Lisbon - Belem - Cacais - Sintra
27.06.2015 - 13.07.2015 27 °C
Intercontinental Lisbon put on a beautiful breakfast. Many of the staff speak English and are only too happy to do so. The city as I have probably said was raised to the ground on 1 November 1755. Half of its population was killed. The planning has certainly benefited today’s people as there is plenty of room for everyone to move around the place. The buildings remind me of Poland as there are many in disrepair and in need of some money spent. We drove down the avenue from Liberty Square passed hotels, apartments, theatres and restaurants and commenced our walk around the city square.
Our local guide pointed out, as we looked above the centre square, all that remained of the Gothic cathedral that was destroyed in the earthquake. Further down the square was an escalator that took people to the higher part of the square. Once again, the buildings in this area were very drab and needed money to be injected into them. However they have a good deal of character and there were some lovely shops to be seen. The tiles on the ground made you feel like there were highs and lows but they were actually flat – optical illusion. Once we had visited the shops we were back on the coach and headed for Belen Tower.
This tower was to protect the harbour from pirates. It actually looked like a governor’s residence so it fooled many sailors. There was also a replica plane there that commemorated the first flight across the Atlantic. We drove around the harbour looking at the bridge and the Christ statue on the hill. The harbour looked magnificent under the brilliant sunshine. It has not been as hot as Spain we have to say. Nearby, there was a beautiful church, with a flat block of rooms which was once the monastery but is now been made into two museums.
Our next experience was a visit to Pateis de Belem, established in 1837. It is famous for making custard tarts and OMG, they were delicious. Tom had organised for us to have an area to eat our morning tea – a tart and a drink – away from all the other customers.
Before we knew it, we were on the outskirts of town and heading north along the beaches of Portugal. What a glorious sight. There were people swimming, sunbaking, kite surfing, paddling in rock pools, paddle boarding and swimming in the clear blue water. We stopped at a town called Cascais where we had time to look at the shops before heading for Visconde da Luz restaurant to have our seafood lunch. Initially we had cheese, bread and olives, followed by Iberian ham with honey dew melon. The piece de resistance was seabass with vegetables, mussel and a prawn. The fish was so delicious. The wine and beer was pretty good too.
After wandering back to the bus, we headed to the palace at Sintra up in a mountainous area. On route we passed a race track, Estoril, used for the Portugese Grand Prix. The bus driver, Victor, deserves a medal. He manoeuvres that bus along narrow mountain roads. Some cars had to back up to let us through. The National Palace was a summer palace for the king of the time, quite cool and picturesque. On top of the mountain, there are the remains of the lookout battery. Inside the palace, there were many features worth seeing. The feature that impressed me was the ceiling in one room that was once the patio but was closed in. It looked like a beer barrel or the side of an old sailing ship. It was a rounded shape and there were simple paintings of galleons. Other features included elaborate doorways and ceilings, furniture, the kitchen and the bedrooms of the king the guests and shell top shaped lights.
After a quick trip back along the motorway, we had a cup of tea with Bill and Denise. A taxi was flagged so that we could go back to the town square to do some shopping. As it turned out, the shop with the cork handbag that I had seen was shut (it was 7pm) so we had to settle for a walk to the harbour, looking at the statues and buying some alcohol for the men. We took a taxi back to the little restaurant where the music was already playing. Denise and Bill had beef stew and Ross and I had a lovely plate of pasta. It was a delicious meal. The tour guide was eating there as well and we had a chat and a good laugh. Finally, it was tea and toddy in the room. What a great day!