Interruption

December 11, 2017

We interrupt the usual broadcast to tell you that we are back in London, we have been back a couple of weeks now, and yes, we are behind with blog posts. We just have a couple more posts to do on our last few days in Spain before we returned to the UK, hopefully we can get those done this week.

Meanwhile here are a couple of pictures from yesterday’s snow event…..yes, it’s cold, but it’s pretty and what you expect at this time of the year we are just hoping we get more for Christmas Day then we will have a white Christmas.

looking out of the upstairs hall window to the street

The neighbour clearing her driveway

Ian’s family came for lunch and to introduce us all to Beth, who was only born just over a week ago, and her big sister Olivia. With the snow falling continuously for most of the day Olivia wanted to build a snowman, Alex was co-opted into assisting with the making of the snowman, complete with stones for his eyes, a carrot for his nose and twigs for his arms,

Then to finish the day, we had a little gingerbread house building and decorating with Olivia….not sure that all of the decorations ended up on the house but she loved doing it!

Normal blog transmission will resume shortly!

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Alhambra

December 6, 2017

One of the main reasons of coming to Granada was to visit the Alhambra. The Alhambra (The Red One) was originally constructed as a small fortress in AD 889 on the remains of Roman fortifications, and then largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-13th century and is a reflection of the culture of the last centuries of the Moorish rule. It was converted into a royal palace in 1333, then after the conclusion of the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella (where Christopher Columbus received royal endorsement for his expedition), and the palaces were partially altered in the Renaissance style. After being allowed to fall into disrepair for centuries, the buildings were occupied by squatters, Alhambra was rediscovered following the defeat of Napoleon, who had conducted retaliatory destruction of the site. It’s had a very mixed history, with periods of ruin, rebuild, wilful vandalism and some ill-judged restoration nevertheless its stands today as an amazing building decorated with mosaic tiles, carved plaster, intricately carved wood all set around large courtyards with water features.

Lots of photos to follow, but I have to say that photos do not do it justice, it is truly amazing to the extent of sensory overload.

at the entrance is a fountain dedicated to a Washington Irving, author of Rip van Winkle and Legend of Sleepy Hollow as well as many books on Spain, US ambassador to Spain in the early 1800’s.

the entrance gateway has carved over the lintel a pair of hands in prayer,

And inside is another gateway that has a key engraved

It is said that if the key and hands ever meet then the site will be obliterated.

You have to pre book a ticket online to gain access into the Palace, they do not sell tickets at the Alhambra we had booked our tickets the previous night and downloaded it onto my phone. We arrived and queued to gain entry, with access limited to I would guess around 50 people, and entry every 30minutes.

Every surface is intricately covered in patterns either mosaic, scripts, patterns, all elaborately coloured however over time some of the colours have faded but you can imagine how brightly coloured it must have been.

examples of mosaic tiles

carved script and intricate patterns

intricately carved ceilings

Water is an important feature of the Alhambra.

gardens and courtyards are beautifully laid out.

There were so many interesting features that I could go on adding more and more pictures but I think that I have to stop somewhere before this goes on forever. But I will leave you with this one last picture

this is one of the courtyard areas where we stopped to have a drink and where a large number of cats frequent looking for food from visitors. This was just a small sample of the seemingly huge numbers of cats everywhere throughout the complex.

An amazing place to visit and spend a day, it now makes me realise how lacking my history knowledge is for this part of the world which is something I shall have to rectify.

Granada

December 1, 2017

Farewell Seville, it’s been a fantastic stay in your wonderful city. For the final time we bade farewell to our lovely apartment on the Christo de Burgos Square and took a taxi to the train Station. We seem to have frequented this train station fairly frequently over the past few days, however on arrival for the first time we did wonder where we were when we saw this sign.

This trip to Granada was scheduled to be a three and a half hour journey, we were told that the train was only going as far as Antiquera and then we had to change to a bus, apparently they are doing major refurbishment on the tracks.

the journey took us through hundreds of kilometres of olive trees, we estimated at least 300kilometres of non stop olive trees for as far as the eye could see.

After an hour and a half on the train we pulled into Antiquera train station. Antiquera surprised us a little as it is a train station in the middle of nowhere with not another building in sight! We were offloaded from the train and settled into a luxury bus for the rest of the journey. In the car parking area there was this interesting piece of sculpture.

A stack of left luggage, chairs, tv, louvres and other bits and pieces.

