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Trip Report My Low Budget Trip to Portugal

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Portugal is very very inexpensive. You can deliciously eat and drink your way through the country on a few Euros. The food and wine are very good and the portions are large, even by American standards. Two people could easily split half a portion with an extra side dish (salad or starter). I had read about the vegetables in Portugal but I never saw any offered on menus with the exception of the nasty spinach I was served one night, even though I said “no spinach.” Salad is a standard part of most meals, as is rice and fries.

An interesting aspect of the Portuguese drinking culture is if you ask for wine you get a bottle or a carafe. I was only served a glass of wine twice. Every other time I was given a half bottle but at 2.5 or 3.5 Euros per half bottle it was a bargain! And I did manage to finish every drop of wine!

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    Portuguese People:

    Absolutely wonderful. Cheerful and helpful. Among the friendliest I’ve encountered.

    Driving:

    It was a pleasure to drive in Portugal. The road signs are good and the roads are almost empty. No one honks the horn at you, they just drive fast and pass if you’re going less than 100km. The only person I passed was some old man driving a car smaller than a 2CV and going about 20km! :)

    Here’s the link to google maps to view the route. Hopefully it works.

    http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?hl=en&gl=us&ie=UTF8&oe=UTF8&msa=0&msid=105076665508631350914.0004732f0ec7f7b3c16f8&z=8

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    Weather:

    It was sunny all but 2 days but unbearably hot – 85 to 90 degrees F. I was not prepared for the extreme heat so late in September/beginning of October. There were 2 rainy days that were cooler but very humid. The historical weather database that I consulted prior to booking the trip showed low to mid 70s for this time of year. So much for weather history – you absolutely cannot predict the weather.

    It did cool off at night and there was usually a breeze so I was able to sleep comfortably. I was amused that all beds had blankets on them when even a sheet wasn’t required until the middle of the night.

    Resources:

    Now to research the trip. I realized I had little knowledge of Portugal and the more I read the more I realized my ignorance. I pulled trip reports from this board which were enormously helpful and picked up several guide books from the library: Rough Guide, Let’s Go, Lonely Planet, and Eyewitness. I found Lonely Planet the best with Rough Guide as a secondary resource. My very favorite Let’s Go series disappointed me for the first time. The book combines Portugal with Spain and Morocco and didn’t have enough information on Portugal.

    I bought Michelin map 733 for driving and Streetwise Lisbon although the paper map a taxi driver gave me was much better than Streetwise. I did keep the Streetwise map with me and used it as a fan to try to cool off.

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    Steve - I'll try to hurry up this report for you. Evora was in the beginning of the trip and Marvao near the beginning so you'll have the info in the next few days. I did take lots of notes and believe I have lots of good info coming up but I don't want to leave anything out and want to keep it in order.

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    Shoes:

    Walking is rough. Sometimes you get lucky and walk on cobbles but many towns have rocks on the road rather than cobbles. The rocks are smooth on top but uneven. Good lace-up walking shoes with rubber soles are mandatory, especially for walking down the hills. Many of the areas are dirt, particularly around the ruined castles. My black shoes looked white most of the time. I would not suggest sandals in Portugal (except Lisbon).

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    Car Rental:

    Originally I thought to use public transport for the entire trip (to keep expenses low) but soon realized this would not be practical for visiting many small towns.

    I rented through AutoEurope as they met my pickup and return location requirements and had the lowest price. After I got a price quote from AE I phoned Kemwell twice and they were consistently higher than AE. I also checked Carjet as they were recommended as the lowest price car rental in Portugal but they did not have a pickup location in Evora. Consequently, I would have to rent the car for an additional two days and drive from Lisbon to Evora right after I landed which I did not want to do. Given the additional days on the rental the savings were slight so I decided on AE. For pickup and return to Lisbon Carjet would have been the least expensive option.

    I waived the CDW as Visa covered it and the deductible in Portugal from AE is a hefty $1,500 – ouch! The car rental was $260 for 9 days, so very inexpensive.

    Gasoline was about $80 for a fill up. I put 3/4 of a tank in twice and it was 40 Euro each time. The car was an Ibiza compact.

    Please note that it is imperative that you completely fill the tank when returning the car. If you return it to the Lisbon airport there is a BP station within the airport (near the entrance/exit). There is a 30 Euro surcharge plus the cost of the gas to fill the tank if you return it less than full.

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    Hotels:

    My hotel budget was $50 per night for a single room, hopefully with private bath. I worked hard to find the hotels, some recommended on this board and some from guide books, mostly Lonely Planet. I want to particularly thank Laurie Reynolds who went so far above and beyond helping me book some hotels. This is not to slight others who made recommendations but Laurie was my heroine in time of need!

    The average for all hotels was $48 per night so I came in under budget. Here’s a review of the hotels for anyone looking for budget accommodations. All prices are per night for a single although all rooms had at least 1 double bed and sometimes 2 beds – 1 double and a single.

    Evora – 30 Euro (no breakfast)
    Pensao Residencial Giraldo

    Pretty much a dump.

    Marvao - 40 Euro
    Varanda do Alentejo Marvão
    Praça do Pelourinho, 1-A 7330-108 MARVÃO
    varandadoalentejo@gmail.com
    Tel+351 245 993 272
    Fax +351 245 993 272

    2 beds – a double and a single – lovely view out the window. Bathroom large and modern; room large, very clean, plenty of towels. Would highly recommend this hotel. The owner also has a restaurant across the street and up a few doors. I ate there one night and the food was good.

    Tomar - 23 Euro
    Pensão Residencial União
    Rua Serpa Pinto nº 94 - 1º 2300-592 Tomar
    Tel +351 249 323 161

    Located in the pedestrian area. At 23 Euro per night this hotel was the best bargain of the trip. One double bed, smallish bathroom, old but clean. They wired the lighting so you could turn off the overhead light w/o getting out of bed! The rates on the door showed 38 Euro but that must have been for a double since I paid the rate I was told. I believe this is the hotel that has free VoIP phoning to book as I didn’t have an email from them, only a verbal confirmation. The breakfast room is very nice; the breakfast was 2 large rolls, a small corn muffin, rolled up slice of ham and a wedge of packaged cheese. You drop your luggage at the back door (side street running parallel to the pedestrian street) and Sandra takes the bags to your room while you look for parking. The best parking (large lot and plenty of space and free) is about a 7 minute walk, in front of the Franciscan monastery (not the large monastery that’s a UNESCO site but the smaller one that is 1 block from the TI). The pay parking lots are ghastly expensive. I’m glad I checked the rates before pulling in as the garage was 84 Euro for 24 hours.

    Obidos - 30 Euro (no private bath)
    Casa dos Castros (inside the walls)
    Rua Direita 83
    +351 262 959 328

    Wouldn’t recommend it. I actually booked a room with bath for 40 Euro but there wasn’t one available when I arrived. The gentleman who owns the house wanted to be paid immediately and I never saw him again.

    Sintra - 35 Euro (no private bath)
    Vila Marques
    Rua Sotto Mayor, 1
    2710-628 Sintra
    Tel: +351 21 923 00 27
    Fax: +351 21 924 11 55
    Email: contacto@vilamarques.net
    http://www.vilamarques.net/

    I booked a single room w/o private bath at 30 Euro but the single was not available when I arrived so I had a double room for 35 Euro. Someone else who stayed there w/o advance reservations paid 45 Euro per night for a double for single use w/o private bath.

    This hotel has pluses and minuses. They have a lovely back garden, tables and chairs to sit at, with a view of the Pena Palace, Moorish Castle, and Quinta da Regaleira. There’s a kitchenette with fridge to store food, a microwave, plates, cutlery for guest use. You can hang your washing in the laundry room, just don’t try to use the basin there – the senora doesn’t like it. It’s no problem to wash things in the bathroom basin and then hang them in the laundry room. The bathroom was a bit small and there is no place to hang anything (towels, clothing, etc.) but there’s a nicer bathroom with shower on the ground floor. There’s no place in the rooms to hang wet towels (I used the window knobs and the window railing). Housekeeping is a bit lax (mostly vacuuming the carpets) and there was some confusion about the booking so I was glad I had email confirmation. They take days to get back to you if you send an email. It’s a short walk to the TI, cafes, and shops. Rooms on the street are noisy (although this doesn’t bother me); the rooms on the garden with a terrace the length of the house are quiet but there was the smell of drains so I’m glad I had a room on the street. Parking is on the street and limited although after 7:00 pm there seemed to be enough parking. Most people parked against the hotel and climbed in and out on the passenger side. I had fun watching people do this.

    Lisbon - 35 Euro (breakfast – 3 Euro)
    Residencial Saldanha
    Av. da República n.º17, 1º
    1050-185 Lisboa

    A dump in a mostly commercial area.

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    May I ask how you decided on Portugal?

    Regarding the several dumps you stayed at, in hindsight, would you rather have paid more for a nicer place (and/or with private bath), or would you keep these places in order to stay within your hotel budget?

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    Hi yk,

    Portugal has been on my top 5 list for a while but I'm not sure how it got there. I choose Portugal for this trip because it's small and I thought I could see quite a bit of it in 2 weeks, it's some place I've never been and don't know many people (other than folks on this board) who have been there. It's inexpensive and I could book a non-stop flight using FF miles. I'm always undecided between an old favorite place or some place new so I decided that every other trip would be to a new place. Thus Portugal.

    I absolutely would have like to spend more money and stayed in better places but I had a tight budget for this trip. In retrospect, I would have booked a place in Lisbon closer to an area with more cafe activity for the evening, even if it meant a bit more money. Considering the other hotels, outside of Lisbon, I probably would have booked better places and shortened the trip by a day or two but you never know about a hotel until you get there. Price per night is not always an indication of value since the hotel in Tomar was only 23 Euros with breakfast - by far the least expensive place and the best value.

    The hotel bathrooms were all clean, the bed linens were clean, and there were no bugs so I saw no reason to move out and spend more money or spend time needlessly to find another place for the same money since I figured all the cheap places were probably about the same. The places I describe as "dumps" were shabby and the carpeting definitely needed cleaning or at least vacuuming but I just kept my shoes on in the room. Dusting was definitely a low priority.

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    Good info, adrienne. I'm glad to hear the dumps weren't intolerable, hopefully they weren't bad enough to spoil things. I've always imagined Portugal as beautiful and inexpensive. Looking forward to reading more.

