March 30th to April 13th 2007
Friday, March 30’th
This is not my first trip, so the flight is not as interesting as used to be.
But anyway – you are really on your way, when your first flight-meal is served. This one is a disappointment. Something weird from Wasa on the KLM-plane from Billund to Amsterdam. But it get’s better on the plane from Amsterdam to Lisbon, and when the chocolate-bars are going round just before landing it’s close to fantastic.
It’s 11 pm local time in Lisbon as we land. And it takes 3 quarters before the baggage arrives. Then I get a taxi – and goes to Residencial Florescente for a check-in to room 307. It’s 1 am before I can go to bed.
Saturday, March 31’st
Florescente is a nice little hotel in the city-center. Good room with the necessary things, and an ok breakfast.
After breakfast it’s time for the first look at this town. I take the tourist-tram no. 28, and the plan is to go to Largo da Graca, and the 2 neighbourhoods of Graca and Alfama, and the old castle Castelo de San Jorge.
But something turns out wrong. Suddenly I’m in the wrong part of town, at a place called Estrela. I better jump off this tram. I do so – check out a local church and a local park – and take the tram back towards my starting-point.
On the way back I get off at the right place. Close to the Castelo. It’s a nice place so I spend some time here. The views of Lisbon are great as well. I walk to Graca, a nice and almost tourist-free neighbourhood. Lot’s of houses with the well-known portugues tiles on the walls. I also pass the church of Igreja de São Vicente de Fora. It’s very nice. And the Thieves Market – I don’t steal anything.
Then on to the more famous Alfama. It’s being renovated – done “nice” – and that means boring. But a few nice alleys are still left to walk around, and via these small streets I end up at Largo das Algacarias, from where there’s a good walk back to the hotel. I’m back at the hotel at 4.30 – so this has been 7 hours of sightseeing
Second trip of the day is shorter. To Elevador de Santa Justa – and up to Bairro Alto. This area has to wait to be explored till later. So I walk down again – through the streets of Lisbon Center – called Baixa – throught the shopping-streets down to Praca do Comercio – a fine square dating back from the colonial-days of Lisbon.
It’s nice to be walking Lisbon. It’s not to huge a place. Well – there are tourist – but not to many. So there seems to be room for everyone. And people are nice as well – being polite and things like that.
I’m back at the hotel at 8 – with a sandwich from a local shop.
Sunday, April 1’st
Daytrip to Sintra today. Sintra is a very old town, 30 km. northeast of Lisbon. It takes about an hour on public transport to get there.
From the trainstation in Sintra bus 434 takes you uphill to Palacio Nacional de Pena, about 5 km from Sintra city. It’s a very nice castle. There are plenty of colours and a great view in the nice park. The castle has been built through various periods. Mostly though in the 16’th century when Ferdinand of Sachsen owned the place. You can also see the castle within, with nice furnitures etc.
After a few hours here, I start the descend though the woods. When you do that, you pass the impressive Castelo dos Mouros. That’s a ruin now, but built as a fortress by the arabs in the 8’th century. It fell to the Portuguese King Alfonso Henriques in 1147, and was in use until the 15’th century. Now you can walk on most of the ruins walls. The guards must have had a nice view of the surroundings, and it has not been an easy task to take it in.
Further down the hill through a small path in the woods to Sintra City. A quick lunch before the last sight in Sintra. That’s Palacio Nacional de Sintra – right in the city-centre. The history of this place is uncertain, but it did get it’s form that is has now in the 15’th and 1’th century during King Manuel I. There are two weird towers on the palace, that turns out not to be towers but chimneys instead. They connect directly from the huge kitchen of the palace. On a rainy day the soup would get very thin. Usually I’m most impressed by these buildings from the outside, but this place is most interesting from the inside, with plenty of tiles and impressive ceilings.
From here I return to the train-station and the train back to Lisbon.
Monday, April 2’nd
It’s cloudy this morning. So I set for indoor-activities. I take the metro to Oriente and the area Parque das Nacões, which was built for Expo 98, and now is a moderns area with apartments, offices, shopping- and entertainmentcenters. I’m here to see Lisbons Oceanarium, a very nice aquarium full of sharks, stingrays, sunfish, birds etc.
