A frivolous round-up of 2014!
Most enjoyable films
Most enjoyable piece of music
Happy by Pharrell Williams – the only song that caught my attention in 2014. Yes, the music scene has changed somewhat since my days of seeing more than 160 bands in a year!
Most enjoyable television programmes (as seen here in the UK – not sure whether they’re available elsewhere!)
Great Continental Railway Journeys – is Michael Portillo stepping into Palin’s (Michael, not Sarah!) shoes as our leading travel broadcaster?
Speed with Guy Martin – still crashing (at 90 miles an hour with just a scratch on his crash helmet in the last one of the latest series), but getting various records along the way.
Marshall amplifier documentary on BBC4 – can’t remember the exact title, but it was the story of the UK’s iconic rock amp brand
My Autobiography by Guy Martin
The Moon’s A Balloon by David Niven
The People’s Songs: The Story Of Modern Britain In 50 Records by Stuart Maconie
UK Destinations (further afield on the agenda for 2015!)
Suffolk – unexpected pleasure that’s going to get at least one return visit. There will be a piece on here in early 2015.
North Norfolk – the place of many visits now. Relaxing, peaceful and a delight. There will be a piece on here in early 2015 too!
Langdale Valley – two visits in a month. No mobile phone reception and the week in an apartment was nice and quiet – unlike the two campsites visited over the August Bank Holiday weekend. That weekend was a one-off, because I don’t usually head off on a Bank Holiday!
Up the Langdale Valley from above Elterwater Village
The view from Southwold Pier – complete with inland lighthouse…
Take your pick of those on the North Norfolk coast…
Flixton Air Museum, Suffolk – wasn’t in the guide books, a poster was spotted on the notice board at a camp site.
National Media Museum, Bradford – first visited in 2000, plenty of other visits since!
Salt’s Mill, Saltaire – galleries, a good book shop, art shop, home shop, outdoor shop and a busy diner too.
Fodder Bailey’s Torte at Treeby’s Gallery Cafe, Keswick
Bacon, sausage and egg bun, Devil’s Bridge, Kirkby Lonsdale – look for the motorbikes and you’ve found the right place!
Lamb Rogan Josh and Chapatis at The International, Bradford – good choice before or after a film at the nearby National Media Museum or a show at The Alhambra (or a gig by The Mission at Rio’s).
Greetings from a bright, sunny and chilly Yorkshire!
It’s bright, it’s sunny and it’s chilly. Caroline’s out on the bike, I’m on the computer and taking time out to say thanks to everyone who has been looking at this website over the last few months.
Have a good day whatever you up to and wherever you are – wisepacking is picking up readers from all over the globe!
Ten days of gifts – 1
The first of two gift ideas for yourself or others – for now or for later!
I’ve mentioned the Osprey Farpoint 40 pack (as seen above) and Rohan’s Cool Silver t-shirts (as seen below) a few times on wisepacking (and on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum too).
I make no apologies for mentioning them again, because both are useful items to have around whilst travelling.
Relevant postings on wisepacking are listed below – read and enjoy!
And that’s the last of the gift ideas – have a good holiday season, whatever you’re up to!
Ten days of gifts – 2
Your starter for Tenn – the Ladies Sprint Short Sleeve Cycling Jersey
It’s about twenty years since I first started doing reviews of cycling kit for YHA’s membership magazine Triangle and I also had quite a few years reviewing clothing, bags and camping kit on Cycling Plus magazine too.
So when an opportunity arose to review some cycling kit on wisepacking, it was a case of ‘Yes please!’ and time for Caroline to do her stuff given that she’s getting some miles under her wheels thanks to her commute and leisure rides and that she usually packs some cycling kit when we’re away in the UK and there’s a bike hire shop nearby.
The Ladies Sprint Short Sleeve Cycling Jersey (£27.99) by West Sussex based Tenn uses an advanced 100% polyester fabric. This has enhanced wicking and drying properties, while the sun, wind or water helps to release odours. There’s also high UV protection too.
Caroline’s been racking up the miles recently in fine and not so fine weather, so she’s been using the Sprint Short Sleeve on its own and as part of a layering system with a base layer from either Rohan, Helly Hansen or The North Face underneath and her usual Altura fleece and Altura waterproof jacket on top.