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    Hi, Adrienne,
    Thanks for such specific information, it is really helpful -- it's hard to find good solid reviews of cheaper places.

    Looking forward to reading more, Laurie

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    Thanks for your thoughtful reply, adrienne. I'm always curious how posters choose their destinations, esp the not-so-popular ones. And of course, I'm a low-budget traveler too!

    Another question, I suppose you've driven in Europe before; and it's a manual you rented? You didn't have trouble driving and navigating all on your own with the Michelin Map (I assume you didn't have a GPS)?

    I'd love to visit Portugal some time, but the logistics (getting there; getting around, esp if I'm going alone) have kept me from heading there. Therefore, your TR provides lots of good info and insight of how to *do* it. Fortunately, my husband has relatives in Portugal, so chances are we'll go together rather than just me.

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    Hi yk,

    I have driven in France, Italy, England, Scotland, and Malta. Malta and Scotland were the hardest. I always rent a manual transmission. I have never owned an automatic car (and I've been driving for decades) so a manual transmission is natural for me. The only thing I now remember to do is to ask where reverse is located. After not being able to find reverse in France and having to push the car to turn it around (yikes!) I always remember to ask where that gear is. :)

    No GPS. I've never used one and decided that the Michelin map would do me well and it did. The road signs are good. I only had problems within towns but I don't think a GPS would work that well with small one-way streets. It was so easy to hang out the car window and show people the address I needed, look bewildered and say Estoy Perdida!! LOL

    Estoy Perdida is Portuguese (female form) for "I'm lost." Some folks at the airport helped me learn how to say it and they had a good time laughing at me (good naturedly, of course) and asked if I thought I would really need to know estoy perdida. I assured them it would be the most valuable Portuguese phrase I could learn and it was! I wandered around Portugal saying Bom Dia and Estoy Perdida. :)

    More to come very shortly.

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    Average Expenses:

    For folks watching how many Euros they spend, here’s a general idea of what things cost. Prices are for towns other than the Sintra/Lisbon area which are a bit more expensive. Although you can eat very well and reasonably in Sintra. Since I had a car for most of the trip I stopped at Intermarches (large supermarkets) and bought snacks and water very inexpensively.

    Coke, water, or juice in a bar - 1.00
    Sightseeing admission fees – usually 3.00 to 6.00. The most expensive was the Pena Palace at 8.00.
    Postcards - .50 to .75
    Savory pastry (lunch) – 1.00
    Black coffee (small) - .55 to 1.25
    1.5 liter water in supermarket - .40
    Dinners with wine – 9.00 – 16.00 Dessert adds about another 3.00
    Lunch – 2.00 to 10.00 (no wine)

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    Trip Report:

    Wednesday - After a lovely non-stop flight to Lisbon I took a short cab ride to Oriente train station in Lisbon, purchased a second class ticket (10 Euro) to my first stop, Evora, and waited about three hours for the next train, trying to stay awake.

    The Oriente station is a massive concrete cavern and looks like no other train station I’ve seen before. I was only certain the taxi brought me to the right place because there were signs for track 1, 2, etc. I looked for a ticket window but only saw closed windows so I helplessly approached a gentleman and managed to convey my need for a ticket. The luggage trailing behind me and bewildered look convinced him I was pretty hopeless and he brought me to the ticket window around the back of one of the many pillars and told me that the train to Evora left from track 3. All was well. I took the escalator up to the next level and plunked myself down in a café with a coffee and pastry.

    After a long while, 2 coffees, and almost nodding off, I explored the station’s lower level which is dark and depressing and filled with shops and cafes. A delicious mozzarella and tomato sandwich on wonderful bread and peach nectar revived me. Time for more fresh air so I went to track 3, on the building’s upper level with a wonderful breeze and sat until it was time for the train. It’s a two-hour train ride from Lisbon to Evora and I slept most of it, waking up only at the penultimate stop, about 15 minutes from Evora.

    The Evora train station is just lovely with azulejos covering the facade. I would have taken photos but I wanted to get to the front to see what the taxi situation was. A large group of English folks had commandeered four taxis but one driver said to wait and he would send someone to pick me up. Five minutes later a taxi arrived to whisk me to my hotel in the center of Evora.

    It was a short ride from the train station to the center of Evora – Praca de Giraldo. My hotel was just a few doors down a side street, near the TI. A restorative shower and then a glass of wine in the main square where I watched the local activity and then a short walk along some streets radiating from the square. All of a sudden fatigue (and possibly wine) did their work so a nap was required. After a 2 hour nap I walked across the street to the restaurant recommended by the desk clerk in my hotel – Chorrpranna Restaurant.

    There were no more tables so I sat at the bar and ordered pork loin which the waiter advised would take 30 minutes. Choice number two, upon the advice of the waiter, was a “typical” Portuguese dish and he pointed to others eating this “typical” dish. It was a plate of pork, potatoes, rice, vegetables and a bowl of broth that they put the meat and vegetables into. I was willing to try pretty much anything as I was quite hungry so agreed to the “typical” dinner. Two minutes later the waiter says they’ve sold out the “typical” and pointed to something else on the menu which turned out to be pork spare ribs with a spicy (but not too spicy) rub, fries, rice, and a salad loaded with raw onions. I also order a glass of wine which he pours from a bottle that he had just opened. All is well and I’m nursing my wine as I’ve just paid 3 Euro for a glass of wine in the main square. I’m on a pretty strict budget so don’t want to spend more than another 3 Euro for wine.

    The meal arrives and the pork ribs were very tender and cooked with interesting spices which gave a good flavor. The fries are great. I don’t understand serving rice and potatoes at the same meal and I can’t digest rice so I leave it on the plate. I ask for another plate to remove the mountain of raw onions (which I also don’t eat). I ate as much as I could – all the salad and meat and some fries and ask for the check. I didn’t really like sitting at the bar as it wasn't all that comfortable and wanted to have a coffee in the square. The waiter pulls the half bottle of wine from under the counter and asks don’t I want to finish it. I didn’t realize I had ordered a half bottle so I asked to take it with me. He corked it and put it in a bag. My first dining experience in Portugal was an experience. I was surprised to see that the half bottle of wine only cost 4 Euro. Hmmm…I think that glass of wine in the square was quite overpriced. Total for dinner, including wine, was 9.00.

    I walk to the square and expect to see lots of people milling around or having drinks or coffees. It’s like a ghost town! Where are all the people? There was some student activity but not much. I chose a different café than the one that charged 3 Euro for a glass of wine and sat down. Then I spotted a woman who I thought I had seen sitting there earlier in the evening. I approached her and asked if she spoke English and said since we were both alone it might be fun to talk a bit. She was Spanish and said her English wasn’t very good but please join her. Her English was quite good and we talked for about an hour and had a coffee.

    One aspect of traveling alone is that you look for people to talk to and meet folks whose travel style can be very different from your own. It makes for interesting discussion. This woman (in her late 20s or early 30s) had just arrived in Evora in the late afternoon so I asked if she had any trouble finding a hotel. She said that she has a large car and sleeps in her car. How interesting. That brought all sorts of questions to mind but I thought the most polite one would be to ask where she bathed. She said service stations or camp grounds offered showers for a small fee. She lived south of Barcelona and was spending a month doing a large loop through Portugal, starting in the north. She would go to various towns and if she liked the way they looked would either stop or move on to the next town. She was going to leave Evora the next morning so typical sightseeing was not her style. She would walk around the towns and sit in cafes and chat with people.

    During the hour we sat in the square she was having intermittent conversations with the waiter. It appeared he was giving her directions at times so she was either looking for a party or couch surfing accommodations. I didn’t ask and she didn’t volunteer anything about her conversations with the waiter. She did say that she didn’t normally eat dinner until midnight so her evening was just getting started at 10:30 while my day was over and I was ready for my bed.

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    Day 2 – Thursday – Evora

    Evora can be seen in half a day to one day or use it as a sightseeing base for surrounding towns that are about an hour away from Evora. The town name is pronounced EV-ra.

    As my hotel did not offer breakfast, I stopped for coffee with milk and a buttered roll in a café on the way to the cathedral. At the Evora cathedral you pay to see the church, cloister, and sacred art museum. The combination ticket is 4.50; cathedral alone is 1.50, cathedral and cloister is 2.50. If you’ve seen sacred art museums in the past I would give this one a miss and visit the church and cloister. It didn’t have anything really special and it was blazingly hot and stuffy inside. You cannot take photos in either the church or museum.

    Next was Igreja de Sao Joao, located to the left of the cathedral, next to the pousada and the temple of Diana. No photos. Admission to the church is 3.00 and the combo ticket to the church and palace museum is 5.00. I bought the combo ticket but again, the palace museum wasn’t very special. The church is small and lovely with Gregorian music playing. The rib-vaulted nave has floor to ceiling azulejos (blue and white tiles with scenes) depicting religious scenes in the middle, putti and flowers below and above. Two small doors in the nave floor, between two rows of pews, show a monk’s ossuary and a cistern. The sacristy contains several paintings.

    I wandered some of the streets and looked at the cork items for sale in the shops. Then went to the public garden (small but nice and shady with lots of benches) to sit in the shade for a while. I chatted with a couple whose photo I had taken the evening before and then continued on to St. Bras chapel which was closed. I decided not to wait for it to re-open and headed back to the public garden for a cold drink and pastry (lunch) and then sat on a bench for a while watching the ritual of hazing the new university students. There were several groups of students with painted faces (black and red) and (I guess) upper classmen clad in black robes, similar to English university robes. The students were told to roll around in the dirt, crawl on the grass, squat and cluck like chickens, recite verses and one fellow had to kneel before three young women sitting on a bench opposite me. He then declared his love for one of them and the women were all laughing with embarrassment.

    On the way back to the hotel I stopped at St. Francis church, just outside the public gardens (free) which is lovely and shouldn’t be missed. Next to the church is the bone chapel which I did not go into and which was a mistake. The fellow at the car rental agency told me to see it but it was closed when I went back. I later saw a post card of the bone chapel (after I left Evora) and saw how pretty it is so I would recommend stopping in. I think the admission was 2.00.

