Trip Report: 17 days in Spain & Portugal

Old Sep 24th, 2007, 06:22 AM
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Really enjoying your experiences.

IC: Interesting that you noticed the dogs I made a short photo journal just for myself called Perros Espanoles because I was so taken with the dogs in Spain and they way their owners related to them. (I am a dog lover obviously)

For those more interested in Flamenco,
I will post a link soon from the tourism office of Andalucia called Rutas Flamencas or similar that enables visitors to attend some classes to learn more while on vacation in Andalucia.

You seem to really have a enjoyed Sevilla in particular.
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Old Sep 24th, 2007, 06:29 AM
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Thanks for taking the time to post your very interesting and detailed report. It is much appreciated.

I, too, am very much looking forward to your Portugal portion.
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Old Sep 24th, 2007, 07:28 AM
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You are welcome. It is interesting to see the inisghts of someone other than an American or Europeam. Thank you for considered and educated perspective.
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Old Sep 24th, 2007, 07:41 AM
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Old Sep 24th, 2007, 10:28 AM
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I am also enjoying your report. Thank you for the detailed information. I'll be in Spain in December and I haven't been able to research my plans as I usually do. Your report is definitely appreciated.

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Old Sep 24th, 2007, 10:00 PM
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Comfyshoes, I agree with you that there are many differences between Flamenco and Kathak; the few similarities surprised us, since we were not expecting it. Yes, the kathak dancer is always barefooted, with a lot of bells tied to the ankles. The shorter "mudras" (numbers) may follow a mythological storyline, and somtimes may depict scenes from everyday life too. However, the longer "pieces" have no storyline, and end up as a competition between the dancer and the drummer; the dancer tries to keep varying his/her footwork, and challenges the drummer to keep pace, and vice versa.
Flamenco dancing seemed to follow a particular song's moods, and so was very different, as was the clicking of the heels. It is just the foot movements that we found similar.
I agree with you, being a dog beats having to land up on someone's plate as jamon, or a dead bull in a bullfight being whisked away by three horses !
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Old Sep 24th, 2007, 10:05 PM
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Nikki, Dukey, Aduchamp, elba, thanks everyone for your kind comments. It spurs me to keep going.
Today is a holiday for me, so I hope to finish the trip report, including Portugal.
And Comfyshoes, we did make it to the top of Giralda. Coming up in subsequent days of the report.
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Old Sep 24th, 2007, 10:12 PM
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amsdon, why don't you share your photo journal "Perros Espanoles" with everyone ? Please do send me a link to it. Also look forward to your Flamenco link that you have promised.
You are right about having enjoyed Seville in a special way. I was going to mention that in my concluding remarks about the city, but it seems to have become apparent in my descriptions.
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Old Sep 24th, 2007, 11:24 PM
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Trip Report Continued...
DAY 11 (Sept 10,MONDAY): SEVILLE/CORDOBA:
Today we had planned on a day trip to Cordoba, and we checked out the train timings on the net at the hotel. There were a large number of options, but to our surprise, the cost varied drastically depending on the train..from 7 euros going up to 30 or even 40 euros. And the difference in travel duration between the fastest and slowest was a meagre 20 minutes. We decided to travel on the Andalucian Express, departing Seville at 1:25 pm (80 minute journey), and return by the same, departing Cordoba at 8:15 pm, 7 euros each way. We were only interested in seeing the Mezquita; we knew that other monuments would be closed on a Monday.

Left our hotel at 9 am for a change, and had breakfast at some nearby cafe, of tomato tostadas and coffee. We then walked to the Casa de la Pilatos, of which we had heard great reports by some Fodorites. Frankly, we were disappointed. After great monuments like the Alhambra, the Alcazar of Seville, this was a let down. Some interesting Roman sculptures, but IMO quite avoidable.

Near Casa de la Pilatos, is a street called C.Santiago, where we had read there are great patios to be visited at Corral de Conde. It is a private residential complex, but the security staff let us in. Found nothing very interesting. Perhaps it was the wrong time of the year, and the flowers were not in bloom.