Given the miles done and the speeds recorded on Strava, she’s not been hanging about, yet the Sprint Short Sleeve has performed well. It’s got damp with sweat a few times, but it’s been dried and used again over the following days and there’s been no need to chuck it in the washing machine to get rid of any nasty niffs.
The supplied size 10 top fits well, looks good and it’s easy to get some ventilation going on thanks to the zipped neck fastening. The length is fine and the silicone waist grippers work well, ensuring that the top doesn’t ride up when Caroline’s using the drops on the bike.
There’s also a reflective strip on the back of the shirt and a couple of reflective prints too, but one of these is starting to peel off. Washing the shirt has been with either Lifeventure Travel Wash when it’s been hand washed or Sainsbury’s Non-Bio Powder when it’s been in the machine.
There’s three decently sized elasticated pockets on the back of the shirt and there’s a zipped mobile phone pocket too on the front – a HTC Desire phone can be stashed away.
If you have a bigger phone, you can always put that in a jacket pocket and use the mobile pocket to store loose change for coffee and cake stops (Caroline’s secret is out!).
It’s the first item that either of us have seen from the Tenn range, but if the comprehensive selection of clothing and other kit that’s on their website is as good as the Ladies Sprint Short Sleeve Cycling Jersey then it may be well worth checking out.
Ten days of gifts – 3
Snugpak GeoGrip Gloves: £19.95
After a hat or a Buff, another useful accessory is a decent pair of gloves.
If I’m away in what promises to be cold, wet or wintry conditions, then I take a pair and always pack at least one spare pair.
Why? Because I was very glad that I did a few years ago when I took a pair of performance fleece gloves off in order to take one shot on a motor driven compact camera when I was doing some cross-country skiing in the Lillehammer area.
I’d put my gloves over the top of my ski poles and although the time elapsed between taking the gloves off, taking the shot and going to put the gloves back on again was less than 30 seconds, they’d already frozen up. Spare gloves were dug out of my pack and donned before continuing the day out. Yes, it was that cold!
Now I haven’t had the chance to try these Snugpak GeoGrip Gloves out in total anger yet, because the main rainfall has come overnight around here and we haven’t has yet had any snowfall either, so not even the snowball test has been carried out as yet.
When the snow does arrive (and the Met Office think there could be some in January), I’ll dive back on here and let you know. In the meantime, the gloves are going to go in the car in readiness for such eventualities, largely because when we had the last batch of decent snow, there was about six inches of the stuff appeared overnight.
So, what makes these Snugpak gloves worth £19.95?
They’re made from neoprene, so they’re water resistant and offer warmth too. The neoprene allows the user to wear them when wet and helps in the drying time stakes whilst the rubber palm grips allow the user to grip ski or walking poles, cameras, maps, coffee mugs or a medicinal dose from a hip flask at the end of the day out.
There’s an emphasis on the amount of dexterity available on these gloves. I haven’t had any problems with a lack of dexterity on the usage so far in milder conditions, even though I still have some problems with my left hand.
That’s down to the after effects of that stroke I had ten years ago and whilst I’ve almost got full use of my fingers once more, that usage comes and goes from time time as a few supermarket till operators will testify to after I dropped a load of loose change all over the place when paying for purchases!
As far as the right hand goes though, there’s no worries, which is a good job as I am right handed. Gripping tightly and using cameras or fiddling with keys when I get back home isn’t a problems and neither is opening and closing straps or zips when I need to get something from a pocket in my pack or whatever jacket I’m wearing at the time.
The GeoGrips are easily donned and removed thanks to their stretchy cuffs, they can be clipped together and then onto a jacket when necessary and they’re easily washed too (it’s a hand wash though, not a machine wash).
Other gloves are available and on the usage so far, the GeoGrip Gloves are performing favourably. When the snow or the rain really hits home, then they will be taken out and used in anger along with a select few that I’ve been using for a few years now (I’m a bit fussy when it comes to gloves!).
Ten days of gifts – 4
If you want to keep warm – get a hat!