    Back to the hotel for a shower and nap and then a carafe of wine in the main square. I ate dinner there as well since it was cool and breezy in the square and I didn’t feel like eating in a hot restaurant. It was also a good spot for people watching, although there weren’t many people out as the evening progressed. I found this to be true throughout Portugal (outside of Lisbon). People disappeared about 7:00 and there was little or no evening activity. Dinner was pork cutlet (with similar spices to last night’s pork), fries, and salad and the total with wine was 11.30.

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    Adrienne, your report is really interesting. Looking forward to the rest.

    Steve, I had my best meal in Portugal at the Taberna Tipica Quarta-Feira in Evora. Reservations are essential. Very small restaurant. One set price meal each night, no choices. For more details you can check out my trip report at http://www.fodors.com/community/europe/london-and-portugal-trip-report.cfm.

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    I just back from Portugal and I am loving your report. Its so true...I dont remember a lot of people out and about in the evenings...wonder why that is?

    Loving your report!

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    Thanks all! It will get more amusing as I describe some of my driving adventures and panic attacks and my meltdown/crying jag day in Lisbon which I can now laugh at all of it.

    Nikki - I remember your fabulous photos - they helped inspire me to go to Portugal. I can't believe you were there in July - you're a brave sou!. I had trouble with the heat in October and can't imagine living through summer heat. I absolutely refused to go inside buildings in the afternoons because they were so hot; I tried to stay outside as much as possible.

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    Yes, it is hot in the summer. My first trip report that included Portugal was entitled "Is it hot or is it me?".

    Perhaps there was more air conditioning in the summer, but I don't remember being so hot inside the buildings.

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    adrienne - we were there Oct 9 - 13 and it was +30 every day! But several people there told us this was unusual and its not usually that hot during Oct...but coming from London I soaked it up!!

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    jamikins - you arrived the day after I left. I booked at this time since it was not supposed to be hot. I really hate hot weather but at least it cooled off in the evening and night for sleeping. I shall be whining further about the heat in Portugal - be prepared!! :)

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    Hi, Adrienne,

    You've got a knack for telling your travel story, I'm enjoying it a lot. I, too, have noticed that there is a whole lot less night activity in public squares, etc, in Portugal than, say, in Spain. Dinner is much earlier, for one thing, and I guess there's just not that social imperative about getting seen and being out and about. But it seems strange that Spain and Portugal would be so different in that regard. I didn't think Portugal was very different from most of western Europe in that regard, and certainly not from the typical US town -- did you?

    And the heat is so erratic -- I was in Lisbon this year till July 20. We had one unbearable bout with the heat in early June, then just beautiful weather more or less non-stop till we left in July. Looks like it came back with a vengeance, that's too bad -- especially since there are so many un-air conditioned places in Lisbon and elsewhere.

    Looking forward to later installments! Laurie

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    I loved your report! I wish I was going to Portugal instead of Spain as it is much more expensive that Portugal. I actually like Portuguese food even more than Spanish cuisine. Did you have any pasteis de nata? They are to die for!

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    Thanks Laurie - glad you're enjoying the report. There are a few dull days coming but but then it gets more interesting.

    travelme - are those the custard tarts? If so, they are delicious. I actually wasn't eating much as it was so hot in the day and I seldom finished my dinner since the portions are so large. I lost 5 lbs in two weeks so that was good news. The food in Portugal was very very good. I didn't have any disappointing meals.

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    Laurie - I've been giving some consideration to your comment about cafe life in Portugal. Certainly in the US there is little or no activity in the evenings in small towns but the US does not have a cafe society as you find in Europe. I remember much more of a cafe society in towns in Italy and France and I expected Portugal to be the same, especially as it was so warm in the evenings and the wine and coffee are so cheap. But perhaps wine and coffee are not inexpensive for the Portuguese people.

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    I really enjoyed your photos adrienne.

    There's a bakery in my neighbourhood with a crazy Portuguese pastry chef who makes those custard tarts- they are dangerously good. Hmmm, I might have to get some this weekend...

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    adrienne - my husband and I will be in Portugal for about 3 days in January (taking train to/from Madrid/Lisbon, most likely)... we were thinking of seeing Lisbon and Sintra, but your trip report is making me more curious about towns around Lisbon (e.g. Evora).

    Would you recommend our original plan, or are there little towns around Lisbon that we shouldn't miss?

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    slangevar - Sintra is only 30 minutes from Lisbon and was my very favorite town and I'm so happy I spent 2 days there. Do not miss Sintra! It has much more to see than Evora and is more charming.

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    Day 3 – Friday - Monsaraz

    Monsaraz is a pretty, pristinely white-washed hill town and has enough sightseeing for about one hour.

    Today I picked up my rental car in Evora from Guerin Car Rental. I booked a pickup time of 10:00 (to ensure I could return the car on time and not be charged for an extra day if I were late). I set off at 9:15 to find the car rental location. It was about a 10 minute walk from my hotel but I was unsure of the exact location so I walked in the general direction and began asking people. I finally stopped in a hotel and asked the desk clerk about Guerin and he said “come with me, madam” and pointed to it out the back entrance to the hotel – very kind.

    The paperwork took much longer than I had thought it would take and the young gentleman who spoke English wanted to talk a lot about Evora and the student hazing and his hazing experiences which was all very interesting. We thoroughly examined all the scrapes on the car and I took photos of the car and of him next to the car. I made sure I knew how to find reverse and practiced it a few times before I set off. I finally left the rental agency at 11:15, much later than I had expected.

    The rental fellow had given me directions to Monsaraz but I missed a turn somewhere and was headed to Redondo but just before Redondo there was a sign for Monsaraz so I followed the road and arrive there at 1:00. Half the day was gone and I was facing the afternoon heat and what turned out to be the hottest day of the trip – 90 degrees F.

    From driving experiences in Italy I knew not to park in the first parking lot I saw as there was probably a parking lot closer to the top and you could sometimes drive right to the top of the town. I parked very close to the top of Monsaraz and could have parked a bit closer. Just keep going up until you see the walled gate to the old town and park just outside the gate.

    Monsaraz is very small and there were few tourists. Most of the town was shut. As I entered the town I saw a restaurant with a terrace but walked around the streets a bit and the returned to the terrace restaurant with a view over the plains. It was shady and breezy so somewhat comfortable and I had a lettuce and tomato salad and 2 bottles of water (5.00). I was totally parched by now.

    After lunch I went into the church and then into another building that looked like a church but now was a exhibition hall with some modern paintings – not very interesting. I wandered a bit more and then headed out.

    Back in the car park I decided to try to open the trunk and I’m glad I thought about it then. I used the clicker to open the car doors to cool it off (I had parked under a tree) and I thought this would open the trunk. It was supposed to unlock the trunk at the same time but didn’t. I then tried the key which didn’t work either. Oh no…does this mean trying to find the rental agency again???

    There was one other car in the lot with a couple sitting inside consulting a map. I walked over and tapped gently on the window and asked if they spoke English (they did) and then asked if they were familiar with my car and if they knew how the trunk lock worked. The woman got out and she opened it with the clicker. I thanked her, she went back to her car, and I practiced myself. The clicker didn’t work for me. The key didn’t work for me. They noticed that I was still struggling with the trunk so they both came over and the clicker didn’t work for her this time. We both fiddled with the key but couldn’t open the trunk. The gentleman then finally figured out how the key worked in the trunk, showed me, and I practiced until I could open the trunk effortlessly. What a day. Not much sightseeing, lots of heat with the car air conditioner blowing out tepid air, and can’t open a car trunk. Note to self: make sure you can open the rental car trunk before leaving the agency!

    Enroute to Monsaraz I had turned on the air conditioning. Just luke-warm air. Before leaving Monsaraz I took another look at all the buttons on the dash board and realized that there was a button I needed to push to make the AC compressor work. Ahhh…cold air. I blasted the AC and my front froze while my back was totally sweating. What a sensation! Frost bite on my front and bathing in sweat on my back. The car thermostat showed 33 degrees C. I had no idea what temp that was in F. and furthermore didn’t want to know how hot it was. I just kept telling myself it’s only 33 degrees!

    Onward to Sao Pedro do Corval, a town with pottery shops I had passed through between Redondo and Monsaraz. I followed the signs out of Monsaraz but somehow took a different route out than I had driven on the way to Monsaraz. I didn’t think that was possible as the map only showed one road into and out of Monsaraz but all of a sudden I was well on my way to Redondo. I thought of going back but I was still so very hot and decided not to go to Sao Pedro do Corval as I would use the time in the car to cool off and look for pottery in Redondo on the way back to Evora.

    I arrived in Redondo and looked for evidence of pottery shops but saw none. I looped through the town several times but never saw any shops of interest, pottery or otherwise. I was still too hot to get out and walk around and I was very thirsty. I never shop when I’m hot as I can’t make decisions so I headed back to Evora knowing I had that hot, uphill walk from the car park. And I still had to find the car park!

    I entered Evora beneath the 16th century aqueduct and followed the signs to Rossio and Giraldo as that was the closest car park to my hotel. It’s at the bottom of Rua de Repubblica and near St. Bras chapel. I’m not sure how I got there since the road I took was over body shaking cobbles and I never went over that road again but I spotted St. Bras chapel (which stands out above everything else surrounding it) and found the car park. Hooray! It’s a huge, free parking lot so there are always empty spaces. If you’re in Evora for the day either go for this lot or, if you arrive early, you can park near the Pousada next to the cathedral – a better location if you can get it. I walked through the public garden as it is shady and saw a mini market where I bought a large water, yogurt, and grapes. The grapes were delicious and I quickly ate them. Anything to re-hydrate.

    Back at the hotel I peeled off my clothes, cooled off (there was a breeze through the window), showered, and went to the square to sit in the cool breeze and drink wine and have dinner again at Café Giraldo. The spices on the pork I had the first two nights was upsetting my stomach a bit so I had a cheese omelet with fries and my usual 1/2 carafe of wine. Surprisingly the omelet was more expensive than meat but it was large. Dinner was 13.30. I lingered in the square for quite a while enjoying the cooling breezes and then wandered around some of the adjacent streets, looking in shop windows, before returning to the hotel. Since it was Friday I expected more activity in the square but there was less tonight than on Wednesday or Thursday.

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    Day 4 – Saturday – Estremoz & Vila Vicosa

    Each town can be seen in half a day although there is much more sightseeing in Vila Vicosa than in Estremoz.

