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Cherries in Portugal – #8

October 31st, 2014 · Spain & Portugal 2014, travel

Ginja cherries that is!  This day was one of my favorites of this trip with Odysseys.

The day began with packing and loading onto the bus.  Our end goal of the day was Porto, but on the way we would visit the towns of Obidos and Navaree.

Less than an hour outside from Lisbon we stopped at the walled city of Obidos.  Unfortunately, like so many sites, it is no longer a town where people live, but a tourist stop with bus parking and bathrooms and souvenir stands outside the gorgeous stone gates and walls.  We did ask an employee as we peeked into what turned out to be a garden for a restaurant about if folks lived in the town, and she said that everyone lived outside the walls now.  While we’re glad to have visited it, it is sad that tourism has interrupted a centuries old way of life.

Obidos – a gift of the kings.

Once the wedding present of a queen, the preserved medieval town of Óbidos lying 100 km north of Lisbon is without doubt one of Portugal’s most classic walled settlements. Walking the ramparts, visitors can enjoy views of windmills, vineyards and surrounding farmlands. In the residential area below, narrow cobblestone streets are lined with whitewashed houses sporting terracotta roofs. The shops are piled high with local handicrafts, while in spring the town is ablaze with geraniums, morning glories and bougainvillaea.

It was a gorgeous day and we headed right for the ramparts!  We ended up walking about halfway around the town as there was no way down except go back to the way up; and why do that?

On the ramparts - notice no edge....

On the ramparts – notice no edge….

Another look at the ramparts

Another look at the ramparts

After this, the tour went onto Nazaree – where the world surfing record was set, and where we did something more simple and ate a wonderful “sardinias assadas (grilled sardines) for lunch.  By the end of the day we were in Porto in a beautiful pousada (hotel).

We climbed down the “staircase” and through some of the town, finding our way to a cafe where we tried the local liquor called Ginja made from Ginja cherries.  It was a short size drink served in a chocolate cup – yum!  And it wasn’t even 11 in the morning – nice!

Ginja drink in chocolate cups

Ginja drink in chocolate cups

After Obidos we were back on the bus, had a stop in Nazaree where we had terrific saradinias assadas (grilled sardines) for lunch.  By the evening we were in Porto at our Pousada.

Here’s a few more pictures of the day:

An interesting museum in Obidos - we think it was a famous fashion/stage designer.

An interesting museum in Obidos – we think it was a famous fashion/stage designer.

A lovely street view of Obidos

A lovely street view of Obidos

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Gulbenkian Museum – Spain & Portugal #7

October 29th, 2014 · Spain & Portugal 2014, travel

Now, you realize I’m only on Day 1 of this amazing trip that we just got back from?  Stick with me – it’ll be worth it!

I want to just tell you about the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon.  What a treasure!  After an organized tour morning of the Belem Tower, Monument to the Discoverers, Jerinomos Monistery, and the Quelez Palace, you would think we’d be exhausted.  Heck, no – okay, maybe – but we find the best way to deal with time changes and jet lag is to just power through as best you can – and so we did.

The afternoon was free as we were to discover was going to be a general pattern with this Odysseys tour. Some were whole afternoons, some just a couple of hours.  But today we had the whole afternoon.  The bus dropped us off at the Museum.  It costs 10 euros each to get in, and it was very much worth it.

First, let me say that the cafe was delightful!  We stopped there first for a light lunch and ate on their lovely patio.  It was raining a bit, but nothing serious and large umbrellas were provided.  It was clear already that Lisbon lives a lot of life out of doors and is prepared for it.

Me enjoying the cafe lunch - check out the delicious small tomato stuffed with "real" tuna...

Me enjoying the cafe lunch – check out the delicious small tomato stuffed with “real” tuna…

 

When we travel I write small notes about our day, and here’s what I wrote about this museum:  “A wonderful gem.”  Did I say that already?  Well, I’m happy to repeat it – very lovely!  The website has some more history about the museum, and a lovely page of online pieces to enjoy. There were sculptures, paintings, treasures from far and wide collected by Bulbenkian and donated to the city.

 

The room devoted to Lalique was our absolute favorite!   Here’s a few photos we took. One of the things that we were surprised by on this trip was the amount of Art Nouveau we saw throughout our visit.  We knew, of course, Barcelona had much to share, but we were delighted to find quite a bit throughout the rest of our tour.

Sharon pretending she owns the dragonfly....

Sharon pretending she owns the dragonfly….

For my next birthday, please?