Went to C.Sierpes, where DW burnt a hole in my pocket, buying leather purses and belts (prices were quite good actually !). We then walked to Plaza Encarnacion, where we caught Bus # 32 to the Santa Justa train station. Lovely shops at the station. Had some nice Danish pastries there, and jumped aboard our Cordoba train.

We reached Cordoba at 2:45 pm, and took the Bus # 3 to near the Mezquita. Had lunch at some "Taberna Jaular" off one end of C.San Fernando. Cheese baguettes, Patata bravas and Patata Ali Oli. Totally forgettable.

We finally entered the Mezquita at 4 pm, and spent a good 2 hours inside, helped by an audio guide.It was totally different from anything we had seen so far in Spain, and the row after row of arches were mesmerizing. Sometimes a mosque, sometimes a church. Too bad that a lot of restoration work was ongoing, and many parts inside were closed for public viewing. The Mezquita is well worth a visit for its uniqueness; it resembles no other monument you may have seen, and is beautiful.

Went out and walked around the Jewish quarters, and then toured the many souvenir shops around the Mezquita, especially on C.de las Flores. Nice shops to look in, but a bit touristy and overpriced. Walked to the San Rafael statue, which was impressive, and then to the Puerta Puenta. The Puento Romano was closed for repairs, so we could only view it from the side. The Alcazar and the Synagogue were also closed, being a Monday. We had come only for the Mezquita, and we didn't mind.

We had time to kill, so we boarded the circular Bus # 3 in the wrong direction, so that we could go all around Cordoba, before alighting at the train station. We were back at Seville shortly after 9:30 pm. Again we retraced our steps back to Plaza Encarnacion vide the bus, and walked towards out hotel.

We had read about a great veg tapa bar near our hotel called "La Ilustre Victima" on C.Doctor Lemandi. Went there and found it to be a large place, with nice outdoor and indoor seating. Seemed to be very popular, attracting large crowds, mainly of locals. They had a very large variety of veg tapas. But the place was grossly understaffed, and the few staff members just could not cope with the rush. Had Mexican Quesadillas, Jacket potatoes with hot sauce, and Vegetables with Roquefort cheese. The food was good, but had to cancel the rest of our orders when it did not arrive in 60 minutes. The variety here is excellent, but go there only if you have a lot of patience. We went back to our hotel at 11:30 pm and slept, our last night in Spain.
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Old Sep 25th, 2007, 01:06 AM
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Trip Report continued...
DAY 12 (Sept 11,TUESDAY): SEVILLE/LISBON:
We checked out of our hotel at 9 am, leaving our bags behind. Breakfasted at another cafe off La Campana, called "La Maria". Turned out to be a gem. They had a very wide variety of baguette breads, and a delectable range of spreads. When we enquired about the constituents of some of those breads, the shopkeeper graciously went inside and brought out a basket containing one of every kind, so that we could inspect them ! Had a range of breads with chocolate spreads, Philadelphia cheese spreads etc, coupled with both cafe solo and cafe con leche. Very friendly staff.

We reached the nearby El Cortes Ingles just as it opened, and completed our shopping of Spanish items, like saffron, olives, olive oil, green apple liquer etc. Then rushed across to the Cathedral, which was still pending on our list. Had a lovely tour of the place, including the climb up Giralda Tower. The Cathedral was huge, and comparable in scale and splendour to the one in Toledo. The climb to the Giralda belfry was less intimidating than it appeared, thanks to the ramps sloped at comfortable angles. Absolutely stunning views of Seville from the top.

From there we walked briskly to "Ajo Blanco", the eatery which we had liked so much, and had promised ourselves an encore. And on the way, how could we miss a stop at El Tremendo for a spot of beer. The friendly dog "Hurro" was still there, and did I notice a glint of recognition in his eye when he spotted me ? Lunch at "Ajo Blanco" was superb as usual: Nachos with guacamole dip, Tacos with black beans and super-duper spicy sauce, fried Patata Bravas with a special hot sauce, with Mantilla wine straight from an oak barrel. Even better than the meal two nights ago at the same place. In fact our best meal in Spain, and unfortunately our last.