Plans were to take a local chairlift to a tower with a great view. But it’s raining to much, so there’s no fun in that. Instead I head for a local Pizza-hut, where I get a pizza while it’s stille raining.
Back to the hotel for siesta before the 2’nd trip of the day. That’s for Bairro Alto close to the Lisbon city-center. I start this trip on a metro to Cais do Sodre and then a short walk to Elevador da Bica. That’s one of Lisbon’s 3 funiculars, but the only one working at the moment. The two others are closed for repair. It’s a funny thing, going through the narrow streets uphill to Bairro Alto. A very charming ride.
Then it’s time for walking around in Bairro Alto. A great neighbourhood – a good place for walking up one street – walking down the next one etc. There are nice restaurants, sleazy café’s, fancy galleries, local craftsmen, punks, youngsters playing football, nice houses and others houses with broken glass and full of graffiti. All in the same neighbourhood. A great place to walk around.
Tuesday, April 3’rd
Exit Lisbon for now, but I will return later. Checking out from my nice hotel, and a Metro to Oriente. From here I take the portugues fast-train – calle Alfa Pendular – to Porto. It takes three hours – easy and convenient.
In Porto I have booked another old and cozy hotel. Residencial dos Aliados is the name. I check in at room 409, a nice room with a view toward Avenida dos Aliados.
The rest of the day is spent on a little sightseeing in Porto Downtown. It’s a nice place. Dinner is at a local café, with a burger, coca-cola and coffee for less than 5 Euro. It’s cheap here as well.
Wednesday, April 4’th
It’s a long walk today. To the area on the other side of the river Doura. This part of town is called Vila Nova de Gaia. This is where all the portwine-houses are located.
The walk over there passes the famous Porto-bridge Ponte de Dom Luis I. Just on the other side is the church Mosteiro de Serra de Pilar. There’s a nice view from here across the bridge to Porto. I walk inside the church as well. That’s a bad idea. A funeral will be taking place shortly – there’s an open coffin inside. I retreat quickly and discreet.
Then it’s downhill to Cais de Gaia, where the portwine-houses are located shoulder to shoulder. They all run tours of the premises. Most of them are free. I visit one of them – Croft Port – never heard of it before, but I am not an expert in these matters. You see the old cask where the wine is stocked, you get the story how the make portwine (putting brandy into the wine – and in this way stopping the normal procedures) – and you hear why just this house produces some extraordinary good portwine. Finally you reach the part that it’s all about – the tasting. If you visit all the portwine-houses you could get quite dizzy. You don’t see any production. It all takes place at the farms out in the Douro-valley.
I just visit this one, and walk around the area instead. It’s a great area – especially when you get a little out of the beaten track – and when you get uphill there are great views across the river to Porto.
The trip back takes me across the Dom Luis-bridge again. This time on the lower level of the two that make out the bridge. Then you arrive in the old Ribeira-neighbourhood, which I walk through on my way back to the hotel. It’s been a 7-hour walk, so I’m pretty tired when I reach the hotel. So nothing much else is going on today.
Thursday, April 5’th
First day of the eastern-days, but you hardly notice. Everything is normal, all shops, café’s and restaurants are open.
Time for a trip into the countryside today. That’s one of the good thing about my Lonely-Planet guides. There’s always good suggestions off the beaten track.
Amarante is such a place. The trip is not an easy one. First I take the lightrail to the railway-station at Campanhas. Then a small regional-train for Livrecaõ. That takes about an hour. Here there’s an even smaller train – or more a bus on tracks – going uphill to the fine city of Amarante
I’ve got 4 hours and 32 minutes to spend here, because trainschedules must be hit for the return-trip. I spend the time walking around this fine village. Rio Tamega runs through it, so there’s a fine little bridge and a nice walk along the river. There’s also a church – Igreja de São Goncalo. Then sights are done. But it’s a nice place to walk around, and sit down for a coffee or two at the café’s. Relaxing after all these major cities I have been to so far. The trip back starts at 5.32 and ends at 9 back in Porto.
Friday, April 6’th
Today’s trip is for Braga. It takes an hour with a local train and costs 2 Euro.
Braga is a very old town and the spiritual capitol of Portugal. Here in eastern there are plenty of services and religious procession. The latter is late at night when the last train has left, so I will miss them.
