Yesterday was our last day in Lisbon before starting the journey home. We started the morning by taking a tram tour of the some of the famous hills in Lisbon. We figured it was much better to do a tour instead of waiting in the very long line for the public tram to go the same route. It was a pleasant tour and we had a seat the entire time and could watch the driver. Some of the streets are so narrow that one one tram will fit at a time and people have to give way to the tram because it is so close to the houses. Everything was going smoothly until we got to one area where a car didn’t park properly. The tram tried to get by but the driver ended up calling the police to tow the car. So we had to wait about a half an hour for that fun to end.
After the two hour tram ride, we headed to the train station. It is a 40 minute train ride to Cascais which is on the Atlantic Ocean. The train is only $1.50 so it is a bargain to take the public transportation. The town was better than expected and it was one of the cuter towns we went to. They had cute cafes to eat outdoors and a nice park. Monday was a national holiday in Portugal so the park was full of locals playing in the park. You could basically bike the same trail from downtown Lisbon to the same town we were in so we decided to walk back on some of the trail next to very nice beaches and pretty blue/green water. I’m sad the trip is coming to an end but I have loved seeing new places and always look forward to planning another trip.
I have been keeping a collection of some of my favorite tile from Portugal. This is only a small percentage of all the tile I have seen the last couple of weeks but I love the tile here. Here are some of my favorites.
We made it to Lisbon a couple of days ago. I’m not sure I was ready for how big and loud a city can be after being in a very quiet beach town. Lisbon is by far one of the liveliest cities I have ever visited. It feels very artsy and I’m sure a big party scene at night. I do like walking the old streets of Lisbon and trying to see where the locals live. Lisbon is one of oldest European cities, however the earthquake in 1755 destroyed about 85% of the buildings and killed thousands of people.
The city is built on 7 hills. To help navigate all of the hills, we have been taking trams and elevators. The trams are very crowded and we usually have to stand but it is better than walking up every hill. There is a lot of graffiti in the city but I think it gives good character. The city feels very safe and everyone is very friendly here. Everyone speaks good English and I almost forget that I’m in a different country because I’m always speaking in English.
My favorite walk was through the old part of town by the castle. One house had birds sitting outside singing. Most people have their laundry outside drying. There is a big festival in June so most streets have plastic garland hung. I’m amazed by the beautiful tile on buildings and the stones on the ground. Pictures just don’t really capture how beautiful the individual streets are.
Today we checked out a different neighborhood in Lisbon. Belém is about 5 miles from where we are staying. Since the weather was pretty perfect this morning, we walked there. They have a nice trail along the river. It was nice to see everyone out riding a bike and running on the trail. I would go for a lot of runs on that trail if I lived here. Belém is where the famous Portuguese pastry Pastel de Nata started. We waited in the line that was a block long to get the original pastry. I feel like everything we did today was wait in line because we then had to wait in line for another 30 minutes to get a sandwich to go. Instead of walking the 5 miles back, we wanted to try a tram. We opted to wait for the more modern AC tram…but once we got on, the AC wasn’t working. The tram stopped after a couple of stops and told everyone to get off and we had to run to a tram that was waiting for us that had the AC on. Luckily we ran ahead and got a seat because the tram was packed full of people. One of the reasons I wanted to visit this neighborhood was because there was supposed to be a nice botanical garden there according to our hotel. Once we got there, a sign was posted that it had been closed since October 2018 for restoration.
A couple of days ago, we went to Tavira and Faro. Faro is the largest city in the Algarve and it where most people fly into. It was so windy there that we really didn’t stay that long. Tavira is pretty close to Spain and is actually a very cute town to walk around. Tavira is a pretty good place to get on a boat and do some bird watching around some wildlife. However, the water was choppy and we really didn’t want to get wet. They mention that you can get pretty wet if the water is choppy.
We spent the last couple of days just relaxing around the town we are staying in. We played some padel, which I actually really like. It is very similar to tennis but a lot smaller court and there are walls you can play the ball off of. The rackets are smaller than tennis rackets and the tennis balls are slightly different.
We went to Lagos and Ponta da Piedade yesterday. Ponta da Piedade has easily been one of my favorite spots in Portugal. It is right outside of Lagos and they have great trails to walk around to get views of the natural rocks. As you go down the stairs to the water, there is actually a water taxi station that is very busy. It is crazy to go to sights that don’t have fences or railings to keep you from falling off the cliffs. All of the sights are free so they don’t have any idea how many people visit.
Parking has been no problem in some towns, and other towns, it has been too difficult to find a spot. I can’t imagine how summer months are with all of the tourists. Yesterday was around 100 degrees outside so I was happy when I got close parking spots.
Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park
After visiting Sagres, we decided to drive north for awhile. The area we toured was the Vicentine Coast National Park. This park covers a lot of area and has beautiful beaches. Most of the drive doesn’t include views of the water but through very dry looking land. Occasionally you will see some cork trees or wind farms but generally there isn’t a lot to look at. You do go through some very small towns on the way. The beaches are also not usually close to the highway or to the parking lots. Most of the beaches require you to climb down steep hills to get there. So I actually didn’t go down to many of the beaches but took in the nice views from up high.
