Thursday, November 15, 2018

Portugal! Part 3

Our third day took us to Sintra, a short train ride outside of Lisbon.  The train there was loaded with tourists despite it being "off season" and a less than perfect day.  The roadway was jammed with big tour busses taking people up to Pena Palace and The Castle of the Moors.  We discussed a tour for about 2 seconds and then set off on foot.  It wasn't raining but was a bit overcast with very low clouds hanging over the mountains.

Every step up (more hills) brought another magnificent view. There were beautiful gardens and plantings everywhere.

Not sure what this building is but we came across the back of it as we ascended the mountain.

And up and up we went.

Finally we started seeing these walls which we believed to be part of the Moorish castle.  The walls and castle are so far up the mountain and huge boulders are everywhere.

Alas, we weren't quite as close as we thought!!

As much as we went UP, sometimes that path took us down, just to get steeper around the corner.

It's a bit hard to tell from this drawing but the Castle of the Moors was spread out over a pretty large area at the top of the mountain.

After finally getting to the gate, we went up some more and could finally see one of the towers.

Not even to the top yet and the views are breathtaking.  Far in the distance is the Atlantic Ocean.

Here you can get a little perspective of the size - we are close to one side looking back towards the other side. You can walk along most of the wall to the right.

It wasn't especially cold but up this high it was really windy and we were glad for layers.  I had my coats off for much of the walking up the mountain.

It's truly amazing to imagine how this was built at the top of a mountain amidst all the huge rocks back when civilization didn't have the modern tools we have now.

Leslie looking out one of the small "windows" in a tower.

The view she was seeing from that window.

A cloud settled on the top of this mountain for a few minutes hiding the other half of the castle.

Looking back at the towers we had been in as we climbed up to the other half.

The Pena Place in the distance. We never made it there.  By choice.  We had been told the grounds were beautiful but the inside wasn't all that great and not worth the price.  We were also getting pretty tired!

The clouds were starting to break up and putting spotlights on the landscape below.

Heading back towards the gate - just beautiful scenery at every turn.

A panoramic shot that doesn't get justice here.

We took a long winding path down the mountain avoiding many of the streets that we took going up. Much prettier with these fun little tunnels. And ankle twisting stones walkways.

A pretty little church coming back into town.

And then we boarded a bus to head down to the sea.  I have no idea what kind of trees these are but they grew in small groves and looked very cool!

We didn't actually get off the bus at Cabo da Roca but it is the western most point of Europe on the Atlantic Ocean.

From there we ended up in Cascais along the Atlantic.  It was a pretty little tourist destination where we found an Indian restaurant and had a great seafood dinner before boarding the bus back to Lisbon.

We laughed when we got back to the apartment and checked our floors of stairs on my Fitbit since it had felt like we had climbed about six mountains.  Yes, 116 flights of stairs! And based on our burned calories, it wasn't likely that we were gaining any weight!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Portugal! Part 2

The second day had us up fairly early on a train to Evora.  Evora is east of Lisbon at the top of the bottom third of the country.  It was a beautiful ride out there and just a short walk from the train station to the heart of the city.

While Portugal was a part of the Roman empire of course, they were later led by Berbers and Arabs  so you see some of those cultural influences in the architecture and especially the tile work.

Much of this church in Evora was rebuilt but it's still very beautiful.

This doorway off an alcove with a 30 foot ceiling looked ridiculously small.  Behind me is a great example of some of the beautiful tile work we found everywhere.

Next stop was the Chapel of Bones.  This was very cool in a very weird way.  Read the info below before seeing the pictures.

Every wall is covered in bones and skulls with beautiful blue and gold tile lining the bottoms edges.

The posts are covered as well.

Skulls line the ceiling beams.

And the doorways. It's a serene place of peace.

After wandering around the city a bit, we stumbled into a small restaurant that looked good.  Since this small city lives on tourists, it wasn't exactly an UN-touristy spot but it was a bit off the beaten path.  But oh my was this good!!  Probably the most amazingly good fish stew I've ever had.

As mentioned, there are also some Roman influences still evident and rarely standing.

And like everywhere in Portugal it seems, you don't have to go far up to get some amazing views.

The side entrance to another small church.

The front entrance was much more elaborate with the 12 apostles flanking the doors.

And as is my tradition, I always have to get a picture of some horses when I travel!  We saw the horse drawn carriages in several places - this one happened to be right outside the tourist office in Evora.

And then the highlight and reason for our trip to Evora.  To see old rocks.  Leslie had hired a tour guide named Jones.  "Indian Jones" as he liked to call himself since he was half Indian.    He wasn't an archeologist but he knew his stories and had talked with enough archeologists (mostly one from Latvia) that he could weave a good tale.

First stop was this single monolithic rock in the middle of a cork farm.  (Cork trees are very common in this area along with olive trees).

This rock had fallen and was uncovered about 50 years ago but pre-dates Stonehenge.  The bottom half of it is almost as long as the top half.  Nobody knows how it got here or it's exact purpose although many believe it helped tell time or seasons.  We got there an hour or so before sunset so the shadows were already getting long.

You can see the shadow of the rock on the left side of this picture looking out over the cork trees.

Next stop was a much bigger monolithic rock site.

Coming up over a small hill to the site, you can see these ancient rocks forming a circle.

While not all the same size, they are all shaped similarly and most were at least 5 feet tall.

Nobody knows exactly how they got here or why they are set up the way they are.  They form rough oval shapes across the landscape maybe the size of a soccer field or so.  They were discovered not so many years ago, many toppled over  and buried by 7000 years of weather.  Sadly, the entire site is open to the public and unprotected.

A slightly slower paced day since much of it was spent on trains and in the car, we didn't log nearly as many steps or flights of stairs!