A Travellerspoint blog

Portugal

Lazy day in Lagos

sunny 28 °C
View Euro trip 2013 on travellinglise's travel map.

"Subheadings are overrated" - Mark

Foodie moment

Another Lonely Planet recommendation, A Forja. The line at the door almost scared Mark off but as we came out late (9.30pm) all the early diners were finishing up so we were in pretty quickly. Once again we were tempted with the (not complemetary) starters and gave into our hunger just as our food arrived :( (Don't worry, in typical Lisa fashion I fashioned a doggy bag out of a napkin and we took the unfinished stuff away for lunch the nxt day! Hey we had paid for it!). The mains were huge pieces of grilled salmon and Portuguese chicken (not peri peri!)

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Cultural moment

As with any touristy beach destination, party drinking boat cruises are anything but rare in Lagos. We had the funny opportunity of witnessing more than a few girls being dragged back home down the streets to their hotels by their embarrassed partners. To say they were drunk would be an understatement, paralytic would be a better word!

Wow moment

Pinhao beach is another beach in Lagos that we spent the majority of the second day sunbathing at. We met up with our friend Jelise again and just chilled in the sun and relaxed (when we weren't being told to be quiet from a hypocritical snoring lady!). The beach itself is surounded by tall sandy cliffs and has some cool caves to explore. It was a stunningly beautiful day!

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What we learnt today

After spending most of our time each day at the last few places checking out must see tourist attractions, it was a nice change of pace not really having to worry about sights in Lagos, because there really wasn't any. So just having a few days of chilling out at the beach was some well welcome R & R.

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Posted by travellinglise 09:48 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Little Britain in Lagos

sunny 27 °C

"On the beach, you can live in bliss" - Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys

Foodie moment

Mark finally got to soothe his burger cravings at a tiny little hole in the wall place. Great value and very popular, we luckily popped in just after lunch and had the place to ourselves!

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The restaurant next door to our accomodation had a discount for guests of the guesthouse so we decided to head there for some food. We had crumbed squid (I was hoping it was going to be grilled on the bbq) and Piri Piri chicken (which we thought was traditional Portugese thanks to Nandos but in fact it is a dish introduced in Portugal for the tourists who expect Peri Peri chicken! Oops!) All was good though, and a huge caraf of house wine!

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Cultural moment

Enter the English! This was the first place in our trip where we ran into big crowds of English tourists. The accents echoed around every bend (sounding like we were holidaying with Michael Cane!), and suddenly the restaurants were full at 6pm!

Wow moment

Praia da Batata beach is the closest beach to the town center. A nice patch of sand but it gets very busy with tourists from all around the world working on their tans, or showing off their worked out bodies! We noticed a dramatic drop in topless sunbaking thanks to a tourist rather than local crowd!

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What we learnt today

Nearby to Lagos is a place called Sagres. Unfortunately we didn't get to go due to time restrictions, but it is the southern most tip of Europe. The Portugese call it the 'End of the World' as at one point in history they didn't know about Africa and the Americas so they literally thought it was 'The end of the World'.

Posted by travellinglise 11:23 Archived in Portugal Tagged lagos Comments (0)

Stunning Sintra in the Sunshine

sunny 25 °C

"Lo! Cintra's glorious Eden intervenes
In variegated maze of mount and glen.
Ah me! what hand can pencil guide, or pen,
To follow half on which the eye dilates
Through views more dazzling unto mortal ken
Than those whereof such things the bard relates,
Who to the awe-struck world unlocked Elysium's gates?" - Poem by Lord Byron about Sintra

Foodie moment

It seems that Portugal is the place for pastries, as once again we were told we had to try particular pastries, from a particular bakery, whilst in Sintra. Travesseiros are filled with egg yolk, sugar and almonds (long, pillowy ones), and Queijadas are Sintra cheesecakes made with local unsalted cottage cheese, fresh cheese and cinnamon (tart shaped ones). Both must be bought from Piriquita bakery, as they are the ones with the traditional, patented recipe!

