Capítulo Trés – Sesimbra to Today – I mean Tomár

Bom Tardes – when last we communicated, I was a bit under the weather.  I am happy to report clear skies, smooth sailing and full steam ahead now.

I managed to get in a dive on Friday.  The fog rolled in so we were not able to dive the wreck that was planned.  This was due to the fishing fleet not being able to see us on the surface so we re-routed to an alternative site.  Such is life & diving.  The water was cold but pretty clear & I was able to get some nice shots.

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While I was under water, Nancy wandered the narrow lanes and hills of this very low-key former fishing village.  The fog came in & for a while the surf line & sand were foggy but the esplanade was sunny.  She is still talking about the amazing Cafe con Leche she enjoyed at Cafe Caffe – hmmm, I see a theme.

DSC_6134 DSC_6162 DSC_6142This may be a place to move to if we had a weekend alternative – it became very crowded with daytrippers from Lisbon and weekenders from other parts of the country.  We had a nice time there & it is a gorgeous place….complete with an infinity pool!IMG_4846 IMG_4841

DSC_1174This fellow was obeying orders from the bridge.

We left Sesimbra in the rear view mirror,  pointed the Punto northeast, and  took mainly back roads to Evora, one of Portugal’s most beautifully preserved medieval towns.  Our hotel was right inside the 14th century wall.  For dinner, we walked up the narrow winding lanes to the main square (Praça do Giraldo).

We had the local Porco Preto for dinner – an amazingly tender & tasty black pork from acorn fed free range oinkers.  With a bottle of wine, the cost was 16.50 E – less than $20!

We walked the town the next day; churches,DSC_1241museums & markets in 98 degree heat.  DSC_1220One interesting place was the Bone Chapel (Cappella dos Ossos), built by 5 monks who dug up cemeteries to acquire the necessary building materials as a protest and warning about commercialism & materialism in the 16C. Seems their warning did not take.

DSC_1245Note the column & ceiling adornments.

This is a great town full of everyday life along with a fascinating Iberian history with the Celtics settling the town first and the Romans arriving in 59BC.

Shrimp curry for dinner?  Yup.  We learned from the chef/owner of the restaurant why the bills have FIN & Nombre on them.  The locals are required to identify themselves with their version of their social security # and name whenever they spend money at hotels, restaurants & other businesses.  Their spending is compared by the tax department to their income tax info as a way of trying to keep people honest.  Imaging the bloody paperwork!  What a nightmare.  The businesses have to collate the info & send it in.  I cannot imagine the govt. resources devoted to this workload.  It must be part of the EU enforced bail outs that PT had a few years back.  Watch out Greece!

On the road Sunday morning to our next stop – Tomar.  On the way, we visited the megaliths the region is noted for.  These predate Stonehenge by 2,000 years but the rocks are much smaller – maybe they eroded?  They sites were only unearthed in the 1960s.

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Driving to Tomar, we took the main motorway which has electronic tolling.  About 100m before the apparatus, you see a sign that warns it is coming & the toll amount – anywhere from .05 – 1.50.  Then you drive under what looks like scaffolding and your car emits a beep.  No slowing, no booths, no cash.  Pretty efficient.  We will pay these when we turn in the Punto.

The hotel in Tomar has a huge outdoor swimming pool + an indoor one.   We had dinner at the Taverna Antique – a place with ‘authentic’ medieval dishes such as Skewerd Gizzards, Pheasant Stew, Fish Eggs Salad and Ham Leg with Chestnuts & Sprouts, to name a few!  They also have this:

IMG_6426The menu says the one I had is the world’s oldest wit beer.  Very good especially compared to the local yellow fizzy stuff.

This town is famous for the home of the Knights Templar.  This is where it all started.  The entire downtown is festooned with banners and sidewalk inlays featuring the symbols of the organization.  Their castle/monastery (12th century) is on the top of the hill opposite our hotel & overlooks the valley.  It is now called the Cristo Convento. We hiked up there today and  we were able to walk next to all the artwork and along the roofline.  These national monuments are much more accessible than in other parts of Europe.  You don’t even leave an ID deposit for audio guides.  I even had fun storming the castle!

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(Even though this is written in the 1st person, we both contribute to these missives.)

Adeus,

Chris & Nancy

It is now too late to unsubscribe & so far we have snapped 1100 + photos!!!

Chapter Dois – Lisboa to Sesimbra

As I write this, I am sitting on one of the three balconies of our room at the Sesimbra Hotel & Spa.  Sesimbra  is a lovely & very touristy former fishing village, complete with a Moorish castle high above us on a hill AND Forteleza de Santiago, once the summertime retreat of Portuguese royalty.  The beach I am looking at is quite turquoise. Lots of Spanish, Italian, German & Portuguese families here, calm waters (non too warm though) — but refreshing since the weather is quite warm.