Hats come in all shapes and sizes – mountain caps, wooly numbers with ear flaps, ones that look like they should be getting stroked whilst the owner says something like ‘We’ve been expecting you Mr. Bond…‘ or pure and simple hats like the Eider Garmish Beanie (£20) that’s pictured above.
Yes, it’s bright and noticeable, but that’s something that I’m never going to be worried about. Yes, my usual choice of hat colour owes a lot to a Henry Ford quote, but there are times when something that’s bright and colourful is preferable to having a whole outfit that wouldn’t be out of place at a gig by The Mission, Sisters Of Mercy or Fields Of The Nephiim (and I have been to gigs by two out for the three bands mentioned there – the middle one is the odd one out!). Not saying that I wear a lot of black, but I just happen to wear a lot of black…
There’s a practicality to wearing a hat. It can be a style statement or a piece that like the Eider Garmish Beanie in that it’s designed to tie in with other Eider clothing. It’s also a practical choice too as around 40% of body heat can be lost through the head. Wear a hat and you should feel warmer in no time.
If it’s cold and crisp and even, then the warmth should help matters. If it’s snowing or raining, then a waterproof hat could come in useful or you could simply put your waterproof jacket’s hood up (unless of course you’re the bloke I served about seven or eight years ago who said he wouldn’t be seen dead using his jacket’s hood! There’s always one…).
There are also times when wearing a hat indoors can be useful. The only times that I’ve worn a hat indoors have coincided with heating breakdowns in shops or at home or the one time when I went away for a couple of days and returned home to find that all of the pipes in my rented house had frozen up – time to get a hair dryer out on the pipes as recommended by the plumber who was working on a similar problem a few doors away from me.
There are alternatives to hats though – such as the ubiquitous Buff.
The Buff is one of the most useful pieces of kit in both Caroline’s and my own outdoor or travel wardrobes. We both have a few variations on a theme by Buff and makers of lookalike items with the standard and Polar Buffs proving to be the most useful and long-lived weapons of choice.
They’ve been used as neck gaiters, pulled over the face in cold weather, used as a balaclava in cold weather or worn as a helmet liner in wintry weather. Buffs have also been used as hand towels, packing for small crockery items bought abroad and as handkerchiefs on occasions as well (and washed soon after because only one of the Buffs I have is a green one!).
I’ve used mine whilst walking, cross-country skiing, climbing and whilst travelling. Caroline uses her examples around town, whilst commuting to work on the bike, whilst out on longer rides and also when she’s travelling. Her sons use Buffs on really long bike rides and travelling (the eldest son) whilst her youngest wears his on his Suzuki 650, for climbing or when jumping out of aeroplanes. During one trip to the States, he took off in a plane 34 times in a fortnight and landed in a plane twice – the other 32 landings were ones made with the help of a parachute…
There will be another gift-related post later on today – missed yesterday as there was a food and drink buying session taking place. Ours was the smallest trolley load in each of the supermarkets we visited – anyone would think the shops were closed more more than one day this week!
This could be the start of a beautiful friendship III
After a couple of nights in Tavira, our moving on day arrived and after a short wait in the railway station, we headed off to Lagos in search of a bus to Sagres as we travelled from one side of The Algarve to the other. This was down to be the treat of the trip as we were booking into a hotel that was several stars above what we’re used to – the Pousada do Infante, part of a sixty strong group of Portuguese hotels that include buildings old and new.
Pousada do Infante, Sagres
Pousada do Infante dates back to the 1960s, but it is one of the more modern buildings. It’s the only hotel we’ve ever stayed in with its own helipad and it’s the only one either of have stayed in because we were entitled to a discount on the room rate for being over 55!
The reception staff were great, but a bit bemused by our relative lack of luggage and the fact that we didn’t have a car. They were also bemused when we were both soaked through when we asked for our room key the following day. ‘It’s okay’ said Caroline ‘We’re English, we’re used to a bit of rain now and again…’.
Sagres provided the most peaceful part of the two weeks in Portugal. The hotel was quiet, as were the local bars, restaurants and the local attractions. A morning walk to Henry The Navigator’s Fotrazela and onward to the lighthouse at Ponta de Sagres was followed by lunch at beach bar Raposo and that sudden rainstorm.