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Another Lonely Planet recommended restaurant, Santo Antonio de Alfama. We tried the Pork ribs and Pork stew with Clams. Both were tasty but I really struggle with the saltiness of the food in Europe. Sorry for the awful pictures, the light was really bad and we didn't want to use flash!!!

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Cultural moment

As we ate our dinner tonight, we were treated with a performance of 'Fado'. Fado is a Portuguese music genre "characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and infused with a characteristic sentiment of resignation, fatefulness and melancholia". Sounds depressing right? But as we didn't understand a word they were saying, we just saw a man singing passionately with his eyes shut, in a booming voice accompanied by some very 'Backstreet boys' type hand gestures. Great fun! Plus they did have some upbeat songs which a man and a women sang together, which Mark and I haven't been able to get out of our head since!

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Wow moment

Sintra is a town about 40 minutes by train from Lisbon. The hills and the surrounding area have been classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, both for their cultural significance and for their outstanding natural beauty. And it is stunning! With a huge castle and palace balanced at the top of the hills overlooking the small town full of gardens, palaces and winding streets.

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We visited the Quinta da Regaleira, which is an estate featuring a palace and chapel, as well as a luxurious park featuring lakes, grottoes, wells and fountains. Our favourite was clambouring through underground grottos and climbing up ancient wells, like an adults adventure playground!

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We also caught a bus up to the top of the hill to visit the Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors) which was not only breathtaking because of the amazing views along the castle walls, but also because it included a lot of uphill climbing! It was constructed in the 8th century during the period of Arab occupancy, and although it was used by Christian kings throughout history, it's Arabic roots are still strong as a flag flies above it featuring the word 'Sintra' in Arabic characters.

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What we learnt today

The Portuguese are a bit tricky when it comes to starters in a restaurant. Coming from Spain, the home of (sometimes) free tapas we were not particularly surprised tonight when a starter was put on our table without us having ordered it. Hungry as always we dug in. It was only at the end of the meal that we realised that each element on the starter (eg, Olives, Sardine pate, Bread, Butter) each had their own price tag, and whatever you have eaten when the plate is collected is added to your bill. Not a large amount but still not an expected cost! Very tricky!

Posted by travellinglise 10:38 Archived in Portugal Tagged sintra Comments (0)

A Lazy Day in Lisbon

sunny 25 °C
View Euro trip 2013 on travellinglise's travel map.

" Twas the day after Sant Antonio, and all through the town
Not a creature was stirring, not even a ...... Sardine!"

Foodie moment

We ventured out to try the famous Custard tarts of Pasteis de Belem, still being made using the ancient, secret recipe of the Jeronimos Monks. With cinnamon and icing sugar to sprinkle on top, we were not disappointed!

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We decided to stay in and try the advertised 'Hostel dinner'. For 10 Euros we were getting a starter, soup, main, desert and 3 drinks of our choice so it was a great deal... but you never know what the quality will be when cooking for a big group. Lucky for us the cook was a lovely Portuguese lady, who was a great cook!! Brie with honey on crackers, vegetable soup, chicken wrapped in ham and stuffed with pine nuts with rice and salad and a delicious chocolate brownie and ice cream for desert! So much food and so delicious!

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Cultural moment

Today we got to see the after effects of the partying at the San Antonio festival. All the shops were shuttered, the streets deserted apart from men in fluro vests doing the clean up, not a soul to be seen who wasn't a tourist! Needless to say it was a public holiday, so shops being closed wasn't that big of a surprise, but it just shows that they party hard in Lisbon... and then are more than happy to take the next day as recovery snuggled up in bed (Financial crisis or not!!)

Wow moment

We took the tram to 2 sights just outside of Lisbon today. The Belem tower was a fortress built in 1515 on the river to protect the nearby palace. The spiral staircases took us to the top of the tower for some amazing views of the water and bridge.

