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A Story About Portugal  
User currently offlinemihairosioru From Romania, joined Sep 2009, 43 posts, RR: 0
Posted (2 years 5 months 1 day 9 hours ago) and read 6754 times:

http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/pt12_leader_final.jpg

17 June 2011, Bucharest, almost midnight. Got’em! I managed to secure cheap tickets to Madrid for my winter holidays. And a compact car for two weeks in the same booking. The only thing is that there are six months left to the said holiday… How am I going to resist? Only if I could refrain from checking the calendar every single day.

The truth is that Portugal has been on my mind for quite a few years. Now the time is ripe to make the move. This time Spain will merely be the transit country. After a little bit of digging over the web, I decided that the best way to get to Portugal (in terms of both costs and beauty of traveling) is flying a single leg to Madrid, hire a car and continue driving from that point on.

14 January 2012, Bucharest, early evening. Been there, done that. Portugal exceeded all expectations. It is the perfect escape from the cold, grey winters here in Eastern Europe. I’ve enjoyed every single minute of this holiday and hopefully will return for the next winter. Godspeed!

30 December 2011, Bucharest, early morning. Good things happen to people who wait. After six months of almost daily calendar checks, it was about time. I woke up at 7 sharp, one hour earlier than planned. There are people who can’t sleep before they travel due to stress. Das Reisefieber, as the Germans put it. But for me no, that is not the case. I just can’t wait for the trip sleeping. Way too much excitement.

It is 6 o’clock in Madrid. Too early. The inbound flight to Bucharest has not yet departed. I am checking its status on Flightradar24 and on the airport’s website. Very curious about the registration tag, as always. Maybe it’s gonna be a brand new bird.

And indeed she is. Around 08:30 Eastern European Time, I can see the flight on Flightradar24, approaching Spain’s Eastern coast, flying high and fast. It is G-EZFZ, delivered from the factory to EasyJet in the summer of 2010:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/1_flightradar.jpg

Hope she gets clear skies and smooth air on her way to Bucharest. I’ll start drinking from my coffee for that.

One hour later, I’m running the checklist before leaving for the airport. Identity card: checked. Driving license: checked. Credit card: checked. GPS: checked. Travel pouch: checked. Cell phone: checked. Printed boarding-pass: checked. Other printed bookings: checked. Lonely Planet bible: checked. Twelve kilos backpack: checked. I am good to go.

G-EZFZ is somewhere over Northern Italy. She’s heading into the Balkans.

Now, let me tell you a story about Portugal.

Friday, 30 December 2011. Bucharest Otopeni (OTP/LROP) - Madrid Barajas (MAD/LEMD)
Distance: 2464 KM/1330 NM
Flight: EasyJet 7838
Block time: 12:05 - 15:25
Flying time: approx. 3h30m
Equipment: Airbus A319, registered G-EZFZ, delivered on 25 August 2010
Load factor: 100%


Foggy winter day in Bucharest and overcast skies. I am thinking, on my way to the airport, that it will be a pleasure to break through those nasty clouds and see the beautiful, blue sky and powerful sun. In two hours’ time this is precisely what will happen.

Otopeni is quiet today. However, I expect the EasyJet flight to Madrid to be a full house, as always. I stroll around the check-in desks and, thanks to a perfect timing that I am unable to explain, the check-in for the flight to Madrid opens right in front of me. I drop off my backpack well ahead of the crowds. The check-in agent insists handing me a new boarding pass, even though I had already printed mine at home. Whatever… why should I bother understand the airport’s bureaucracy?