    It’s an easy drive to Estremoz from Evora and I had no problem following the signs out of Evora and finding Estremoz. I did get a late start as I couldn’t get myself out of bed. Hereafter I set my alarm and started the day earlier so I was driving in the cool mornings could get some sightseeing done before the afternoon heat.

    Just before arriving in Estremoz I was pulled over by the police who were standing under an overpass with three parked police cars. Yikes! I was going too fast to pull behind the three police cars and I’ve been taught that you should never be behind the police. Always stay in front and they should approach you from behind. I guess Portuguese police ethics are different because he was annoyed that I pulled in front of the cars and he had to walk to my car and started yelling and signaling that I should have pulled in behind the police cars. He approached as I opened my window and I said Bom Dia, in a very friendly way. He spouted some Portuguese at me and I gave him my fully mastered helpless, hopeless look and apologized for not speaking Portuguese. He said “your documents” very sternly. I handed over my license, explained that it’s a license to drive and silently reprimanded myself for not having my passport copy with me. The officer took my license back to his confreres, they spoke for a few minutes, he returned, handed my license back, and waved me away. That was it. Good – only a random check. Note to self: Don’t forget to put your passport copy in your purse!

    Estremoz has a very large car park near the TI but it was very full and there was some creative parking going on. I didn’t realize that Saturday is the day for a big flea and farmer’s market which shouldn’t be missed. I couldn’t find a spot in the large car park so I drove around for a bit and saw some street parking in the shade – what luck. I walked to the market and looked around a bit. I should have given this market more time than the few minutes I spent there. I never did see the live chickens and ducks I heard about later. If you’re in the area on Saturday, don’t miss this market. Get there early.

    I found the TI and got a map and then headed up toward the ruined castle. I met some Americans on the way down and asked if I was going in the right direction. They were on their way back to their car as the walk up was too steep for them and they learned that you can drive right up to the pousada and castle area. I decided to do the same as it was getting hot! When you drive up as far as you think you can and see a stone archway with dirt parking lots on either side, continue on through the arch and park by the pousada – there’s lots of spaces.

    I didn’t spend much time at the market as I wanted to see the Capela de Santa Isabel, to the left of the pousada. It’s kept locked and you get the key from someone at St. Marie church, down the hill from the castle. The church was closed, the museum near the main square was closed, and by the time I drove back to the square the market had packed up. I’m doing really badly with sightseeing. The day before I saw one church and today, so far, I saw the Estremoz pousada. This is pitiful. But I did get to meet the police – LOL.

    Onward to Vila Vicosa, pronounced vi-SO-sa. The “c” has a cedilla under it, making the “c” sound like an “s.”

    I arrive here sometime before 2:00. Vila Vicosa is one of the marble towns and according to Lonely Planet this is the one to see. It is indeed lovely. The TI (open all day) is on the large main square lined with benches and orange trees. I didn’t see a parking place around the square so I followed signs to the castle for the church I wanted to see – Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Conceicao – at the top of the hill.

    The church was to re-open at 2:00 so I wandered through the adjacent cemetery with its lovely tombs, angels, cherubs. I still had time until I could see the church so I tried to find my way back down the hill. I went past the church parking lot (very large lot) and continued toward the archeology museum (located inside the castle) where I turned around. Upon returning toward the church I saw an arched gate in the wall which appeared to go no place. All I could see through the arch was the town below so I tried to go back the way I had entered the area. A man walking near the arch indicated that I couldn’t go in the direction I was headed and needed to go through the gate. I pointed to the gate (straight ahead) and he nodded yes. OK. But if I drive off the cliff it’s your fault mister!! He was right – there was a road. You descend through the “hole in the wall” but if coming from the church you first have to turn around as it is impossible to make the right angle turn to get through the gate and then immediately veer to the right. You need to approach the gate straight on.

    I drove back to town and found parking on a side street at the top of the square. The main part of the town is on a slope with St. Bartholomew church at the top. The TI is mid way down on the right if the church is behind you. I explored St. Bartholomew church, one of the few churches in Portugal that is open. Throughout this trip I was amazed that so many churches did not open. I love churches and stop in every one I see. But there were very few open. In some towns I didn’t see any open churches. What was interesting about Portuguese churches is that they often did not have a crucifix on the altar, or if there was an image of Christ on the cross, it was off to the side. St. Bartholomew had a large statue of the Blessed Virgin as the altar centerpiece.

    After a stop in the TI and something to drink in a café I again went to the church at 2:00. It was still not open so I waited for a bit. About 10 minutes later a woman entered the parking lot at a speed of about mach 4 and opened the church. It’s a lovely church and someone was playing the organ while I was there. The nave is covered with blue, yellow, and white patterned tiles from floor to ceiling and of course marble columns as this is a marble town. The altar contains blue and white tiles with Biblical scenes. No photography is allowed in the church.

    Since I’ve traveled quite a bit, and seen a lot of Europe, I opted not to see the archeological museum, ducal palace and other things in Vila Vicosa. I might have considered seeing some of the exhibits at the ducal palace but didn’t want to spend 30 to 60 minutes on a Portuguese only tour and you can only see the ducal palace on a tour. Here’s some up to the minute information on the sites in Vila Vicosa:

    The Ducal Palace and surrounding collections are by guided tour only, in Portuguese only. No photography is allowed. Each area of the Ducal Palace is accessed separately for a separate entrance fee. Tickets are purchased from the concierge at the palace except tickets for the coach museum which is bought at that location.

    Hours October to March: Closed Mondays and Tuesday mornings. Tuesday 2:00 – 5:00, Wednesday 10:00 – 1:00 & 2:00 – 5:00, Thursday – Sunday 9:30 – 1:00 & 2:00 – 5:00.

    Hours April to September: Same as above but open until 5:30 Tuesday – Friday and until 6:00 weekends.

    Admission:
    Ducal Palace (1 hour tour) – 6.00
    Armory (1 hour tour) – 2.50
    Coach museum (30 minute tour) – 1.50
    Chinese porcelain (30 minute tour) – 2.50
    Treasury (30 minute tour) – 2.50

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    Even though you only spent a short time at the Estremoz market, it is nice that you got there. We went to Estremoz on a Saturday morning because we were told about the market, and it was one of the most unspoiled, least touristed markets I have seen.

    Thanks for taking me on this trip with you so I could revisit some of these lovely sites in my mind.

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    Day 5 – Sunday – Marvão

    Marvão and Castelo de Vide, 15 minutes apart, can both be seen in a day. Castelo de Vide is much larger than Marvão and has two square, cafes, and shops. I stayed in Marvão which is very pretty but completely quiet at night. I had booked two nights in Marvão and it was too much time. But if you’re looking for a restful place, you’ve found it in Marvão.

    I had set my alarm to get up early for the drive to Marvão (mar-VO). Mappy told me that it was a 2 hour drive from Évora so that meant it was 2.5 hours for me. I believe Mappy driving times are for those who drive at 120kpm but I’m a slow poke – 80 or 90 is good enough for me.

    As it was early Sunday morning there was no problem parking the car outside the hotel to load my luggage. The building next to the hotel was recessed so I could park in front of it and allow clear access for any car needing to drive down the street which is only wide enough for one car.

    I set off in the delightful 13 degree C. temperature, reveling in it. The 10 minute walk to get my car was invigorating. I had packed one sweater but it never left my suitcase the entire trip. You can see how much I hate the heat since I consider 13 degrees shirt sleeve weather. The conversion is 55 degrees F.

    Much of the route to Marvão was foggy but not enough to impede driving. The scenery between Lisbon and Portalegre is very dull. Mostly flat and dry with olive trees lining the roads. Once in a while I would see 3 cows or 4 sheep but there had been nothing interesting to look at either on the train from Lisbon to Évora or during my drives from Évora the past two days.

    The scenery changes after Portalegre and becomes more mountainous with windy tree-lined roads. The pretty towns between Portalegre and Marvão are filled with brilliantly white houses trimmed in yellow or blue. The road winds between rows of cork trees, showing red where they’re stripped of their bark and painted with white letters and numbers. The area is alluringly lush and visually appealing.

    I entered the very small town and followed the sign for the castello as that is where the TI is usually located and I needed to find my hotel. Even if you have directions within a town there are often no street signs for reference. At a fork I went downhill, rather than uphill to the castle as the road looked too narrow to really be a road. My choice was serendipitous as I spotted the hotel’s name over a small doorway. I backed up into a parking area with no empty spots so I backed in, blocking a Nissin truck, hoping it would not be used on a Sunday or used in the next 5 minutes.

    The doorway with the hotel name over it was just a door – not a hotel entrance. I looked around and saw another door across the street and down a few steps. It was the hotel with a note taped to the door with my name on it saying open at 2:00. That was about 3 hours later. As I was standing there deciding what to do and where to park a man came out of another doorway and walked toward me. I pointed to the sign and then to myself. The man was Fernando – the hotel owner who came out of his bar/restaurant. He helped me with my luggage and I pointed to the truck I was blocking but he said it was his truck and my car was fine where it was. The conversation took place in Portuguese (him) and English (me).

    My room was up the stairs – a large sunny room with 2 beds (double and single) and a very very clean and modern bathroom. There was a wonderful breeze coming through the window and a view over the surrounding area. The lights are on a timer and there are switches at the bottom, the first landing and at the top. There was no desk clerk so you’re on your own but Fernando is normally found in his bar/restaurant. There are 4 or 5 rooms upstairs and 1 room on the ground floor.

    A word about outer door locks in Portugal. You need to put the key all the way in and then slowly remove the key while turning to the right. If you try to open a door with the key all the way in you will not be successful. All the hotels I stayed in had locks that worked exactly the same way. The rooms had normal locks. It could be a bit frightening if you’re trying to get into a hotel and no one is around to help you.

    I unpacked and walked up to the castle, going the long way around, starting from opposite the castle end of town and walking along the ramparts. Just below the castle on the left is a lovely garden with the town’s name spelled in hedges. Castelo de Vide also had its name spelled in hedges near the castle. There are 2 shops within the castle; one as you enter and another farther into the castle.