Officially made it to the most southwestern point of continental Europe. And there was a German foodcart there where you could get the last bratwurst before America so of course we had to try it.
We didn’t go into the town of Sagres but we did visit the fort and walk around the tip of Portugal. It was pretty hot on the walk around the fort and the flies were terrible. It isn’t really that fun to walk around trying to swat a bunch of flies but the view was worth it. The water is so blue and green that I really can watch it for hours.
We drove from Evora to Salema a couple of days ago. Salema used to be a fishing village but now it is just a small town for tourists. The center of town is down near the beach. There are probably less than 10 restaurants in town but the beach is worth a visit. It is a small beach but the sand is so clean and the water is so blue. We are staying up a very steep hill at a resort of apartments. Below is the view from the apartment. It is also nice to have a kitchen to be able to cook food.
We drove from Sintra to Évora yesterday. Driving in Portugal is very easy once you are on the highways. There isn’t a lot of traffic and the roads are good. We did have to drive by Lisbon on the way and our route took us over a nice bridge and a statue in Lisbon.
The weather has been very hot the last couple of days with temps in the low 90’s. I haven’t seen any rivers by Évora so it is interesting on why settlers built a town here a long time ago. Évora is a UNESCO site and has been inhabited since the 2nd century BC. A lot of the architecture has been preserved over the years and the town was spared from serious damage from the big earthquake in Lisbon in the 1700’s. The city is actually less populated now than it was in the Middle Ages. The town is uniquely painted basically in either yellow or blue paint. The town has built within the original walls and aqueduct.
Anytime someone passes away in town, there is a public announcement posted to the column. There are always people looking at the announcements.
We visited the Chapel of Bones which is literally a room full of bones. It was built in the 16th century and it is believed there are around 5,000 skeletons in there. The bones came from several cemeteries from a dozen of churches in the city. The entrance of the chapel has “We bones that are here, we are waiting for yours”. It was a little creepy…
This is graduation week in town so hopefully I don’t hear the drums all night. This is the only week that bars are allowed to be open all night into the morning hours. Last night wasn’t so bad but the hotel did mention it could be loud tonight. At least there are nice sunsets with the hot weather. The rooftop patio is a very nice place to take in sunset.
The weather was perfect today to visit the palace and castle on top of the hill. The hotel gave us advice to purchase our tickets beforehand and to get there before the park opens because the line gets very long. By the time we got up there, the line was already long. After getting in the park, we then waited in another line for a shuttle up to the palace. You can either do a steep walk or pay for a shuttle. We saved some time and energy and opted to get a ride. While on the bus, we overheard a tour guide tell his group that once they get off the bus, they would go straight for the entrance. They could take pictures of the palace after they see the inside because the line will only get longer.
The first place we visited was the Pena Palace and the grounds. The palace was built for King Ferdinand (the cousin of King Ludwig in Germany who built the famous Neuschwanstein castle). It took a long time to get through the palace because of all the tour groups. If you are claustrophobic, this is not the place to visit. I thought the palace was very nice but really wish they could control the crowds some. We then walked around the grounds to the high cross and some other spots.
After visiting the place, we hiked to the castle of the Moors. It was built in the 8th and 9th centuries. It was one of the most unique castles I have ever visited. You could walk along the walls. There were a lot of stairs, but there aren’t railings so I do wonder how some people don’t fall over the wall. Once we finished here, we then hiked back down to the city. We visited one more palace in the evening but really it was the first two sights that were worth the stressful driving experience here.
The one thing we aren’t doing while in Sintra is driving to the coast to see sunset. You can be the last person to see sunset in continental Europe but we have no desire to get the car out here. I had a very hard time narrowing down the 200 pictures today but hopefully these will give you a sense of how beautiful Sintra is.
All tour books suggest that you don’t drive into Sintra. I think this is one of the times I should have taken that advice. Sintra is located on a hillside about 45 minutes from Lisbon. It is a popular day trip from Lisbon but only if you can come in the middle of the week. Friday – Monday are supposed to be the worst. I would now agree with tour books that you shouldn’t drive into Sintra. We arrived shortly before 3 PM but didn’t get to the hotel until around 4 PM. The first time, we missed the street to our hotel and our detour took us up to the palace. This would be fine except we maybe went 5 mph for about 30 minutes. All the streets are pretty much one way and there isn’t a shorter route to get back. The next time, we got the right street but there wasn’t any parking available in front of the hotel. They have 3 spots but they were full. I was going to try to squeeze into a little spot on the end but I had a bus right behind me who wasn’t willing to go around. So I had to keep on going which was about another 20 minute detour around the city. At least I didn’t have to go back up by the palaces. The next time, I double parked in front of a different building and we were able to get the hotel to come get our luggage and then go park our car in their garage for us. Phew…that was maybe the worst time driving into a city.
The city was packed full of people. It was a little overwhelming after coming from a beach town. We visited the presidential palace before it closed because we knew our full day here would be spent visiting the palace and castle on top of the hill.