I am heading straight to the observation point of the new terminal. What a foggy day. I can’t even see runway 08 Right:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/1_foggyapron.jpg

Few minutes later this Israeli Boeing 737 (4X-EKS, delivered on 25 August 2008, exactly two years before G-EZFZ), is being pushed back for its 2 hours and 858 nautical miles journey to Tel-Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/1_4xeks.jpg

Amazing shape of that huge winglet:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/1_4xekswinglet.jpg

One hour later, our orange G-EZFZ descends from the hazy skies into Otopeni. Boarding starts in a hurry and everybody is being bussed to the airplane. What a mighty bird:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/1_mightybird.jpg

As always, I am heading towards the rear end of the aircraft. She is still being prepped for the flight: bags are loaded into the cargo bay and refueling is ongoing. Passengers are advised not to fasten their seatbelts yet:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/1_refuel.jpg

Nick Cocaine is our captain today. He explains that we’ll have to de-ice our wings before departure, but we will still make it on time for Madrid. Clear skies all the way ahead and no bumps expected. With that being said, the de-icing truck starts spraying its life saving liquid on our aluminium body. We are then OK to fly:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/1_deice.jpg

Taxi clearance 5 minutes later. It will be runway 08 Left today, which means that we’ll have to make that beautiful left-turn after climbing out of Otopeni. As we taxi, my mind is quietly singing fly me to the Moon and back and I am unable to make it stop. Outside, almost no winds at all:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/1_wind.jpg

Last view of the terminal, as we line up for departure on runway 08 Left:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/1_byeotp.jpg

Runway 08 Left ahead. I love its bright lights:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/1_rwy8left.jpg

I am missing my adrenaline intake for this departure. Take-off seems very sluggish. The take-off roll is surprisingly long. I guess we are a heavy bird and reached MTOW. Wheels up. I can feel the engines’ vibrations, as they struggle to keep us airborne. Then the expected 180 degrees left turn:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/1_tothewest.jpg

Time to let her fly, Captain! Once flaps retracted, her wings are sharp as a blade and she really starts to climb. We are pushed into our seats as we reached out of the cloudy sky. This is the feeling and the view I was looking for since I woke up this morning:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/1_letherclimb.jpg

90 minutes later, somewhere over Italy, a high-speed encounter:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/1_contrails.jpg

Cabin view:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/1_cabinview.jpg

Marseille airport down there:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/1_marseille.jpg

Feet wet over the Mediterranean:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/1_feetwet.jpg

Landfall over the Spanish coast, north of Barcelona:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/1_landfalles.jpg

Look down there! Girona airport (I have nice memories of this airport, click here for a long trip report with all the juicy details):
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/1_girona.jpg

Moonlike landscape right before starting our descent on Madrid:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/1_moonlike.jpg

Our powerful breaks in action on Spanish soil:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/1_breaks.jpg

Long taxi to Terminal 1. EC-LHL, a Boeing 757, built in 1990 and delivered to Mint Airways in 2010:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/1_eclml.jpg

Final parking position. Slides disarmed, doors opened. RyanAir’s EI-EBB to our right side (delivered in 2009):
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/1_eiebb.jpg

Bye G-EZFZ and thanks for a great ride today. We’ll be meeting again in two weeks’ time for the return flight to Bucharest:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/1_bye_gezfz.jpg

continued below…

9 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlinemihairosioru From Romania, joined Sep 2009, 43 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (2 years 5 months 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 6735 times:

Barajas, two hours later. I am having a rough time parking my rented Opel Corsa in the designated underground parking slot under a tiny hotel in Madrid Barajas. I have just descended on a steep and narrow ramp under the hotel and all that I am seeing right now is a thick forest of support pillars. How the hell am I going to squeeze my car in there? And how the hell am I going to turn it around so that I can drive out later? There is only one other car parked in a corner to my right side: a large SUV. OK, cool down. If it was possible for an SUV, it is also possible for a small Corsa. Here we go. Be bold.

Madrid, 19:00 local time. I am lying on a bed in the emergency room of Hospital de Madrid. No, I did not crash my Corsa. I almost broke my left ankle while going down the stairs in the tube. I had noble plans for tonight. I was on my way to see the Dama de Elche at the National Museum of Archeology when disaster hit. Now my ankle is swollen as hell and has a beautiful, albeit cold, blueish shade. A doctor has just seen my leg and we are waiting for the X-ray to come out. I hope it is not broken, as I still need my left leg for the next sixteen days of traveling around Portugal. Here comes the doctor with the good news: it is not broken, but... I am holding my breath here... but I need to walk using a walking stick. OK, fair enough, just don’t tell me that I have to stay in bed. So if I can walk, I can also step on the car clutch, so I can still drive. My holidays are therefore not ruined. Thank God it was not my right leg. I wouldn’t have been able to step on the brakes anymore. Yikes, that was a close call.