    The TI is on the right before you enter the castle and just before the TI is a bar with a delightful back garden with tables and chairs. There are trees for shade and a wonderful breeze. You order inside the bar and can either take your food and drink with you or someone will bring it out. The bar serves one hot meal a day Monday to Friday. Weekends there are sweet and savory pastries or toasted sandwiches. Everything is reasonably priced – water for 1.00 each and the sandwich was 1.55. A glass of wine is .65. Someone’s trip report alerted me to this bar, otherwise I might have missed it since you can’t see the back garden from the street.

    After a shower and nap I walked around the town and stood gazing at the valley below, thinking how long the twilight lasts in Marvão. Perhaps it’s because the white buildings capture the light longer. I watched the black birds swarming in the twilight and wondered if these are the birds who live high up in the winds and never land. They approach during dawn and dusk to feed off the bugs. I thought these might be the same birds since I didn’t see them during the day.

    I had planned to eat at Fernando’s restaurant, directly across from the square/car park (same name as the hotel - Varanda do Alentejo Marvão), expecting it to open at 7:00. It was well after 7:00 and I was surprised it was closed. Upon further reading the sign I realized it was closed this weekend. Hmmm…what to do about dinner. I hadn’t looked for any other restaurants and hadn’t seen any since I had planned to eat at Fernando’s. I walked up the street and found another restaurant not far away. I went inside and saw I was the only person there. By the time I had finished my meal there were two other tables – not a big turnout. I had lamb casserole, cooked in a red broth with potatoes and bread. The lamb looked like a huge portion but the meat was on bones and there was a lot of fat on it so it wasn’t too much to eat. I hadn’t been ordering dessert but the mango mousse caught my eye so I ordered it. It was thick and creamy and very mango and delicious. Total for dinner – 16.00 with half a bottle of wine. I hadn’t finished my wine and the restaurant didn’t have much atmosphere so I took the wine back to my room to finish it.

    Aspects of Portuguese culture:

    The waiters do not pour the wine for you (except in Lisbon). They uncork the bottle and then put it on the table – you pour your own wine, even the first glass.

    In bars you order your food or beverage inside and you pay later, when you’re ready to leave (except in Lisbon). I found the Portuguese to be very trusting people. If this were Italy you would have to pay first and then get your food or drink.

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    Day 6 – Monday - Castelo de Vide

    Breakfast was served in Fernando’s restaurant between 8:00 and 10:00. I walked out at 8:15 and saw him outside the bar/restaurant. He was closing it up and said something to me in rapid Portuguese to which I raised my eyebrows. Just because I have perfected my pronunciation of “bom dia” doesn’t mean I can understand the language – LOL. He pointed to his watch and said in Portuguese that the woman is late and will arrive soon. I sat in the square/car park and waited another 15 minutes, soaking up the 16 degree weather. So far it was another perfect day in paradise but the heat would soon emerge. At 8:30 I decided to bail on breakfast and get something in Castelo de Vide.

    It’s about a 20 minute drive between Marvao and Castelo de Vide, for me. Others can do the drive in 15 minutes. I arrive in this lovely town and look for a parking spot. There are no spots around the square nor along the small side street immediately adjacent to the square. The TI is not yet open (TI hours 9:00 – 12:30 & 2:00 – 6:00). I decide to scope out the castle area and see if I can drive up thus avoiding a steep hike.

    I must say that Portugal has the steepest street of anywhere I’ve been. Think about the hills in Italy and double their steepness. The streets are also made from rocks and are uneven, making the walking even more difficult.

    I follow the signs to the castle. There’s a short road off the square that intersects with another road. The road up goes to the castle, of course. I make the turn and see the steepest street I’ve yet seen. Although I can’t see the entire street as it immediately curves to the left I know that this is a road I’m not gonna drive. It is steep!!! My option is to back up (not my strong point) into the street I just left and go downhill and look for a parking place. I’m going to walk up. I back up with extreme care as the intersection is narrow. This is the time to talk about my vertigo. Driving in a car wouldn’t normally give me an attack but as I try to make the left turn the street also slants to the left and I have the sensation of falling. My stomach starts churning and I don’t think I can make the turn down hill. I carefully back up and try to angle the car properly so I don’t hit any walls. I sit there for a few minutes telling myself that the car can’t possibly tip over and many people have made this turn. People come up the street and just stare at me. I stare back with a frozen look on my face. I have an idea. I pull 2 Euro out of my purse and the next person who walks by gets 2 Euros if he/she drives the car down the hill for me. I stopped the next passerby, a young man, and ask if he drives, making the motion of turning a steering wheel and using the French word for driving. He looks at me like I’m a true nutter (which I must agree with), says “no” and keeps walking.

    Get a grip, Adrienne! Vertigo is all in your head and the car will not tip over! Make the flipping turn! I take a deep breath, put the car in gear, and make the turn. Success!!! Portuguese streets are for masochists – they are narrow, steep, and angled. I loop around and get back to the square and find a parking spot – the only one left.

    The TI is now open and I get a map and go find a café for breakfast. I have a coffee and an apple pastry (good) in one of the cafes in the pedestrian street behind the TI. After consulting the map I decide to first walk through the Judairia and follow the signs. I get lost and find myself outside the gate so I turn around and walk back uphill. Stop and admire the 16th century covered marble fountain and take some photos, first removing the wheel barrow with a twig broom across it (first twig broom I’ve ever seen).

    I continue up Rua da Judairia, hoping this street is not as steep as the one to the castle. In true Adrienne fashion I’ve chosen the wrong street to walk up. The street leading to the castle is less steep and was the one I should have walked up and then walked down Rua da Judairia. This is the only street I saw with railings in the middle to assist walking. It’s by far the steepest street I saw during my trip. I stop a couple of times to recover. I had planned to see the synagogue, and according to the guide books it is open daily, but it is closed on Mondays so no synagogue. It’s a very pretty street with white-washed houses, flowers growing out of pots, and old women sitting on their doorsteps enjoying the cooling breezes. Walk down Rua da Judairia, rather than up.

    The ruined castle is on two levels with a free civic museum on the second level. The small museum contains archeological artifacts, a history of the town (Portuguese only), belt buckles, cannon balls, and sabers. The medieval area (to the right after entering the castle gate) has a lovely church adorned with blue, yellow, and white tiles. Outside the church there was a low wall where a Frenchman was sitting. I sat near him, fanning myself. He muttered something in French which roughly translates to “that’s one flipping steep hill.” I agreed, especially as I had walked up the even steeper hill.

    In the medieval section there was a small square, lined with houses, where a woman was scrubbing her clothes on an old fashioned tub/washboard. I couldn’t believe it. I pretended to talk to a bird in a cage, hanging from a tree, while surreptitiously watching the woman. I wanted to take a photo of her but felt that would be rude. I actually wanted to buy her a washing machine. I saw a similar tub/washboard sitting on the side of the street farther down the hill and took a photo of that to remind myself of this woman.

    Back down to the main square and Santa Maria da Devesa church. You enter via a side door on the right of the church. It’s one of the prettiest church I’ve seen so far with Christ on the Cross at the front of the altar while the Blessed Virgin and Jesus have place of honor atop a six-tier platform in a niche. This statue is reminiscent of a wedding cake. At first glance, the church interior appears to be all marble but a closer look reveals that it is stucco painted to resemble marble. I verified that it is painted stucco with the woman sitting at a desk. Again, no photography allowed in this church.

    Back to the same café for lunch. I inhaled a bottle of apricot nectar and ordered two chicken tartlets thinking I was very hungry. I had expected the tartlets to be like quiche but they had only chicken inside a flaky pastry crust. The one I had was very good but I couldn’t manage the second one. There was a mini market next to the café and I jumped up to buy some water, grapes, and cookies as I realized the mini market might close. It was noon and people were beginning to disappear from the square and shops were shutting. I walked around the flat part of town for a bit, stopped at an ATM, and then sat in the park reading my book and enjoying the spray from the fountains.

    I drove back to Marvao, looking for gas on the way. You know there are few gas stations in the area when you see gas signs with 5km or 8km on them. Since I had planned an early start the next morning I followed the 5km gas sign. I drove more than 5km without seeing a station so I turned back. I then saw the 8km gas sign and followed the direction. With a few mistaken turns I found a gas station and filled up.

    In Marvao I parked the car and walked up toward the castle to have a glass of wine in the bar. It was so pleasant with the breeze and the shade. I read my book and drank 2 glasses of wine before heading back to the room for a shower. Fernando’s restaurant was open today. He is quite the entrepreneur – a hotel, bar/restaurant, and a taxi service and he must be involved in other things as he owned the Nissin truck parked across from the restaurant. He’s about covered all you need in Marvao. The dining room is small and it was mostly filled. I had pork cutlets with lemon slices on top – very good. The meat was a bit tough to cut but tender to chew. There were the ever-present rice and fries. The rice was well cooked and easy to digest so I ate some. Very good meal – better than the night before. I’d recommend Fernando’s restaurant if you’re eating in Marvao. I only saw the 2 restaurants I ate at so I’m not sure if there are other choices.

    Fernando is very much a Type A personality – always rushing some place, getting things done. I thought Marvao was an unusual place for him as it is so laid back. He didn’t do the cooking but he waited at the tables; running up and down the stairs, taking orders and delivering food and drink. I wanted to pay my hotel bill when I paid the dinner check as I planned to leave early (and who knows where Fernando would be early in the morning – certainly not at the hotel) but he was busy getting orders to his customers so I went back later to settle the bill.

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    Yes, Castelo De Vide has some steep streets. The one we drove down seemed far too steep to navigate safely, but we made it to the bottom without hitting anything. Across the street we were amused to see the Kamikaze Cafe.

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    I am enjoying your trip report. There is very little information about anything budget here so this is really of interest to me.

    Thank you for posting . . . and I awaiting more.

    Sandy (in Denton)

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    I'm so glad folks are reading and enjoying my report. I will start posting again very soon. I was on a marathon 17 day non-stop work project that was canceled on day 18 and I'm still recovering from 10 hour conference calls starting at 7:00 am.

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    Day 7 – Tuesday - Tomar

    It’s time to travel westward again, leaving the lush Spanish border behind. It was again dry and cool this morning, about 16 degrees C. at 8:00 (61 F.) but warmed up a couple of hours later to about 70 degrees F. but humidity set in as I headed toward Tomar and it looked like it might rain.

