Journey To Lisbon
Matt week 15
We had left Rodao in the morning and headed west to Vila Nova da Barquinha as we had seen a free aire there that looked to be quite pleasant next to an art sculpture park with a river running alongside. We stopped at an Intermarche on the way, picked up some groceries for that evening and followed the GPS there. We had brought some beef and decided to attempt the Beef Bourguignon that we had been unsuccessful in making in France. So the meat was seared, the veg were chopped and added to the pot as well as most of quite a nice bottle of Douro Valley red wine along with some herbs . It was then put on a low setting on the hob for about three hours with a bit of stirring on occasion. The results were surprisingly good but I am not sure what a purist would have made of it as we had exchanged the mushrooms for chickpeas!
The next morning we rose quite early and after Els had had a quick look around the park I joined her to go and look at some of the modern sculptures that were dotted around. Some were quite interesting. There were large forms of both a fisherman’s lobster pot made of metal tubing and a double ended anteater shell made from plates of steel as well as some large chrome effect balancing cylinders (made of plastic)and blocks rising from little hillocks which could double up as seating area. There were two installations that I quite liked, one was a series of mirrors that stood next to thin cypresses trees and mirrored them and the second one was a concrete house built around the base of a tree and overall the park had a very nice feel to it with meandering water, waterfalls and curved paths everywhere.
After a quick lunch we hit the road and headed further west. We were going to Obidos a place that had been recommended to us twice but had also been slated on one occasion. Although there was an aire in central Obidos we had found an aire about 4km from the centre of the town that had a 9.5 out of ten rating (which for aires is almost unheard of) so we opted to stay there. When we arrived a young German gentleman approached us and started telling us where we could park and connected us to the electric. He was called Bjorn and his parents were just about to purchase the place and were going to be leaving him in charge. The original owners were still there showing him the ropes and more importantly still taking the money! We had a nice relaxing evening except for the fact that the site seemed to be slap bang in the middle of a variety of fruit tree orchards with the upshot of there being mosquitoes everywhere. We had both been bitten so decided to squirreled away inside Heidi with all the fly screens closed.
The next day I got the bikes off of the back and checked the pressure in the tyres as we were going to ride the 4Km into Obidos. By the time I had the bikes off and tyres checked I had been bitten another three times so with almost no delay we headed off to the town. The town itself is within ancient high walls on the top of a hill which when you’re riding a bike and are not entirely sure where the entrance is can be somewhat confusing. Having pushed our bikes up some very steep slopes we found that there was no entrance to the town on the side we were on, so continued around the walls until we did find a way in.
Once inside the town was full of lovely old buildings most painted or tiled in vibrant colours, with old worn cobbles and tiny little passages everywhere. After locking the bikes up we went wandering and found what appeared to be the main high street. It was a narrow passage way with shops selling the full array of tourist tat with the addition of each having an outside stand with an employee standing behind waiting eagerly for you to purchase the local tipple, which was a cherry gin served in a small chocolate cup.
In all the town was lovely and on taking a walk high up on the perimeter walls it really did look rather quaint but it was just a bit too touristy for me with knocked off Christmas songs pumping out from every corner and a Christmas world for kids that for some reason had a 20ft monster at the entrance way. When we got back from the town we decided to stay another night where we were and head off in the morning to Sintra another town that had been recommended to us by other travellers.
The journey the next day was fairly easy and we arrived at the town’s only aire which was about 3Km from the centre and in a corner of the local football club’s car park. We looked through some local guides and made a rough plan for the next day as to the sites we would like to see and worked out that it was probably going to be best to take our bikes with us to get between the places.
The next morning we headed off, firstly up a steep hill and then down a very steep hill, which didn’t bode well for the journey back. The first port of call was to Quinta da Regaleira which was a chateau and gardens. The main building itself was a very impressive romantic palace which was completely rebuilt at the turn of the 20th century. The owner was young and had inherited vast sums of money and used it to build this very elaborate and fun estate. After firing the first architect before work begun he had opted to use an architect from Italy called Manini who was a specialist in Gothic and Renaissance styles.
On the outside the garden was as equally well thought out and had many hidden gems including grottos, hidden pools and a well with an internal walk way that allowed you to enter at the top and come out underneath a waterfall at the bottom. This, added to the views across Sintra, made this one of my favourite tourist attractions that we have visited to date.