Early morning of December 31st, around 02:00 hrs local time. Back to the Madrid airport to pick up my friend scheduled to arrive on a WizzAir flight from Timisoara. The flight was delayed more than 4 hours due to heavy fog at TSR. So I had enough time to find a drug store and buy a walking cane (baston ingles, as the Spanish call it) and some painkillers for my leg. I also had a rough time trying to get the Corsa out the bloody garage under my hotel. What a first day... I am dead tired now, but the day is almost over. I’ll have a good night sleep and tomorrow off we go. Destination Cordoba for the New Year party.

31 December 2011, outskirts of Madrid, 11:00 hours. I smile remembering the challenges that I faced earlier this morning. Challenge number 1: get into the bathtub for the morning shower. This is difficult when you’re using just one leg. Challenge number 2: get that Corsa out from the garage, again. And don’t leave any car paint on the garage walls.

Now everything is fine. The pain in my left ankle is bearable and I can step effortlessly on the clutch. I am driving on M40, heading south and listening carefully to my GPS. Or, for the sake of the metaphor, allow me call it my nav computer. So, my nav computer is a very smart toy and knows how to get me out of Madrid quickly and with minimum hassle. I like that it displays superb graphics and knows all the exists, ramps and bridges by their numbers. So it is easy to follow its inputs. You can’t miss a turn or an exit.

What a beautiful, sunny day. And what a nice drive on a deserted Spanish highway. 350 km ahead till we reach the ancient city of Cordoba.

31 December 2011, Cordoba, 17:00 hours. I have just parked my car on the Avenida de la Republica Argentina and now it strikes me. Our hotel is less than 1 km away. It is awfully difficult to walk after so many hours in the car. It takes me around 25 minutes for this short walk. And I can’t really handle this bloody walking cane. I am getting worried, is this holiday really going to be ruined by my ankle accident? Am I going to just drive the car and crawl to the nearest hotel bed afterwards? My mood is not looking very optimistic for the New Year Party.

31 December 2011, Cordoba, almost midnight. For the New Year party I am having a tortilla de patatas and some champagne in one of Cordoba’s squares. I am dying to see the Mezquita instead of listening to this almost hysterical lady vocalizing all over that stage in the centre of the square. I am unable to walk, unfortunately. The Great Mosque of Cordoba is another ten minutes down the narrow streets. Out of reach.

1 January 2012, Cordoba, 09:00 hours.Now is the time for a little bit of sightseeing. I am determined to walk from the hotel to the mosque. I remember how much I loved it when I saw it for the first time, in July 2009 - click here for a detailed trip report on the Great Mosque of Cordoba.

Cordoba, a deserted city in the morning of January 1st, 2012:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/crdb_downtown.jpg

That’s me and my walking stick:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/crdb_narrowstreets.jpg

I have always liked the huge walls surrounding the mosque:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/crdb_walls.jpg

Orange trees and Mediterranean Cypress in the mosque’s yard:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/crdb_yard.jpg

Overview of the Grand Mosque of Cordoba:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/crdb_overview.jpg

1 January 2012, Puerto de Santa Maria, 21:00 hours. We left Cordoba at noon and drove almost 300 km to Puerto de Santa Maria, our second scheduled stop. And the last one before crossing into Portugal. We are now walking at the beach near a pine forest; it is dark outside and we cannot see the Atlantic, but we can hear it loud and clear. There is no wind at all. However, the waves must be pretty strong, judging from the noise they’re making out there in the dark. I can also sniff the ocean with my traveller’s nose... the air has an unmistakable salty flavour.

