Portugal, the Set Meravelles.

Portugal obviously has more than seven meravelles (wonders), and there is a lot left of this wonderful country for me to discover. However, based on my three trips, I have chosen seven that I have seen. I’m sure there are at least 100 waiting for me in the future, if not 1000! Es obvio que Portugal tiene más de siete meravelles (maravillas), y me queda mucho para descubrir. Sin embargo, pensando en los tres viajes que he hecho a Portugal, he elegido siete que he visto. Seguro que hay al menos 100 esperándome en el futuro, si no 1000! 

Portugal Set Meravelles

1. The Streets of Lisboa (and their trams!)

The streets of Lisbon are incredible. They will take you to the most visited places like the São Jorge Castle, the Sé Cathedral, the Barrio Alto, the many plazas, the oldest bookshop Bertrand, even out to Belem. If you’re too tired to walk, they even have cable cars or trams to take your to your destination, and you can watch the world go by. Las calles de Lisboa son increíbles. Te llevarán a los sitios más turísticos como el Castillo de São Jorge, la Sé (Catedral), el Barrio Alto, los plazas bonitas, la librería más antigua del mundo Bertrand, incluso hasta Belem. Si estás demasiado cansado/a para caminar, tienen tranvías chulas para llevarte al tu destino mientras pasas el mundo. 

2. Belem

The Torre de São Vicente, better known as the Torre de Belem (Bethleham in Portuguese)  was built to help protect the mouth of the River Tejo between 1514 and 1519. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site . Despite popular belief, it was not built in the middle of the river and the 1755 earthquake did not re-route the river so it sits near the shore. El torre de São Vicente, mejor conocido como el Torre de Belem (Belen en portugués), fue construido para proteger la boca del Río Tajo (Tejo en Portugal) entre los años 1514 y 1519. Es UNESCO Patrimonio de la Humanidad. No era construido en el centro del río, como dice la leyenda, antes del seísmo de Lisboa en 1755. Siempre ha estado cerca de la orilla. 

3. Sintra

Like castles and palaces? Sintra is the place to go.  The city of 377,835 is an easy day trip from Lisbon, only 35-45 minutes away by train. It’s said to be the most crowded suburban train system in Europe! There are many castles, convents and palaces for visitors to explore, and the village itself is quaint. It’s straight out of a telenovela fairy tale. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. ¿Te gustan los castillos y palacios? Entonces, hay que ir a Sintra. La ciudad de 377.835 está muy cerca a Lisboa y fácil llegar en transporte público. Solo tarde unos 35-45 minutos en el tren, pero se dice que es el transporte más llena de personas en Europa. Hay bastantes castillos, conventos y palacios para explorar, y el pueblo en si mismo es pintoresco. Parece de una telenovela digo cuento de hadas, y es UNESCO Patrimonio de la Humanidad.

4. Cascais

30 kilometres or 19 miles west of Lisbon lies Cascais, population 206,479. It’s a former resort for the Portuguse royal family and today attracts tourists due to its ocean views. The Boca do Inferno (a HellMouth! Call Buffy!), is a famous chasm in the cliffs near Cascais. A 30 kilómetros al oeste de Lisboa se encuentra Cascais, población 206.497. Era un casa de verano para la familia real portuguesa en el pasado. Hoy atrae turistas por sus vistas del océano. La Boca do Inferno es un abismo en los acantilados cerca de Cascais. 

5. Cabo de São Vicente

Located in the Algarve, Portugal’s southern most region, the Saint Vincent Cape is the southwestern point of Europe. The cape has a lighthouse, cliffs and spectacular ocean views. It was one of my first hikes, back in 2013. I caught the bus to the cape from Sagres (I caught a bus from Lagos to Sagres) and walked back to the village 3 kilometres away. We all start somewhere! Situado en el Algarve, la región más al sur de Portugal, el Cabo de San Vicente es el punto más suroeste de Europa. El cabo tiene un faro, acantilados y vistas espectaculares del océano. Era una de mis primeros intentos de senderismo, en 2013. Cogí el autobús al cabo desde Sagres (primero cogí un autobús de Lagos a Sagres) y volví al pueblo caminando. Era unos 3 kilómetros. Todos empezamos con rutas más fáciles.

6. Oporto

Porto is the second largest city in Portugal, a UNESCO World Heritage site, home of Port wine, the Río Douro, and J.K. Rowling lived there a few years and hung out at the Livraria Lello. Quaint, beautiful, charming, and every time I go it rains. Porto es la segunda ciudad de Portugal, un UNESCO Patrimonio de la Humanidad, el hogar del vino de Oporto, el Río Duero (Douro en Portugal), y J.K. Rowling vivió allí durante unos años y siempre iba a la Livraria Lello, que le daba inspiración. Pintoresco, precioso, encantador…y cada vez que voy, llueve. 

