Pretty Porto & airport escapades

The morning was a slow one, rising late, a leisurly breakfast & confidences exchanged…it felt like God had an appointment booked for my friend & I

We walked up to the Sao Bento station, stopping in shops, admiring street artists in various forms, tasting & buying jam & chutney

The station with over 250 000 hand painted tiles, has become a tourist attraction & we heard many languages from gazing people all over the place

Then up to the Cathedral of Se to admire the facade & the view from the hill & onto the Luize Ponte 1, a bridge designed by a student of Eiffel.

Although it looks & seems to be quite safe, it brought some latent fear of heights out in me & it was rather a challenge to cross. I did however force myself to take photos from the bridge as it is definitely pretty enough to justify it.

Across the bridge & onto a cablecar that offered a different view onto the old town of Porto

In Gaia, we wandered through some stalls, had lunch in the mercado & retraced our steps back, only stopping for some Portuguese ice cream & to admire some merchandise

As one of our group is staying on, we were able to rest & shower before our Uber to the airport

Nice & early, we booked in & at security was stopped because of the olive oil & port we were transporting

I was so disappointed, I responded like a typical red-blooded woman, I burst into tears

The security manager was very empathetic, but adamant, however suggested that we try & book our extra bag as fragile

We duly did, back to the TAAG counter, through overweight bags & back to security

This time, my friend was stopped for another olive oil tin…which was missed on round 1! But with no extra bags to pack it in, we abandoned the tin

To help us forget the ordeal, we replaced the lost tin can in duty free, customs presented no problems & a latte each restored our gutzpa

& back on the plane, with non-functional electronics & a long flight ahead…I am ready to go home

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Duoro wine & the valley

An early start to our day, we were picked up by Diana from Oporto Road Trips

A cheery, informative young girl with braces & an attractive smile. Seven people in the tour, we joined a couple from Brazil & was joined by a couple from Australia

We were told about our day & given insight into the Port wine production in the Duoro valley while being driven to our first stop, Quinta do Beijo, in the Celeiros do Duoro area.

A small wine farm, we were welcomed by the owner & accompanied by his wife & Caterina, a young girl learning the ropes

After table wine tasting, we were proudly told about the Port Gold medal winners of the estate & tasted some beautifully old port.

We were quite relieved that there was a break between the wine & port tasting, as one of us had had breakfast & we are none of us drinkers

Then off to the village of Pinhao along the river where we stopped to admire the railway station before a tasty lunch in a local restaurant

We started chatting more with the Australian couple & developed a nice cameraderie during the rest of the day exchanging travel experiences

After lunch, that included dessert & coffee, it was off to the riverside for a short cruise on a traditionally shaped boat

What a beautiful place to spend time! Although it gets very hot in summer, our boat trip was perfect this time of year. Stunning scenery & a lazy pace winding through the water following the course of the river

Back at the riverside, we were off to our next wine farm, Quinta do Tedo, more fascinating information about the making of Port & more tasting followed, this time it included some olive oil tasting as well

Our journey home was shortened by some nap time, filled with warmth from the wine & a perfect day in the wine valley of Duoro

To Porto & in

The GPS took us on a sightseeing tour. From Coimba to Porto, it left the A1 road & we drove through mountainside villages & mist- shrouded valleys, creating an eerie yet fairy tale world

Although not everything was visible, it hinted at the beauty hidden beneath the fog, inviting us to come back next time

Finally in Porto, it rained through the fog & we waited for our hostess in a building being renovated. We made our own fun, even though it was cold & we were tired

Then, Lello bookshop, a beautiful wooded shop made too famous by being used in the Harry Potter films

& off to Santa Caterinha road where we admired the shops & old buildings, even covered in fog & rain like they were

We tasted some excellent port & gifts were duly bought

Meandering on, we ended up with roasted chicked & piri piri sauce for supper, there was also fishcakes & black bean stew, cheap wine & laughter

A ride down to the Ribeira in a funicular added to the fun of our evening, the fog added a drop of nostalgia, knowing that it was our last evening together as four friends.

The one leàving us being particularly aware of every nuance and beat of the city

Porto, even hidden behind layers of fog, promises to be a place worth stopping & savouring

Unique university town time

When Uber gets you lost, everything feels upside down

We left later than planned because of the wrong dropoff point…but, we got a stunning rental car with GPS, so we moved quite quickly

We could not drive exactly to our B&B, but after a stiff climb from the market, we were able to finaly relax for a few minutes

The place is quaint, with lovely views across the old town & river

We then began exploring the town, starting with the University, one of the oldest in Europe & a Unesco World Heritage site

We had absolutely divine bacon & chilli sandwiches for a late lunch, before moving downtown & wandering through the old streets, for the beauty, the shopping & the people. It felt & appeared to be a place caught in a previous time, everything done the same as years before

Then, a very different experience…we read up about a small restarant that one needs to visit in Coimbra, no bookings accepted.