The olive trees continued to be our view from the side windows of the bus and there was a tv screen at the front of the bus which showed a continuous stream from the dashboard camera so we could see exactly what was ahead of us. We passed through a town called Manzanil, we presume this is the home of Manzanilla olives.

Another hour and a half later and we arrived at the Granada train station where we caught a cab to our apartment right in the centre of town. We were met by our host and we’re quickly settled in. We found a nice surprise on the bedroom wall

a map of the world with New Zealand included!

this was the view from our apartment window, and yes that is snow on the hills in the background.

Time to step out and find out what is around and about us and to also get in a few basics. We saw some interesting shops including this one.

Jamon, Jamon, and more Jamon.

Jamon is Spanish for ham, this jamon is a dry cured ham from the black Iberian pig and is usually dried and aged for around 18months to 3 years. It really is delicious and I have to admit that we ate more than our fair share! There was also salamis and chorizos of all sorts to be had……eat your heart out Steve!

Córdoba

November 30, 2017

Just a quick note before this post starts, my sister Sue tells me that a programme on TV called “Spectacular Spain with Alex Polizzi” has been on TV in NZ recently and she had just watched an episode on Jerez and Seville. I found the programme on YouTube…it’s episode 4. We shall now have to watch the rest of the series to see what we have missed and what shall go on the agenda for the next trip.

After our successful trip to Jerez, we had planned to spend the following day checking out some more of the sights around Seville but first we needed to take a quick trip to the train station to book and collect our tickets for the following day to Granada, our next destination. Granada tickets were quickly sorted however, whilst we were at the station, we asked purely out of interest how long would a trip to Córdoba take? 45 minutes by fast train we are told, if you want to go, there is a train leaving in 6 minutes…yes please, we said and book us a return ticket as well please. Tickets in hand we hurried to the correct platform with a couple of minutes to spare…talk about spur of the moment decisions!!, this time we had to go through a security check as well, a first so far on our train travels.

Córdoba, like many other Spanish cities, has an Anglicised name of Cordova, and is yet another magnificent city with a rich history encompassing many cultures. As well as being a traditional centre for silk manufacture, it was also a centre of education with universities and medical schools particularly during the Muslim reign from the 8th century through to 1236 when the Christians took over. Córdoba can also lay claim to have the highest summer temperatures in Spain and Europe, with average high temperatures around 37 °C (99 °F) in July and August, however for us it was a pleasant 26C.

Our train journey took us past kilometres of orange trees, then olive trees but as we got closer to the city another change in trees with what we thought were apricot trees with their autumnal colours resplendent but on reflection we think they were more likely to be almond trees.

oranges, almond trees and olives, seen for miles along the journey

Córdoba station was a larger station than we anticipated and a very modern building to boot. We found an information centre within the station and bought ourselves tickets for the hop on-hop off bus which just so happened to have a stop right outside. Perfect.

We had a great tour of the city and we surmised that we could have come and stayed here for sometime to explore everything in depth however an overview would suffice this time. Lots of pictures to follow.

the view from the top of the bus as the driver carefully and skilfully negotiates the narrow streets. In some streets pedestrians had to stand in doorways to let the bus through, in others, shopkeepers had to roll in awnings so that the bus did not hit them.

Calahorra Tower

Roman temple of Córdoba

Santa Marina Church built in the 13th century

Bridal party at Puerta del Puente or Roman Gate by the Roman Bridge.

one of the gates in the old wall around the city the ever present orange trees lining the streets

Detailed statue of San Francisco Church

one of the narrow side streets

moody scenes over the river looking toward the Roman bridge

Roman bridge over the Guadalquivir River, you can see the gate and the mosque in the background. This was the main access point to the city, across the bridge and through the gate.

looking across to the Mosque cathedral

Overlooking the Roman Bridge and next to the Mosque-Cathedral is the Triunfo de San Rafael column, the most elaborate of many devotional columns and images in Córdoba commemorating the Archangel Raphael’s promise to protect its inhabitants.

the other side of the Roman gate

horse and carriage ride anyone?

convent of Saint Ana

Christmas decorations over the shopping streets of Córdoba. Although decorations are being put up all over Spain, none are yet illuminated, this does not happen until December.

anyone for a helter-skelter ride? Seen in one of the streets in the centre of Córdoba.

Córdoba is one of the few cities in the world that has a near-exact antipodal city, namely Hamilton in New Zealand, but surprisingly the cities are not twinned.