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We also visited the chapel of the Jerónimos Monastery. The most interesting aspect was the intricate carving on the columns, and the beautiful stained glass windows.

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What we learnt today

Throughout our trip we have come across A LOT of Americans also backpacking. They are often quite young (19-22), and either travel in big groups or gravitate towards each other at hostels. And unfortunately these groups don't do much to help counteract any of the stereotypes of Americans we hold - they are loud, cannot drink without a drinking game being involved, say incredibly ignorant things and can have the tendency to be quite obnoxious. Now, don't get me wrong we have met many great Americans who are none of these stereotypes... but in big groups, all around Spain and Portugal, Americans are driving us nuts!!!

Posted by travellinglise 07:41 Archived in Portugal Tagged lisbon belem_tower jeroninimos_monastery yes!lisbon_hostel_dinner Comments (0)

Celebrations with Sardines & Saints

sunny 22 °C
View Euro trip 2013 on travellinglise's travel map.

"Hard to call it a party without sardines" - Brandon Mull

Foodie moment

We trecked off to find a restaurant Lonely Planet had suggested for dinner, 'Faca & Garfo', this is can be a risk as they write the reviews such a long time before publishing you have no idea what state the restaurant will be in now (could be shut down, raised its prices due to Lonely Planet popularity, new owners). Luckily this time it was a lovely little restaurant with a really friendly waitress and reasonable prices. We were given the English menu and I couldn't find any of the recommended dishes on it. When i showed the Portuguese names to the waitress she pointed out that 'Alheira de mirandela' (chicken sausage) was 'traditional Portuguese sausage', and 'Bife a casa' ( Steak with Cream and Port wine sauce) was 'Steak knife and fork' on the English menu!! Sometimes the English menu can help... sometimes it hinders!! Anyway, needless to say, the dinner was delicious and she even managed to upsell us on desert much to Mark's joy, Creme brulée and Chocolate Mousse. Very satisfied :)

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Cultural moment

The Portugese LOVE a festival, and everyone gets involved. They are either out on the streets partying, eating and drinking, or they set up a stall in front of their house and sell food and drink to anyone that passes. They stay out ALL night regardless of age, much more stamina than us wimpy Aussies who definitely didn't make it to sunrise!

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Wow moment

We had heard a rumor that there was going to be a festival in Lisbon on the 12th of June so we skipped Coimbra and headed straight there. I don't think we really understood how big the Festa De Santo António (Feast of Saint Anthony) was until we walked around while they were setting up in the afternoon, and they were constructing beer stall after beer stall, setting up bbqs lining the street and there were kilometers of tinsel hanging in the streets. Later that evening, we met a girl from Darwin named Jelise and a couple of Kentucky boys (who we just called Kentucky!) and we hit the streets. They were heaving with people, the air full of Portuguese music and the smell of grilled sardines. The town of Lisbon is incredibly hilly and we climbed and climbed all night, roaming the streets, enjoying the amazing atmosphere! We met a group of Portuguese guys who we chatted to for hours learning all about them, the language and having a laugh. It was a great night!!

What we learnt today

The Festa De Santo António is also known as the festival of Sardines. The reason for this is that the story of St Anthony tells us that when he was a missionary in Italy he became depressed because the locals wouldn't listen to his sermons, so he went to the lake to talk to the fish. Suddenly row upon row of fish came to the surface to listen to him talk. The townspeople came to see this and were amazed as the fish bowed their heads and opened their mouth in reverence to Saint Anthony! In response to this miracle the festival is based heavily around the grilling and eating of the biggest sardines I've ever seen!!! Plus they hand out Sardine hats to wear in the festivities, but these are incredibly rare. Jelise and I tried our hardest to get our hands on one all night, even offering money to confused Portuguese children for theirs (One Euro for a child, Jelise?!)... we finally struck luck when meeting our lovely Portuguese friends who gave us theirs at the end of the night! Success!!

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Posted by travellinglise 09:11 Archived in Portugal Tagged lisbon Comments (0)

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