2 January 2012, Cadiz, early morning. Short stop in Cadiz before leaving for Jerez and then, early evening, for Portugal. It’s a cloudy day with showers from time to time. The city looks very interesting, surrounded by the ocean from all sides and has a very nice old quarter. The 18th century cathedral is worth a visit:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/cdz_cathedral.jpg

First view of the ocean during day time:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/cdz_ocean.jpg

2 January 2012, 22:00 hours Spanish time. Observing the lawful top speed of 120 km per hour, we cross the bridge over the Guadiana river, the border between Spain and Portugal. We are late, as the roads have been very busy around the Spanish city of Huelva, 50 km away from the border line. The good news is that, once in Portugal, we will save one hour, as we have to counterclockwise adjust our watches. Our time will then match the Coordinated Universal Time.

My nav computer switches to Portugal automatically: the road’s call sign changes from A-49 into A-22. Adiós, España! Bem-vindo a Portugal!

Faro is our first destination in Portugal. Our initial impression is mixed. The buildings and the roads look slummy and shaby. Compared to Spain, this place has a unique vintage flavour. We can feel it from inside our car.

3 January 2012, Faro, 10:00 hours. Busy day ahead. We plan to visit Faro, Albufeira and Cabo de Sao Vicente. We have no idea where we’re going to sleep tonight, as from this point on we ran out of bookings. We’ll try to sort this out on a daily basis from cafes and restaurants providing wi-fi Internet access.

A swift visit to Faro’s old quarter was just enough for making us instantly fall in love with Portugal. It’s beyond words to explain why this happened so quickly. The warm air, deserted streets, incredible bright light, the smell of the salty ocean - all this make winter Portugal such an enjoyable experience. And we haven’t even touched food and wine yet…

The Municipal Museum in Faro, hosted in a 16th century convent: http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/faro_archeology.jpg

Islamic oil lamps:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/faro_ligthners.jpg

An ancient mosaic depicting Oceanos, god of the huge river encircling the world in Greek mythology (four months earlier I have seen another depiction of Oceanos in the Zeugma Museum in Gaziantep, Turkey):
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/faro_oceanos.jpg

White stork on the museum’s roof:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/faro_bird.jpg

Another kind of a bird flying low and at high speeds (I think it’s G-EZDI, delivered to EasyJet in 2008):
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/faro_ezyairbus319.jpg

Faro’s airport (an important RyanAir hub) is visible from the old quarter:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/faro_airport.jpg

3 January 2012, Albufeira, 14:00 hours. Now that’s a hell of a view in front of us. We are left speechless on a high cliff. It’s like we have never seen the sea before in our entire life. The sight of the ocean is stunning:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/albufeira_ocean.jpg

We are in Albufeira and I love the small museum here. From each and every window, from each and every corner of the building, I can see the huge ocean down there.

This is what made us stop here: a Neolithic vase, 7000 years old, not a single piece missing:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/albufeira_vase.jpg

3 January 2012, Cabo de Sao Vicente, 17:30 hours. We made it. We’ve arrived in time for the sunset at Europe’s southwesternmost point (according to the teachings of my Lonely Planet bible). We are right on top of the cape. I like this place. For the Portuguese, Saint Vincent is the patron saint of wine and sea voyages. Wine and sea voyages... they kinda go together, don’t they?

The lighthouse of Cabo de Sao Vicente:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/cabov_phare.jpg

To our left side is the fortress of Sagres, built in 1632:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/sagres_fortress.jpg

Everybody comes to the lighthouse to see it lighten-up after sundown:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/cabov_everybody.jpg

Good morning, New York!
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/cabov_leader1.jpg

Darnkess falls over Portugal:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/cabov_leader2.jpg

After dark we realise that we still don’t have a place to sleep for tonight. I am leaving our faith in the hands of my nav computer and order it to take us to the nearest hotel. The nav computer makes a quick calculation and points out a hotel in Sagres, a village nearby. Twenty minutes later we settle in for the night in a three star hotel, paying the price of a hostel: 13 euros per person, parking slot y compris. I love traveling in winter.

Later in the evening, first culinary experience made in Portugal. A small fish restaurant near the beach of Sagres. Dish of the day: cataplana de peixe, a tasty and steamy fish and vegetable stew. The secret of the cook is that he only puts potatos and onions inside, but plenty of fish of different sorts. We managed to count four different species of fish in our large aluminium pot. Yummy!

