Portugal

Day 110: June 30, 2018

I woke up fairly early and FaceTimed Caitlin. I had some toast and a non-salty cup of tea. We chatted for quite awhile.

We left Seville and started our drive to Portugal. We listened to some travel podcasts then I found a BBC podcast with historians talking about a whole range of items. We listened to one about Roman slavery.

We stopped on the side of the road just inside Parque Natural do Vale do Guadiana for lunch. We then practiced what we had learned at our Flamenco class. We sort of remembered it.

We drove into the town of Mértola at the centre of the park. The streets were very narrow. We found a small parking lot and walked to look over the town wall. We walked up to the fort and looked down at the river below. The view over the houses was very picturesque.

View from Mértola

We drove out of the town and back over the bridge for a panoramic view.

View of Mértola

We continued driving to our Airbnb near Aljezur. I called my mommy to wish her a happy birthday along the way. We arrived to the Airbnb and the host showed us our place. On the property is a house with three suites and up the hill is the host’s house. There is another couple staying in the suite beside us. The property is in the middle of nowhere. There are trees all around. It smells fresh and all you can hear is the wind, the birds and the bees. It is quite beautiful.

View at our Airbnb near Aljezur

The host was nice enough to bring a small propane BBQ down for us to use when we asked. Danny made steaks, sweet potato and peppers for supper. Outside, we ate supper wondering, “Where are we?”

Day 110: July 1, 2018

Happy Canada Day! We planned out quite a feast for the day. We woke up late. Our house mates left to go surfing giving us free rein of the yard. Danny went for a run and I did some yoga. Then Danny planned our trip to Georgia. I had to phone my bank because my visa wasn’t working. They had put a hold on it because I used it for myTaxi in Spain then tried to buy something online from a Canadian website. They unblocked it with no problems.

We had Greek salad for lunch which was a bit too flavourful, maybe too much lemon. After lunch, we went for a walk around the host’s 40 acres. There were tons of narrow roads to the south of us. I think we were walking along some forestry roads. We walked for about 30 minutes and then decided to turn back before we got too lost.

I got potatoes ready for us to make poutine. We didn’t have an oven so I boiled them and then fried them. We couldn’t find gravy mix, but I did find a tetra pack of sauce that showed it being poured over steak. I assumed it was similar gravy. It turned out to be quite peppery, but not exactly like gravy. No cheese curds were available so we settled for mozzarella. I also made a broccoli salad. Danny barbecued some burgers and we opened some wine.

Danny barbecuing

We had supper fairly early. It was quite the spread with watermelon and panna cotta for dessert. We wore our only red shirts and did some Canadian trivia online.

Canada Day spread

It started to get a bit cold outside so we moved inside and did dishes. Then we played a game of Hidden 31 which Danny won, followed by Ace to King rummy which I won. Both of us had pains in our stomachs from all the food.

Danny was getting sleepy so he laid down. I called my mom to chat with everyone at the Canada Day celebration back home. When Danny and I talked about travelling for a year, he asked if I had ever been away from home on Canada Day. I hadn’t. It was our thing to get together every Canada Day with the neighbours since I was younger than five years old. I was very sad to be missing it. It was hard to see everyone and know I wasn’t there. It truly makes you appreciate those moments. How wonderful I had it spending Canada Day surrounded by amazing neighbours. Next year…

After the call, I read my book for a bit. Enjoying the “alone” time I had while Danny slept beside me.

Day 112: July 2, 2018

We slept in quite a bit this morning after a very late night. We had yogurt, berries and cereal for breakfast then decided to go for a drive. We stopped in Aljezur to pick up some more tea and water. We aren’t sure about the taste of the water so we thought we’d better be safe and purchase some. We drove an hour out to Cape Saint-Vincent listening to a BBC podcast about Alexander the Great on the way. It was very interesting.

At Cape Saint-Vincent there was a lighthouse and it was very busy. We got out and walked around to take some pictures. Then we walked back to the car passed some vendors. They were selling very nice sheep’s wool sweaters. They were beautiful, but would have taken up my whole bag.