7. Serra de Lousã

Located near Coímbra between Lisbon and Porto lies the beautiful Serra de Lousã and the Aldeias do Xisto. I’m a big fan of mountains and seeing the past, so it was a real treat hiking the beautiful mountains, seeing the castle and the slate villages.  Situado cerca de Coímbra entre Lisboa y Oporto, la hermosa Serra de Lousã y los Aldeias do Xisto es una sierra super bonita. Me encantan los montes y también poder ver la historia viva, entonces, era algo especial hacer una ruta por los montes preciosos, ver el castillo y los pueblos negros de chisto. 

Port en (O)porto.

Before anyone asks, I did sample port while in Porto. I liked it, although it wasn’t the best wine I’ve ever had. Antes de preguntarme, sí, probé vino de Oporto. Me gustó, aunque no era el mejor vino que he probado. 

I had been to Portugal’s second biggest city once before, in 2009, a two-day stop between Lisbon and Santiago de Compostela. I remember the city being beautiful, I remember it raining, and I remember going to the Osborne bodega to learn more about the making of Port wine. I’ve always wanted to go back to this magical city, and I was grateful for this opportunity. Había estado en la segunda ciudad de Portugal una vez antes, en 2009, una parada de dos días entre Lisboa y Santiago de Compostela. Recuerdo que la ciudad era bonita, recuerdo la lluvia, y recuerdo vistiando la bodega de Osborne para aprender más sobre la cosecha de vino. Siempre he querido volver esa ciudad encantadora, y me alegro haber tenido otra oportunidad. 

Porto (It’s still known as Oporto in Spanish) has a population of 287,591 residents and a metropolitan population of 2,162,524. The Douro River runs through the heart of the city. The historic centre has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. Oporto tiene una población de 287.591 habitantes y una población metropolitana de 2.162.524. El Río Duero (conocido como Douro en Portugal) pasa por la ciudad. El casco antiguo ha sido un Patrimonio de la Humanidad desde 1996. 

I arrived about 11 and dropped my stuff off at the pensión, which was a good 2 kilometres from what I consider the city centre (the Ribeira). I found my way to the Ponte Don Luis I, admiring the Cathedral (Sé) along the way. I didn’t remember the Cathedral at all, so it was a good thing I went the way I did. Llegué sobre las 11 de la mañana y dejé el equipaje en la pensión, que era a 2 kilómetros de la Ribeira en el centro de la ciudad. Encontré el Ponte Don Luis I, y admiré la Sé (Catedral) por el camino. No recordaba bien la catedral, entonces, hice bien en tomar la ruta que tomé. 

I crossed the bridge this time on the pavement near the tram tracks. I experienced a horrible sense of vertigo. I was dizzy the entire time I was up there, but I made myself do it as I remember lamenting the fact I didn’t cross the top part of the bridge the time before. Crucé el puente por arriba a lado de la vía de tranvía. Me daba bastante vértigo y estaba mareado todo el rato que pasaba por el puente. Seguí adelante porque siempre he lamentado el hecho que no cruce el puente por arriba durante mi primera visita a Oporto. 

It was approaching lunch time, and I found a great place, O Bom Talher, that had a menú del día for only 8,50. Soup, main course, dessert (sobremesa), café, bread and wine included. It was the best meal of the trip. Ya era la hora de comer, y encontré un buen sitio para comer, O Bom Talher, que tenía un menú del día por solo 8,50 que incluyó sopa, segundo plato, postre (sobremesa), café, pan y vino. Era la mejor comida del viaje. 

Inside the Lello

I continued exploring the city, and I went to the Livraria Lello, which inspired J,K. Rowling when she was working in Porto as an English teacher. (Thanks for inspiring me all the time, Ms. Rowling!). I didn’t pay the 4€ entrance fee or wait in the queue to pay for it, but I did admire it from the outside. Seguí explorando la ciudad, y fui a la Livraria Lello, que inspiró a J.K. Rowling cuando estaba trabajando en Oporto como una profesora de inglés. (Gracias por toda la inspiración que usted me da todos los días, Sra. Rowling!) No pagué los 4€ para entrar ni pensé en esperar en la cola para pagarlo, pero lo vi por afuera que era suficiente para mí. 

Livraria Lello

I admired all the old churches. I did go back to the pensión to rest a bit, but I headed back to the centre to walk along the Douro and admire the bridges. I had a galao (large white coffee) while writing in my personal travel diary. También admiré todas las iglesias antiguas. Volví a la pensión para descansar, pero no descanse mucho. Pronto volví al centro para pasar por el Douro y ver los puentes. Tomé un galao (café con leche grande) mientras escribí en mi diario de viaje personal. 

At dinner, I tried port and enjoyed it. En la cena, probé el vino de Oporto y me gustó.