Of course there’s a famous church – Sé – which they began to build in 1070 and finished about 100 years later. It consists of lots of different styles, and it’s not to pretty if you ask me.
After visiting the church I stroll around town. It’s a fine old city. I loose my direction and suddenly end up at a ringroad with some aparment blocks around. My map is not worth anything – I’m outside the area that it covers. Finally I see a sign saying “city-center” and is back on track again.
At 3 there’s a train back to Porto. I take that one.
In the evening it’s football-time. FC Porto is playing home at Estadio do Dragão against Vitoria Setubal. A crowd of 40.000 is here. FC Porto has been among the top-clubs in Europe for the last 5-7 years. That’s quite impressive from a city that’s not nearly as big as its competitors.
It’s a good game from the hometeam. They are 4-0 ahead at halftime. Goels by Adriano (2) Postiga and Jorginho. Best player has been leftwinger Quaresma. Setubal is not a very good team, so Porto relaxes in the 2’nd half, and wins the game with 5-1.
Then it’s back to the hotel with the very effective light-rail. I’m back at the hotel within 15 minutes after the match has finished – that’s quite impressive.
Saturday, April 7’th
It’s Porto-day today. There are not a lot of star-attractions in Porto, but anyway it’s a very nice and comfortable city to visit. There are plenty of nice neighbourhoods, small alleys and good views.
I start the day with an attraction. The Torre & Ireja dos Clerigos. It’s a fine old church with a 76 meter high tower, they claim to be the highest in Portugal. I walk up for the fine views from the top.
From there I head for the cozy neighbourhood of Vittorio. That’s an area with nice old house, small streets and no tourists. It’s not mentioned in any guide-books. Normal Saturday-lifes take place here, with shopping in the local shops. All the people here shout to each other when speaking. They do that for some reason – they don’t talk in a normal voice – they shout to each other instead – like being afraid not to be heard.
After lunch it’s time for a break at the hotel before the second walk of the day.
This one goes to Porto’s cathedral Sé. It’s huge, but as it’s been the case with most of the churches in this country, it’s not as glittery as many other churches in southern-europe. For 2 Euro’s I alse get access to the cloisters of the church, with a nice little museum and some fine tile-paintings.
From here I heard for another area where the local’s are ruling. That’s Ribeira. There are a few more tourists here compared to Vittoria, probably because this area is mentioned in the guide-books.
Then on to the central railway station Sao Bento and on to shopping-Porto, with more buildings dressed in tiles and a good old fashioned pedestrian-street. If you want to shop this is the place in Porto. I don’t want to shop, so I buy myself 2 sodas before heading back to the hotel.
Sunday, April 8’th
This is Easter-Sunday, and the only day that most shops and restaurants are closed.
But trains are running, so I head for the 11.15 to Coimbra, about an hour south on the fast Pendular-train. I take a 5 hour walk around Coimbra – or should I say up and down Coimbra instead – since Coimbra is a very hilly city. The highlight in Coimbra is the old University dating back from 1537. It’s on the very top of the city, with fine buildings and good views. Actually you have to pay to get into the oldest part, but the guy taking care of the admission think that a small tribute to the chemistry-students foundation for social events is a much better way to show your appreciation.
At 6 I return to Porto, where the only place to “eat” around is at McD. Not good – but sometimes you have to hit the bottom.
Monday, April 9’th
This is the last day in Porto, and it’s one of the days where I get to walk almost a hundred miles.
I start the day by walking down to Douro, where I find the only tramline I Porto. It goes west –towards the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a very old tram, and it is having problems running. Happily we pass the tram-historic museum on the way, so the driver can get inside to pick of a few spareparts to make the machine running a little further. Out at the coast there’s life as usual. Nice and cozy – but nothing much to see.
Actually I thought that there was a boat crossing River Douro to the other side to tiny suburb of Afurada. But I can not find it, so I take the tram back to the center. Then I walk across the bridge to the other side, and take a 4 km walk along the fine wood-made promenade along Douro to Afurada.
Afurada is like a different world. A small fishing-village so close to Porto. There iss small fishing-boats in the harbour, and fishermen and women all over. And some nice houses dressed in tiles with different colours – every house seems to have it’s own unique colour and design.