Took a taxi from our hotel to Plaza de Armas bus station, to catch the 3 pm bus for Lisbon. Sadly, it is the only mode of travel available from Seville to Lisbon. Vueling has announced a flight on this route, but it starts from December 2007. So we bid a nostalgic goodbye to Spain, where we had spent 11-12 wonderful days of our life. And we were specially sad to leave Seville, which had turned out to be our favourite Spanish city. We could understand why every Fodorite had raved and ranted about Seville; we were glad we had heeded their advice and kept our sight-seeing schedules light in that city. Indeed, Seville is not a city to be rushed through. It has to be romanced gently, and savoured slowly, like an exotic bottle of wine. It gradually intoxicates you, like no other city. You need not be seeing "sights" to enjoy the city; you can rest quietly anywhere, and just let your eyes roam. Everything you see is a "sight" in its true sense. And we felt it offered the widest range of food, and the most exciting nightlife.

The bus journey to Lisbon was comfortable, taking six and half hours, with short stops at Faro and one other place. We entered Lisbon driving on the famed Vasco de Gama bridge, one of the longest in the world. First stop was the Oriente station, which was a stunner to look at. We reached our final destination at Sete Rios at 8:30 pm local time, and took a taxi to our hotel in Baixa.

We soon ventured out for dinner, and a thundershower broke out (unseasonal for Lisbon, we were told). We had experienced excellent weather all through this trip, and our run of good luck had to end somewhere. As we started getting wet, magically a woman appeared on the streets, selling umbrellas ! We bought one for cover, and scurried inside the nearest restaurant that we could see. It was an Italian place called "Locanda Italiana"; classy place, huge and very crowded. Had Tortellini with spinach filling (excellent), and Gnochi with 4-cheese sauce (average). Went back to the hotel to call it a day. We had planned on doing some walking around in Baixa that evening, but the continuing rain put those plans to rest.

A word about our hotel, the Residencial Florescente, located on Rua Portas San Antao, just off Restauradores Square. This was the one hotel which we were nervous about, as the rates were incredibly low (55 euros a night, including tax and breakfast). The reviews were great, but we were worried that we would find it as some hole in the wall. We were pleasantly surprised. It is located in the heart of Baixa, on a street which has about 30-40 restaurants. It has a very nice lobby, especially on the rear side. We got an excellent room on the topmost floor, which was good sized, well decorated, good a/c, very comfortable toilet (with a cute ceiling window). Very clean, sheets changed everyday. Why is it priced so low ? Don't know.
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Old Sep 25th, 2007, 02:09 AM
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Trip Report continued...
DAY 13 (Sept 12,WEDNESDAY): LISBON :
Today was devoted exclusively to Lisbon city. Fortunately, it was clear and sunny, after last night's rain. We had breakfast at the hotel, comprising of breads, cheese, jams, juices and coffee, and left at 10 am. Walked to the nearby Dom Pedro Square (which had lovely wavy floor mosaic designs), and the nearby Figueira Square. Both were bursting with life and activity. We bought the 7-colinas cards for 1 day only (3.85 euros each), which gives unlimited access to all public transport within Lisbon for a calender day, on trams, metro, bus, elevators and furniculars, but cannot be shared by two people. Good value if you plan to spend the day in Lisbon, which we did. And don't throw away the card when the day is over, as subsequent renewals will cost you even less if you have the used card !

We took the Bus # 37 from Figueira Square to St. George's Castle, and went around the castle compound. Superb views from everywhere, especially if you climb the Towers (Ulysees Tower being the tallest). Enjoyed the castle tour, including the nice AV shows on Lisbon. Had refreshments at the castle cafe, and left after 2 hours.

We walked to the Miradoura das Portas do Sol, also located in Alfama, opposite the Decorative Arts Museum, for more stunning views of Lisbon. From there we took the highly acclaimed Tram 28 to Graca, where we alighted near the Graca Church. The Church was closed during the afternoon, but the Miradoura there was also great, with a totally different view of Lisbon.

We again boarded Tram 28 on its return leg, and rode it all across Alfama, finally alighting when we had reached level ground at Baixa. The tram ride on those slopes is great fun, and you can almost touch the buildings as you go by. Daring youngsters were hanging outside the tram, perhaps enjoying more ! Tram 28 is an experience not to be missed, as every travel site to Lisbon will tell you.