I was left wanting more time to savour Porto, but I suppose I can always return. Me dejó con ganas de mas tiempo en Oporto, pero creo que siempre puedo volver algún día.

Porto has been named the Best European Destination in 2014 and 2017. It is definitely one of my faves. The airport has a Ryan Air hub, making it easy to get to from many European cities. Oporto era el Mejor Destino Europeo en 2014 y 2017. Es una de mis destinos preferidos, sí. El aeropuerto es un núcleo de Ryan Air, que facilita la visita de muchas ciudades europeas. 

Serra do Lousã, Aldeias do Xisto

One of the reasons I decided on visiting Coímbra for two days was I read about the nearby Serra do Lousã. The village of Lousã is about 25 kilometres from Coímbra (15 miles), but the bus takes about an hour to reach the village due to the stops and backroads. Una de las razones que decidí visitar Coímbra durante dos días en lugar de un día era porque leí sobre la cercana Serra do Lousã. El pueblo de Lousã está a unos 25 kilómetros de Coímbra, pero el autobus tarda sobre una hora para llegar al pueblo dado a las paradas y las carreteras. 

Lousã

The population of Lousã is 17,604. There are a few bars and shops and a hotel, and it’s a tranquil place. After having another Portuguese pastry and meia com leite, I went walking toward the Castelo do Lousã, which was about 2 kilometres at a guess. La población de Lousã es 17.604. Hay unos bares y tiendas y un hotel, y es un sitio tranquilo. Después de tomar otro pastel portugués y meia com leite, fui caminando hacía el Castelo do Lousã. Estimo que estaba a unos 2 kilómetros. 

I was amazed by the castle. It was pretty well conserved on the outside, and it’s situated in the mountains and trees. It dates back to the 11th century and was a summer home of Queen Mafalda. Me impresionó mucho el castillo. Era muy bien conservado por fuera y está situado en los montes y árboles. Fue construido en el Siglo XI y era una casa de verano de la Reina Mafalda. 

Me encantó el castillo/I loved the castle

After admiring the castle, I looked at the hiking map and saw there was a circular route that was about 6 kilometres and took about 3 hours. I don’t know if I did the right route or not, as I took about two hours and only saw two of the Schist Villages. Después de admirar el castillo, miré el mapa de senderismo y vi que había una ruta circular que era unos 6 kilómetros y tardaría unas 3 horas. No sé si hice la ruta correcta o no, como solo tardé dos horas y solo vi dos de las aldeas de esquisto.

¿Adónde voy? Where am I going?

Aldeias do Xisto translates as Schist Villages. It might be my northern Ohio English, but I would translate it as “Slate villages”. They’re similar to the Pueblos Negros de Guadalajara (Spain). Aldeas do Xisto significa “aldeas de esquisto” en castellano. Creo que “aldeas de pizarra” sería una mejor traducción. Son parecidos a los Pueblos Negros de Guadalajara en España.

Uma aldeia do Xisto

The route was filled with spectacular views of the Serra de Lousã. I was impressed. There were a few ermitas (hermitages) along the way. About 40 minutes later of hiking near a stream and up the mountain, I found myself in the first village, Talasnal. I explored it a bit. The Portuguese Wikipedia page says it has a population of 10. It was small. La ruta tenía muchas vistas espectaculares de la Serra de Lousã. Me impresionó. Había unas ermitas por el camino. Después unos 40 minutos de caminando por un arroyo y subiendo el monte, me encontré en el primer pueblo, Talasnal. Lo exploré. La página portuguesa dice que tiene una población de 10 personas. Era pequeño. 

Gato del pueblo/cat of the village. I’m team dog, but he was cute. Soy más de perros, pero era mono.

The tourist information directed me toward Route #2, which I believe was still the circular, which lead me to another village, Casal Nova. It was even smaller. It said 40 minutes, but I only took 20 minutes. I explored it a bit, then went back to Lousã. The path down the mountain was a bit steep but fun. La información de turismo me dirigió hacía la Ruta #2, que creo que era la circular, que me llevó a otro pueblo, Casal Nova, que era aún más pequeño. Dijo que era unos 40 minutos, pero solo tardé 20 minutos en llegar. Lo exploré un rato, y volví a Lousã. La bajada tenía bastante pendiente pero era divertida. 

It was definitely the highlight of an incredible third trip to Portugal. Era una de las partes más memorables de mi tercer viaje increíble a Portugal. 

Hike/Ruta: #13/40 of 2017
Date/Fecha: 17-abril-2017
Kilometres hiked: 10
Mountain/Route: Ruta Circular do Aldeias do Xisto
Difficulty: Easy to Medium

Coímbra.