I walk around this village, while the locals look around. They are not used to tourist around here, so they are probably wondering what he is doing here.
Then it’s another 4 km back to the Dom Luis-bridge. I cross it again – and head up through Rebeira and I’m back at the hotel at 5.
Tuesday, April 10’th
Exit Porto. Alfa Pendular back to Lisbon at 11.15. 3 hours later I arrive at Santa Apolonia train-station and can take a taxi back to my hotel from my first days here – Residential Florescente. This time I check in at room 208.
Not much activity today. A small walk around Baixa, the city-center of Lisbon with lots of shopping-oppportunities. This part of Lisbon was destroyed by the huge earth-quake in 1755 and rebuild as the worlds first example of townplanning with streets build in squares, as is now known mainly from American cities.
Wednesday, April 11’th
Another daytrip today. Metro from Rossio to Cais de Sodre. Train from there to Cascais. It takes half an hour and costs 1.60 Euro.
Cascais is a wealthy tourist-mecca at the Tejo-river, almost out at the Atlantic Ocean. There is plenty of huge houses, some of them almost build like small castles. And there are expensive hotels as well – places that I will never be able to pay for staying at – or want to for that matter. But it’s a good place to spend a relaxing day – watching the life along the piers, walking around the city and the fine park. It quiet today, but in summer it is packed with tourists.
There is a fine walk along the beach to Estoril. It’s only a couple of km’s away. Estoril is known for it’s golfcourses, formula-1 track, Casino and a home to spies during WW2. The idea to the latest James Bond movie – Casino Royal – is said to be inspired by a visit from Ian Fleming to the Casino in Estoril.
The Casino opens at 3, and you can follow the hordes of retired people to the slot-machines. I do play a little – meaning loose a little at the Casino.
I leave Estoril at 5.30 and is back in Lisbon at 6. I walk through Baixa from Cais de Sodre. If you keep away from the shopping-streets, there are some narrow and nice streets in this neighbourhood as well. A little run down – but nice anyway.
På hotellet er der ikke champions-league på nogen af de kanaler der er til rådighed. Jeg må nøjes med at følge med på tekst-tv, og det er egentligt lidt kedeligt.
Thursday, April 12’th
Last day as a tourist in Portugal. I am heading for Belem about 6 km east of Lisbon Downtown. One of the cities modern trams – no. 15 – takes you there fro Prace da Figueira.
Belem is a place with major historic impact on Portugal. This was where the explorers left from in the old days. The most famous – Vasco da Gama – left from here when he found the road by sea to India in 1497.
There are 3 sights in Belem. The huge church of Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, inspired by Vasco da Gama’s trip. The work on the church began in 1501 and it took 40 years to build it. The ceiling in the church is remarkable. It’s like planted on top of some trees made out of stone holding the church. What this have to do with Vasco da Gama – I don’t really know.
Sight 2 is not that old. The monument is called Padrao dos Descobrimentos – monument of the explorers – and was built in 1960, to mark the 500 years death of another seafarer Henry the “something I don’t know”. It looks like an old east-european monument with a tower inside. You can take a lift to the top and take a look at the fine map in front of the monument.
From here there’s a small walk to the third sight – Torre de Belem. This was built by Manuel I in 1515 to protect Lisbon. It’s very nice – looks almost like one of the pieces in a chess-game. When it was built it was in the middle of the river. Now the river is smaller, and it’s right at the bank.
I spend 5-6 hours out here, before returning to my own neighbourhood. Here there’s time for a final pizza – and the rest of the day is spend on doing nothing.
Friday, April 13’th
Bye-bye Portugal. The trip back home is a little tough, but I have planned it myself so I’m the only one to blame.
Up at 5 am where a taxi waits to take me to the airport. Half an hour later I’m at the airport checking in. I’m still dizzy – so I go to the bar and orders a coffee – black with milk – well – this is not my day.
Leaving with KLM at 7.20 – 15. minutes late – and arriving in Amsterdam 3 hours later.
Here I have planned things so good that I have a 4½ hour wait. I find some good chairs and get myself a nap.
I’m in Billund at 5 pm – and the luggage arrives 11 minuttes later. And then I think Billund is the only airport in the world where you in such a situation is able to catch a bus at 5.13 – but that’s the way it is, and that’s what I do.