We found the tiny place in a backstreet that we would defintely have passed, had we not read up about it, it is a little hole in a very small space

We were there 40 minutes before the place opened, yet second in line

After the long wait, we were seated on tiny stools, squashed into a space where no one else would seat so many people

Our host slowly took each tables orders & delivered drinks. We explained what we wanted & he suggested we do it slightly differently…he was right!

Pork bones cooked to fall of the bones, in a slight chilli sauce started our meal, we thought nothing could top that, we were wrong!

The next course was pork ribs with bean rice. My one friend shouted as she put the first bite in her mouth, all concerned we asked what was wrong, it was a shout of extacy!

All I can say is that I understand why there were people waiting outside for us to finish our meal (it took 1.5 hours), the food was fantastic & very reasonable

We walked back to the main downtown area, had coffee & a handmade chocolate each, then a taxi back up to our beds

A very good day, indeed

Wet, misty & mysterious

The day started misty in Lisbon

Squashed like sardines into the Uber, we left for the station & Sintra. Arriving there, a misty rain accompanied us on our walk into town, a beautiful, twisty roads made longer by the many photostops along the way

After some initial searching, we found our charming bed & breakfast with our even more charming hostess.

By this time, it was raining earnestly, & we set off to the nearest coffee shop for a caffeine & a warmth boost

After some debate, we set off to Palacio de Regaleiro, walking in the rain. I say walking, but climbing was involved

The white pavestones are slippery, but it was hard to keep our eyes on the path ahead, it was just that beautiful

My heart mourns the fact that we did not get an opportunity to experience Sintra in better weather, but even in the pouring rain, the gardens and especially the Initiation Well, was gob-smackingly amazing

After the palacio, we split, the rest of the group walking back to town, I waited for the bus to take me to the next palace, Monseratte

A downhill walk through beautiful gardens, past waterfalls & South African Strelizia flowers, brought me to the palace

Completely different from Regaleiro, it sat in large grounds in pink & grey glory

I walked through the palace, marveling at hand-carved interior walls & the views through the windows.

Back up to the road to catch the bus, that dropped me back at the station, another rainy walk back to the historic centre

A short rest & we were off to Pena palace. The road winding uphill through the forest made the €6.90 return ticket worth the price

Pena palace, the crowning glory of Sintra, was shrouded in ever-deepening fog & to add to our disappointment, they had closed the entrance to the inside of the palace early

I walked around the palace, they fog swirling in the increasung wind, it was breathtaking in more than one way…I almost lost the umbrella in the wind moaning through the passages

We regrouped, waited for the hop on bus to the gate…& there the bus never came…over an hour we waited, about 28 people, in denser fog, no dry place to sit & no information

When the last bus finally came around the corner in the gathering dark, spontaneous applause broke out, lifting everyone’s spirits

The drive down was still quite challenging & we ended the evening in Talhas restaurant where the amusing waiter brightened our evening along with sangria and good wine

Lisbon – variety galore

Today was a real touristy day, walking from shop to shop, taking in views, enjoying coffee in coffee shops, exclaiming about the ups & downs in Alfama

Shopping in the central streets in the afternoon, drinking freshly squeezed orange juice & meandering to Bario Alto

We seemed to have changed roles today, our slower companions were out in front leading the way, our shopper, bought almost nothing & our indifferent shopper, bought lots of stuff

It was cooler in the morning which meant there was good light for beautiful photos, walking and enjoying everything was easier & no one was overcome by the heat

We ended our day in Time Out Market where we indulged in amazing food. The next line of tables containing some pretty good specimens of what sounded like a French rugby team

We Ubered home through the early evening traffic, a day enjoyed!

Emotional seesaw & other experiences

Yesterday was a day of emotions for me. Observing my friends, I think they shared some of these & might even have had some I am not even describing

My day started early, with disappointmnet that I could not visit some of the cork shops in Evora one more time

Then it was wonder as Evora was wrapped in fog for our departure

Relief followed when we successfully navigated out of Evora with little trouble, inspite of a Google Map freeze

Then enjoyment, the changing scenery from Evora to Lisbon, the shared stories, the laughter in the car

The large bridge across the river brought forth admiration for the skills of the engineers…

Gratitude ruled at the car rental place when our deposit was returned inspite of a scrape from an old lady’s car in Tomar

Laughter at the Bangladesh gentleman that stored our suitcases after frustration at the Rossio station with too few lockers

Excitement was shared in the group, but for different reasons, for some it was the wonderful shops, for others at finally being in Lisbon

Disgust & too much heat when the tram to Balem stopped working

Appreciation for the beauty of the Jeronimo monastry

Amazement at the achievements of the Portuguese in their seafaring history

On my own, to the tower of Balem, love for the the architecture & flair of positioning of previous centuries

Boredom trying to find one another in the open air market

Deep satisfaction in tasting pastel de nata from its original source although there was a long wait

Relief at finally arriving at our guesthouse, followed by helplessness when we could not reach anyone

Exhaustion to end the day after a picnic meal of fried chicken, bread & our takeaway pastel de nata from Balem

A rainbow of different emotions, it was a good day