Portugal July 2015   I met Isabelle in Portugal for an 11 day vacation.  She left Kabul Afghanistan for a visit with family in France before meeting me.  We began our trip in Lisbon, where we rented a cute apartment  with a view of the Tejo river and centrally located.  Lisbon is easy to navigate; we walked a everywhere, and used the tram a few times in the city.  We used trains for our day trips.  The Tejo river itself is not scenic, but this colorful, hilly city is crammed full of history, charming streets and shops and terrific restaurants.   Our charming apartment in Barrio Alto:

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our patio for morning breakfasts and evening drinks..

View from a miradour, with the Castelo of Sao Jorge on the top left side of photo:

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view from mirador, with Castelo Sao Jorge on upper left

 

This lively city has many squares and places to window shop and eat. 

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The red tiled roofs add to the city's charm.  We had dinner one night at Chapito, which offers delicious food and a great view of the city.

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The tram was originally built in 1873 for horse cars, and they navigate the small, hilly, and winding streets of the city which were not meant cars but for horses.  It's quite an experience!

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The famous Portugal tiles are found everywhere: on old buildings, bridges, walkways, churches, museums, homes and sold in stores (you can purchase old tiles as well as new ones).  So pretty!

 

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We visited the Jerominos Monastery located in nearby Belem.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Construction began in 1501 and was completed 100 years later.  It is an example of Gothic architecture.

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We next visited the Tower of Belem, a medieval fort built in the early 1600's as part of a defense system. 

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Before going back to Lisbon, we had to try their famous nata pastry (egg custard tart) at the popular Pasteis de Belem shop.   The tart was first made before the 1800's, and this particular shop has been around since the 1930's.  It's THE place to buy them, and there's always a long line to get in.  Yummy!

We took a day trip by train to Sintra, a magical place, and another UNESCO World Heritage site..  We walked up a steep hill/mountain? to visit the Castelo dos Mouros (castle of the Moors), built in 10th century built by the Moors to defend the town of Sintra.  We did not imagine after that steep walk uphill that there would be another walk along the castle walls.  The view was stunning.  It was windy and misty that day, appropriate for a castle's setting.

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The town of Sintra below the castle....

 

We visited the National Palace, a former royal palace also from the Moorish period.

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We took the train to Cascais, a lovely coastal town.  We rented bicycles and enjoyed Atlantic bike trail to Guincho beach, and had a nice seafood lunch.

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Isabelle had a caipirinha drink at the restaurant.... and look what happened to her pedaling back to the city!

 

and guess what happened on our way back!   Okay, not really.....she fell before the drink and just made a funny face above!

 

Time to head north.  Goodbye Lisbon and its lovely inhabitants!

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We rented a stick shift car in Lisbon and after a rocky start.  We couldn't figure out to use the reverse in the car.  We were in a pear orchard (to use the outdoor toilet) and could not put the gear into reverse.  It took us a few minutes to figure out that we had to push a button on the shift to engage it.  A few nervous, but funny, minutes!!  We stopped at Obidos, a classic Portuguese walled city built in the 12th century.  Now they have it filled with charming restaurants and shops.

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Our next stop was Coimbra, another medieval town that is home to the country's top university.   Coimbra University was estabished in 1290, and was moved to its current location in  1537.  It is one of the oldest university in continuous operation in the world, and Portugal's oldest university.  It is quite stunning; we felt we were walking in Harry Potters Hogwart's school (like the movie, there were s people wearing long black robes).

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We settled into our aparment in Porto, the birthplace of port wine, which was located along the Douro River.  The property manager left us some port, so cheers Porto!

Porto is one of the oldest European cities, and it is Portugal's second largest city. The old town was built on hills, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It's a beautiful city.

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We spent two days wandering the city, riding the tram and eating good food.

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We visited the famous Sao Bento train station, whose famous tiles depict the history of Portugal.  Originally, this was the site of a 16th century monastery.

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I don't like sardines, but the preparation of the sardines in Portugal is excellent I must admit!

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We took a Douro river cruise and enjoyed the scenery.

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Our last night in Lisbon, we went to see a fado show (Portuguese music dating back to the 1800's or even earlier).  We enjoyed the music and ambience.....salud!

We drove to the Douro valley, the wine region of Portugal.  The Douro river cuts through the valley, and the hills are terraced for the vines.  It's stunning!

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We stopped for wine tasting at Quinto do Tedo.

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We drove high into the hills to our b&b, Casco do Visconde de Chanceleiros.  A German couple had renovated a property formerly owned by a viscount.  The setting was perfect, and our room was pretty and very comfortable. 

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Our trip is sadly coming to an end.  We started our drive back to our Lisbon airport hotel.  One last stop....Ericera.  It was getting late; we only had a few hours in this lovely seaside town.

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Isabelle was flying back to Kabul, Afganistan for a few weeks, ending her one year post there with USAID.  I was flying to meet Pat in Spain.  What a wonderful trip we had together!

 

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