Coímbra, located on the River Mondego about halfway between Lisbon and Porto, is the fourth largest city in Portugal with a population of 143,396 inhabitants. It was once the Portuguese capital and it is home to the oldest academic institution in Portugal, the Universidade de Coímbra, which began in 1290. It’s been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013. Coímbra, situado en el Río Mondego entre Lisboa y Oporto, es la cuarta ciudad más grande de Portugal con una población de 143.396 habitantes. Erase una vez la capital de Portugal y es el hogar de la institución académica más antigua de Portugal, la Universidade de Coímbra, que empezó en 1290. Ha sido UNESCO Patrimonio de la Humanidad desde 2013. 

A Universidade

I arrived on Easter Sunday about 18.00, and my pensión was about ten minutes walking from the bus station. I dropped my bags off and went off to meander the city streets. I loved the Praça 8 de maio. I climbed up the hill slowly but surely to explore the old town and the university, which was every bit as magnificent as I had been told. It was a bit quiet, being Easter Weekend. I watched the sunset over the Mondrego and had a decent dinner. Llegué el domingo de Pascua sobre las 18.00, y mi pensión estaba ubicado a 10 minutos caminando de la estación de autobuses. Dejé el equipaje y fui a deambular las calles. Me encantó la Praça 8 de maio. Subí la colina poco a poco para explorar el casco viejo y la universidad, que era tan magnificente como me habían dicho. Era un poco callado, como era el fin de semana de Pascua. Vi la puesta del sol sobre el Mondrego y cené bien por la Praça 8 de maio. 

Praça 8 de maio

After my trip to the Serra de Lousã Monday morning, Monday afternoon was spent exploring the city even more. I have to admit I went to the wrong bus stop for the bus to Lousã. Portuguese cities love to make their buses complicated, I discovered on this trip! Después de mi viaje a la Serra de Lousã lunes por la mañana, exploré las calles de Coímbra aún más lunes por la tarde. Tengo que admitir que fui a la parada de autobús incorrecta para coger el autobús a Lousã. A las ciudades portugueses les encanta hacer los autobuses complicados. ¡Descubrí eso este viaje!

I crossed the Mondrego to write in my personal journal and people watch before exploring the upper town even more. My professor was right when he said the Portuguese could burn off those tasty pastries while walking through Coímbra! Crucé el Mondrego para escribir en mi diario de viaje personal y ver el mundo pasear antes de explorar el casco antiguo aún más. ¡Mi profesor tenía razón cuando me dijo que los portugueses siempre se queman las calorías de los pasteles ricos mientras paseaban por Coímbra!

¡Selfie!

I was really glad to discover this city. It’s slowly being discovered by tourism, but what place isn’t these days? Me alegro haber descubierto esa ciudad. Poco a poco el turismo está descubriéndolo también, pero el turismo está encontrando a todos los sitios hoy en día. 

There are trains to both Lisbon and Porto, but they will take you to Coímbra B, where you will need to catch a train to Coímbra city centre. The bus takes about 2 hours 20 minutes from Lisbon (and sometimes stops in Fátima) and takes about an hour and a half to Porto. Hay trenes de Lisboa y Oporto, pero van a la estaciónd e Coímbra B, donde tienes que coger otro tren hasta el centro de Coímbra. El autobús tarda sobre 2 horas y 20 minutos desde Lisboa (y a veces para en Fátima) y tarda sobre una hora y media a Oporto. 

Sunset in Coímbra

Vuelta a Lisboa.

I’d previously travelled to Lisboa (Lisbon) twice before, in 2009 and 2013. As I seem to go every four years, it was time to return to Portugal’s capital city, population 545,245 and a metro population of 2,821,876 people. Había estado en Lisboa dos veces antes, en 2009 y 2013. Me parece que ir cada cuatro años, entonces, tocaba una vuelta a la capital de Portugal. Lisboa tiene una población de 545.245 personas y una población metropolitana de 2.821.867 personas. 

I had about 24 hours this visit to enjoy the city, and I took advantage of them. As I had seen most of the popular tourist sites on prior visits, this visit was to soak up the atmosphere. I checked into my pensión in the Barrio Alto and went exploring without a map or a destination. This is the perfect way to discover such a lovely city. Tenía sobre 24 horas para disfrutar de la ciudad, y aproveché del poco tiempo que tenía. Como ya había vistado la mayoria de los sitios más turísticos de la ciudad, esta visita era para absorber el ambiente. Fui a la pensión en el Barrio Alto y fui a explorar sin mapa ni destino. Este es una manera perfecta para descubrir una ciudad preciosa.

Tejo/Tajo/Tagus

Saturday afternoon I strolled through the Barrio Alto down to the River Tejo (Tagus), stopping for a galao (large café con leche in a glass) along the way. I meditated on the river for a while before finding a place to eat near the hotel. The bus ride from Madrid only stopped for 15 minutes in Trujillo (a village in Extremadura I really want to visit one day). El sábado por la tarde, di una vuelta por el Barrio Alto y me encontré a lado del Río Tajo (allí es conocido como el Río Tejo), parando para tomar un galao (o café con leche grande) por el camino. Medité por el río un rato antes de encontrar un sitio para comer cerca de la pensión. El autobús de Madrid solo paró una vez durante 15 minutos en Trujillo, un pueblo extremeño que tengo muchas ganas de visitar un día. 