We’d also made a wonderful faux pas. Our intention had been to head to Cabo de Soa Vincente, but we didn’t make it as we’d mistakenly taken the road down to Fortazela instead. Cabo de Soa Vincente is what was initially thought to be the edge of the known world, but we didn’t make it – our mistake however does give us one very, very good reason to revisit Sagres on one of our next trips to Portugal…
Our first evening meal had been an outdoor one at an Italian restaurant, but as we were staying in a Pousada, we ate in on the second night. The meal, wine and coffee went down well and it was a cut above our usual night out at home – as was the bill.
Given that we didn’t have to check out until lunchtime, we headed down to Porto de Balleeira harbour the following morning before picking up our bags, hitting an internet cafe for orange juice, mango juice, espressos and a bit of mail checking before getting the bus to Lagos.
Lagos Youth Hostel
After two nights in a Pousada, a night in Lagos Youth Hostel was always going to be a bit of a culture shock, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Caroline and I are both old school hostellers – I was on Border and Dales Regional Council in the 1980’s and did some of YHA magazine’s gear reviews in the 1990’s whilst Caroline was an assistant warden at Malham Hostel back in the day.
Yes, the room was basic, but it was better than one or two hotels we’ve been in here in the UK and a darn sight cheaper too. Breakfast portions were on the small side, but as we didn’t have to check out for a while, there was time to get a second breakfast at a cafe down the road. Coffee and a pastry filled the gap that was still there after the first breakfast, but they were also tastier than the evening meal we’d had on the night of our arrival in Lagos.
That early morning in Lagos was pretty quiet. The centre had been teeming with people before we checked into the hostel the previous night. The route to the hostel from the bus station had taken us straight down the main tourist strip and boy, it was busy. We did have a short wander around after our second breakfast to see what we’d missed, but as the visitor numbers increased, it was time to get our bags and get the train back to Lisbon.
We were pleased that we’d booked our tickets in advance at Tavira as Lagos station was busy and only one of the ticket windows was open for business. There was an hour or so to kill before our train and it was interesting to see the size of bags that people were toting around with them.
The younger crowd had the biggest bags on their backs, the thirty-somethings had wheelie bags and the over 50s were those with the smallest bags. The wisdom of the age? You might think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment!
Whilst the train from Lagos to Tunes was a local one, the narrow price gap between first and second class meant that an upgrade to first class for the section between Tunes and Lisbon was a no-brainer. This train did however terminate at a station we weren’t familiar with, so we got the Metro back into the city centre and made sure our Lisbon Viva Viagem travel cards were charged up with enough credit for the Metro ride to Lisbon Airport later on.
As it was late afternoon and it was Friday, we stashed our bags in the left luggage lockers in Rossio station (one locker for two bags – another joy of travelling light…) and headed for coffee, a stroll and then made a final decision about sleeping at the airport in readiness for a 5am check-in time.
I’d done it at Manchester and Leeds/Bradford before and Caroline had also spent at least one night sleeping on the floor of a terminal building so the plan was hatched – forget about getting a room and just go for a good blow-out meal, get the bags and head off to the airport.
So that’s what we did. No fuss, no messing and we just got on with it. Da Vinci near Rossio station was busy, but they just kept on bringing more food, tables and chairs out as almost everyone was wanting to eat outside as it was such a warm night.
The Metro to the airport was quiet, but the terminal was quite busy and it became obvious that we weren’t going to be the only ones looking for benches or comfy chairs for the night. So it was a case of Sleepless in Lisbon as the night wore on until the check in opened around 5am and we could head through to the food court in the departure area.
And yes, that was closed. We did get a couple of coffees from the Harrods coffee shop and then wandered through to the main shopping mall for Caroline to buy a bottle of ginjinha and for me to buy a bottle of Tawny Port.
Our trip was almost over, but the return visit was already being planned. It’s another fortnight with one week in Lisbon to see the parts we didn’t get to on this trip and to make side trips to Cascais and Estoril from Lisbon. After that, the plan is to visit Coimbra for a night or two and then head up to Porto to explore the city and the Douro valley – and do a couple of visits to port wine lodges to find out the story of port and to partake in a glass or two in the interests of our own research into port wine.