3 January 2012, Sagres, 23:50 hours. I am lying on my bed on the third floor of Aparthotel Navigator. Lights are off. I intentionally left the window slightly open so that I can hear the waves. The view outside is more like a dream than reality. To my left, with the help of tonight’s moon, I can see the dark-blue ocean. To my right, far away in the distance, I can see the lighthouse of Cabo de Sao Vicente. Every five seconds its lenses rotate and flash a thin and bright beam of light. It is a view out of this world.

continued below…


User currently offlinemihairosioru From Romania, joined Sep 2009, 43 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (2 years 5 months 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 6730 times:

4 January 2012, Portimao, 18:00 hours. It is about time to say good-bye to Portugal’s southern coast. We’ve spent a wonderful day visiting Lagos and Portimao, two seaside cities. By far my favourite moment has been the ad-hoc picnic on a deserted beach. We’ve eaten one kilo of fresh, juicy oranges right there by the sea:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/3_beach.jpg

Still sleepy Sagres, picture taken at around 06:30 in the morning:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/sagres_7oclock.jpg

Our plan is to make a three-day detour on our way to Lisbon. We would like to go deeper into the Portuguese countryside and visit Mertola, Beja, Evora and Vila Vicosa. While having a coffee in Lagos, we managed to secure a booking for tonight in a brand new hotel in Mertola.

5 January 2012, Mertola. The journey last night from Portimao to Mertola has been wonderful. After dark we left the A2 motorway and drove around 80 kilometers on N267, a narrow, winding, national road. We stopped in the middle of nowhere for a few moments. Outside the car, the air was warm and smelled like spring.

Mertola is an open-air museum, an ancient city established by Phoenicians traders. Then the Romans settled in and called the place Myrtilis. Later on, the Moors stepped in from Northern Africa. They called the place Martulah and built a mosque and a fortified wall. And the sequence of conquests and rulers goes on. Today, the city proudly displays its heritage by providing a well organised tour to willing travellers.

In the summer the temperature reaches as high as 50 centigrade. In winter it can’t get any better: around 20 and sunny. Perfect for a morning stroll around the old quarter.

Overview of the city:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/3m_mertola.jpg

The mosque built by the Moors:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/3m_mosque.jpg

View of the old quarter:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/3m_oldquarter.jpg

6 January 2012, Evora. We continue to roam Portugal’s ancient cities. Today we are in Evora. Among other gems, here is the best preserved Roman temple in Portugal:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/3m_romantemple.jpg

Near the temple, Evora’s cathedral, built at around 1200. The legend says that, before his first voayge to the Far East, Vasco da Gama had his flags blessed in this very cathedral in 1497:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/3m_evoracath.jpg

Outside Evora, after a short drive, we stop at what is considered to be the largest megalithic enclosure of the Iberian Pensinsula. 100 monoliths are on display here, built around 5000 BC in an oval setup. Their function remains up to now a mistery, although there are some hypotheses concerning their alleged conection to the Moon and Sun:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/3m_chromlecs.jpg

6 January 2012, Vila Vicosa, at dusk. Vila Vicosa is our last stop before heading for Lisbon after dark. It’s a village very much applauded in my Lonely Planet bible for its marble buildings and beautiful central square with lots of orange trees.

It has been a smart choice indeed. Vila Vicosa has a cosy and quiet rural atmosphere. Main square:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/3m_bisposquare.jpg

A large fire is prepped for later in the evening. Maybe it’s gonna be a huge, jucy and tasty barbecue:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/3m_bispofire.jpg

16th century cloister:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/3m_bispoconvent.jpg

6 January 2012, Lisbon, 23:00 hours. After a 200 km drive on A6 motorway we arrived safe and sound to our hotel in Lisbon. Our little Corsa will stay put in the underground garage for the following three days, as we will explore the city by foot. Our room is at the 9th floor and over the window I can see Lisbon’s large urban sprawl. I am already missing the ocean, the lighthouse and the small fishing village of Sagres.