Had lunch at a place called "Tao" on Rua dos Douradores in Baixa. They have veg buffets; cheap, but of average quality. Then we walked to Rua Santa Justa nearby, and boarded the Santa Justa elevator to the top. Never seen a mode of public transport like this one ! And on reaching the top, there are still more steep steps to climb, on a winding staircase, to reach the summit. The views from the top are truly great, and there is a nice cafe there. For some reason, the ride down appeared faster than the ride up (gravity??). No visitor to Lisbon should leave without experiencing this elevator ride.

We walked along Rua Augusta, one of the main shopping areas, doing street side shopping for ear-rings, until we reached Praca Commercio, by far the biggest plaza of Lisbon. Lovely place to walk around. The weather in Portugal appeared to be cooler, the sun not as piercing as in Spain, which made these strolls easier. From one end of the Plaza, we boarded a ferry to across the river (Bareeiro), and then back. Good fun, especially when the ferry starts bobbing on the waves. Nice views of the 24th April bridge enroute.

Back at Praca Commercio, we walked uphill through Chiado, the chic shopping district, until we reached Camoes Square, on the edge of Barrio Alto. Nearby was the starting point of the Bica Furnicular (we were determined to experiment with every known mode of transport that day). This was supposed to be the steepest and most picturesque furnicular ride in Lisbon. We rode the furnicular all the way down, and then all the way back up. Easily the most enjoyable ride of the day, and it simply has to be experienced.

It was getting close to 8 pm, and time to start bar-hopping in Barrio Alto, which was nearby. Tried 3 different bars, and each one was better than the previous one. It had been a good weather day so far, but now intermittent rain had started. Whenever it cleared a little, we hopped over to a different bar. The first bar had funky punk-rock decor, with a nice bartender who introduced us to an interesting snack which is consumed in Portugal with beer. I forget its name, but it is something that grows wild everywhere; pale white in colour, resembles a jelly bean. You bite off an edge, and gently squeeze the bean; the inside slides out smoothly from the skin, which you then devour (could anyone tell us its name ?). And BTW, preta beers (dark beers) in Portugal are great.

The second bar had an interesting bartender called Bruno, who made excellent Margheritas in various flavours. He insisted that Lisbon's 24th April bridge was the "original", and San Francisco's Golden Gate was an imitation. The last bar was a Cuban place, which served great Tequilas in Iced tea.

For dinner we went to "Terra" on Rua de Palmeira, on the edge of Barrio Alto, which had great reviews on travel sites. Very nice ambience, extremely popular place, and a good vegetarian buffet meal. Maybe a tad on the bland side, but then our Indian palates' thirst for spiciness may not be universal !

Came back to Barrio Alto, as we wanted to listen to Fado music, and found a good place (again, forget its name). Great music, great singers (4 of them, who sang in turns). Nice drinks. Strong soulful songs, belted out with vigour and passion. I guess you have to experience it alteast once in Portugal.

Walked back to our hotel around midnight. It had been a long and enjoyable day. Not much language problem in Lisbon, as most people seem to know some English, and the younger crowd speaks it very well. We had not tried to learn any Portuguese before this trip, as it would have been too confusing to learn two languages at the same time, and we were thankful that we faced no problems as a consequence. However, despite the similarities, Portugal did feel very different from Spain, and not surprisingly, as it was a totally different country. It was very pretty, if the first day was a pointer of things to come, but not so much a "fun" place as Spain, as streets tend to get deserted after 11 pm. No prams, no dogs, and ladies were less concerned about "dressing up" compared to Spain. However, we realized that any country needs some time to weave its own magic, and we were enjoying the unique difference which Portugal had on offer.
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Old Sep 25th, 2007, 02:48 AM
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Trip Report continued...
DAY 14 (Sept 13,THURSDAY)ISBON/CASCAIS:
Left our hotel at 10 am after the usual breakfast, and Boarded Tram 15 from Figueira Square for Belem. Today there was no need to purchase the 7-colinas card, as we did not plan on travelling much in Lisbon.

