. In the dry dock alongside is a submarine presumably awaiting restoration?

We the strolled through Almada taking the route pilgrims and tourist would take to the Christo. Of course we did not go all the way only as far as the tourist information centre in the old fire station. On the way to the TIC we saw a local shop keeper starting a BBQ on the footpath using a hair dryer as billows and on the way back to the boat he had it started but was super heating it with the hair dryer and a pipe to channel the forced air to the base of the coal fire.

As we waited for our boat we watched the large brown jelly fish floating in the river. Boarding the boat we headed for Bellum an outer suburb of Lisbon and passed the Christo Rei, the look alike Golden Gate Bridge, the monument to Prince Henry the Navigator and all the Portuguese explorers who followed him and the “Tour do Bellum” a remnant of the guard towers along the coast and waterways. Lunch was a bagel at the cafe de curb and eaten looking at the fountain. Then we went to the church of Jeronimos Monastery. What a place. We have seen churches from the Sistine chapel to the cathedrals of England but this was a surprise. It also holds the tomb of Vasco de Gama the Portuguese explorer from the 15th century who prayed with his crew for safe return from the Orient in 1497 in the church and one of Portugal’s most famous poets form the 16th century Luis Vaz de Camoes. After spending most of our time at the church we made a quick pass by the Presidents Lodge and back to the boat.

By the time we returned to Lisbon and caught a tram to our apartment it was too late to do anything but crash. The weather had remained fine and became hot but rain was promised for tomorrow.

The Retirees go Abroad – the Iberian Peninsula – Lisbon Portugal

We have said farewell to Long Eaton – it will always be one of my homes in my heart. Farewell to our neighbours Pam and John and farewell to our other Rotary Club – Nottingham. After bouncing off the walls at the Novotel Long Eaton for 4 days we are finally on our way to Portugal and Spain. We still have the car as it is cheaper to park the car (and luggage) than just the luggage and hope to sell the car on 31/10/2015; the day before we leave for Australia.

Flying to Lisbon was no problem and finding our apartment in the old city no problem. But finding out where we are on a map of the city is impossible as the streets are so small and so numerous that all we can determine is our general area. Fortunately I spotted a restaurant around the corner so we could eat but only if we can speak Portuguese (it’s the 5th most widely spoken language so surely we know a few words – not a one). Hand signals and a lot of pointing at the dishes on other tables brought a result sort of.

To bed to dream – not bloody likely they pick up the garbage every night because the streets are so narrow. We managed to find a mercador (small shop) to buy some corn flakes (Portuguese variety), milk and other provisions so after breakfast we hit the track. Now the city is serviced by trams; small trams, but even though they are small there are some places where pedestrians are crushed against the buildings by the trams because the streets are so narrow. But it provides a bloody obvious track to follow to find whatever you want.

We wanted to find the information centre to plan our visit. So we followed the tracks, passing a viewing platform with restaurants and what appeared to be a public pool, an ancient tree, the main Cathedral, trams and buses jousting for passage along the narrow streets until arriving at the commercial area where we were inundated with things to do. There was even a stationers sharing the family name of our son-in-law. We decided on the “Red Tram” tour around the old city and two walking tours one for tapas and drinks and the other for dinner and Fado – the traditional mournful music telling stories of resignation to what life may bring. The Red Tram tour started under an impressive gate beside an equally impressive square and monument.

The tram took us back up the hill we just walked down around the castle (yes another castle) back down to the commercial area and out to the Basilica of the Scared Heart of Jesus and back down to the square. This can be an ponderous journey depending on the misadventures of the motorists sharing the road with the trams.

After completing the tour and gaining an idea of where everything was we had lunch – cod cakes, a glass of wine and a glass of beer. This is a new version of the traditional concept in Portugal (the cakes include a soft cheese) and the restaurant was a bit bohemian as well. having completed our repast and a stroll down the avenue viewing some of the exotic tiled buildings and a viewing tower constructed against the ruin of another monastery, we headed for the Basilica of the Sacred Heart as the tram audio had informed us that there were magnificent views from the church.

Our tour ticket gave us use of the public tram system as well. Arriving at 3.00pm we were able to go up to roof where we could view the city and view the dome of the church. 120 steps later and 8 euros lighter we stepped out onto the roof of the Basilica. The views are outstanding until we then stepped into the dome.

Then we went into the Basilica to view the tomb of Queen Maria who had built the church to keep a promise after giving birth to a son. Inside we found the tomb but I also found behind the tomb the Nativity Scene of Estrela Basilica sculptured by Joaquin Machado de Castro in wood and cork with over 450 ceramic and clay figures. Not only is this the biggest nativity scene you will ever see you will be surprised by all the people present at the birth of Christ – even a bloke with bag pipes! After that I decided to get a haircut.

We walked back to the old city along the tram tracks past the Parliament building but we could not go inside – at least that is what the two armed guards at the front door said and I was not in an argumentative mood. We discover some wonderful graffiti in Lisbon and it all seems to relate to the culture and the people. Here is one on the side of a building in the street below the Parliament. Then we passed what I thought at that time the most ornate church on the planet – Church of Santa Catrina and Monastery of the Paulists (Church of Saint Catherine – there must have been a sale on gold leaf and silver leaf in the 18th century and this church bought the lot!) I left there shaking my head about the extravagance of the Catholic Church – there is no end to it.

After that experience we found the funicular running down to the river banks of the River Targus and into the Time Out markets – a mixture of fresh food markets and restaurants, bars and dining areas, where there is nothing your heart could desire that was not for sale. Even beer on tap that you pulled for yourself. Take one credit card, tap it on the beer of your choice and pull your beer.

The day is drawing to a close. The traffic is chaotic so it’s time to take a tram home buy some dinner and get some rest for tomorrow is another day in Lisboa (Lisbon). The tram takes it time so I photograph one of the many baroque buildings in Lisbon. After arriving at the apartment we carefully make our way to a restaurant in Rua Ecole do Gervais – nothing special about the food but the view and the music floating up from the Fado restaurants below gave it charm its drab exterior would never convey.