Sunday morning, my body still on Spanish time, I woke up earlier than I had intended. I explored the streets once again, stopping to enjoy the famous Portuguese pastries for breakfast. I somehow found myself at the Sé (Cathedral) and walked on up to Castelo de São Jorge, exploring more in depth the nearby neighbourhood. I loved every minute of it, and I am sorta glad I didn’t have a set plan as it gave me time to meander, which Lisboa is a city to meander. Domingo por la mañana, mi cuerpo pensando era hora española (Portugal tiene una hora menos, igual a las Canarias), me desperté antes de lo que quería. Exploré las calles otra vez, parando para probar los pasteles portugueses famosos para desayunar. Me encontré, y no sé como lo hice, en la Sé (Catedral) y seguí caminando hasta el Castelo de São Jorge, explorando profundamente el barrio a lado que exploré antes. Me encantó cada minuto de la exploración, y me alegré no haber tenido un plan como me daba tiempo para deambular las calles. Lisboa es una ciudad para deambular. 

I stopped at Bertrand, the world’s oldest book shop. It has been renovated over the years, so it wasn’t as antique as I had hoped. It has been open since 1732 and in the current location since 1755. Fui a Bertrand, la librería más antiguo del mundo. A lo largo del años, han restaurado Bertrand bastante, y no era tan antigua como esperaba. Abrió sus puertos en 1732 y ha estado en el sitio actual desde 1755. 

Selfie from the Barrio Alto

I had been to Belem before, and while I would have enjoyed a trip to the statue near the Pont de 25 de Abril, it gives me a reason for a fourth trip in the future. Ya había vistado Belem, y aunque me hubiera gustado un viaje a la estatua de Cristo a lado del Pont de 25 de Abril, me da una razón para hacer un cuatro viaje en el futuro. 

My BlaBlaCar had cancelled on me, so I found my way to the Sete Rios bus station after lunch at a restaurant in the Barrio Alto. They only allow Portuguese credit and debit cards, and while you can buy tickets online, you may not be able to print them off. El conductor de BlaBlaCar que tenía me lo había anulado, y tenía que ir a la estación de Sete Rios después de comer en un restaurante por el Barrio Alto. Solo permiten tarjetas de crédito y débito portuguesas en la estación. Aunque se puede comprar billetes por internet, a lo mejor no se puede imprimir en la estación. 

Street art/Arte de calle

The Lisbon metro isn’t too complicated. A day pass is around 6€. The metro goes to various bus stations, train stations and the airport. Trams run through the city, as do buses. El metro de Lisboa no es muy complicado. Un billete del día cuesta unos 6€. El metro va a todas las estaciones de autobuses, de trenes y el aeropuerto. Hay tranvía por toda la ciudad, y también autobuses. 

Lisbon has been occupied since at least the 8th Century BC. The city was destroyed in the famous earthquake of 1755. It is a beautiful city and well worth visiting. I did notice that it was much more touristy than I remember it being from 2009 and 2013. It was Easter Sunday. It just looks to be on its way to becoming another Barcelona. It’s a lovely city, so I understand completely! Lisboa ha sido ocupado desde el Siglo VIII a.C. La ciudad fue destrozada en el terremoto famoso del 1755. Es una ciudad bonita que vale la pena visitar. Noté que había muchos más turistas que antes. Era el domingo de Pascua, sí, pero también parece que puede ser la próxima Barcelona por el tema de turistas. Es una ciudad preciosa, ¡y lo entiendo completamente!

 

Semana Santa 2017

Castelo do Lousã

It’s been a great week on the road, and I’m happy to report I am back from Portugal after a fantastic few days. Now it means I have to get busy writing about my adventures, which will appear in more detail over the next few weeks. This week, I have a tribute to the anniversary of the bombings in Gernika (Guernica) set to publish, but starting next Monday, the Semana Santa adventure of 2017 will be published with further detail! Lo he pasado bien viajando, y me alegro poder decir que he llegado bien a València después de unos días fantásticos en Portugal. Ahora me toca escribir sobre las aventuras con más detalle durante las semanas que viene. Este semana, tengo planificado un homenaje a Gernika como es el aniversario del bombardero trágico el 26. El lunes que viene ya empeceré publicar las aventuras de Semana Santa 2017 con más detalle.

This week, though, an overview. Esta semana, un resumén. 

The trip started out on Thursday the 13th, which is neither a bad omen in Spain or the US (martes 13/Friday the 13th). I caught a BlaBlaCar to Madrid and stayed with a friend. Empecé el viaje jueves el 13, que no es un día maldito ni en España o los EEUU (es martes 13 o viernes 13). Cogí un BlaBlaCar a Madrid y me alojé con un amigo. 

