Planning our second day in Portugal – Sintra and the Atlantic shore

In order to get to Sintra, we’ll depart from Rossio train station (we’ll get there using the metro from Cais do Sodre to Rossio or Restaudores) and while there, we are definetely taking advantage of the 434 tourist bus, which will enable us to take a route from the train station, to the National Palace and then up to Pena Palace, the Moors castle and back to the train station. However, we are mostly interested in the Pena palace and Quinta do regaleira, while Monserrate palace and Queluz seem great as well. Furthermore, as we would like to spend some time on the beach and maybe also visit Cabo da Roca, visiting all these sites is truthfully an impossible task to accomplish. Let alone the tickets paid would be an important blow on our budget, while I know for sure that we cannot keep our interest constantly elevated after continuously visiting one site after the other.

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So, we’ll opt for a qualitative approach instead of a quantitative one and that means we must make difficult choices. Pena palace and Quinta da Regaleira seem to be a must see and although we might regret it, we’ll probably draw the line there. Provided everything goes according to plan, we are getting up rather early and hopefully we’ll be done with our tour by noon. Then it’s bus 403 to Cabo da Roca, where we’ll probably spent an hour till the bus returns to take us all the way to Cascais. It seems that this bus runs every half an hour between 11.00 and 18.00 and its route starting from Sintra station, passes through six stops before reaching Azoia chafariz and Campo da Roca stops. After that, the bus continues its journey through Malveira da Sera station to Cascais (detailed schedule and route here). Once there, we may visit Boca do inferno and finally catch a bus back to Lisbon.

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Or, we might as well skip Cabo da Roca, if we are too tired, and try to visit one of the beaches near the area. We’ve searched for a while and we have come to a small list to choose from and the way we see it, Rio Tejo divides the beaches near Lisbon to Southern and  Northern ones. Since we are visiting Sintra, the beaches up North seem to be the most convenient choice and that’s where we’ll enjoy the Portuguese sea and sun.
This photo of Praia da ursa is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Praia da Ursa and Praia da Aroeira seem to be some good options near Cabo da Roca. However, although Praia da Ursa seems great, it takes some effort to get there (even if you take the left path, as everyone suggests). Aroeira beach seems to be a challenge to get to as well.

This photo of Adraga Beach is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Praia da Adraga beach is another option further north, along with Praia das Maçãs – bus 441 gets you there from Sintra – which seems to be the most easily accessible of these beaches. My heart is set to Ursa though, but I can’t drag Catherine into this narrow, steep path.

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Our last choice between Sintra and Cascais is Guinco beach, situated 6km north of Cascais, but it seems it is mostly addressed to surfers and we’ll probably skip this one. Our other options North of Rio Tejo, include Tamariz beach in Estoril, São Pedro beach and Praia do Carcavelos. All of them are too close to Lisbon, so they will probably be very crowded, but they are the most convenient to get to.

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Tamariz seems to be a lovely choice,  as it includes a medieval styled building, constructed in the 19th century and I think it’s where Catherine might enjoy the sea more, as the place is easily accessible and may have warmer waters than the sea north of Cascais. There seem to be lots of places to go and enjoy a snack or a drink as well, so our stay around the place can be a boring comfortable affair.

Carcavelos beach is a 20 minute train ride away from Lisbon and what applies to Tamariz, probably applies here as well. Many options for a snack or some coffee, lots of people (probably more than Tamariz) and some guaranteed quality time on the beach, under the bright sun (pretty much what we can do around home though). I am a bit concerned over the water quality, since this beach is so close to Lisbon, but we won’t let that worry us. Another option is plan B, which we won’t follow probably, since it involves hitting the praias south of Rio Tejo, but, since some research is done, I’ll post these options here:

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Costa da Caparica seems to be a nice option across Lisbon, as it is a more than 30 km long sandy beach, easily accessible by bus or a combination of ferry and bus, while one can make use of a small mini train to reach the more distant sections of this beach.

 
This photo of Borda D’Agua is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Praia Morena is one of these distant sections and i guess you can find a useful guide to the place here, while another interesting place could be Da Cabana do Pescador (the fisherman’s hut). The thing about a 30km beach is that we do have one just in our backyard, (well, not literally, but still, it’s only a ten minute drive there), so we would rather experience something entirely different.

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Praia do Meco is another beach, further south, near Sesimbra, 40 km away from Lisbon (some info can be found here), but the longer the distance, the least becomes the possibility we’ll visit places like this one or Praia do ouro.