For my next birthday, please?

A few other pieces from this lovely museum for your viewing pleasure:

Oops...we usually take a photo of the artist plague - forgot...

Oops…we usually take a photo of the artist plague – forgot…

After enjoying the museum all afternoon, we had a walk back to the hotel – many blocks, but the rain had eased up and we were up for some exercise.   We didn’t find anything to snack as we went along; so we went back to the hotel and brewed up some of our own tea and snack that we carry with us.

That evening we went to the Clube (casa) de Fado on the recommendation of the local tour guide that was with us; and it wasn’t all that good at all.  About twelve of us from the group went – the food was a lot and pretty decent, but over the course of two hours and about four courses of food, two women sang two songs each.  A bit of a rip off for sure – it cost 50 euros each.   Hubby and I knew that if we had more days on our own in Lisbon, we would have searched further and found more song and less fancy dinner.  Their website claims lots of good reviews, but I don’t recommend it.

But, we were exhausted by now, so a shared taxi back and to bed for only Day #2!

 

 

 

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Lisbon – Spain & Portugal #6

October 28th, 2014 · Musings, photo of the week, Site Seeing, Spain & Portugal 2014, travel

Bom dia!  (Good morning in Portugese)

Our trip, as any trip abroad, started with a very long day dealing with airports and check-ins, and waiting and more waiting. We stayed at the Tivoli Hotel for the first couple of nights.

One of the stops on the first day in Lisbon is the “Tower of Belem”.

“Built on the northern bank of the Tagus between 1514 and 1520 as part of the Tagus estuary defence system, the Tower of Belém is one of the architectural jewels of the reign of Manuel I.  We did not go inside, both because there was a charge, and there wasn’t enough time as we were on the first of many bus tours we would have on this trip with Odysseys.  The  link will bring you to a nice website with interior photos if you are interested.  The outside is impressive with a great deal of symbolism (what large monument doesn’t have that?) such as symbols for knights Templar, and ropes, and more.  The moat and stone patio surrounding the monument is recently built, we were told, to handle the tourists traffic.   And, as anywhere else, the ladies peddling scarfs and stolen bracelets (nice Pandora and similar type bracelets) were always there.  What our tour guide did not tell us about was the rhinoceros story!

 

Tower of Belem

Tower of Belem

Monument to the Discoverers

Monument to the Discoverers

We also got off the bus to tour the Monument to the Discoverers.    It’s very recent, and as our local guide pointed out, used money under Salazar that probably could have been well spent somewhere else.  It is impressive, and it would have been wonderful to have a brochure or handout of who explaining each person represented on the monument.  The Wikipedia site does have a listing if you are interested.  I’ve not been able to find a site that will translate well into English other than the Wikipedia site.

The compass rose and map of the world on the ground is really astonishing – too bad it was totally covered by tourists and their guides.  The guides would have their group stand right on top of the part of the world they were discussing.  While I’ve been sad to see so many sites roped off, this one needs to have that happen!   I think of interest is the word usage – in Portugal and Spain, these men were “discoverers,” in America we call them explorers.  What do you think of those word choices?  Fascinating to me.

Monument to the Discoverers is quite large!

Monument to the Discoverers is quite large!

A detail from the beautiful world map constructed of different types of marble next to the Discoverers

A detail from the beautiful world map constructed of different types of marble next to the Discoverers

We also visited the Jeronimos museum, once a convent, and the Queluz Palace and Gardens as well.

“The National Palace of Queluz and its historical gardens are one of the most remarkable examples of the harmonious link between landscape and palatial architecture in Portugal. They illustrate the evolution of the Court’s tastes in the 18th and 19th centuries, a period that was marked by the baroque, rococo and neoclassicism. Built in 1747 at the orders of the future King Pedro III, the consort of Queen Maria I, the Palace of Queluz was initially conceived as a summer residence, becoming the royal family’s preferred place for their leisure and entertainment. They lived there permanently from 1794 until their departure for Brazil in 1807, as a result of the French invasions. ”

Cloister of the Jeronimos Monastery

Cloister of the Jeronimos Monastery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many folks wondered if we were going to go to the more well known Palace in Lisbon: SIntra.   Part of the Odysseys itinerary promises visits to lesser well-known, but equally important sites, and they were spot on with this.  We were the only tour group there with only a handfull of other tourists.  While I really wanted to spend more time in the gardens, it was very nice to walk through the palace without the squish of other people and cameras.

This is a made-man "boat ride" alley covered in the most beautiful tile work.