We wandered the back streets admiring the sights however our time was running out so with a quick sprint via taxi we were back at the train station ready to return for our last evening in Seville before tomorrow’s journey to Granada.

Jerez

November 27, 2017

Whilst we are here in Seville, we are pretty close to Jerez or so it seems so why not take a day trip to Jerez? With a bit of research we found that a trip to Jerez, the home of sherry, was just a 55 minute train ride from Sevilla and that a couple of bodegas (wine tasting) were within a reasonable walking distance from the station, so we thought let’s do it.

Jerez is best known for its sherry, Andalucian horses, and flamenco as well as motorcycles apparently.

This time it was the high speed train we were on with no stops along the way, hence that is why it was such a relatively short journey time wise. We were in Jerez at the very pretty train station before we knew it.

The view from the platform

Inside the station

With the aid of Google maps we found our way to the first bodega that we had identified earlier. We arrived there just 10 minutes before their next tour and tastings were scheduled, did we wish to go on that tour culminating in a tasting session of 12 different sherries? Wow, that sounds pretty damn good to us. We waited for the tour to begin the the vine covered courtyard area.

I have to admit that looking back over the photos and trying to remember all that we were told on the tour through the winery and the process of making sherry, it has all become a bit of a blur…I blame all that tasting at the end of the tour!

The cathedral-like winery building has been used for the sherry making business for a few hundred years, they have been oriented specifically to ensure that the cooler moist west wind could pass though the buildings taking the warmer air out through the high windows which are positioned and shaped to keep the sun out with some having special curtains which can be moistened to cool the temperature as well as assisting with humidity. Sherry needs plenty of air to develop the yeasts that form to give sherry its characteristics. The floor is made of “albero” a rough sandy clay soil that absorbs humidity and is kept moist by spraying with water to reduce transpiration.

Barrels are lined up in long rows, just three barrels high with the young wines on the top going down to the older biological wines on the lower levels, with the winemaker choosing when to decant from one to another as the younger wine provides the yeast needed to develop the wine so it is constantly being tested, tasted and moved.

Table and stools set up for tasting sessions

Some of the different varieties of sherry and some barrels being repaired.

Through out the tour we were told of the differing varieties of sherry and how they are made. Now this is not the old style sweet “nana” sherry that you can buy by the flagon in NZ, it’s a very complex and varied style of wine. Personally, I particularly enjoy a very dry Fino sherry as an aperitif, and as well we particularly enjoy a Pedro Ximénez sherry – one of the main reasons we came to Jerez, to find out more about this dark, unctuous, delectable delight. After introducing my brother John and his partner Jude to Pedro (as we now refer to the drink) we all take great delight in sharing the old tipple or three!!!

Next it was on to the tastings, 12, tastings we are told…..phew, this is going to be fun, I had to get my notebook out to makes notes so that I would not forget what we were having. We started with the dry fino, then the amontillado, oloroso variants. Then we were given two vermouths to try, one white, one red, which they also make by adding various herbs to the different wines. Now they were both a surprise and we enjoyed them both. Then it was onto the Moscatel and then the Pedro Ximénez including a 30year old Pedro. One thing we did learn is that traditionally Pedro is usually served chilled from the fridge and warmed up to room temperature as you sip on it.

the glasses and wines lined up with my notebook at the forefront.

and the final two wines to try. Amazing!

Two very happy kiwis staggered out of the bodega later that afternoon, and yes, we did buy a little to bring home with us…….and yes, we may even allow you to share it with us John & Jude!!! Salud.

Just along the road we found this well known branda favourite tipple of my parents!

the Harvey’s Wine storage facility. However, we didn’t venture in as by this time it was late in the afternoon when most things close for a couple of hours, besides, we needed some sustenance.

and the orange trees lining the streets. We are told that all these oranges that line every street are ones you cannot eat which we presume are the Seville Oranges that are so good for marmalade.

We found a small cafe serving tapas near the train station and enjoyed three lovely dishes, this time comprising of braised Iberian pork cheeks, a cold potato salad and a mix of croquetas. They were each delicious and a pleasant surprise as the cafe was just a tiny wee place that looked a little weary but the food and service was fantastic.

Time for just a quick wander around before we head back on the train to Seville for our last night and yes, back to our favourite bar and restaurant just down the road from the apartment for another great night and the perfect end to another wonderful day.