Friday I went back to Segovia to visit one of my two favourite professors who was in charge of a study abroad program there this semester. It was a great visit to the historic city, even if there were tourists everywhere (being Semana Santa, I knew what I was getting myself into though). Viernes, fui a Segovia para visitar uno de mis profesores preferidos de la universidad. Está en cargo de un programa de estudiar en extranjero este semestre. Era una gran visita a la ciudad histórica, aunque estaba llena de turistas. Como era Semana Santa, estaba anticipándolo. 

Saturday I caught the bus from Madrid (Estación Sur) to Lisboa (Oriente). I have now arrived to Lisbon by plane, train and coach, and I’ve also travelled across two of the cities bridges over the Río Tajo (Tejo in Portuguese, translated to Tagus in Portugal but left as Tajo in Spain. My Spanish soul says Tajo.) Sábado, cogí el autobús de Madrid (Estación Sur) a Lisboa (Oriente). Ahora he llegado a Lisboa por avión, tren y autobús, y he cruzado dos de los puentes de la ciudad por el Río Tajo (Tejo en portugués). 

Lisbon was fantastic as always, and I was left wanting more as always. However, Sunday afternoon, after my BlaBlaCar cancelled on me, I went to the Sete Rios bus station to head to Coímbra. I saw Fátima from the bus, and I am glad I didn’t go there in the end as it appeared to be a huge tourist trap. Lisboa era fantástico como siempre, y me dejaba con ganas de más, como siempre. Sin embargo, después de una cancelación de BlaBlaCar, fui a la estación de Sete Rios para coger un autobús a Coímbra. Vi Fátima desde el autobus, y me alegré no lo haber visitado como parecía un gancho para turistas. 

Sunset over Coímbra

I stayed two nights in Coímbra, which is a university city filled with history and gorgeous views. On Monday, I went for a hike in the Serra de Lousã through the Aldeias do Xisto (villages made of slate) before discovering more of Coímbra’s magic. Me quedé dos noches en Coímbra, que es una ciudad universitaria llena de historia y vistas preciosas. Lunes, hice una ruta por la Serra de Lousã por los Aldeias do Xisto (Aldeas de Pizarra) antes de descubrir mejor la magia de Coímbra. 

(O) Porto

Tuesday was a return to Porto, where I had been in 2009 and is one of the most amazing cities the Greatest Peninsula in the World has to offer. It was my second visit, so I thought I’d be okay with only a night there. Turns out, I wanted more time for this beautiful river city. Martes era una vuelta a Oporto, donde fui en 2009 y es una de las ciudades más impresionantes de la Mejor Península del Mundo. Era mi segunda visita, y pensaba que estaría contento con solo una noche allí. Bueno…quería más tiempo por disfrutar de la ciudad por el río Douro. (el Duero en España). 

I obviously survived another on-time flight with Ryan Air, the one company grateful to United Airlines for making them look better! (Everyone in Europe has a love-hate relationship with the airline. OMG 20€ FLIGHTS oh wait Ryan Air how much can we fit in this hand luggage?) Sobreviví otro vuelo que llegó a tiempo con Ryan Air, la única compañía agradecido a United Airlines porque ahora Ryan Air parece mejor que alguien. Todos tenemos una relación de amor-odio con Ryan Air en Europa. Oooh, ¡Un vuelo por solo 20 Euros! Espera…es Ryan Air. Bueno, ¿cuánto cabe en este equipaje de mano? 

A great trip, and I look forward to reliving it here. Stay tuned! Un viaje genial, y me da ilusión vivirlo otra vez aquí. A continuación. 

Nature Photo Challenge Día 4: Cabo Sao Vincente

I was challenged to post one nature photo everyday for a week by Living the Q Life. I nominate anyone who wants to do it. Living the Q Life me ha dado el reto para subir una foto de naturaleza todos los días durante una semana. A cualquier persona que quiere participar puede hacerlo. 

In 2013 I travelled to the south of Portugal (Lagos in Algarve) and was amazed by the beautiful views. I know all my photos are of water, but water is nature, right? Cabo Sao Vincente is the southwestern tip of Europe. En 2013 viajé al sur de Portugal (Lagos en el Algarve) y me fascinaron las vistas bonitas. Sé que siempre subo fotos de agua, pero el agua es la naturaleza, ¿no? Cabo San Vicente es el punto más suroeste de Europa.

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Lisboa, or Europe’s San Francisco. (Portugal 3 of 3)

I am finishing my series on Spain’s western neighbour, Portugal, with a look at its capital. In the future, I hope to return to this great country so I can write more about it and discover more about it. But for now, I just have to live with my memories and pictures and anticipation of another visit.