Cape Saint-Vincent

We drove north to Praia do Castelejo and walked down along the shoreline. It was quite misty along the cliffs. We walked for quite awhile then back to the other end where there were some surf lessons going on. We watched, reminiscing about our surf lesson in Australia. There were a couple more experienced surfers further out, but we only saw one go the whole time we were watching.

Praia do Castelejo

We ate some veggies back at the car then drove back home. We listened to a BBC podcast about Hatshepsut, an Egyptian female Pharaoh. When we arrived back I made homemade tomato soup and fancy grilled cheese sandwiches. It was very yummy.

I received a text that I had used 90% of my data so I decided I should reel it in. I’m sitting here now in a hammock listening to the breeze and the birds chirping. Coming out of Morocco I was ready to go home. I was overtired and wanted to be somewhere familiar. Laying here, I remember why I wanted to travel for a year. I wanted this time to lay and listen, look and smell, to appreciate nature. Danny and I spent probably ten minutes the other night watching ants. Now I’m laying here listening to birds remembering the best things in life.

Danny and I swung in the hammocks all afternoon. We chatted about life. Our host came down as we were lounging and took our laundry to be washed. We then hung it to dry. Danny made pasta for supper and we had leftover broccoli salad with it. For dessert, we had the rest of the panna cotta.

Hammocking

We played crazy eights and I had all the luck. Then we played Ace to King rummy and the luck stayed with me. After our game, we went to bed.

Day 113: July 3, 2018

We slept in until 8:30 am this morning. There were a couple of mosquitoes buzzing in my ears all night. I have quite a few bites, but I don’t remember feeling them. Sitting outside I haven’t noticed them there either.

Danny made zucchini, sausages and scrambled eggs for breakfast then we put on our swim gear. We drove in to Aljezur so I could mail a postcard, but the line was ten people long so I decided against it.

We drove on to Adegas Beach. It was a naturist beach. There was a bit of a hike down which I knew I wouldn’t be happy about walking up later. We found a spot in the dry sand and went out to the water. The waves were quite large and the water quite cold. On the main beach there were surfing lessons going on and lots of other surfers. You couldn’t really swim and couldn’t jump in the waves too long because the water was too cold and the waves too turbulent.

Adegas Beach

We suntanned and went to the water when we were hot. We ate lunch there and walked along the short beach. There was lots of beach in front as the tide was out. Around 2:30 pm we headed back stopping at a store for more water on the way.

We both had showers to rinse off all the sand then enjoyed an afternoon tea outside listening to the birds. This was a wonderful place for us to recharge and ground ourselves again. It’s interesting how a certain place can give you such a positive view on a whole country. I am really loving Portugal.

I spent some time in the hammock and Danny made chicken curry and cauliflower rice. We ate outside on a picnic table. It started to get a bit chilly so we went inside. We went to bed, but the mosquitoes would buzz in our ears right when we got comfortable. Danny and I both woke up the first couple of times. The next couple of times just I woke up and Danny was getting angry that I kept waking him as I hunted mosquitoes. The mosquitoes were driving me crazy!

Day 114: July 4, 2018

We woke up at 6:30 am and had yogurt and berries for breakfast. We packed up all our stuff and left a thank you note for our hosts letting them know how much we enjoyed it there. We dropped the garbage and drove towards Lisbon.

We were too early to check in to our next Airbnb so we went to a mall right across the river. We struggled to find parking and had to walk a bit to the mall. Danny booked an appointment for a haircut at 1:00 pm. We ate our packed salad lunch with tuna then went to Vodafone to get me a new SIM card. I think the streaming podcasts was what used up all the data. Oops. The one we bought in Portugal ended up being cheaper than the one in Spain. Too bad we hadn’t gone here first.

Danny went for his haircut and I walked into some clothing stores, but they were too trendy for me. Does that mean I’m getting old? Danny was done pretty quickly so we walked back to the car and drove to our Airbnb. We had to wait a bit for the host to show up, but we were able to park right in front of the apartment. When the host arrived, she asked us about our travels and said she was planning something similar.