    The drive from Marvao to Tomar took about 2.5 hours with a short coffee and stretch break at a rest stop. Once I got to Tomar it took about another hour (or so it seemed) to find the hotel, located in the pedestrian area. I drove around and around the town, found the TI but couldn’t find a place to park to ask about the hotel. I decided to drive slowly and keep asking people. I stopped pedestrians, showed my paper with the hotel name and street and followed their directions. Two people mentioned the same word – “camera” - which brought to mind the Radcliff Camera but I quickly decided it was too lofty an edifice for this small town. What could camera mean in Portuguese I kept asking myself. Whatever it was, I never found it. I traveled all the streets and suddenly discovered the one I wanted – the only street in Tomar you couldn’t drive on. There was no place to park so I pulled into the beginning of the pedestrian zone, parked, and walked to the hotel.

    Reception is on the first floor (second floor American). Sandra, with her impeccable English, was there to greet me. She showed me the back entrance and told me to drive down the parallel street and pull over by the (unmarked) hotel door. By the time I got the car, looped around twice to get to the street (I missed the turn the first time) and drove down the street, I had no sense of what door I was supposed to be at but finally figured it out. After unloading the bags in the lovely courtyard (Sandra brought them to my room) I went in search of the parking lots she recommended.

    I saw a parking deck near the end of the street and decided to pull into it, even though it was paid parking – how much could it cost? Fortunately I wasn’t too feeble brained to stop and check the rates before I pulled in. Yikes! 84 Euros for 24 hours! This parking deck was a no go for me. I found free parking on one of the shopping streets, not far from the hotel and walked back (spotted a fabulous pair of purple suede shoes in shop window), took a quick shower, and changed.

    My first stop was the church in the pedestrian area – Ingreja de Sao Joao Baptista and then to the Synagogue a couple of streets away. I didn’t have much time at the Synagogue as they close between 1:00 and 2:00 but it was fascinating. The walls are covered with gifts, letters, and pictures sent from all countries. Definitely worth a visit for anyone going to Tomar.

    The TI (near the pedestrian zone) also closes at lunchtime so I stopped in a café for a chicken tartlet and water (1.70 Euro).

    The Convento de Cristo (Convent of Christ), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is atop a high hill and would be a tough walk on a winding road with no sidewalks. I got the car to drive up and while I was looking for the road to the monastery I saw the small sign for the Matchbox Museum (Museu dos Fosforos) – I couldn’t resist stopping. This free museum is near a large dirt car park next to the St. Francis convent. It’s seven rooms of matchboxes from all over the world – more than 40,000 of them. Near the entrance is a machine that affixes the paper covers to the matchboxes. The museum was so interesting and I would have spent more time there but it was unbearably hot inside – no fans or air conditioning. Photos are allowed without flash but the rooms are dimly lit so I only took a few in the more lighted areas. This museum was a great diversion and I can add it to my list of off-beat small museums.

    I bypassed the entrance to the Convento de Cristo to see what was on the other side and I’m glad I did. It’s one of the things I try to remember when traveling – look up and look behind – there’s always more than one view of everything and the back view is great with the monastery silhouetted against the sky. There are two parking lots – the one in front (by the entrance) has a vendor selling fruit and drinks. You exit the monastery on the side at the top so the dirt parking along the right side is handy for leaving. Either parking area has plenty of space as the monastery was not crowded.

    The monastery is quite large with several beautiful cloisters, chapel with wonderful frescoes, monks’ cells (all with windows and heat piped under or into the cells) refectory, etc. The chapter house was closed during my visit.

    I parked overnight in the large, free, dirt lot near the Matchbox Museum. It was an ideal location both for my hotel and for the TI and there were plenty of parking spaces.

    For dinner I headed to the Bella Vista restaurant, alongside the river by the Dom Manual I bridge, recommended by an English couple I chatted with in Marvao. I finally found the TI open and got a map of Tomar and the woman there pointed out the location of the Bella Vista. She described the Dom Manual bridge as the “old one.” All the bridges looked pretty old to me and the map was slightly skewed. As I left the hotel it was drizzling and I hadn’t packed an umbrella (it’s not supposed to rain in Portugal in October). But as it was only a drizzle, I walked to the main street and turned left as the map indicated. It started raining harder. I turned on what I thought was the Dom Manual bridge but couldn’t see the restaurant. By now the wind had kicked up and the rain was coming down, not too hard but I stood under a tree to stay dry while I decided what to do. I was by the river in a little park area, near a bridge.

    An adolescent came over the bridge so I stopped him, pointed to the bridge, and asked if it was King Manuel bridge. His mouth opened and sounds came out but I had no idea what he said. I’m sure it wasn’t Portuguese he was speaking – LOL. I then realized I should have asked him if it was DOM Manual bridge, not King Manual bridge so I pointed to the bridge (just a few feet away) and said “Dom Manuel?” Again, more incoherency from him. I decided he probably had no idea who Dom Manuel was so I said my usual “obrigada” and walked away. I braved the rain and wind to try the next bridge – only a minute away – crossed it to see the Bella Vista with its vine-covered entrance. It was dark and closed but with no sign on the door. There were tables and chairs on the terrace so I pulled out a chair and sat for a few minutes while the rain let up.

    Time to re-group. I was so sure I would be dining at the Bella Vista I didn’t check out any other restaurants. I walked back toward my hotel, hoping there would be something in the pedestrian area. It was so quiet with all the shops closed and no one walking about. I passed the hotel and spotted a restaurant with some tables outside – O Tabuleiro, Rua Serpa Pinto. There was a couple at one of the outside tables so I looked at the menu in the window. The offerings were varied and the prices were reasonable. I tried to see what this couple were eating but since there was no other diversion for them they were looking at me! I smiled and asked them what was good to eat. The woman jumped up and started looking at the French menu, pointing out their choices – pork cubes in shrimp sauce. So I said: “vous parlez Francais?” (you speak French) and the woman told me she IS French. They were quite affable and asked me to sit next to them so I sat, ordered some red wine, and the same dish they ordered but a half portion. We started talking – me with my oh so fractured French and them with an English word or two.

    They had ordered bacalau to follow the pork (hearty appetites) and when it arrived I asked what it was, thinking it was dessert as it was in a sauce. The fellow explained it was fish, dried, and salty so I immediately chimed in with – Oh! Baccalau! He said I must speak Portuguese but I explained it was the same word in America. They insisted I try some and I tried to decline but I was given a heaping spoonful. I tried it and thought it was delicious. As was the pork dish I had ordered although it was too large a serving. A half portion could easily feed two people. The pork was accompanied by – you guessed it – rice and fries – lot of them. It also had a shrimp on top – head and all. I hate it when my food looks at me! I turned the shrimp over so I only saw the back rather than those beady little black eyes. It was a lovely meal. When you travel solo it’s great to find people to talk with and I got to practice my French. The conversation was limited by my command of the language and their limited English but I tried hard and we spent most of the meal talking together. We talked about how expensive France is, even for the French, and how cheap it is to travel and eat in Portugal. They have an RV and the camping site was only 7 Euro per night. The gentleman was ecstatic about the food prices and we compared the bill to what it would cost in France for the same type of meal. With dessert, the waiter brought us samples of ginja – ginger wine – an interesting flavor. Price for dinner – main course and a half bottle of wine was 11.80 Euros.

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    yay! Adrienne is back. I love your insights, thanks for writing this report. i've been to Tomar three or four times and have never heard anything about a Matchbox Museum. Keep it coming, girl! Laurie

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    An excellent and detailed trip report! I also am a budget traveller and I really wish I lived near Portugal (I am in Australia) as I would most certainly visit based on your most interesting story!

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    Laurie. I cannot believe it. Something to put on YOUR list! Amazing.
    adrienne. Laurie also helped me book reservations when I needed someone to speak Portuguese when I tried to make reservations hotels and no one spoke English.
    And I also appreciate budget options.

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    Day 8 – Wednesday - Batalha & Fatima

    The short rain the night before had brought forth a sunny and dry day. The humidity had abated but this meant more heat.

    Using Tomar as a base, I day-tripped to the Batalha monastery and Fatima. Approaching Batalha from Tomar, you round a bend and are faced with a monstrosity of blackened pinnacles. You’ve arrived at the Batalha monastery. The building is of ochre limestone but it would take years of cleaning to once again see the ochre color. UNESCO – get busy with your power washing equipment!

    Drive around the monastery to the right and make the first left into a large free parking lot with public toilets. One good thing about the heat is that I was always dehydrated and usually didn’t needed to find facilities during the day so I don’t know how clean these bathrooms were but there was a bit of an odor about them. There were a few picnic tables and benches at the edge of the parking lot where I ate my picnic lunch.

    Unlike the monastery in Tomar, set outside of town on top of a hill, this monastery is in the center of town. It’s much smaller than the Tomar monastery but is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. The TI is next to the monastery.

    The monastery was built to commemorate the 1385 Battle of Aljubarrota (4km south of Batalha) when 6,500 Portuguese, commanded by Dom Nuno Alvares Pereira, held off Juan 1 of Castile’s army of 30,000 who fought to claim the throne of Joao d’Avis. Joao called on the Blessed Virgin for help and vowed to build a superb abbey in return for victory. Three years later he began work on this Dominican abbey. It’s a combination of Flamboyant Gothic with Manueline architecture added in the 15th and 16th centuries. I did fall in love with Manueline architecture during my time in Portugal. It combines Christian and maritime imagery and the well-executed examples are so interesting to look at.

    The tomb of the unknown soldiers (one killed in Flanders during WWI and one killed in Africa) with its honor guard was touching. One guide book said the Unfinished Chapels were the highlight of this monastery and they were. The entrance to these chapels is from the outside to the right of the main entrance. The small faces at the base of the columns were intriguing and I took lots of photos of these.

    An hour was enough time to view the monastery and take photos.

    Next stop Fatima. Unless you’re very religious and in the general area, I would not make Fatima a priority. It’s between Batalha and Tomar so I wanted to stop and see it. There was plenty of street parking next to the sanctuary but I found the TI first and parked along that street in the shade and walked to the sanctuary. The TI is open 10:00 – 1:00 & 3:00 – 7:00. I arrived at 1:00 and it was shut. It’s about a 5 minute walk from the TI to the sanctuary and I hugged the sides of the buildings to keep in the shade. Another blistering afternoon.