Belem is a haven for museums and monuments. There are so many that you have to pick and choose in advance. On alighting from the tram, the nearest was the Coach Museum, which we had pre-selected. This was most unusual and enjoyable. It was a treat to watch the collection of royal coaches over the ages, leading up to the latest one which was used by Queen Elizabeth II in 1957 on her Portugal visit. We most enjoyed seeing the small coaches built for Royal children, for use in their gardens, which were pulled by sheep !

From there we hopped to the Jerominos Monastery, which was impressive. Particularly interesting was the beautiful cloister. And we loved seeing the tomb of Vasco de Gama, because of his Indian connection. The exterior facade of the monastery is as impressive as what's inside.

Every traveller to Lisbon and every travel site had insisted that the "Pasteis de Belem" or the custard tarts at the famed Antiga Confeitaria de Belem had to be tasted, which is what we did, and were not disappointed. Excellent stuff which melts in your mouth, and very cheap despite their fame and publicity. We followed this with a stroll around Belem Cultural Centre, which was large and impressive. Nice expensive shops selling exotic stuff.

Next stop was the Maritime Museum, which we also enjoyed thoroughly. An unending collection of old ship models, antiquated maps and instruments, old atlases - glad we came here. We then strolled over to the Monument for Discoveries. Took a ride to the top for the best views in Belem, and the best place to click your camera. We skipped their AV show, but went through their interesting Exhibits.

We lunched nearby at "Portugalia", a circular restaurant on the waterfornt with very nice views. Had omelettes, cheese sandwiches and boiled vegetables (which were surprisingly good), with preta beer. Decent meal, but while presenting the cheque, the waiter announced that the tip was not included in the bill. How subtle !

Walked to the Tower of Belem, which was a stiff walk in the afternoon sun. Admired it from outside, but did not have the heart to go in, as we had had our fill of museums for the day. In Lisbon, they have a museum for everything, including Air, Water, Electricity, and what not. How many can one visit ?

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Old Sep 25th, 2007, 02:59 AM
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Hi Indian couple, I've been reading your report with lots of interest. It is one of the most complete I've seen recently.
The yellow seeds are tremoços (from the same word in arabic language) also called lupin/lupine in English. I am a passionate eater of tremoços.
You did the right move not going into Belem Tower, since it is beautiful from the outside, but the inside is composed basically by empty rooms.
Waiting for more...
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Old Sep 25th, 2007, 03:16 AM
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i/c, I have never been to Portugal but plan to and look forward to your pictures. And I have to say I like your somewhat unusual approach to travel (referring to "we had time to kill so we took the bus going in the wrong direction"!!). Very nice reports, again.
 
Old Sep 25th, 2007, 03:22 AM
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I forgot to add something. You made a very funny mistake calling the bridge 24th April
The official name is 25th April, and the name "the 24th April" is a metaphor for Salazar's regime. Of course you don't have to be aware of these details, but it triggered a smile in my face when I saw it.
Another point is the "which came first". Of course the Golden Bridge is older. 25th April bridge was opened to public only in 1966 under the name Salazar Bridge (yes, things change). It was built by the some company who built the Golden Gate and it was called in the very first years "the American bridge" or most commonly "the bridge over Tagus". This last designation was popular until the new Vasco da Gama bridge was built.
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Old Sep 25th, 2007, 03:27 AM
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Hello,
Great report!
What you ate at the bar was "tremoços", aka lupini beans, which are boiled and conserved in salt water.
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Old Sep 25th, 2007, 03:54 AM
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Trip Report continued...
DAY 14 Continued...
Sorry for posting the last report half-way through a day's report. Continuing from where I left off.

From Belem Tower we took a taxi to the train station, as it was too stiff a walk for us. Boarded a train for Cascais at 5:30 pm, and were there by 6 pm. We were told that when you visit Belem, you are already halfway to Cascais, so it makes sense to combine the two.