Travel wise, it will be local trains to Cascais and Estoril and either train or bus from Lisbon to Coimbra and then onwards to Porto before heading back to Lisbon for the plane home – unless we can fly into Lisbon and out of Porto from the north of England. Time and airline schedules will tell and no, we don’t intend to spend another night in Lisbon airport – once is enough!
Did we enjoy our trip to Portugal? Oh yes! There were places we loved, there were places we didn’t, but there were always places that we found that were stunning, relaxing and interesting. We missed out Belem and a good walk around the Alafama in Lisbon, but we did find some good eating places around the city centre.
We didn’t go for the local seafood specialities as neither of us are into seafood, but we did eat well as even the busiest cafes or food stalls offered good food and drink. And that’s why we’re going back… for more ginjinha and to try the pasteis de nata from the bakery in Belem… We did try other variations on this custard tart theme in Lisbon and elsewhere, but the ones in Belem are highly rated.
As I said earlier – this could be the start of a beautiful friendship…
This could be the start of a beautiful friendship II…
Templo Romano (Temple of Diana) in Evora
And so to Sintra. We’d heard good things about Sintra, an apparently mystical town that’s surrounded by palaces which has attracted many (including Lord Byron) over the years. The attractions are spread out over a wide area in and around the older quarter. As we were staying at Piela‘s in the more modern part near the railway and bus stations, the palaces and other attractions were a good walk or bus ride away.
There is however a circular bus route from the centre that offers a day ticket which allows you to travel between the main palace attractions. With Caroline doing the visiting and me doing some reading, it made sense to get a ticket each, so whilst she was exploring, I was reading and having an espresso nearby and we could talk and eat afterwards rather than meeting up at a specific time or place. In case you hadn’t guessed it, Caroline’s the one for history, older buildings and historical culture whilst I’m more for Horrible Histories, more recent events and museums relating to aircraft, cars, exploration and the like.
As one might expect from a destination that’s a World Heritage Site and Sintra being high on the destinations list of many tourists, the likes of Palaciao Nacional de Sintra, Castelo dos Mouros, Parque da Pena and Palacio Nacional da Pena were very, very busy.
Heading around the sights didn’t take us as long as we thought though and it was agreed that if we paid another visit to Sintra, it would be as a side trip from a longer stay in Lisbon rather than a separate destination for two nights. That’s also been the opinion of others who have joined in on discussions about Sintra on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum over the couple of days before this was posted.
One thing we did learn though is there’s a very good treat available for the princely sum of one euro in Sintra and a few other places besides. It’s a cherry liqueur called ginjinha that can be served in glasses with cherries, in glasses without cherries or without cherries in small chocolate cups. Which version did we go for? That last one on the list of course!
As meals weren’t part of the deal at Piela’s in Sintra, eating out was done at a mix of cafes, former bakeries or tourist restaurants around town. Place of choice for breakfast? Casa da Piriquita – good coffee, good cakes and pastries and a popular venue with both tourists and locals too.
We also discovered a useful treat at the local mini-market – servings of red wine in the kind of cartons you’d normally associate with child size doses of orange or apple juice. No need for a bottle opener – just tear off the corner of the carton and pour… A good move? Oh yes, especially as we’d had a few goes trying to open a bottle of wine the night before using a specially bought cork remover that wasn’t playing ball.
After exhausting Sintra and having a late afternoon train booked for Evora, it was back to Lisbon for a bit of shopping and some lunch.
The shopping was supposed to be for nibbles and drinks for the train, but a camera shop was spotted, a trial run undertaken and a purchase made. A Nikon Coolpix 3100 with case, 4GB memory card plus a charger that would work with a shaver adaptor at home and all for the around £65. One bargain and I was a happy photographic bunny again.
As the train to Evora was from a station that was out of the city centre, the bus ride to it gave us an idea of what suburban Lisbon was like. A bit like parts of Sunderland in fact – I’d lived in that city whilst doing my degree back in the mid-1990’s and some of the flat complexes we passed in the bus were very reminiscent of those back on Wearside.
The snooze on the train was a good idea, as were the snacks as it looked like it was going to be a late evening meal. With Evora being a walled town, the rail and bus stations are away from the centre, so we were glad that we could just shoulder our packs and walk, rather than taking a taxi to our hotel. Taxi or drinks? Drinks or taxi? Easy decision!