Lisbon is a very enjoyable city, especially during the winter season (epoca baixa, as the Portuguese call the low season), when temperatures are mild, tourists are far away and prices affordable. Yet, for me it was impossible to fully enjoy what was on offer in Lisbon due to my ailing ankle. It is difficult to visit Lisbon and also enjoy every minute of it when you’re actually using just one leg. The distances are too long, the metro stairs too many, the narrow roads too steep. It was kind of a failed visit for me. I will therefore upload just a few photos and let’s hope for the better for the next visit to Lisbon.

There’s no doubt about it. This is Lisbon, with its narrow, steep streets and yellow, vintage trams:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/la_narrowstreettram.jpg

Torre de Belem, built in the 16th century to defend the mouth of the Tagus River: http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/ls_belembynight.jpg

Jeronimos Monastery built by Henry the Navigator in around 1460. The tomb of Vasco da Gama can be seen inside:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/ls_jroverview.jpg

The walls inside are reachly decorated, Manueline style:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/ls_jrconvent.jpg

Beautiful inner yard:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/ls_jrinneryard.jpg

Inside the church:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/ls_jrchurch.jpg

Praca do Comercio and Ponte 25 de Abril, one of the two bridges crossing the Tagus River:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/ls_placadecommercio.jpg

Picture taken from Alfama at dusk:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/ls_dusk.jpg

9 January 2012, Sintra and Cabo da Roca. It was time again to hit the road and leave the city for one day. We have travelled to Sintra and afterwards, late in the afternoon, to Cabo da Roca for another fantastic ocean view.

This is the Pena National Palace, a castle built on the edge of a high cliff rising above a thick forest:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/ls_sintraoverview1.jpg

Europe’s westernmost point:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/ls_pontamaisocidental.jpg

This is the very end of continental Europe:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/la_cabodaroca.jpg

Sunset seen from Cabo da Roca:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/ls_sundowndaroca1.jpg

9 January 2012, Lisbon, 22:30. Our last night in Lisbon. We have to do our homework tonight, as we haven’t got anything planned for the following four days of our journey. So here we are, using the hotel’s wi-fi connection (3 euros per hour) in the lobby downstairs. Three medieval cities north of Lisbon are heavily underlined with a red marker in my Lonely Planet bible: Alcobaca, Batalha and Tomar. OK, that’s where we’re heading tomorrow, there are wonderful things to be seen out there, but we have a problem. None of this three cities is on the seaside. The ocean is not very far, so it would be a pity not to sleep somewhere near the Atlantic. Our last two nights in Portugal... can’t stay away from the ocean, right? Quick check on the map and the choice is obvious: seaside Nazare, a fishing village 90 km north of Lisbon. A few more mouse clicks on a well-known booking site and that’s it. We’re all set for the following three days.

continued below…


User currently offlinemihairosioru From Romania, joined Sep 2009, 43 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (2 years 5 months 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 6729 times:

11 January 2012, Nazare, 10:00. Breakfast with a view to the ocean. Nazare has been indeed a smart choice. It’s a rather large fishing village, but it lacks the atmosphere of a huge seaside resort. It’s all quiet and deserted during the winter season. What a perfect time to visit Portugal.

Ocean view from our hotel:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/n_nazarefromhotel.jpg

We’re not alone for breakfast - two friendly seagulls joined us the moment we sat down:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/n_seagals.jpg

The seagull is a beautiful and smart bird - knows how to fly, how to swim, how to dive and how to have breakfast at the best hotel in town:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/n_hungrysgls.jpg

Overview of the village from a tall cliff called Promontorio do Sitio, rising 110 meters above the beach:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/n_overview.jpg

11 January 2012, Alcobaca, 12:00. After a short drive from Nazare we reach the city of Alcobaca. Our nav computer takes us directly to Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Alcobaca, a magnificent 12th century monastery built by the first king of Portugal, Dom Afonso Henriques.