Danny went for a run and I finished booking Airbnbs in Georgia. Danny made chicken fajitas for supper and then we watched some more history videos on YouTube before bed.

Day 115: July 5, 2018

We both had a not so great sleep. A sports stadium is just up the road so we could hear cheering until midnight. We had cereal for breakfast and drove 30 minutes to Sintra which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site full of villas and palaces. We started in the main square and saw Sintra National Palace.

Square in Sintra

We went back around to Vila Sassetti, but couldn’t find anywhere to park. We drove back to Quinta da Regaleira, but it didn’t open until 9:30 am. The road to it was a one way so we ended up driving 30 minutes around to get back. Our host had told us to drive there, but maybe we should have planned our route a bit better. Danny was tired of the driving so we parked at the Park and National Palace of Pena and waited for the gate to open at 9:30 am.

We bought tickets and walked up through a lovely park to the Palace of Pena. It was a beautiful surprise. King Ferdinand II restored and expanded the former Hieronymite Monastery of Our Lady of Pena starting in 1838. The architecture and colours made it seem like it was right out of a fairytale. We walked around the terraces and turrets then inside right before a large group showed up.

Palace of Pena

From there, we walked down to the Moorish Castle along the road. It was a military fortress built around the 10th century by the Muslim occupiers.

Moorish Castle

The wind was cooling after the heat of the walk. You could see over to the Palace of Pena and down to Sintra National Palace. Much of Sintra National Palace dates to 1415 and the conical chimneys are for the kitchen.

View down to Sintra National Palace

We continued our walk down and back to the car. We ate our lunch in front of the car then packed to leave. We drove along the one way out which was crazy busy as people scrambled to get a parking spot. It was good that we got there so early and only had to worry about leaving. Others took the bus or hired a rickshaw to get to the palace.

We drove back to the apartment and relaxed for a bit. Danny went for a run then we walked the five minutes to the train station to head into Lisbon.

In Lisbon, we walked around for a bit and found a bookstore. We picked up some English books as we thought they might get harder to find in Asia. We will likely need them for entertainment on our long train ride across Russia.

We walked back to where we were meeting our walking tour at 4:00 pm. It started out pretty boring with an explanation of different clubs in the area. We had no interest in this, but the younger people on our tour likely did.

Along the way, the tour guide asked about our travels and we ended up telling him about our wedding in Nepal. When we tell people our story we sound so eclectic: married in Nepal, quit our jobs, travelling for a year. I always feel like we are way too down to Earth to be saying things like that.

We realized we knew very little about Portuguese history so here are some things we learned:

  • The Moors lived in Lisbon until the 15th century. They introduced new scientific and agricultural techniques.
  • Luís de Camões was the Portuguese poet who wrote a book in the 16th century that is linked to Portuguese nationalism.
  • In 1755, an earthquake destroyed all of downtown Lisbon and it needed to be completely rebuilt. The new section was built in a grid system.
Lisbon
  • The Second Republic of Portugal established in 1933 was a fascist regime. During WWII, Portugal remained neutral. They were anti-communist, but also not Hitler supporters.
  • Portugal had built a vast empire and in the 1960s the colonies started fighting for independence with Soviet Union backing. Soldiers became very discontent and on April 25, 1974 they staged a military coup d’état. The people of the city led the soldiers to where the dictator, Salazar was hiding. He was allowed to go into exile in Brazil. It was known as the Carnation Revolution as carnations were placed in the muzzles of rifles following the coup.
  • Portugal didn’t lose it’s last colony, Macau, until 1999
  • Prior to 1974, children only had four years of school and started working at ten years old. In 1974, 65% of the population could not read or write.