Residencial Riviera was just off the main square in Evora and we’d booked our stay just as the prices went down after the main holiday season. The first night was quiet, but as Friday nights are Friday nights, a couple of rowdies came back to their room at about 2am. Revenge was a dish best served cold… or was that loud because for some reason, I really, really had to slam our room door shut twice before breakfast on Saturday morning!
But I digress. Evora is a magical place and one we’d go back to tomorrow. It’s relaxed, it’s friendly and it’s compact. All of the attractions are in easy walking distance of each other and there’s a good mix of bars, cafes and ice cream shops for those times when you just have to sit down, relax and unwind that little bit more. Resting place of choice? Cafe Arcada on the main square, a venue that was popular with both locals and tourists alike.
There’s museums or the remains of a Roman temple (see the lead photo…) to visit and walls to climb or walk around. The main square may be peaceful now, but it has historical associations with the execution of at least one duke and the Inquisition-led public burnings of several unfortunate souls. Which is the last thing we were thinking about whilst having coffee on the square on Friday night or when talking to Brits on a coach tour on a Saturday morning.
If it’s Friday, it must be Evora…
Caroline also visited Ingreja de Sao Francisco, a church adjacent to the Mercado Municipal (the local market hall). Ingreja de Sao Francisco has a side chapel in Cappella des Ossos (the Chapel of the Bones) which comprises the skulls and bones of around five thousand former monks. Apparently it’s not uncommon to hear the song ‘Dem Bones, Dem Bones’ being sung as people wander around the chapel according to one guide book we read!
Yes, I’d given it a miss in favour of another Kindle session, but I did find a bar that served a nice cold Radler low alcohol beer to sup in the sun which also sold cider, a type of refreshment that Caroline’s quite fond of. The cider wasn’t by Aspall’s or Weston, but it went down well once Caroline exited the Chapel and found me relaxing.
The relaxation of Evora carried on as we had a five hour bus ride to Tavira on that Saturday. The coach wasn’t even half full, so there was plenty of room to spread out and read or snooze.
Legs were stretched and comfort stops made at the bus change-over point in Faro and when we got to Tavira, we were glad of our small bags, unlike a Hawaiian lady we’d met on the bus who was trundling a very large wheelie bag around plus her matching hand luggage too. Over kerbs, pavements and then cobbles when the pavements were taken up by various outdoor dining areas outside restaurants. She’d been on the road for three months and for some reason, she was wishing she’d packed less stuff…
Like Evora, Tavira was a place to savour. Yes, it was a busy Saturday night down by Residencial Mares, but it was also the last night of a local youth festival. With live music. As we didn’t get to Tavira and book into our hotel until late, that evening’s meal venue was rather close to said hotel.
Now Caroline and I do like our curries, but the ones we had that night were supposed to be of medium heat – hey, we usually eat curries in or around the Bradford area!). These ones however, were not Bradford curries, We’ve eaten curries in the home counties here in the UK that were more potent than the Tavira curries we tried – they were more mild than medium!
Sunday was given over to strolling around the town, looking at the tiled buildings across the river, finding a very good (and well recommended) place to eat called Bica for lunch plus a couple of other meals later during our stay and finding an English newspaper to read over coffees and servings of cake or ice cream. Just another relaxing day in paradise? Oh yes…
Sunday night wasn’t as noisy as Saturday had been, but our plans for an early night were interrupted by a local troubadour that we’d seen and unfortunately heard near another bar earlier on. The temptation was for the two of us to do ‘Doo whops’ from our balcony or to do impressions of baying hounds as he sang/murdered a few classics. But we didn’t…
Monday was train and room booking time. We were moving on on Tuesday and we needed tickets to get to Lagos and then tickets for a train on Friday to get us from Lagos back to Lisbon in readiness for our flight home on Saturday morning.
We also booked a night at Lagos Youth Hostel for Thursday night by going into the Tavira Youth Hostel and doing the deed. There was however one problem remaining – we’d drawn a blank on finding somewhere to stay on Friday night in Lisbon so it looked like there was only one option left open to us – sleeping in the airport.