Sevilla

November 26, 2017

Another very pleasant train journey from Huelva to Sevilla, this time passing through what seemed like thousands of acres of oranges and olive groves as well as vegetable crops and glasshouses. We must say that the Spanish do know how to do train travel, with comfortable seating, plenty of room and up to date information on the screens.

As you can see we were heading to Sevilla Santa Justa, travelling at 136km/hr at that moment (it did get up to 165kph), the temperature a balmy 25C, this was about two thirds of the way through our trip.

We arrived at Sevilla main train station and caught a cab to our lovely apartment where our host Antonio greeted us and showed us in. We are staying again right in the centre of town in an older apartment block that is just three stories high and set around a large central courtyard, very Moorish in its design. After our quick familiarisation, it was a trip to the supermarket to get some basics before we headed just 50metres along the road to a local tapas bar that Antonio had recommended, as he said it was a place that he ate at and mostly locals frequented, sounds perfect. All the tapas plates were priced at around the €2.50 mark, we made a few choices and waited to see what would be presented.

But first a note about prices, we tend not to compare costs to NZ dollars, we have Euro€ and think of everything as 1 NZ$ equaling 1€ or 1£. The only time we compared prices was in Switzerland using the Swiss franc but even then we compared the franc with the euro or the pound. It’s all about when in Rome…. now back to the tapas!

my goodness, how delicious were these dishes! Sardines, peppers, tomatoes, patatas bravas, pate, deep fried goats cheese and croquetas.

Vowing to return again soon, we made our way home for the evening.

A tour around the city was in order for the following day to familiarise ourselves with Sevilla and where we would want to see in greater detail later. But first of all the early riser headed to the local market for a look, and yes I did visit the market with him later in the morning.

The array of fruit, vegetables, meat and fish was impressive, especially the fish roe which reminded us of Gary who we know loves eating this delicacy as whenever we have been fishing with him and there is roe in the fish, it is quickly put to one side for a delicious treat to be cooked up later.

Also of interest was this large tank of live snails,

Hmmm, one thing I am not particularly keen on is snails.

Off now for our trip around Sevilla to see the sights. Sevilla has a long and varied history being settled by the Phonecians, then Romans, Arabs and then Christians with all of these cultures having an influence on the city in both the architecture as well as the people.

Clockwise from Top L: Torre del Oro, Giralda, Arenal (bull fighting arena), Maria Luisa Parque buildings.

Clockwise from Top L: The wide open boulevards lined with orange trees, Costurero de la Reina, the Guadalquivir River, La Palmera.

It was hard to choose just a few buildings from all the photos we have but we have to stop somewhere. There really is a variety of styles, cultures and even materials used in construction but what it has started to show is how little we know about the rich long history and culture of Spain. Something I need to redress.

At the end of a long day of sightseeing what better way to end it than with churros and hot chocolate.

On our way back to our abode we stopped to have a look at the new “mushroom” structure recently built in the centre of Sevilla, or Metropol Parasol as it is officially known.

it certainly is an innovative and interesting structure in amongst the old buildings. Apparently it is the largest wooden structure in the world and was finally completed in 2009 but not without controversy in design, construction, technical difficulties and of course budget overruns.

We arrived back at our apartment in time to freshen up a little ready to go out to Coloniales, the tapas bar where we are becoming known. Again we tried a few more tapas from the extensive selection, enjoying every single selection. Just as we had finished our meal and asked for our bill, our waiter said no, no, no….wait please, and then presented us with a complimentary local liqueur made from cherries!

Not a bad way to end the day.

Meeting a Kiwi in Huelva

November 24, 2017

Our brief stay in Faro was coming to an end, we have enjoyed our time here but it’s time to keep moving – so many places to see, things to do, and time creeps on. We are unable to catch a train out of Faro this time as trains between Portugal and Spain are non existent here, however there is a bus service, but we are very fortunate that we are being picked up by a friend, Michael.

We met Michael 3 years ago when it was our first year of being hosts at Shakespear Park where Michael was a Summer Ranger that year. He frequently called in to have dinner with us whilst we were camping so we got to know him reasonably well, now it was our turn to call in on him! Michael is teaching English in Huelva which is about an hours drive from Faro and he offered to drive over and pick us up.

We arranged to meet by a restaurant near the marina in Faro at 11am, I got a message from Michael at 10am to say that he had arrived as he had forgotten about the 1hour time difference between Portugal and Spain. We were already at the restaurant ready and waiting so time to head off.