This is a made-man “boat ride” alley covered in the most beautiful tile work.

 

 

The royal thrones (tee-hee - exactly what you think they are!  :)

The royal thrones (tee-hee – exactly what you think they are! :)

What a first day of touring so far!  And that doesn’t include our visit, when we had free time in the afternoon, to the Gulbenkian Museum!  I’ll write about that tomorrow as it is a real gem!

One of the palace rooms with a few of our fellow travelers.

One of the palace rooms with a few of our fellow travelers.

For now, we begin understanding just a little the history of Lisbon and Portugal.

Até amanhã.  (See you tomorrow.)

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Sardines – in and out of the can Spain & Portugal – #5

October 27th, 2014 · eating, Musings, Spain & Portugal 2014, travel

Well, the internet connection was not at all consistent in our trip with Odysseys Unlimited so I did not get to post as often as I had planned, especially in Barcelona.  An okay hotel- not at all one of the best we stayed in, Avenida Palace, but terrible internet connection. So you’ll have to go down memory lane with me for the next week or so while I revisit all the wonderful, thoughtful, moving and beautiful places hubby and I visited.

First, because it is still on my mind, let’s talk sardines – in and out of the can.  Here’s an amazing photo of the kinds of sardines you get to eat in Portugal and Spain.  This was in a little restaurant/cafe, as they all often are, on a side street of Nazarre (where, by the way, the world surfing record was set).  This was after we’d eaten one or two.  That is a dinner plate, not a saucer.  Sardines – especially grilled – are not anything like those things you eat out of a can in America.  I actually happen to like those canned sardines, but I was so looking forward to the real thing on this trip – and I wasn’t disappointed.  Just amazing.  Wish you could have been sitting with me to share a plate.

Sardines of Portugal

Sardines of Portugal

Now let’s talk about the other kind of sardine out of the can — flying!  I imagine you’ve been there – whether for an hour or two, or fourteen, or not quite eight, as we did on the last leg of our return from our connection in Frankfurt to Boston on Lufthsana.  We flew on a Boeing 747-400 – huge! Sardines all – and by the end of the trip – those passengers smelled worse than any canned sardine ever might! And, there’s just plain something wrong with having to put up with a man’s snoring – and that man isn’t your hubby.  I guess we were spoiled as our trip there, in early October, was not full and the two of us got four seats to ourselves.  Do you think any CEO of any airlines actually flies in those economy rows for more than an hour flight?   I have to say Lufthasana fed us very well and the bathrooms were kept immaculate given the size of the plane.  They also place the facilities in an aisle of sorts between about 15 or so rows of seats so you don’t have to practically sit on someone’s lap while you wait your turn.  And, every person has their own monitor and many, many choices of music, movies and TV to watch with free head sets.  It’s well done, and the attendants very personable and well trained, but a sardine from a can is a sardine from a can no matter the sauce put on top.

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Spain and Portugal – Post #4

October 17th, 2014 · eating, photo of the week, Spain & Portugal 2014, travel

Since I have high-speed connection at this hotel tonight, I’ll just post some pictures of today and the last few days.  Tomorrow we head to Pamplona & a parador at Bielsa in the Pyrenees for two nights.  Not every hotel has had great internet, so for tonight enjoy the photos!

Sharon keeping St. Martin company in front of the parador (hotel) in Leon, Spain

Sharon keeping St. Martin company in front of the parador (hotel) in Leon, Spain

The amazing stained glass windows of the cathedral in Leon

The amazing stained glass windows of the cathedral in Leon

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A mural replicating Picasso’s moving art work about the bombing of Gernika. We went there today for a walking tour – very, very moving.

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The fine arts museum in Leon. A great exhibit in there on “Conquest” – stay tuned for a future post about that.

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An amazing footbridge over the river in Bilbao – the city is one great architectural feat after another….

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The Atlantic ocean behind us, the Basque Country under our feet….

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Can you see the transporter carrying cars and folks across the river? It hangs from a steel structure….just amazing…

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Our favorite ham in Spain! If only we could have this store in Greenfield, MA!

Olive stall at the market in Bilbao

Olive stall at the market in Bilbao

The Guggenheim...a really amazing building...

The Guggenheim…a really amazing building…

In the outskirts of Bilbao..this is a transporter bridge.  This hangs from the bridge and ferries cars and people across every two minutes!

In the outskirts of Bilbao..this is a transporter bridge. This hangs from the bridge and ferries cars and people across every two minutes!

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