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Finally, Portinho da Arrabida seems to be the prettiest option south of Lisbon, at least according to our standards, but it seems as if it will be a real hassle to get to, since it seems that we’ll have to travel to Setubal first, before finding some means of transport there. I won’t even discuss the option of visiting Praia do Troia, besides, the last time Greeks visited Troia (Troy) things got out of hand and eventually both sides suffered greatly. We won’t go to Praia do Troia, but we’ll bear them a gift instead…

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Our back yard, guess in Portuguese it would be called Praia do nosso patio posterior

In conclusion, I kind of feel that we are obliged to come to terms with the fact that our time is limited, while our desire to visit many places knows no boundaries. That means that we must lessen our desires and it obviously feels like a bitter defeat since reason suggests that in order to enjoy a country, you must divide the precious time at your disposal wisely. We know for sure that our bodies will be grateful if we don’t push them too hard, yet, our minds might hold a grudge. No matter where we go in Portugal though, we cannot have any regrets, as we’ll enjoy a country that seems to be stunning and is the place I mostly long to discover during this trip (Catherine eagerly anticipates to view Morocco). Still, we will also be having another day to spend in Lisbon, before departing on a night train to Madrid and we’ll make use of that time in order to relax and visit any place we missed during the previous days of our stay.

 

 

Dealing with our forthcoming first taste of Lisbon

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This post is mostly focused on an attempt to make up for being so idle as bloggers over the past month or so. It is some sort of note regarding our trip next month and a way to put the things we plan to do in some sort of order. We are both working long hours, but since I do all of the writing, I’ve been trying desperately and – obviously – with inadequate success, to find some precious time to keep you informed.This photo of Lisbon Oceanarium is courtesy of TripAdvisor

 

Anyways, so far we have booked almost everything that was a necessity and our itinerary will start once we land on Lisbon. We do not own any of the pictures in this post, hopefully we’ll get plenty of our own pics, once we are back home, but for now these will have to suffice, don’t get me wrong, they are great, but I prefer the ones Catherine shoots. We’ll be arriving near midnight, so all we can do during our first day is get acquainted with the city’s metro and get all the way to Alameda station and then to Cais do Sodre, where we’ll catch a taxi to our hostel.

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Image via lisboando.com

After a good (hopefully) night’s rest, we’ll hold onto our freshly started relations with the metro and begin our second day at the Lisbon Oceanarium (Cabo Ruivo or Oriente stations are pretty close) and probably have a closer look at Vasco da Gama bridge while there, before getting acquainted with the man himself, as we are going to pay a visit to Jeronimo’s monastery where he is buried along other prominent Portuguese people, like the poet Luís Vaz de Camões.

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While in the area, we are going to visit Padrão dos descobrimentos and the Belem tower, the place that signified the dawn for many of the voyages undertaken by brave sailors of older times and also the place where many would set down their eyes on their homeland for a last time. We may also visit the nearby modern art exhibition of Berardo museum, since these places are all conveniently located cose to each other. That would bring our first leg of our exploration of the city to a break, before venturing forth to the next part, probably after some more rest while we’ll wait for the sun to abate its aggression.

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For our second part of our first attempts to get familiar with Lisbon, we may climb to Sao Jorge castle and visit the Cathedral and the ruins of the Convento da ordem do Carmo. This church is a remainder of the 1755 earthquake that destroyed the city and the spark that ignited the creation of some philosophical and literary works, among them Voltaire’s Candide and DeSade’s Justine, a mockery of Leibnitz’s view that this is the best of all possible worlds.

Next we will be visiting Bertrand, the oldest bookstore in Europe, where I intent to buy a couple of books in Portuguese (maybe Os Lusiadas or the anarchist banker or both, well… I certainly hope Catherine will be able to pull me out of my book infused state of trance once there). Afterwards, we’ll head to Sao Roque church and head to Miraduro Santa Catarina to enjoy the views of the city, before visiting a place to enjoy a beer or two.

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We’ll also ride one of the elevadores, probably the one most convenient for our routes.  Elevador de Santa Justa seems to be the most prominent among them, connecting rua do ouro (gold street?) to largo do carmo (Carmelite square? Large Carmelite?) and would seemingly be a good choice to reach cafe A Brasileira, where we could enjoy some coffee in the company of Fernando Pessoa’s statue. On the other hand elevador da Bica runs between largo Calhariz and Convento de Sao Pedro de Alcantara, while Ascensor da Gloria, connectsR. São Pedro de Alcântara, near S.Roque church to Praça dos Restauradores.