We had a lovely trip across into Spain, not that you realise that you are crossing borders apart from a small sign. Michael was a very good tour guide pointing out sights along the way. Once arriving on the outskirts of Huelva, we headed out to a beach that Michael has found which is mainly deserted, the locals think that it is winter therefore it’s cold….yes, it is only 22C today….so they don’t go to the beach.

Roy & Michael on the beach

spot the crowds (and spot a cloud, we haven’t seen any for weeks now!).

After a quick tour of the town, Michael dropped us off at our hotel in town so we could settle in, have a siesta and we were to meet up later in the early evening. We are starting to get into the Spanish way of life….lunch around 2-3pm and then think about dinner at 8-9pm, oh wait, we don’t usually have lunch back at home until around 2pm or later so perhaps we already work on Spanish time!

Christopher Columbus statue in the main square

We headed out along the Main Street to find a tapas bar for dinner and to catch up with all the news and happenings. Michael did the ordering for us as our Spanish is almost non existent however we do try! Much to the hilarity of locals. We had a lovely dinner of many different things including a plate of the famous Iberian Jamon and some cuttlefish, also a local delicacy – they were both delicious.

We arranged to meet up again the following morning as Michael had to go to the next town for some paperwork issuing so we were going to tag along for the ride.

With his paperwork sorted in two minutes we then headed for Palos de la Frontera, not far from Huelva and is famous as this was where Christopher Columbus set sail from in 1492 eventually reaching America. We were hoping to visit the Christopher Columbus museum and see the replicas of his three ships, the Santa Maria, the Pinto and the Nina. Along the way there was this statue to Columbus on the riverbank.

We arrived at the museum to find that it was closed on Mondays….typical. Never mind we could see the ships from the wharf further around.

With the largest ship only 60ft in length, they weren’t large ocean going vessels.

The entrance to the museum is also a wetland reserve, there was a large picture sign at the entrance showing the birds we may be able to see, many of which looked very familiar

Especially the Pukeko at the bottom third from the right! We were surprised to find them here, they are also found around Faro and we were surprised to find that the bird is the symbol for that region!

Boats were moored in the shallows nearby

After a stop for a drink, it was time for Michael to drop us off at the rail station. With fond farewells we hope to see you again in NZ Michael, perhaps even at Shakespear??

Faro

November 21, 2017

A big day in Faro as we tried to fit in as much as possible in our short time here. As we arrived at nightfall there was only the opportunity to have dinner before heading to bed for the night. Again, we have been very lucky with our accommodation, in Faro it’s just a short walk from the train station and our host Vera was waiting for us to show us around the gorgeous apartment before sitting us down and telling us of places to see and what to do.

After a great nights sleep we were off into town to walk around the old town and to get our bearings. Roy had already been off to the market early in the morning so he roughly knew where we were heading. The following are a few scenes from the market, Roy got there just as they were setting up.

Plenty of fresh, fresh fish of all shapes sizes and species.

Plenty of fresh and dried fruits and vegetables as well.

Into town and the marina area first.

we did not have too far to walk to the outskirts of the old town alongside the marina (checking out boats for you Steve!!).

Just outside the old town walls we came across a tuk-tuk, we thought it was a good oppportunity us to have a quick tour of the old town and parts further afield to orient ourselves.

Church inside the old town walls

the outside wall of the old town

After our short history filled tour with guide Ernesto, we walked along the outside old town wall to our next stop, which was to have a boat trip around the National Park wetland area called Ria Formosa.

There are five barrier islands that protect the wetland area from the ocean. Our boat trip took us throughout the low tidal flats that are home to many bird species, many of which we also have similar species in New Zealand, including the pukeko!

the old town walls as seen from the boat.

There are fish farms located within the waterways and we saw a few small boats out with men fishing. It seems as though there is no size limit and they catch and keep everything.

A flock of spoonbills grazing amongst the growth

Once back on land we went back into the old town to have some lunch at one of the restaurants that had been pointed out to us during our tour. We were keen to try the local dish of Cataplana, a fish dish in various forms that is cooked in a covered dish, similar to a Tagine. As this region was once settled by the Moors, it is no surprise that some of their traditions remain.

It was rather delicious and surprisingly light. And included shellfish and fish such as monkfish, bacalhau, clams, mussels and shrimps.