    I was impressed by the size of the plaza at the Fatima sanctuary and you get a feel for how enormous it is as you cross it in the blazing sun. There were certainly no pilgrims on their knees today. I stopped at the site of the apparition for a few minutes and then continued to the Basilica which is lovely. The frescoed stations of the cross under the colonnade and the stained glass in each chapel inside are note worthy. As I left the Basilica I wondered why there weren’t more people around until I discovered they were behind the apparition chapel, under the trees, cooling off. The rest room facilities are to the left of the Basilica and are very clean.

    An hour is plenty of time to view the chapel and basilica at Fatima. On the way back to the car I stopped at the post office to get stamps for my few post cards and for a friend who collects them. The people in the post office were very helpful. Another stop at an Intermarche outside Fatima to stock up on snacks (sultanas and peanuts from the bins) and liters of water.

    I returned to O Tabuleiro for another lovely dinner. I choose pork loin (half portion) with a pineapple slice (I had never thought of putting pineapple with pork – I usually combine prunes with my pork – but it was delicious). Accompanied by the rice and fries and a small salad. There was a sauce with this dish that the rice soaked up making it very moist so I could eat it. The sauce was delicious. Again, a large portion accompanied by the usual half bottle of red. I hadn’t been ordering dessert as I was always so full from the meal but tonight caramel mousse was on the menu so I ordered it – very good. As I write this I’m making myself hungry for the delicious Portuguese food. I loved the spices, giving the meat lots of flavor without being too spicy. The price for dinner was E11.25.

    I had written about the student hazing in Evora. Tomar is another university town and the students were out and about tonight. The night before had been very quiet but for some reason they were celebrating on a Wednesday night. If they had stayed in the pedestrian plaza I would have had a quiet night as my room was at the back but they sang and chanted and whooped it up throughout the area and spent some time in the side street beneath my window. They finally moved on about midnight and I was able to sleep then.

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    Day 9 – Thursday - Obidos (pronounced oo-bee-doosh)

    I had planned to stop in Alcobaca (the second “c” has a cedilla, pronounced as an “s”) enroute to Obidos but 3 monasteries in 3 days seemed like overkill so I headed directly to Obidos. I did want to add another UNESCO site to my ever-growing list but was not up to another monastery. I wanted to get to Obidos as you always see pictures of this charming town in travel mags and brochures and wanted as much time here as possible.

    One aspect of traveling to new places is you never really know how interesting the towns will be or how much time is enough until you visit them. Obidos is charming but needs a face lift as much of the façade paint is chipping off. Two hours is ample time to see the sights and shops. I had the entire day.

    I left Tomar early for the 2.5 hour drive to Obidos. It was foggy during the first hour but the fog burned off and it was another sunny, hot day. I drove into the town via the castle and stopped at a gift shop by the top of town to ask directions to my hotel. Luckily the hotel is owned by the woman’s father and she gave me excellent directions to go down and then up and park by the church. She must have phoned her father as he was sitting on the step waiting for me. This was more of a house, converted into rooms, rather than a hotel. Or a B&B without the breakfast. He showed me the room and large bathroom (down the hall) and wanted to be paid for the room immediately so I obliged.

    I walked around Obidos for a couple of hours, taking photos. I went into the museum to see Josefa de Obidos’s painting and then into the church. One of the reasons for choosing Obidos was to see Josefa’s painting. I had recently taken an art history seminar covering six woman painters from 1400 to 1900. Josefa was not among the artists covered but I did want to see any of her works I could find in Portugal. What was interesting about woman artists of this time, and why there are so few of them, is that you could only learn about art from a family member (father, brother, uncle). If a woman went outside the family for her education her reputation would be tainted. Josefa was the daughter of a minor Portuguese painter but she also studied at the Santa Ana convent in Obidos, thus allying herself with the church and representing her works as part of the church.

    I looked in a few shops, had a cool drink and ate half a pastry in a cafe and then retrieved my bags from the car. I really only wanted to take a few things out of the bag and didn’t want to haul my luggage up to the room but I would not have slept well knowing my bags were unguarded in the car. I dragged everything up the narrow steep stairs and took a nap. After a refreshing shower I walked around again and choose a restaurant with outside seating under a purple covered vine on the main street. They didn’t open until 7:30 for dinner so I thought I would have a pre-dinner drink at a café near the lower gate. When I arrived there was a note on the door that the café was closed but I sat there any way and wrote in my journal. I watched people climb up the stairs to the wall and generally looked around between jottings.

    I love meeting different people while traveling and sometimes people truly amaze me. A couple (the woman marching, arms pumping, in front of a man (husband? father?) with a cane) started up Rua Direita, the main street, armed with a guide book. She saw me and called out to ask if I was from the town. I said I was not from Obidos but I was staying here and could I help her. She brandished her copy of Lonely Planet and asked about Alcaida restaurant. I asked her the address and told her she was on Rua Direita and that the restaurant should be on the right side about one third to half way up the street. Wow! How easily I’m acclimating to Obidos – giving directions to tourists after 2 hours in town – LOL.

    It was approaching 7:30 so I thought I would check out the Alcaida resto menu, put away my journal, and walked up Rua Direita. A part of the way up I again met this woman marching back down Rua Direita (arms pumping again in time with her legs) with the man and his cane following behind. I stopped and asked her if she had found the resto and without breaking her marching stride she proceeded to tell me that the resto was upstairs. I sensed a story here but if I wanted to talk with her I had to follow along as she was not going to stop for anyone or anything so I turned around and walked with her. I wasn’t sure if the resto upstairs meant the gentleman couldn’t navigate the stairs. If that was true how was he surviving in Portugal with the hills and stairs??? I asked her about the prices and she said they didn’t go up to the resto so she didn’t know the prices. I said the resto would have a menu posted near the door but she didn’t look.

    She gave me a lecture about how expensive everything is on the Iberian peninsula and how she paid E1 for a coke. I told her that was pretty cheap and I couldn’t buy a coke or water back home in a restaurant for $1.50. But she stated she’s from Texas and wasn’t about to pay E1 for a coke. I asked where they would have dinner if not at Alcaida and she said they’re getting back in the car and would get McDonalds on the road. As she marched away, arms pumping, I felt very sad for her husband/father (who knows – he looked quite a bit older than she) trailing after her, denied the wonderful food and wine of Portugal.

    I went to my vine-covered restaurant where the prices were a bit steep and sat at an outside table. This was one of my pricier meals. I ordered a E7 half bottle of wine and a salad for E6 which was also expensive and a pasta course to follow the salad. I declined the bread, as usual. The salad arrived and I realized why it was so expensive. It was enormous. It took me half an hour to leisurely finish the salad and when it was done I was too full for the pasta and I had really wanted pasta. I canceled the pasta order and decided on 2 scoops of gelato to finish off the meal. While I was dining, the wife and small boy (about 5 years old) came into the restaurant for a visit as they had very few tables. Obidos goes into hibernation when the sun sets.

    I left the resto at the same time as the little boy and his mother. I stood up and descended the one step from the terrace and felt my head spin. Too much wine and too little dinner. I should have asked for bread. I walked up Rua Direita slowly, just ahead of the woman and the boy who dawdled and said hello to everyone he met in the street.

    When I reached 93 Rua Direita I inserted my key in the outside door and tried to turn it but the key wouldn’t turn. I struggled with it but couldn’t get it to work. I knew I had mastered the Portuguese outer locks, pushing in the key then pulling it out slightly while turning to the right. I must have had too much wine.

    The woman (waiter’s wife) stopped to help me and she couldn’t get the key to work either. A man several doors away said something to her and then she said something to me in Portuguese but I didn’t understand. She made a sleeping motion of putting her hands together under her cheek and said “dormir?” I said si, si, dormir and she pointed down the street. The man called over – it’s here. I looked at the number above the door and said – no, it’s here – number 93. He insisted I was staying down the street so I thought I would appease these Portuguese people who thought they knew more than I about my lodging and took a look at the other building. What do you know!!! I was trying to break into someone’s house!! I should have eaten the bread! A woman put her head out the first-floor front hotel window and laughed and laughed and said this is the hotel – it’s here. By that time I was laughing too. I took one look at the dark and narrow stairs and agreed – this is where I’m staying - 83 Rua Direita. Good thing there weren’t too many people in the street to witness my humiliation. As I climbed the stairs the laughing woman came out of her room, still laughing. I made a drinking motion and said too much vino and she laughed again! These are the small adventures that create the memories.

    There was one more adventure in Obidos before I left town. I awoke at 6:00 the next morning, having slept extremely well, and walked to the bathroom. The door was shut over but not locked so I opened it, almost bumping into a very slim, short-haired blond woman in a flowing flowered caftan. I said excuse me and in what I thought was a British accent she told me she was done. I stumbled back to my room and laid down for a few minutes and in my sleepy stupor I thought I had encountered Helen Mirren in the bathroom. I suddenly remembered I was in a dumpy hotel in Obidos and why would Helen Mirren stay here?

    I quietly left just before 7:00 as soon as it was light, thankful I had paid in advance so I was free to leave on my schedule. I walked to the church and loaded my bags into the car. I knew I had to drive down Rua Direita which led to the main portal and considered driving up the ramp from the church right on to Rua Direita but the ramp looked too steep. I thought the better option was to leave the same way I arrived so I drove around the church and headed down hill, completely forgetting that I started at the top of the hill by the castle and should have gone up before I went down.

    I made a right turn around a sharp corner and continued a few feet before realizing there were steps in front of me. For a few seconds I did consider driving down the steps but common sense prevailed. The only other road was very very steep and mostly overgrown and who knew where it led. I had to reverse around the sharp, angled corner and take the road to the left. I’m backing up and the road is dipping to the left and the vertigo kicks in again. Oh no! I try my best to angle around the buildings but I scrape both sides of the car so now there were white scratches from front to back. I’m thinking about the paperwork I’ll have to do when I get home.

    I finally make the turn, proceed, and come to an archway and turn right. A car is parked just outside the archway and I can’t make the right turn in the narrow space. I keep reversing and going forward to try to get the correct angle for the turn when a man comes along and gets into the car and moves it forward about 2 feet and then gets out and watches me. He had lots of space in front and could have given me more room but he didn’t. I was able to make the turn and get out of Obidos. Hooray! On to Sintra!

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    Hi, Adrienne,

    See how you turned a little town that merits a two hour visit into an adventure-packed thriller? :-) I remember some of those impossible corners through an archway, one of my "sweaty palms" driving experiences. Looking forward to Sintra!