We ended our tour in front of a São Domingos de Lisboa Convent and were told a bit more history. In 1492, the King of Castile conquered the Moorish empire and made Christianity mandatory. Lots of the Jewish population in Castile fled to Portugal. Portugal was in the process of making a peace agreement with Castile and part of the deal was they had to expel the heretics. King Manuel I of Portugal gave the Jews a year to convert to Christianity or leave. Those that converted were referred to as “New Christians”. They were treated as second class citizens.

In 1506, inside the church, a man saw a beam of light and proclaimed it showed the face of Jesus. A New Christian said it was only the reflection of a candle. The men in the church grabbed this New Christian and beat him to death outside. Priests then told the people they would have absolution of sins if they killed the heretics. Two thousand people were murdered over three days. Every country seems to have dark stories such as this.

We were worried at the beginning of the tour, but the guide brought our interest back with the history. He suggested a place to eat so we walked there. I had fish with delicious baby potatoes and green beans. Danny had Portuguese pork with potatoes and cauliflower.

Street of Lisbon

We walked down to the river and under Arco da Rua Augusta which was built to commemorate the rebuilding of the city after the 1755 earthquake. Someone had sculpted elephants and rhinos in the sand along the shoreline.

Arco da Rua Augusta

We walked back to the train station and got some gelato on the way. The cinnamon flavoured one I had tasted like Cinnamon Toast Crunch. We had to wait twenty minutes for the train then it was a twenty minute ride back. We were very tired after such a long day.

Day 116: July 6, 2018

We had pancakes with blueberries for breakfast then packed up. We drove to the Chapel of Bones which was built in the 17th century. It was meant to be a reflection of the transitory nature of the human condition. The words above the entrance read: “WE BONES HERE, FOR YOURS AWAIT”. The chapel was quite eerie. There was also a museum inside, but we decided to skip it.

Chapel of Bones

We drove to Recinto Megalítico dos Almendres, a prehistoric henge built between 5,000 – 3,000 BC. It was likely used to celebrate the cycles of nature. It wasn’t quite as impressive as Stonehenge, but was still cool to walk around. We sat under a tree just outside the circle to eat our lunch.

Recinto Megalítico dos Almendres

We drove some more to the Convent of Christ in Tomar. It was a lot of driving and I was getting very bored in the car. It’s worse because we can’t listen to our iPods, only the music on my phone through Bluetooth. We listened to another podcast, but they always seem to make me sleepy.

We arrived in Tomar and had to drive up the hill a bit to park as the main parking lot was closed off. We were surprised at how amazing the castle was. It was originally a Templar stronghold in the 12th century then the Knights of the Order of Christ took it over. Other additions were completed in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Convent of Christ, Tomar

Walking around the grounds was free, but there was an entry fee to go inside. We walked along the walls then entered. The Templar church was incredible with pictures depicting Jesus’ life.

Templar Church, Tomar

We walked through many dorms where the monks would have lived. The complex was quite large. We were very glad we had made the stop. It was an unexpected surprise.

Convent of Christ, Tomar

From there, we continued our drive to our Airbnb near Vale de Prazeres. The host greeted us and hopped in the back seat to direct us up to the cabin. His partner and him bought the farm three years ago and renovated the buildings. They have a larger house on Airbnb as well. They have tons of fruit trees: figs, apricots, nectarines, plums, olives, etc. There is an Australian tree that is invasive and they are chopping it down to allow the other trees to grow.

Our host is originally Portuguese, but his family emigrated to France then he moved to Ireland before now returning to Portugal. They knew little about farming in Portugal. In the first year, they planted their crops in April and everything died in the heat. They’ve learned that planting is done in October in Portugal.

The place was very nice and even had an oven. We made BBQ chicken pizza, although the chicken we bought was actually turkey. We sat outside looking out over the hill below.

View from our Airbnb near Vale de Prazeres

The sun went down and we were able to look up at a sky filled with stars before it got too cold. Then we went inside to sleep.

Portugal has been wonderful. We’ve enjoyed our relaxing time. Lisbon was nice, but we much preferred all of the places we stayed outside the city. We drive back into Spain tomorrow and head towards Pamplona for San Fermin and the Running of the Bulls.

M

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