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Some things worth seeing are probably the two large bridges connecting both shores of Rio Tejo and the Christ the King statue, as well as the Calluste Gulbenkian museum, but we’ll have to see if time and stamina will be on our side during this effort, since we’ll leave this places on our bucket-list for our last day in Lisbon, alongside any other places we fail to visit during day 2,  since we are planning to spend day 3 near Sintra…

Regrettably, crappy customer support is spelled Ibis hotels…

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Well, that was a disappointment, but we will certainly not linger on this wasting more time. Long story short, we have taken care of our needs on accommodation regarding our trip in August, with one disappointing exception. While trying to book a room to our much esteemed Ibis hotels, we never got a confirmation and when we asked them for one, we were informed that they had taken care of our request for a cancellation! So far, they haven’t even replied to our e-mails, so we’ll cut our loses and book somewhere else. Needless to say, they will probably never see us again.

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So, the final form of our itinerary regarding our accommodation shapes as follows:

  • Days 1 to 3 We stay in Lisbon, for a total of 80 euro
  • Day 4, as told in a previous post, we catch a night train to Madrid
  • Day 5, We’ll be staying in Marrakesh, 15   cost
  • Days 6 and 7 we are taking a tour to the Atlas mountains and the desert, an excursion that will amount to 180
  • Days 8 and 9, we were going to stay at an Ibis, at a cost of 72 , but we’ll stay somewhere else for 30
  • Days 10 and 11, were also intended to be spent in an Ibis at Barcelona, instead, after their lousy customer service, we are staying in a hotel at the center for 110

Total cost of accommodation comes to 415 .

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Apart from that, our plants are happily growing strong and we’ve already tasted our first aubergines, peppers and tomatoes. I’m also making some progress in my Portuguese and I’m currently trying to translate extracts of Fernão Mendes Pinto‘s book Peregrinação. It intrigued me greatly that this man was a traveler at a time when voyages were not as easy as in our time. The stories he shared with his contemporaries seems that were too outrageous for them to believe and his was scorned by them as a fabulist (Liar, liar! Pantaloons on fire!). They even made a joke about his name. You see in Portuguese mentes stands for lie, so they would ask: “Fernão, mentes?” (Fernão, are you lying?) and consequently they would respond: “Minto!” (I am lying) instead of Pinto.

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Apart from that, Catherine is working all day, while I’m taking advantage of my limited free time to finally begin working on some pet projects. An hour ago, I started studying some ancient Greek texts in order to detect some info regarding ancient physics. There are some more things to be done, regarding our trip, but the hard part is over.

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Gains and losses – An update on our summer plans

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It has been quite a while since we last posted anything regarding our forthcoming trip. Last time we did, we declared our intention to visit Zaragoza. Well, cross that off! Surely, it is an interesting city but we mostly wished to visit in order to rest on our way to Barcelona, since our time will be limited. However, we opted to spend a bit of our budget on train tickets and we will reach Barcelona after a three hour trip. So, as we have taken care of every transport needs necessary here’s the final form of our itinerary.

  • Day 1 We arrive in Lisbon late at night, therefore, a nap will be our sole experience of Portugal for the day
  • Day 2 sightseeing in Lisbon
  • Day 3 A visit to nearby Sintra and one of the nearby Praias for a swim
  • Day 4 We check out of our hotel and continue sightseeing in Lisbon, till we catch the night train to Madrid
  • Day 5 Spend the day in Madrid until we board an evening flight to Marrakech
  • Days 6 to 9 are spent in Morrocco
  • Day 10 Returning to Madrid after noon, where we catch the evening train to Barcelona
  • Day 11 Sightseeing in Barcelona
  • Day 12 some more sightseeing, before departing in the evening

To sum up, we are done with the main structure of our trip. So far the cost comes to 100 euro flight from Greece to Lisbon, a 23 train ticket to Madrid, a 50 € air fare to Morocco, the same amount for the return to Spain, a 40 € train ticket to Barcelona and a 35 € flight back home. Total amount of 298 euros each for our main transports (We haven’t included smaller fees, such as public transport or taxis in the cities and the train ticket to Sintra). As far as our accommodation is concerned, we’ve already booked our stay in Lisbon and a couple of days in Morocco, so, we need to reserve rooms for another couple of days in Marrakesh and a couple more in Barcelona.