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    Hi Adrienne,

    Such fun reading. You were wondering what the word "camera" means in Portuguese when you were trying to get directions.
    The word means the local government... maybe similar to "county" in the US. The persons trying to give you directions were probably using the camera office as a landmark as most towns have a camera office.

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    Hi lowcountrycarol - thanks for the translation of "camera." I never did see the town office but then I wouldn't have been looking for something like that. I just followed the direction they pointed. It's good to know what it is. I'll file it away in my brain with my other Portuguese words!

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    Day 10 – Friday - Sintra

    I loved, loved, loved Sintra!

    I had a leisurely drive to Sintra, partially along the coast, avoiding lots of highway. I found the TI easily, parked illegally and got a map and directions to my hotel. I didn’t realize the road to the TI was two-way (it looked too narrow and all the cars were headed toward the TI and not away from it) so I misunderstood the directions and continued up the hill thinking that the road would eventually loop around and go back down the hill. After several miles I realized my mistake and turned around. The toughest part was always finding the hotels. I timed myself this time and it was 45 minutes from entering Sintra to locating the hotel! It would be much easier with a navigator.

    I saw a fellow leaving the hotel from the garden so I went in that way (was told later that this was a private entrance and I should have rung the front door bell). I called hello several times before a maid came into the foyer. There’s no real reception. I gave her my email confirmation and I’m so glad I had that with me. A man came to the front door a few minutes later and said he had phoned that morning and booked a room. After quite a long conversation between the maid from the second floor terrace and the senora, lounging in the back garden, I was told that there were no single rooms but I could have a double room for an additional E5 a night and I agreed to the higher price. Sintra looked to be full of tourists and I wasn’t going to spend any time looking for other accommodation. The gentleman who came in behind me was turned away, even though he had booked. Looks like I got there at the right time with paperwork in hand.

    My very large room was at the front of the building and was quite nice. The bathroom was close but not private. There was another bathroom on the ground floor but I kept forgetting about that one and would wait my turn for the bathroom on my floor. I brought in my bags, parked across the street, and was leaving when I saw the Helen Mirren character from Obidos that morning. We looked at each other and she asked if it was me in Obidos last night. I said yes – this morning at 6:00 in the bathroom. Wide awake now, she no longer looked like Helen Mirren nor sounded like her. Her name was June from Sydney and she had just completed the French route of the Camino de Santiago that she had started the year before. Immediate envy set in that she had accomplished something I only dream about. We chatted for a few minutes and made plans to meet up later in the day for dinner.

    The hotel was well located so I didn’t need to move the car. I walked up to the National Palace. I had read in some guidebook about a combination ticket with the Pena Palace but was told that there were no combination tickets. The National Palace ticket was E5.

    I really enjoyed the National Palace and loved the painted ceilings. Took lots of photos inside which was permitted without flash.

    In the last room, Sala dos Brasoes (Coat of Arms Room) I was looking at the gorgeous tiles wishing there were docents or some information about the Palace and tiles. In walked a young man wearing a badge so I stopped him and ask if he could answer some questions. I asked about the blue and white tiles and learned that they were 18th century Baroque and were used to keep the palace cool. The colors were copied from Ming era China and the tiles in this room show courtly themes. Gold leaf over blue and white tiles or “gold on blue” is the Portuguese symbol for perfection. After learning this I was on the lookout for any gold (or yellow) over blue and white. I did buy a tile from a Sintra workshop that has a yellow background with blue and white vase and flowers to remind me of this idea. The Moors used geometric shapes and the Portuguese used figurative designs based on European motifs. You find both types of tiles in the National Palace.

    I thought the docent would walk away after that but he began to tell me about the room and I had a 15 minute private tour of the Sala dos Brascoes – how wonderful. He was thrilled that people were interested enough to ask questions. This room is the western-most room in the western-most palace in Portugal and was significant as Dom Manuel I could see the ships approaching the Lisbon harbor. When Manuel saw the ships they (the ships) had a 3 day sail to reach Lisbon and it was a 3 day ride to Lisbon so Manuel could set out and meet the ships as they docked, ensuring his coveted treasures did not go missing.

    The docent further explained the significance of the ceiling – a 16th century Portuguese heraldic representation showing the royal hierarchy with the king on top. In the middle of the ceiling is Dom Manuel I. The next row shows his 8 children from his second marriage. The third and forth rows are deer with the coats of arms and family names of the royal families serving the king on banners. The placement of the deer panels is significant as the more valued families are placed close to the king and the lesser nobles are in the corners of the room. The deer is used to represent service to the king as the word for deer in Portuguese sounds similar to the word for “serve.”

    Outside the National Palace I stopped to buy a couple of post cards. It was afternoon but the only word of greeting I had learned was “bom dia,” good morning. The vendor laughed at me and said it was afternoon so I should learn to say “boa tarde” for good afternoon. I didn’t quite get the pronunciation and I had heard “boa tarde” pronounced differently in different areas of Portugal; some people seemed to pronounce the “d” and some people seemed to slur it so I confused. But then I was pretty much confused the entire trip – LOL.

    I walked up to the Quinta da Regaleira, a villa and chapel set in a huge park. The villa was built in the neo-Manueline style in the early 20th century. It was designed for the Monteiro family by the Italian opera set designer, Luigi Manini who spent 14 years on it. I loved the chapel and the ground floor of the villa with the frescoes and mosaic floors but was disappointed with the rest of the villa. The second floor was devoted to the architect, Manini, and the third floor (very dark) had exhibits in Portuguese about the house.

    June, who is quite a walker, found an inexpensive restaurant near the train station. She want to the library near the train station to check her email (I’m guessing it was free at the library). We took the car as she said it was a 15 minute walk which probably meant 25 minutes for me and we would have to return over dark and narrow roads. Prices in Sintra were more than in the other towns I had visited probably since it is close to Lisbon and very much a tourist area. We shared a main course of baccalau in a tomato sauce (the fish was a bit fishy tasting) and a lettuce and tomato salad instead of fries. Including a bottle of wine the meal was E12 each.

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    Day 11 – Saturday - Sintra

    The hotel did not include breakfast so June and I walked to a café for coffee and pastry then we split up for sightseeing and would meet again at 7:00 for dinner.

    I walked to the TI and asked a few questions and then waited for the bus to the Pena Palace - #434 from in front of the TI. There was a large tour group waiting as well and some of the tour people were very pushy and rude. One woman shoved her way onto the bus and with both hands pushed aside a man so she could get on the bus ahead of him. There was standing room only and I had thought of waiting for the next bus but wasn’t sure that it would be any better. As it turned out the next bus was practically empty. It was quite a wild ride to the Pena Palace and I held on tight. I think the Sintra bus drivers learned their craft from the Malta bus drivers as they took the winding roads in much the same kamikaze fashion. After buying a ticket to the palace I spent the extra E2 for the jitney up to the palace and was glad it did since it was quite an uphill climb and I arrived fresh for the palace.

    The outside of the palace was fabulous and I took lots of photos. No photos are allowed inside the palace. The interior was wonderful and I was bowled over by the architectural and decorative diversity from the Naturalist style railings that look like tree limbs to the molded walls, painted to look like stucco, the trompe l’oeil, and the Bohemian glass Art Nouveau chandelier with its leaves and flowers. What a great place – over the top extravagant and I loved it! I looked for a book on the Pena Palace in the gift shop and was disappointed because there wasn’t one. This seemed to be true of many sights in Portugal – there were either no gift shops or very limited shops with no books you could buy as a remembrance. I really wanted a picture book of the inside of the Pena Palace.

    After the Pena Palace I took the bus back to town, looked in some shops (I still had not bought any pottery) and then had a huge cheese omelet with fries and salad and a bottle of water at an outdoor café. This lunch was pretty pricey at E10 but not out of line for this area of Sintra.

    I decided to try to find the tile workshops and poked around in some small side streets and found one. There was a man painting tiles in a side room and I watched him for a few minutes making many copies of the same tile. There many lovely tiles for sale and I choose a double tile mounted on a board of an old-time Portuguese sailing ship to remind me of Portugal’s navigation fame and a single tile of blue & white flowers in a vase with a deep, warm yellow background. This was the only souvenir I bought myself (other than a very small painted coffee cup in Marvao). The tiles were priced at E22 and E15 and would pack easily.

    I lounged in the hotel's back garden in the shade with my book and then freshened up for dinner with June. We tried a different resto near the train station tonight which was better than the first. We had 2 half portions of the main course (1 chicken, 1 pork) both with fries and salad, soup starter, and a liter of wine for E23. The food was delicious. I didn’t get the name of this place but it was filled with locals and one English couple who were staying in an apartment close by. It’s near a very small pedestrian zone by the station on a main road. The dining room was fairly large and no special décor – just your local good eatery. A great ending to my two days in Sintra.

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    Hello Adrienne! (Yes, it's been over a year since you last posted but I had to comment)
    I've read your trip diary, I loved it! I'm Portuguese so I have fun reading what people think about our country. I just wanted to let you know some stuff: Estoy perdida is wrong, estoy is spanish. In portuguese you say estou. (he-shh-toe) Camera is wrong, it's câmara. It's like city hall. Yes is sim, not si, again that is spanish.
    I get the confusion, the languages are very similar, and people understood it, so no worries. :) Just thought I'd let you know.
    You have to visit the Northern part of Portugal, there are amazing places to see!

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    @ Adrienne
    What a great trip report. Loved it!

    @ miss-tanya
    We have visited your lovely country this June (Porto & the Douro Valley, Coimbra, Sintra, Lisbon, Algarve) and are coming back next year in June to explore other places.
    What should we not miss in the north? We had plans to stay in the Braga/Guimarães area for 3 nights (which is better?), then further on to Obidos (3 nights - side trip to Tomar?) and Evora (3 nights) before we end up in Tavira again for ten days of relaxation.
    Any comments or suggestions?

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    I'd say you should stay in Braga. You have to visit the Bom Jesus, it's so pretty! Then you could visit Ponte de Lima, Viana do Castelo, Guimarães or Póvoa de Varzim, they are all close. Póvoa de Varzim has nice beaches and people use to go out at night to walk around the Passeio Alegre, have coffee... very pretty.
    Óbidos is amazing, but go to Tomar as well.

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