Both of my visits to Lisbon (Lisboa in Portuguese) began with early morning arrivals, in which I had to find breakfast, which you know could be the most important thing (that or family). I have now managed to reference Arrested Development in all three Portugal entries.

My first visit took me to Lisbon’s Aeroporto da Portela, a short metro or bus ride from the city centre. The second time was by an overnight train from Madrid, which dropped me right at Santa Apólonia, one of Lisbon’s four major train stations and a short distance from the city centre. One of the best things about Lisbon is the transportation. Metro, buses, taxis and a cable car can get you where you need to go, although I do prefer walking myself. You get to know the city better on foot than by any other means of transport. However, to see some of the coolest places, some public transport will be needed.

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Lisbon reminds me of San Francisco for three reasons. 1. They have hills (seven to be exact). 2. They have cable cars.

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3. They have a bridge (Pont 25 de Abril that crosses the Rio Tejo/Tajo/Tagus)) that could pass for the Golden Gate should the Golden Gate get drunk at Pride and be unable to to show up the next morning. The first time I saw a picture of it, I thought it was the Golden Gate. However, the Golden Gate does not lead to a giant statue of Jesus, Cristo Rei. (In this photo, however, it appears more like the Oakland Bay Bridge. In person, it’s the twin of the Golden Gate, I swear.)

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One of the most famous Lisbon sites is the Torre of Belem, an UNESCO Heritage Site and former defense tower. It’s a 5€ entry with narrow stairs, but well worth the entrance fee. This is one of the places you’ll want to catch the cable car to, as the Belem neighbourhood isn’t too close to the centre. The neighbourhood itself is one of my faves as it’s right on the water and is a bit rough around the edges.

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My favourite neighbourhood, however, is the Bairro Alto (High) and it’s neighbour, Bairro Baixa (Low). You can walk or take an elevator between the two. The Bairro Alto has the maze of streets that I love about European Cities (and the nightlife), and the Bairro Baixa has the tourist attractions (including the aforementioned elevator, which also has an observation deck to look over the city).  The famous Praça do Comercio and Praça Rossio are located in the Bairro Baixa. The latter is a place where locals like to meet and both offer splendid people-watching opportunities.

A short walk from the Barrio Baixa is the Castelo de São Jorge, or Castle of St. George. This castle is well worth the entrance fee and also well worth walking around the area surrounding it before and after. It attracts a lot of tourists, but for a good reason. A short walk higher offers a view of the entire city. The castle itself is a relic from the medieval times and comes with a 7€ entrance fee. The prices are going up in Portugal, unfortunately. A little bit of research shows that it’s two euros more than when I visited in 2009.

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Another bridge, this one with its own identity, is the Vasco de Gama Bridge, which is the longest bridge in Europe at 17.2 kilometres (10.7 miles).  It opened in 1998 and is pretty impressive itself.

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Whenever I travel to big cities, I always try to have time for a day trip to a nearby village. I’ve managed to do this both of my trips to Lisbon. In 2009, I went to the fabled city of Sintra, an easy train trip from Lisbon Centre. It’s like the stuff Walt Disney could only dream of. 28 kilometres from Lisbon, this Unesco World Heritage Site is home of several palaces and castles. Walking around this quaint town, I felt as if I were walking through Disneyland, but located in Segovia, Spain. The only things missing was Mickey Mouse and a Roman aqueduct.

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My second visit to Lisbon, I went to another village, Cascais, located on the bay of the same name. Once a residence of the Portuguese royals, this village offers a variety of sporting activities, musuems and spectacular views of the bay. It’s definitely worth the 40 minute train ride from the centre.

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“Decadante” is the word the Spanish use most often to describe their neighbour. Decadante and decaying. And while there is a bit of that edge around, it should not be a deterrant to visit the country. The Spanish say it with a smile, meaning well. Lisbon gives a sense of the old life but also a sense of modern day Portugese life (yes, there are Starbucks).

Overall, Portugal is one of my favourite places to visit. I can’t wait until visit number three.

 

A nice glass of Port(o). Portugal Part 2 (of 3)

The wine known as “port” is famous throughout the world. However, the Portuguese city of Porto (“Porto” in Portuguese and English, and the Spanish are still using “Oporto”, which has never been the actual name), is nowhere near as famous as its wine. We, as the human race, have made a huge mistake. (I might as well continue referencing Arrested Development for the Portugal entries.)

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Porto is the second-largest city of Portugal after Lisbon with 238,000 people (over a million in the metropolitan area). It is one of the most enchanting cities I have had the opportunity to visit, and I remember the city (although perhaps not the names) as if I were there yesterday and not five years ago. It is a place I want to return to so I can savour it with more time and better weather, as it was raining one of the two days I was there. That didn’t stop me from exploring as much as I could.