Monday was also the day to take a boat trip to the much-vaunted Ilha de Tavira. We didn’t have that far to go for the boat as the landing was just across the road from our hotel.
That boatload soon dispersed when we got onto Ilha de Tavira. Some headed to restaurants, some headed for the campsite whilst others turned right onto the nearest beach and others (including us) headed for the main beach. Which was red flagged…
So a bit of photography was called for on my part and Caroline headed along the beach on foot before finding me again (I have mobility problems on soft sand or snow thanks to that stroke ten years ago) and the two of us headed back to the beach near the boat landing. As there were no restrictions on swimming here, Caroline took the plunge for a while as I tried to make some plans for the potential of Friday night in Lisbon airport.
With Bica providing the last of our meals in Tavira and some fine wine too, a late night stroll was called for before we headed back to the hotel and partly packed our bags in readiness for the next stage of the trip – and a couple of nights in a very posh hotel in Sagres….
To be continued…
This could be the start of a beautiful friendship…
Just another Friday afternoon in Lisbon – fortunately it was at the end of our trip and pretty good humoured!
Caroline and I were half way through our Portuguese road trip when we got talking to a group of Brits sitting on the table next to us outside Cafe Arcada in Evora. They were on a coach trip looking at cultural sights in Portugal and Spain and the look on their collective faces was a picture when we told them what we were up to…
Two weeks in Portugal with hand luggage only and most, but not all of our accommodation booked. We were travelling on buses and trains that hadn’t been booked back home in Blighty. We were eating at local cafes or getting evening meal fodder from the local mini-market. Oh, and we were wandering around strange cities, towns and villages after dark.
I also mentioned that I’d just fired my employer and had worked my last shift for the company the day before our TAP Portugal flight into Lisbon. Were they gobsmacked? Oh yes!
Rewind a week and we’d had an early start to Manchester Airport for that TAP flight. Leaving the car at a car park near the terminal was a doddle, as was check-in once the clerk realised that we had hand luggage only and nothing for the hold. We’d also booked Fast-Track for the security checking procedures and whilst we passed with flying colours, things came slightly unstuck as there was a log-jam on the baggage scanner, so we took about the usual time to get through security and then headed off in search of coffee and a late breakfast.
After a good flight into Lisbon and a brisk stroll through the terminal and passport checks, it was time to get some euros from the cash points and a cab to our first hotel, Pensao Londres in the Baixa area of Lisbon city centre.
It didn’t take long to check in, switch on the air-con, freshen up and change before heading off for the first steps around the city. We knew we were in for a lot of walking on this trip, especially as Lisbon‘s built on or around seven hills. We expected the centre to be quiet as the guide books had suggested that shops closed around 1pm on a Saturday afternoon.
Oh no they didn’t, as we found out when we reached Rossio Square to find it heaving with tourists, locals and politicos either taking photos, having conversations or pontificating in a language we couldn’t understand. Although we had a phrase book, it wasn’t needed as everyone we encountered spoke a fair amount of English.
Things were a little quieter as we approached the banks of Rio Tejo where the first of many cold drinks and ice creams were consumed. We’d had a good summer, but the temperatures in Lisbon were higher so we were pleased that we’d packed clothes with good sun protection and a new bottle of Factor 30 in our wandering around bags.
As this was just a good excuse to get accustomed to the temperatures, the lie of the land and a good leg stretch after the flight, we gradually orientated ourselves and found that wandering around the city centre was quite easy and that we didn’t have to keep looking at the map.
So much so it was if we’d been using a homing beacon to get us back to the area where our hotel was. A short walk around Baixa and several perusals of menu boards later, we ended up at Lost In… a bar/restaurant opposite Pensao Londres. Given the outside temperatures, it seemed only natural to take our meal, wine, dessert and coffee on Lost In’s terrace to take in the views over Lisbon as sunset approached rather than sitting inside, a good move – until we stood up.
Yes, the wine was stronger than we thought and we’d polished it off in one sitting rather than taking two nights as we do at home. The double espressos hadn’t kicked in, so it was a good job that we only had to cross one road and ascend a couple of staircases to our room rather than staggering a kilometre or more back to our digs.
As it was Saturday in one of Lisbon’s popular nightlife areas, sleep was a rarely found commodity that night. We were still up early though for showers and breakfast before a day of gentle wandering around was declared.