I like the monastery’s plain facade:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/n_cathedralalcobaca.jpg

Inside, the height of the construction of breathtaking - remember, it has been built in 1200!
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/n_insidecathedralalcobaca.jpg

11 January 2012, Batalha, 15:00. Batalha is another medieval Portuguese city where one can marvel for hours walking in and out the richly decorated 15th century abbey. The Mosteiro de Santa Maria da Vitoria, as its own name suggests, has been built to commemorate the 1385 Battle of Aljubarrota and the victory of the Kingdom of Portugal against the Crown of Castile.

Not as austere as the monastery in Alcobaca:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/n_batalhacatedral.jpg

Peaceful inner corridors with vaulted ceilings, Gothic style:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/n_batalhaconvent.jpg

Joint tomb king Joao I and his English wife Philippa of Lancaster:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/n_batlahahandinhand.jpg

11 January 2012, Obidos, 17:00. This village is Mertola reloaded. A delightful place to spend some time at dusk and stroll through the maze of narrow streets and austere white houses. Unfortunately, it’s quite a famous site and plenty of tourists flock in and around Obidos. Prices are as higher than in Lisbon. The view is, however, for free.

Overview of the village:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/n_obidos4.jpg

The surrounding wall seen here in the background has been built by the Moors, same as in Mertola:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/n_obidos3.jpg

The narrow streets remind me of the exotic city of Mardin, on the Turkish-Syrian border in Southern Anatolia:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/n_obidos2.jpg

12 January 2012, Tomar, 12:30. It’s kind of a sad day today. We left Nazare and the ocean earlier this morning, and we left them for good. We have a busy day ahead. First a visit to Tomar, another superb medieval city, followed by a 400 km drive to Salamanca, where we plan to spend the night on our way back to Madrid. We have to bluntly admit it: our journey is coming to an end.

Convento de Cristo has been for several centuries the centre of power in Portugal. For around two hundred years it has been the stronghold of the Order of the Temple. In the 14th century the convent became the headquarters for the Portuguese Order of Christ which actually paid in hard cash the costly voyages to the Far East during the age of maritime discoveries. Today, Convento de Cristo, a World Heritage Site, is a vast and heavily fortified castle. An enthusiastic visitor needs around three hours for a full visit.

First view of the castle:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/n_tomarcastle.jpg

Massive church, with very high ceilings. Note the rich Manueline-style decorations all over the walls. My Lonely Planet bible says that the knights used to attend Mass on horseback. I find this interesting - why bother dismount from your horse when going to the holy liturgy? It’s the same in our modern times - you drive your car straight into the McDrive. So this is the first (and maybe the only) ride-in Christian church of humankind:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/n_tomarchurch.jpg

It’s not exactly a medieval Hilton, but for the standards of both the epoch and the religious doctrine, the monks’ cells are considered luxurious:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/n_tomardorms.jpg

13 January 2012, Salamanca, 02:00 AM Spanish time. Back to Spain after a 400 km drive from Tomar. Altough we are dead tired, we cannot just crash onto our beds. We have never been to Salamanca before, so it would be a capital sin to sleep instead of discovering the city. We stroll around the old quarter for a few hours in the middle of the night. It is freezing cold outside and the air is misty. Compared to Portugal, Spanish architecture is overwhelming. We really need to return to Salamanca and pay a proper visit.

As my camera ran out of power, just two photos of Salamanca’s massive cathedral:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/granada_cathedral1.jpg

Rich, Gothic style of the main facade:
http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii403/mihairosioru/pt12/granada_cathedral.jpg

13 January 2012, Madrid, late afternoon. I hate the moment when the journey comes to and end. Our flight leaves tomorrow morning at 06:50, which very much adds to our unhappiness. As an act of rebellion, we decide not the sleep a single minute this night. What the heck... sleeping during our last night in Madrid? No can do. We enjoy one night on the streets of Madrid and eat out at Casa Granada, one of Madrid’s hidden gems. It’s an Andalusian restaurant on top of a building in Tirso de Molina. It’s not only the food that is fantastic here; the views from the long terrace over Madrid’s rooftops are great. This is the right place to be for bringing to an end our 16 days journey through Portugal and Spain.