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I arrived on a Sunday afternoon the week before Easter. Most things were closed, so I had a nice walking tour of the city and entered the churches that were open to look around. The Douro River snakes through the city, separating the main part from the wineries across the river.  It’s a hilly city, just like its rival to the south, Lisbon. However, it offers an elegance and charm Lisbon does not.

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The Igreja dos Clérigos and its towering Torre dominate the cityscape, and it is the tower itself that offer the best views of the city and the surrounding countryside.

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The Ponte do Dom Luis I (Bridge of Sir Louis I) is another famous landmark and the most used bridge of the city.

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Of course, the wineries and bodegas where they make port are the most famous tourist attraction. Sunday evening I ate at a restaurant looking at the bodegas just opposite the river.

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On Monday morning, I walked around the other side of the river where they are located in the drizzle, trying to decide which one to visit. I felt weird, as I was travelling alone (as I tend to do). In the end, I decided that as I lived in Spain, I should pay homage to Osborne, one of Spain’s most famous wine makers. It wasn’t too expensive, and I got a personalized tour from a knowledgeable and friendly Portuguese tour guide. He seemed very interested in Spain, although he gave the tour in English (I’m sure if I went back today, I’d find a Spanish-speaking guide!) At the end of the tour, of course, was the free samples. I forget which sample I preferred, but I knew I had to find lunch soon as all those free samples could make someone a bit tipsy. (There was cheese with that wine though.)

It was also nice to see Porto from the other bank of the river.

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The weather cleared, which meant I had time for another stroll through the town and watch the sunset from the river. Sunsets are always free and are always well worth watching whenever you travel.

I haven’t been back since 2009, but I have been wanting to go back for quite some time. It’s a quiet, charming city full of beauty and friendly people.

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Portugal has amazed me, and although I live in its rival neighbour, it’s a place I always will return to. I still have a lot of things to discover there, I know. The Portugal series will conclude with a look at its capital, Lisboa (Lisbon), the San Francisco of Europe.

The Algarve, or the South of Portugal (Portugal 1 of 3)

I can’t help but think of Arrested Development every time I think of Portugal. I remember Maeby being bound and determined to go to South America to make her parents notice her, despite George Michael’s warning that the plane ticket said “Portugal”. Later, Gob found the ticket and thought the ticket meant Michael had been learning Spanish for a trip to South America.

The joke that (I hope) the audience was in on is that Portugal is in Europe and does NOT speak Spanish but Portuguese. Wink wink, nudge nudge.

I have been to Portugal twice now, and I find it a nice, refreshing change of pace from the big brother Spain that engulfs it and separates it from the rest of Europe. It’s quite cheap, and the Portuguese are friendly and just as cute as their Spanish neighbours. They unfortunately refused my regift of Cristiano Ronaldo, as I TRIED to return him. However, the rest of Portugal is nothing like CR7, and he gives a bad name to the Portuguese.

The second part of my second trip was to Lagos in the south of Portugal. Lagos is one of the most visited places in the Algarve. I “did case” (hacer caso in Spanish, or listened to the advice of) to a few Portuguese friends of mine who said Lagos was the more beautiful of the two. And beautiful it was.

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Lagos, meaning “lakes” in both Spanish and Portuguese, is a small town of 31,000 that attracts a lot of tourists due to it’s proximity to the beach and the Algarve region. Its laid-back lifestyle is quite attractive to those wanting to get away from it all, and the people of this town are accostumed to tourists. Lagos also has a seedy past as it was Europe’s first slave port and was important during those years.

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The food was great, and even though it was seafood heavy, I was able to find some delicious chicken. On the second day, I cheated and went to a Spanish restaurant. Don’t tell! One of my biggest pet peeves about myself is my inability to eat seafood. I love trying new foods, but I just can’t deal with seafood or fish.

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While the old town and the city walls were quite nice, it was once again God who proved He (or She) is the better architect. The cliffs along the shore and the walk to the lighthouse in the evening for sunset were the best part of this town. The coast is spectacular, and the sunset was beautiful.

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On my second day, I was torn between kayaking and going to Cabo Sao Vicente. I ended up going to the Cape as it was the southwestern point of Europe. The bus timetables don’t allow for a lot of time there (and really, there is nothing more than a lighthouse), so I ended up hiking the six kilometres back to the nearest village, Sagres. The cliffs over the Atlantic provided a scenic route, and I worked up an appetite for that Spanish restaurant I found.

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My favourite find in Portugal my second time there was the galão, a café con leche (in English, relaxing café con leche) in a tall glass. It’s not the same as a café con leche in a glass, I swear.

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I was sad, just like that aforementioned Portuguese Boy Cristiano Ronaldo, when I had to board the bus to Huelva that Saturday morning. There is a lot to be discovered in the Algarve region, and I look forward to my next opportunity to explore it. To come, entries on Lisbon and Oporto…to be continued…WHEN? Stay tuned.