At Cascais, we headed for the Tourist office, which was a short walk away, detouring into some interesting side-streets enroute. We got our maps at the Tourist office, and the nice lady there absolutely insisted that we must walk down to Boca da Inferno. As we walked towards the waterfront, we passed a beautiful house whose garden was a riot of colours. Never seen anything like it. A closer scrutiny revealed that it was a B&B place, and one could actually live there. Wouldn't that have been nice ! We then stopped for refreshments at a very nice cafe called "Chequers". Met an enthusiastic young male Portuguese waiter, who spoke impeccable English; not only did he serve us well, but he made detailed recommendations with his perspectives on what all to do in Cascais. Needless to say, he received a generous tip !

We finally reached the waterfront, and kept walking towards the Boca de Inferno. On the way we passed one exotic house after another, making our mouths drool. On reaching Boca de Inferno, we realized why the lady at the Tourist office had been so insistent. There was a rocky alcove of sorts there, where the ocean water crashed into the rocks, making it a very pretty site. The ocean was not at its roughest at that time; wished it had been (the young waiter had promised we would witness "explosions" on the rocks !). Anyway, sunset was approaching, and it was probably the best spot in Cascais to view it.

After viewing a romantic sunset, we slowly walked back towards the Marina. It was getting dark, and with the lights the Marina was a beautiful sight. Dined on the Marina at a great restaurant called "Casa Mexico" which had been recommended by a Fodorite. Lovely views, and a superb dinner of Nachos with cheese & jalapenos, Quesadillas with mushrooms & cheese, and Crepes with mushroom & celantro. Topped with great passion-fruit margheritas. Very large helpings of everything, and we had a tough time stashing away the food. Very friendly staff.

We then walked back through Largo 5th Oct Square, and delved into a few side-streets. Very alive and kicking at that hour. We found Cascais to be a lovely small town; reminded us a bit of Nerja in Spain. We would highly recommend a short trip here to any visitor.

We took the 10 pm train back to Belem, and from there transferred to the Tram 15 back to Baixa. We have ridden trams in other cities too, but never one which travelled at over 70 km per hour ! Never knew that trams could go that fast. At times it was scary, but I guess the driver knew his job, and brought us home safely. Reached our hotel back around 11 pm.
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Old Sep 25th, 2007, 04:04 AM
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Thanks lobo mau/maia about the name "Tremocos"; was trying hard to remember it, as we had forgotten to jot it down.

Sorry about the goof up with regard to 24th/25th April, and thanks for correcting me. Had I goofed in the other direction, and called it the 26th April bridge, I could have explained it on the time difference between Lisbon and India ! I realize that to a Portuguese, the date has special relevance, as it is the date when democracy came back, and dictatorship was overthrown.

Lobo mau, we had toyed for long about whether to contact you for an LDC evening, about which we have read so many glowing reports. But then we thought that our vegetarianism might put you through torture, so we avoided. It would have been nice to meet you and your wife anyway; the loss has been entirely ours.
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Old Sep 25th, 2007, 04:07 AM
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Comfyshoes, thanks again. We got the idea from a website exploreseville.com, which had recommended that one of the interesting things to do in Seville on a hot afternoon was to catch the circular bus and keep going round and round till the driver noticed and threw you out ! We did'nt go that far, but the genesis of the idea was good.
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Old Sep 25th, 2007, 05:01 AM
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Trip Report continued...
DAY 15 (Sept 14,FRIDAY): LISBON/SINTRA/ CABO DA ROCA
Left our hotel at the customary hour of 10 am, after a monotonous breakfast, and took the metro from "Restauradores" to the "Jardim Zoo" stop. Transferred to the train station under the same roof, and boarded a train to Sintra. While purchasing our Sintra tickets, we met a very friendly mother-daughter German combo, who engrossed us in conversation through the journey. Interesting to share your perspectives about a country with travellers from different places.

We reached Sintra by 11 am, and the Tourist Office was right at the train station, where we picked up our maps. The Bus terminal was a minute's walk away, where we got tickets on the Sintra sightseeing bus (hop on/hop off bus, which covers all the sites for 4 euros each; worth it). While waiting for the next bus, it was time to have a "shot" of coffee. If there is anything better than Spanish coffee, it is the Portuguese variety. Best had without milk, it is served in a slender cup which resembles a shot-glass. It goes down in two small gulps, but leaves you satiated. Warning: it is very very addictive!