After leaving we took a look at the map and realised that although the next place on our list was right next door unfortunately this would mean a 4Km bike ride up a 400m elevation so the bikes were locked and the bus was caught! The place we were going to was called the castle da Mouros or castle of the Moors and was a medieval castle built around the 8th and 9th centuries during the time of the Muslim Iberia. Only the external walls of the castle remain now but it was worth the trip for the view alone which stretched for miles and miles in every direction. Afterwards we took the bus back down the hill to the centre of Sintra which was a little bland so we decided to walk back to our bikes which were a few Km’s away. On the way back we decided to go the long way around which we hoped would not contain as many hills as the more direct route and for the most it wasn’t too bad until the last slog back to the aire. That evening after the walking and the riding we were both a bit knackered so had a relaxed night in.
The next day we headed to Portugal’s capital Lisbon. The campsite we were going to was about 6Km from the centre of town but having decided we were going to have a night out on the town listening to the much revered Fado music of Lisbon, we decided that we would leave Heidi at the campsite and get a hotel in the centre for the night which would negate the need to try and work out if we could get a bus to the remote outpost late in the evening. Our hotel was quite a nice little place in the Amalfi district (where the music is played) so we got unpacked and headed out on foot to see if we could find a good restaurant to eat in and then a good venue to listen to some Fado music that evening. Luckily Trip Advisor recommended a restaurant only a stone’s throw from our hotel and after popping in for a quick drink and a perusal of their menu we decided to book a table there for 8pm. On from here we walked down the narrow and steep lanes of the Amalfa district looking in all the little restaurants and bars to see who had music on that night. Then we stumbled across a small square with musicians playing so we grabbed a free table ordered a beer and sat and listened to them. They were not that good to say the least and having no idea what Fado music was I hoped that what these guys were doing was not it. After a while we headed back to our hotel to get ready for the evening. I decided to investigate the Fado music by looking it up on Youtube and by now not too much to my surprise what we had been listening to was Fado and after listening to the Fado “Greats” I was pretty sure this type of music was not for me! Anyway off we went for a nice dinner at Chapito’s which translates ‘at the circus tent’, which has an in house circus school. The meal was very pleasant without being wow but was in a nice building with views over the city. From here we popped back to our hotel to pick up some coats as the weather had turned wet and whilst there decided that having listened to Fado neither of us were that keen to go out and about in the rain trying to find somewhere that would let us in without eating or paying a large cover charge to listen to something neither of us was that convinced wouldn’t cause permanent damage to our ear drums.
The next morning we went for breakfast (Ellie even had gluten free croissants) and then packed our stuff and headed off to walk around the city. We walked for a while around the large squares and wide avenues and each time we crossed a road we took our life in our hands trying to avoid busses, trams, mopeds, cyclists and motorists. We decided to head to a place called the LX factory, which was a former industrial site that had been converted into a trendy shopping zone and on the way stumbled upon the Time Out market which was a large undercover foodies heaven selling every type of fresh food and drink you could imagine with all the kitchens in plain view. Ellie even managed to find someone making gluten free pancakes so had one filled with bananas and honey.
From here it was about 3Km to the LX factory so we hoped on to a tram which was so packed we could not make our way to the payment machine in the middle of the two sections #Free-Riding. The Factory was interesting with huge murals on the walls, with restaurants mixed with book shops, Bric a Brac and top end clothing and furniture.
We looked around for a while but were not in the market for buying anything so headed off to an area called Belem which is another trendy spot in Lisbon where the president has his official home. We wanted to see a tower and a monument to Portuguese discoveries but the first was on the other side of the railway track with no obvious way of getting to it without a trek so we went instead to the monument Padrao dos Descobrimentos which had huge carvings of many of Portugals early navigators.
From here we had lunch sitting outside people watching and motorist watching (where you wait for the next crazy thing a Portuguese driver does). Unfortunately the bad weather came back, with me just half way through my spiced burger, and the heavens opened leaving us no choice but to run for cover. This happened to be the bus stop that would take us back to the campsite and thus brought a close to our Lisbon adventure.
That night we made a plan for the following week which would see us go down the west coast to the Algarve and along to Loule just north of Faro where we would be stopping for a while with family and I would be going “Back To Work”.