DSC_1126I believe we last left our heroes early Monday morning.  I’ll try to fill you in on the goings on since then,, both great & not so.  Major museums are closed on Mondays here so we took a 3 hour walking tour with Lisbon Walks.  We met our very knowledgable guide, Margarita, at  the Praça Comerica  (a very large piazza/plaza) in the Centro of the city.

We learned the history of Lisboa with emphasis on the post 1755 massive earthquake and the Marquês de Pombal who was in charge of rebuilding the city.  He, being one of the few who was not a devout Catholic, made sure the Church did not have lots of power and all the rebuilt churches from then are not what you expect from the time and being in a major European city. They are tucked into other buildings with very little to announce their presence with authority.  Nancy’s family will be happy to know that we visited both the Dominican and Jesuit churches.

We also took a funicular ride up a steep hill & tram #28 for a roller coaster ride through town to the Castelo de Sao Gorge overlooking the city and ambled through  the Alfama neighborhood. DSC_0869

After lunch we just had to have a snack at the Confeitaria Nacional where we sampled the local pastry, Pastel Nata, along  some traditional cookies…..

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Margarida showed us a bar – must be the world’s smallest – Ginjinha Sem Rival.  They serve two beverages:  shots of  Ginjinha (sour cherry hooch with or without the fruit) & Eduardino (a made up blend of several liquors).  These are 1 Euro each for here or take away.

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Dinner was in Bario Alto – sausage stuffed Calamari.  It was quite tasty + clams in garlic.IMG_6272

Tuesday was a busy day, too.  We did what we tend to do in a new city – hop on hop off busses.  The 1st one took us to Belém, 3 miles west of downtown.  This was the area the Portuguese navy and other maritime explorers started their world travels.  Lots of history here.  We climbed 276 stairs to Monument of Discoveries and toured the Belem Tower, Monastery of Jeronimos and The Coach Museum. We took a break & went to the bakery where those yummy pastries mentioned earlier are baked.  This place is reputed to make 20,000 a day.  It is a 400 seat restaurant and was packed.  We also went to the Museu Colecâo Berardo (contemporary ‘art’).  I really have to hand it to the guys able to convince museums and collectors to pay $$$$ for their productions, if you can’t say something nice about someone…

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Also in this area is an almost duplicate of the Golden Gate Bridge & built by the same firm that did the original.  They even have the same paint colour.  Several years ago they added a rail deck.  Maybe the BART people can do that, too?

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Then, it was off to the Oceanario, Europe’s largest aquarium located near Europe’s longest bridge named after Vasco de Gama.  We also took a Telecabine (gondola ride) over the Tejos River.  Back into town for dinner at a neighborhood restaurant recommended by a friend of Mike.  It was terrific.  I had the grilled sardines & Nancy had Calamari done in a cream sauce. Better than it sounds. The sardines were tasty which is important as when they came back up the next morning…  I was quite ill from them and still recovering.

Wednesday morning was pretty bleak for me.  We found a farmacia for Imodium & electrolytes to counter my case of da Gamas revenge.  We also picked up our rental car – a Fiat Punto.

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Less than an hour later, we arrived in Sesimbra to stay 2 nights at this hotel.  I had a dive scheduled for today but moved it back to tomorrow for health issues.  Last night there was quite a party at the hotel with a live band making a LOT of noise.  I was able to sleep through it but Nancy was not. She thinks its ironic that the last song was ‘All Night Long’ at 12.45.

That about brings you up to date.

We still like Portugal very much…..IMG_6255DSC_6096Feel free to unsubscribe!

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We Made it to Lisboa

Bom Dia (the bom is pronounce bohn)…….Portuguese for what else, good day.  (In case you think you have missed any of our fascinating blog posts, you haven’t – this is the first!

As I write this, it is 7am on Monday.  We arrived yesterday afternoon, dropped our bags, changed clothes and went for a walk to the Alfama neighborhood area and to the Praça Comécia by Rio Tejo.

Our flights were fairly smooth but it was a loooooong day.  About 23 hours from take-off in Seattle to arriving at the hotel.  I managed a bit of sleep on the trans Atlantic leg  but Nancy did not. It was certainly a comfortable flight.  Air France was quite nice.

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She did get a bit of shut eye, however between Paris & Lisboa.

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By the time we made it to the river (Rio Tejo).

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it was Baby Jesus time (for those of you unclear of the term, it is something my Dad coined many years ago.  It means it is time for the 1st beer of the day.  None of us are certain of the genesis of the term but we treat it with the utmost respect.   My darling wife led us unerringly to an outdoor cafe & bar called providentially Museu da Cerveja.  I had a local beer, Nancy had some local wine & we ate cod croquettes (the national dish).

IMG_6234(Check out the crazy glass)

We found an excellent tapas bar(Bebedouro) for dinner & had grilled spicy sardines among other delicious dishes

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Our initial impression is we LIKE Portugal!

More to follow as we can.

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