The bus started off on its steep ascent, with lush forests all around. First stop: Pena Palace. Noticed that many people had the stamina to walk all the way up, instead of taking the bus. Must be very pretty to do so, but suggested only for young strong legs. There were many entry options to choose from at the Palace gate, and we finally opted for the comprehensive "T" tour, priced at 11 euros apiece.

There is not much that we can say about Pena Palace, except to call it "magical". I think the authors of all fairy tales came to Sintra for inspiration, and penned their works sitting in this Palace. There are some things which defy description, for words cannot express their beauty, and this was one such place. Most different from any other palace we had visited, with its bold contrasting colours of bright yellow, orange and purple on the walls. And those lush forests which surround it, threatening to swallow up the palace. You have to see it to believe it. The palace visit takes a lot of time, and we did not rush it. Each of the chambers inside, with their unique furnishings, were a sight to behold. And the extensive palace tour was followed up with an exhaustive walking trail through the gardens (more like forests), which had some excellent miradouras.

The tour over, we lunched at the ritzy restaurant inside, consuming gazpacho soup (of tomato & cucumbers) with garlic croutons, and Risotto with mushrooms, with the best white wine we had sipped in this trip.

At the palace exit, we took the next sightseeing bus to the Moorish Castle. The walk from the road to the entry point of the Castle is long, and once inside, there is not much to do but to keep climbing the stairs alongside the castle walls (there is nothing there except for the walls !). The climb is tortuous, but the views of Pena Palace are lovely. The climb down was scary, as we hadn't realized how far up we had gone. We wished there was something more on offer for the strenuous workout we had endured.

Again hopped on the sightseeing bus, down to Sintra town, where we snacked at a cafe, and tried the local delicacy called "Queijadas", a nice cheese cake. Did some shopping in nearby stores for lovely items made of "cork" - purses, belts, etc. (Almost all of the world's cork requirement comes from Portugal, and they make a wide range of items from cork, including shoes and umbrellas; very unusual). From there we walked to the Bus Station, and took the 6:10 pm bus to Cabo da Roca. This bus # 403 leaves from Cascais and Sintra in opposite directions, and goes to the other destination via Cabo da Roca. You can catch it from Sintra and go to Cabo da Roca, and then proceed on to Cascais, or from Cabo da Roca you can catch a bus in the reverse direction coming back to Sintra. Likewise from Cascais. The journey from Sintra to Cascais is about an hour, and Cabo da Roca is approximately at halfway point.

Cabo da Roca is the westernmost point in continental Europe, and many Fodorites had recommended we visit it. We reached there at about 6:45 pm, and I must say it was one of the high points in our entire trip. It should not be missed at any cost. The vista there is magnificent. Sheer cliffs looking out into the Atlantic, and no habitation in sight except for a tall lighthouse and a snug tourist office with wonderful sofas to relax in. The views are spectacular. But go prepared with a light jacket, as it can be windy and a bit cold. We were told that sometimes you can see whales cavorting away in the waters, but we were not so fortunate.

At the tourist office, they were issuing beautiful certificates, testifying that you had visited the westernmost point in Europe, which we took for ourselves. We caught a return bus to Sintra at 7:45 pm. From Sintra the train to Sete Rios, and the metro back to our hotel.

We discovered an Indian restaurant right next to our hotel called "Sitar", where we dined. The decor was average, but the food was excellent. Veg vindaloo, Veg dal, with a variety of Nans. Highly recommended.

It was Friday night, and our last night on the tour. So we ventured on foot to Barrio Alto at 11 pm. We were surprised to see it was so different on a weekend. Camoes Square resembled Puerto del Sol, with musicians performing everywhere, and packed with crowds. And when we entered the lanes of Barrio Alto, we were taken aback by what we saw - streets crammed with people everywhere. The norm was to buy your drink in a bar (served in disposable glasses), and walk outside on the street with it, where people hung out with their friends, and finally throw the empty glass on the streets ! We did likewise, and it was great fun. Why sit around in a bar when it is so pleasant outside ?

Finally, well past midnight, we decided to call it a day, and trudged wearily back to our hotel.
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