We’ve also quite determined which places to visit during our stay in Lisbon, but we’ll present those once this list is conclusive.

Gardening…

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Once more Easter time is upon us and – since Catherine has taken advantage of this rather long weekend, I’m all alone, relaxing, enjoying an Attack on Titan marathon alongside lamb sandwiches, after a rather crazy evening out with some friends in nearby Arta. I haven’t been as idle as I described though, since over the past days I am preparing a surprise for Catherine to enjoy (hopefully), when she returns back home.

IMG_6484.JPGWe would often talk about how great it would be if we had a garden, but, as we live in an apartment we lack the space necessary to fulfill this wish. Every year though, we take advantage of the small balcony space available to plant cherry tomatoes, peppers, basil, strawberries alongside some flowers. This year I took it up a notch. I planted some more flowers and tried to imitate a sense of relaxation we encounter in most city parks we visit (I have to admit, Planty Park of Krakow was in my mind the whole time during this effort, but you cannot imitate perfection). To sum up this gardening thing, it seems it’s a fun way to travel through your plants to places visited or place you want to visit. And speaking of future travels, here’s the newest update on our next trip.

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So far we have established that we’ll fly from Athens to Lisbon for day 1 (While in Portugal, we’ll also visit Sintra).

On day 4 we’ll head to Madrid (probably aboard a night bus) and in the evening of day 5 we are off to Marrakech.

On day 10 we are leaving Morocco and fly back to Madrid, where we are either taking a bus/train to Zaragoza to spend the night before carrying on to Barcelona, or we are heading straight for Barcelona until the evening of day 12, when we are flying back to Greece. Unfortunately, it seems that we’ll spend a lot of time on the road and we won’t see much of Spain, but our budget and time are limited. Hopefully we’ll have every last detail sorted out during the next couple of months.

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Bacalhau soup

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Since we are definitely visiting Portugal in August, I think that this is an appropriate dish to post. During the Weekend it was a national holiday as celebrations for the start of the Greek revolution against the Ottoman empire were held, combined with the religious Feast of the Annunciation. What’s cod got to do with it? You might ask. I honestly don’t know. Maybe a cod salesman convinced everyone in a country surrounded by sea that Cod is the proper way to celebrate these Feasts:

“Get your cod here! Come on! don’t push each other! There’s plenty for all! Eat the food of heroes’ and make your own revolution! Eat up or baby Jesus will cry!”

The most convincing story I’ve heard though is that during the period of Lent, this was one of the few days that people were allowed to eat fish and strengthen up and while everyone living near the sea could enjoy fresh fish, people living far from it could only get cod on their hands. We enjoy cod though – not as much as Portuguese do I guess – and although most Greeks enjoy it fried or roast, I cooked this tasty soup

Ingredients

2 cod fillets

2 potatoes

1 onion

some celery

4 carrots

salt, pepper

olive oil

lemon juice

First of all you need to heat up some olive oil and then through in the chopped onion and after a while the carrots and potatoes. After a few minutes bring the celery, salt and pepper at play and when the vegetables start to get soft, throw in the cod. DO NOT overcook the fish or it will dissolve in the soup. It only needs a few minutes. Add some lemon juice and enjoy.

Planning this year’s adventure

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Each year we are trying to figure out where will our summer trip take place. The final locations are determined by which places we long to visit, either that be a constant yearning to visit some place, or a desire that just popped up. A significant factor is also the chance to visit a place when an opportunity knocks, such as cheap air tickets, low-priced hotels etc. We usually start this effort on December and by the beginning of Summer we ‘ve already booked every last detail. We take into consideration various options and figure out how much money would we need to visit the place and enjoy it (There’s no point in visiting a place without being able to experience it, according to your desires). Last year we wanted to visit Ireland and Iceland, but we couldn’t afford it. Nevertheless our back up plan worked out great and we had a great time.

This year we didn’t have to search hard, well, at least we didn’t have to so far. Catherine proposed a trip to the Iberian peninsula and we were lucky enough to find inexpensive tickets to get to Portugal and leave from Spain. We ‘ll also try to visit Morocco and that would make it our first trip to Africa.  While in Portugal, we ‘ll visit Lisbon, Sintra and swim in the Atlantic. On our Spanish vacation we ‘ll make do with a short stay in Barcelona (we d’ like to visit more of Spain but there’s so little time). Our Moroccan adventure might consist of a trip to Marrakech and a short excursion on the Atlas mountains and the Sahara. We ‘ll keep updating our info…