14 January 2012, on board EasyJet’s G-EZFZ, international airspace, 08:00 UTC. We blasted off the northerly runway of Madrid Airport one hour and a half ago. So far, the flight is smooth as silk. What I don’t like is the morning light over the Mediterranean - way too violent for my tired eyes. However, I am fully enjoying the ride on this brand new bird. As I was among the last passengers to board the aircraft, I am sitting in the second row of seats, cabin front. I have never rode an airplane in the front of the cabin and I am amazed at the complete lack of noise. Our engines are far away under the wings and the only thing that I can hear is the air’s high speed current against our fuselage. It’s a wonderful sensation of speed.

14 January 2012, Bucharest, 11:50 Eastern European Time. After a bumpy descent against westerly winds of up to 20 knots, wheels down on runway 26 Left at Otopeni. We are 15 minutes behind the schedule.

Our journey is really over. And what adds more to this tragedy is the fact that as of tomorrow EasyJet will no longer serve any Romanian airport. I remember my first flight with them from Bucharest to Madrid, in February 2008. Hope they will be back some day.

As for Portugal, there is only one more thing to add: we have to repeat business.


User currently offlineBNE From Australia, joined Mar 2000, 3173 posts, RR: 12
Reply 4, posted (2 years 5 months 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 6610 times:

You have written an amazing trip report, I now have to include Portugal as I place I should visit and the weather seems ok even in winter months to visit as well.

Thanks for the pictures.



Why fly non stop when you can connect
User currently offlineKnightsofmalta From Malta, joined Nov 2005, 1746 posts, RR: 18
Reply 5, posted (2 years 5 months 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 6591 times:

Hi there

Thanks for writing this up and for posting those absolutely stunning pictures. They0re really beautiful and so crisp and clear. I enjoyed that very much.

Cheers,
William


User currently offlinesignol From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2007, 2992 posts, RR: 8
Reply 6, posted (2 years 5 months 8 hours ago) and read 6041 times:

Excellent, thank you! I've only visited Portugal once, a short visit to Porto (there's a report on here somewhere), but it has made me want to return and see more of the country. You have rekindled that fire  

A shame the holiday started so badly with a hospital visit, I trust your leg healed enough to not affect your walking and driving after a couple of days?

Quoting mihairosioru (Reply 3):
Joint tomb king Joao I and his English wife Philippa of Lancaster

I have never heard of her, you would think that she would have been an important historical figure. She may be the start of the traditional friendship between England and Portugal  

Thanks again!

signol



Flights booked: none :(
User currently offlineQuokkas From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 7, posted (2 years 5 months 5 hours ago) and read 5941 times:

Great trip report that brings back fond memories of my own trip to Spain and Portugal in August 2010, visiting some of the places you describe - Cordoba, Lisbon, Sintra, Obidos, Batalha, Salamanca, but I didn't get as far south as Faro. Nor did the plane need de-icing before setting off.  
Quoting mihairosioru (Thread starter):
We really need to return to Salamanca and pay a proper visit.

It's a great city with some impressive buildings and an imposing square. Next visit, if you get the chance, climb up the tower of the Cathedral onto the roof for some great roof-top views.

Quoting signol (Reply 6):
I have never heard of her, you would think that she would have been an important historical figure. She may be the start of the traditional friendship between England and Portugal

The daughter of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and the brother of Henry IV of England. You are not wrong: King John of Portugal signed an alliance that lasted through the Napoleonic Wars and ensured Portugal's neutrality in WWII.


User currently offlinevolvair From Germany, joined Oct 2011, 167 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (2 years 5 months 2 hours ago) and read 5858 times:

Hi mihairosioru,

thanks for writing this up. What a well-written story which is particularly interesting for me as I will do largely the same trip in a few months.

Sorry to hear about your leg, I hope you recovered well.


User currently offlinesantos From United Kingdom, joined Dec 2007, 739 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (2 years 4 months 4 weeks 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 5708 times:

Wow, stunning trip report. Thank you very much for sharing your experience.

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