We even decided to try the local desserts, one of us had a portugese tart (rather like a creme caramel) and the other had a portugese cake which is made of almonds, orange and figs. Both were rather delicious as well.

Now very much replete, we headed back to the main square where we had arranged to meet Ernesto again, this time for a tour through the National Park and out to Faro Beach. Again, we learnt lots of the history of the area and also about local agricultural practises, as we passed many farms growing crops of raspberries, oranges and tomatoes to name a few as well as goat farms. This region also produces a large proportion of the worlds cork. Ernesto explained that you can only remove the cork from the tree once every 9 years, with the best cork for wine bottles taken at the third cut. The men that perform this task are very skilled and in high demand.

Tree with cork removed from its lower trunk.

As well as cork and olive trees there are also acres and acres of pine nut trees.

Also within the park are salt pans, all dried naturally in the hot sun.

Salt pans

The salt is settling around the edge of the pans as evaporation does its thing

and once collected, it ends up in large mounds.

There are a large number of birds that call this area home, including spoonbills and flamingoes, however, the flamingoes were too far away for us to get a decent photo of them, besides they were wearing mostly grey feathers today.

We rounded off the day watching the sun set at Faro Beach

with the knowledge that as it dipped down over our horizon it would be popping up over the horizon in New Zealand. Cheers and good health to friends and family at home 🍹.

Lisboa to Faro

November 20, 2017

We had a few hours spare before we had to catch our train to Faro. After checking out of our apartment we headed into town dragging our cases behind us, not sure on how we would fill in the time. However, we came across a line of Tuk-tuks and decided to have one last look around Lisboa putting ourselves into the capable hands of our guide Miguel.

Miguel listened to where we had already been and came up with a personalised tour for us, taking in sights and scenes we hadn’t visited as well as promising to show us the real Lisboa and it’s people. True to his word we were quickly on our way through back street climbing to the highest point in the city for a panoramic view.

looking across to the castle and just below it on the right hand side was where we had been staying. Yes, we were perched on the side of a hill!

We visited churches and buildings that Miguel thought were interesting (and yes we did too).

During our tour and subsequent discussions, Miguel figured out that we were interested in the real Portugal and not the touristy stops and shops. We mentioned that we had not bought any souvenirs as such as we were not into buying Chinese made imitation bulk stuff that seemed to be everywhere. Later, he passed by a wee shop that he said was an example of the real Portuguese art made locally, by local artisans, including a professor of art history who was recreating patterns and styles of long ago. I asked if we could go back to it as I would like to have a look, needless to say I came away with a small couple of items with the knowledge that my spend was going to local people and supporting their craft.

As we were outside one of the churches with Miguel explaining the history to us, he said, “look, see those two there? they’re pickpockets!” Two well dressed and tidy men in their late twenties or early thirties looking all the bit like tourists themselves with small backpacks and phones at the ready taking pictures, they were ever so nonchalantly following two women with large cameras and backpacks. Hmmm….not the image of pickpockets that I had. Miguel called out to a local workman further up the road something about the pickpockets and finding a policeman. We left at that stage, hopefully they were thwarted in their attempts.

We had also arranged for Miguel to drop us off at the train station rather than back in the centre of town, on approaching the station he asked if we would like to visit a local market in a suburb close by that was an area he knew well as he had previously had bakeries there. Sure, we both said, we would love to see where local people shop for their produce. We were soon in a market reminiscent of a small version of the famous Melbourne Victoria market. This is what we have been looking for! Shame it was on our last day in Lisbon.

Back to the train station where we bade farewell to our new friend Miguel

and a short time later we hopped onto the train bound for Faro.

Our journey took us over the April 25th bridge the bridge looks a lot like the San Fransisco Golden Gate Bridge. On the other side of the river is an imposing statue of Christ that is very much like the one in Rio de janiero,

We had seen the bridge and statue many times from Lisbon and now we were travelling over the bridge, or under the bridge, as the rail line runs underneath the road.

On through the countryside we travelled, passing through thousands of cork trees as well as some olive groves, no pictures were taken during this journey! The one thing I will say about Portuguese trains is that the seating configuration leaves a lot to be desired with no account taken for where seats are positioned in relation to the windows for viewing vistas. Both times so far we have been seated by a pillar, one time facing backwards as the seating pattern seems to have been done randomly.