Although it was still before 9am, we even managed to beat the first tour bus to the nearby park – Sao Paulo de Alcantara Miradouro. We’d rested there before heading back to our hotel the previous night, but it was quieter now despite the contents of the tour bus so we were able to look, see and get our bearings as to where we’d been on Saturday and where we’d like to go to during this day and the next.
Some brave souls had got up even earlier as we found when we headed into the centre – a mass cycle ride to Sintra was about to start. As the riders started, one was unceremoniously stopped in his tracks by an organiser. His crime? No helmet! Once the riders were on their way, more wandering and then more caffeine was called for.
Now we’d said that we were wherever possible going to avoid global companies on this trip, but as Caroline was looking for an Americano rather than a double espresso, it was time to hit Star****s. Yes, we’d commented among ourselves when an American couple were drinking out of takeaway cups whilst waiting to go up Elevador de Santa Justa, but the lure proved to be too great. Caroline got her Americano, I plumped for an Iced Mocha and our ‘go local‘ stance had gone out of the window for the rest of the holiday, especially when money off the next visit vouchers were handed over with the change.
As Sunday morning and afternoon meanderings go, the one in central Lisbon was rather good. Although I’m averse to most museums, the Museum of Design and Fashion an interesting experience – and not just because it was a free attraction! An old bank has been turned into a gallery with furniture, design icons and items from Givenchy and Dior.
We’d wandered back down to Praca do Comercio by the Rio Tejo, discovered ginjinha and explored the back streets of Baixa – and all before lunch too! A couple of stalls on a craft market near Praca do Comercio had extracted some euros from our wallets, but the feeling at the time was how relaxed and laid back central Lisbon was. And why hadn’t we discovered it years ago?
Lunch was equally relaxed with salmon and cream cheese wraps washed down with fresh mango or orange juice and more coffee. Eating out and outside was going to be a feature of this holiday as that night’s evening meal was also eaten outside in the garden of Terra, a vegetarian restaurant that’s famed for its buffets and surroundings.
With curried dishes included in the choices, these were a cut above those offered in another town later in the week. As our local curry houses are all in Bradford, Terra’s dishes were more akin to what we’re used to at home whereas the other establishment’s offerings were more a case of ‘take a walk on the mild side…’.
We felt that we’d earned it though – we’d been walking for hours and had found our way around quite well without resorting to getting a map out to find out where we were. Only one barrier had got in our way whilst wandering around – a charge to walk through the Botanical Gardens.
If it’s Monday, then it’s just another day in Lisbon. We’d abandoned plans to take a journey on Tram 28 the day before thanks to a scrum worthy of Odsal Stadium (home of Bradford Bulls Rugby League team).
So we had another early start and caught Tram 28 at 9am. It’s on most traveller’s ‘to do’ lists in Lisbon as it wends its way around the streets on the forty-odd minute journey between Martin Moniz and Campo Ourique. The route is almost Lisbon in a nutshell as it takes in Alfama and sights such as the Se along the way.
The walk back into the centre after the ride on Tram 28 was the result of an unexpected need to go shopping. My camera had packed up even though it was fully charged and been tried with a new memory card. Not an ideal thing to happen on the third day of a trip, but the search for a new one proved fruitless and was abandoned.
Caroline’s Pentax was in full working order and we could share the camera to take whatever shots we wanted as we wandered around. We also had some train travel to book.
The next day’s journey to Sintra was easy as we just had to buy singles at Rossio Station for the short hop to our destination. The journey to book was the one from Lisbon to Evora on the day we left Sintra. With the advance ticket office being just a few feet away from a U.S. based coffee shop, you can guess where the next destination was!
With Terra closed on a Monday, a new place to eat was sought out. Esplanada is on the edge of a park in Principe Real and it’s another indoor/outdoor eating place. As we’d gone to town on Saturday and Sunday night’s meals, we kept the bill down by ordering a couple of specials with beer for me, fruit juice for Caroline and a couple of coffees.
And then? An early night, early breakfast, a quick packing of the bags and a walk down to Rossio Station for the next part of the trip… To be continued!
You must be logged in to post a comment.