Month: June 2015

Porto to Santiago de Compestela 

We decided to start our final day in Porto early and walk around town taking some photos as the sun was hitting this wonderful city. It’s a shame more people don’t choose to visit Portugal, it has so much to offer and we have thoroughly enjoyed our stay in both Lisbon and Porto.   With a final breakfast of coffee and Hugh’s new favourite pastry, Nata, we packed our bags, which now included a mandolin case, headed towards the car via the popular ice cream shop, which we thought opened at 10am, but disappointingly opened at 11am!! Oh well, who needs ice cream for breakfast anyway??? Our trip to Santiago De Compestela was estimated to take 3 hours so we were keen to leave Porto by 10am. The drive was uneventful yet relaxing for me, whilst Hugh battled the cars on the freeways cruising at over 120kms Once checked in we hit the pavement and headed towards the famous Cathedral of Santiago De Compestela, the main reason for our stay in this town. As is …

Porto

Today is for just wandering around without any real plans, soak up a bit of the city vibe and go with the flow. That is after Rachael went for a run along the river. I was sacrificing my exercise routine and doing the prep work for the day, i.e. Sleeping!!    Breakfast next door with the old Nonna serving up croissants, coffee & Portuguese pastry called ‘Pastel de Nata’, an egg tart custard pastry. Dee-licious!     To work off the calories we headed up the road to look at books, in the fanciest book shop in Portugal, called Livrarian Lello & Irmao. Lonely Planet classified it as the third best bookstore in the world, and it would be hard put to find any better.    The place was packed, so much so we didn’t bother going in at first, but walked around for 30 minutes hoping the tours would have eased. Yep, this place is an institution and tours roll through it like a flood. Not sure how any books get sold…they should charge admission. …

Lisbon to Porto via Sintra

Today we actually go to Sintra, as we have to leave beautiful Lisbon, and head north 300km to the second largest city in Portugal, Porto…home of Port. Before heading off we have breakfast next door at a smashing little cafe, full of brick-a-brack on the walls, and the best croissants in town. I wish we had something similar back home, it would kill it. Lisbon has been wonderful, and deserves a longer stay, but time is afoot, and we need to push on. It’s going to be a busy day! Sintra is another heritage site, Unesco have been busy handing these awards out, and has numerous sites worthy of our attention, but time constraints mean we can only visit two, and in an abridged version at that. Without too much trouble we find a carpark in town, and head off by foot to our first pit stop, Quinta da Regaleira, which is just down the road. It is home to a smallish palace, and the most amazing gardens, filled with wonder and surprise. Everywhere you …

Sunshine in Lisbon

After the rain and drizzle of yesterday it was good to wake up to sunshine this morning, and what better way to start it than with a run?! Anyway, Rachael ran to the bridge and back, and I may not have made it that far!! The plan today was to go to the nearby town of Sintra, which necessitated an early start, but then I changed my mind! The thought of driving out of town, then back in was giving me the heebie geebies, so I gently suggested we put our plans off till tomorrow….and sorry ’bout the sleep in. So, breakfast time. Obligatory croissants & coffee, then off for more exploring. Lisbon is built on seven hills, and when I say hills, I mean HILLS! Everywhere is up, that is of course till you reach the top, then everything is down!! We seem to like walking instead of taking public transport, for some strange reason, but today we threw reason out the door. Call us crazy, but we ventured into new territory folks, and …

Our first full day in Lisbon

The plan was to get up early and go for a run along the Tagus River. However having endured the previous nights dinner torture and not getting home until 1am the plan was quickly shelved and we enjoyed a well needed sleep in and a late brekky.    The weather was looking ominous today but this was not to deter us from seeing the sights of Lisbon. First stop, Castelo De Sao Jorge, a steady climb from our apartment to the top of the hill. Along the way you can stop to view the city of Lisbon from platforms called Miradouras.     Once at the Castelo we had a wonderful panoramic view of Lisbon and Hugh duly captured the scene with his photographic eye. The strongly fortified citadel dates from medieval period of Portuguese history, and is one of the main tourist sites of Lisbon, overlooking Lisbon from all sides. A very imposing structure!    With the temperature slowly dropping and the clouds moving in, the drizzle that had accompanied us for most of the …