The three hour trip passed relatively quickly and we were soon disembarking in Faro. We followed the instructions on how to reach our accommodation and within 5 minutes we were met at the door of our apartment by Vera, our host. We really have done well with picking apartments, this one is just delightful, two bedrooms, lounge dining, kitchen and laundry and comes complete with an enclosed courtyard. It is very clean and tidy as well as thoughtfully appointed.

courtyard of the apartment.

We arrived just on dusk so after our orientation we quickly settled in then it was off to find a few provisions and something to eat before setting in for an early night. Tomorrow is set to be another busy day.

On to Lisboa

November 19, 2017

We are getting rather adept at this train travel lark, finding our way from the underground Metro in Porto to the train for our three hour journey to Lisbon.

The train trip was like any other, travelling through countryside and villages before eventually arriving at our stop in Lisbon. From there it was a quick taxi ride to our accommodation where the host of our Airbnb apartment was waiting to greet us and settle us in. Tiago, or host, showed us around the apartment and then sat us down to give us a brief overview of Lisbon and places to see and explore around the city and the river.

This apartment is near the castle and old city walls that overlooked the central city, read that as narrow, winding, cobbled streets that meander their way up the hillside. In fact the taxi driver was not terribly impressed at driving the steep narrow streets, and exclaimed at a couple of spots at either the view, or perhaps the drop off we are not sure, or the narrow streets with the inevitable cars parked over the road and footpath making manoeuvrability around the obstacles a little hair raising at times!

The apartment is great, with separate lounge, dining and kitchen, bedroom and bathroom with excellent amenities including wifi. We have booked in for three nights so we shall see how we go. We decided to take a quick explore and pick up something for dinner before nightfall, taking Tiago’s instructions on where to go we set off. First up a bit of a hill before descending to an elevator which goes down 7 stories to a supermarket at the base. Very handy not to have to climb all those steps!!

We had a quick look around before buying a few necessary items and something for dinner, we headed back to the apartment as night fell, and the temperature also dropped, to a chilly 9C overnight, well what can you expect when there is not a cloud in the sky.

The next morning we are off on our trek into town, down the road to the elevator, but hello, what’s this? A truck is wedged into the street outside, delivering concrete via a pump and crane to the building some floors up.

I don’t know how they got the truck out of there as further along the street there were cars parked randomly and little room to move. But they must have wriggled their way out somehow as on our return later in the day the truck was no longer there.

We carried in with our walk to the elevator then across a square to the municipal buildings and another elevator which leads us to the centre of town and flat land. All the streets are cobbled with the cream and black cobbles all laid out in intricate patterns. We learn that the way the pavements are cobbled is a Portugese signature, with the cream and black patterns in every town, with the same formulae laid down in the streets of Brazil and their other colonies.

We took another one of the hop on hop off bus tours to orient ourselves with the city.

central city square, monuments and pretty pastel coloured buildings

Through wide tree lined boulevards, we passed many of the significant churches and monasteries in Lisbon.

On to the monument to the First Marquis of Pombal. Pombal is noted for his swift and competent leadership in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in 1755 which destroyed much of Lisbon. The city was razed by the earthquake, estimated to have been 9 on the Richter scale, and the ensuing tsunami and fires. He immediately took upon the task of rebuilding the city, with his famous quote: What now? We bury the dead and heal the living.

The term Pombaline is used to describe not only his tenure, but also the architectural style adopted in Lisbon after the great earthquake with wide open streets and earthquake safe buildings.

statue of the Marquis de Pombal

the statue surrounded by an impressive large roundabout with lovely gardens up the hill at the rear of the monument

and the view from the top of the gardens looking down over the city. NB. The haze over the city is smoke from the recent devastating fires that have swept through Portugal.

Further on our trip we went past an impressive aqueduct system.Lisbon needed good drinking water therefore the aqueduct was commissioned in the early 1730’s and by 1748 it was bringing fresh clean water to the city. The main course of the aqueduct covers 18 km, but the whole network of canals extends over nearly 58 km, and it is all gravity driven.

Aqueduct and commemorative arch in the Amoreiras neighbourhood.

Back into the central city where we pass another impressive pice of architecture, the Santa Justa lift which was built in the style of Eiffel and is sometimes called Lisbon’s Eiffel Tower.

And no we didn’t venture to the top, the queues to go on it were a little long as there is a limit of a maximum 25 people allowed on it at any one time.

One of the nicest areas is along the waterfront of the Taiga River, with older buildings, modern buildings and port area it is vibrant and lively with lots of people enjoying the area and of course the many restaurants.