On to Lisbon via Evora

Up and at ’em pretty early today as we have a fair way to go, about 330km in all. It was nice to stay in a hotel for a change, and our choice in Caceres, Casa Don Fernando, was great.  And cheap, Only €64! The same quality hotel anywhere in Victoria would be at least twice that. Caceres is a beautiful town, and highly recommended to anyone travelling through Spain.  Our first stop today is at another World Heritage site, the Medieval Roman town of Evora.    Yep, more cobblestones, stone walls and ancient temples.  Oh, and this place has a very special chapel, ‘Capela dos Ossos’…the Chapel of Bones! I’d read about this place ages ago, and was really excited to see it, so you could imagine my disappointment when we got to the information desk and discovered it was closed between 12.45 – 2.30pm, and it was now 12.47!!! Nothing for it but to hang around for a couple of hours, so we thought a reconnaissance of the area would help pass the …

Madrid to Caceres

Yesterday was huge, we walked about 25km all over the place, so how better to start the day than for Rachael to go for a run around Retiro Park again, while I walked around taking photos. It truly is a wonderful park, and the crystal palace is majestic especially earlier in the day with the reflection from the sun hitting it. Which would have been great if there had been any sun! The weather in Madrid has been pretty ordinary for our stay, unlike Barcelona where it was quite warm. Not to worry, we loved Madrid which is as different to Barcelona as two towns can be. From narrow cobblestone lanes, to wide boulevards with plenty of greenery and park land aplenty. The brash ‘in your face’ hustle & bustle of Barca, to the understated elegance of Madrid is not unlike the difference between Sydney and Melbourne. Both great cities, and it would be a shame to visit Spain without visiting both, as they offer different slants on the Spanish way of life, and the …

Madrid

With only one full day in Madrid we needed to hit the ground running, which is exactly what we did….running around Retiro real, a beautiful park once owned as leisure grounds for the royal family. About 75 hectares of sculptured grounds, with a magnificent Crystal palace surrounded by lakes, and a huge rectangle man made lake, popular for rowing. Absolutely fabulous, and such a change from Barcelona, with grass and trees aplenty. They certainly knew who to live it up, the Spanish Royals, wallowing in an ostentatious display of wealth, but more of which we would see later! Home, refreshed and off to the Mercato San Miguel, probably the most famous market in Madrid, for breakfast. Unlike Barcelona La Boqueria, this market is quite compact, only about 20 stalls selling the usual market stuff, with a strong emphasis on grog! Looks promising……oh wait, it’s only 9am. Damn, coffee and croissants it is! Plus some fresh peaches to keep the PT crew happy! Ok, ok, maybe a churros as well. Pretty much next door is the …

Adios Barcelona, Hola Madrid

 An early start today, sadly leaving Barcelona, but not before breakfast at the market once again.  This is the laneway outside our loft. Our front door  The interior courtyard, all musty and mysterious.  We’re off to Madrid by train, a renfe fast train at that, but unfortunately a “stopping all stations” version, so not too much super speed action. A good chance to rest the legs, listen to some Django Django tunes (get on it peeps!) and watch the countryside rush past. But before that, some thoughts on Barcelona. – Wonderfully atmospheric – full of history – outstanding winding laneways packed with interest. – spectacular buildings, none better than Sagrada Familia – the gentle waft of sewerage on street corners can be a little off putting, but… – clean, tidy, and not nearly as dodgy as I was led to believe, stories of pickpockets etc are to be highly exaggerated. If you wear a sign saying ‘I’m a dickhead tourist’ you get what’s coming to you, everyone else…just simple precautions. – not much grass, or …

Barcelona Day Four

After a much needed sleep in from our 6 hour photography tour the night before, we start the day in true Spanish style at 10.30 am! I truly believe I am destined to live a Spanish lifestyle, siestas in the afternoon, late nights due to a second wind from said siesta, and lazy mornings, what’s not to love? As we head off for brekky at our favourite market to enjoy our usual fare, Hugh is suffering for his art from the night prior, with a very sore ankle from being on his feet for 6 hours straight. As he hobbles along the laneways I am tempted to put an empty cup in his hand to see if he can’t generate enough donations for our last night in Barcelona!!!     Due to the lateness of brekky we are almost tempted to enjoy a glass of Cava, but cannot go past a coffee to kick start our day. With nothing planned we head off towards the Picasso Museum to try our luck for a second time. …