Friday turned out nice and sunny. Our first stop was Se Cathedral. It resides atop a hill, so we climbed a few stairs and checked it out. The church itself was standard. One real difference we saw in the churches in Portugal is their use of tiling in white with blue (think porcelain). It is often found on the exterior walls of the buildings. Se also had them in the monastery, which Herr and I paid to go see. Unlike several churches, this one was still quiet. November isn’t high tourist time.
We took another set of stairs down from the cathedral towards the river. This took us through narrow pedestrian streets with high residential buildings. One detail about the city stands out; they were hit hard in the past and much of the city is derelict. We would pass buildings completely boarded up in what seemed a decent area of town. You couldn’t walk down a street without seeing at least one building like this.
Despite the appearance of poverty, everyone was very friendly. We came out of the maze of back pathways onto the riverfront under the Dom Luis bridge. We ordered ice cream (great after breakfast snack, and very tasty), and I purchased a fuzzy cute hat to keep my ears warm (the chilly breeze was a bit unrelenting).
Afterwards, we walked back up to a gothic church that did not allow photography. At first we were put off by this, but when the crypt visit included the church cost, we changed our mind. It was worth it. I wish I could have taken photos! It was painted gold and had so much intricate woodwork it would take a day just to really look at the main cloister. I had the strong urge to sneak a photo (how many bozos with camera phones do that for a crappy photo that doesn’t do the architecture justice??), just like at Rosslyn Chapel, but alas, I cannot break stupid rules. *sigh* (Just FYI, I understand they want to make money from the postcards for support, but it still stinks.) The crypt was small; it was weird walking over, well, people. One could only really see the catacombs through a windowed hole in the floor.
After seeing a bunch of dead people, we went for lunch at a bistro (plenty of those) under the church, then caught a historic trolley that runs along the river to the ocean. When we disembarked, it felt slightly warmer (ahh, ocean effect :P). This area is much more posh. We walked through a large garden and checked out an old fortress (only us, it felt weird), then we proceeded to the beach. Herr and Yin went to check the breakwaters while JJ and I went to the waterfront. We both put limbs in the Atlantic Ocean and took many pictures before we started walking north. This area was my favorite; I’d go back just to spend more time along this stretch.
We made it to the northern point of the waterfront walk to see another fortress, but it had just closed. Honestly, we all felt we didn’t miss too much. In the same area was an expired international port building with only the main structure still standing. Oddly, with all the broken buildings, they didn’t feel… scummy? Used? Forbidden? In any case, the sun was beginning to set, so we caught a bus back to the main plaza. We had eaten at the only restaurants we really found, so Yin and JJ decided to go to Imperial McDonalds. *sigh* I do not like fast food, but at least European fast food still tastes like food. I had four chicken nuggets, which actually have chicken in them (it is worth checking out if you eat fast food).
Herr went for a stroll afterwards to get some tram footage over the lit-up Dom Luis bridge. I was too cold, so I missed the phenomenal lights. We left with a comfortable amount of time back to the airport Saturday morning. Overall, people and service is fantastic. Food only so-so. 😛 I definitely want to go back to see Lisboa and Sintra, and a beach farther south was also recommended to me. Lovely!
For Thanksgiving, we took a two-day trip to Porto. The city sits along the northern coast of Portugal with temperatures reaching the mid-50s for the end of November. A river also runs through it, and as we found out, it is a very hilly city.
Because we flew RyanAir, which leaves from an airport nowhere near a train-line, we stayed with one of our friends who lives closer, has a car and joined us for the trip. We arrived at the airport with plenty of time but ran into an unruly middle-aged woman who felt we should be privileged she cut in front of us with her entire family because it was Thanksgiving… rrrr… I’m sorry, but Americans are the worst travelers with super high anxieties.
Anyhow, Porto was a lovely city. The weather report predicted rain, but all we got were some strong chilly winds. Our hotel was just off the main plaza, and the city was small enough that we could walk to most places. Because it was Thanksgiving (even for us, Crazy Lady), we walked over to the shopping district to enjoy a lunch at the Majestic Cafe. The architecture was nice and service fantastic, but the food was only so-so. As Porto is on the ocean, most of the food served is seafood. That was primarily a problem for our one friend who does not eat seafood. 😛
Afterwards, we wandered over to Clerigos Tower, part of a church, and got some great views of the city. By this point, it was getting chilly and dark, so we went back to the hotel to warm up and pick a place for dinner. We just wandered the streets some more until we found an actual restaurant (Portugal does not seem keen on restaurants; they are quite sparse). Again, we received fantastic service (and at one point had four people serving us), and the food was okay. It was a good restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner; no one left hungry.
I’m still working on the full out blog post for our Scotland and Ireland trip at the end of June. We had a tremendous number of photos to sort and most needed retouching due to coal particles the lens picked up on the steam train. Whooops. The weather was phenomenal in Scotland and Ireland; warm and partly cloudy – that is, blue skies with big fluffy white clouds – for most of the trip in regions known for excessive wind and rain. Luckyyyyy!
I do not have the large versions online yet. Hope you enjoy the photo tour! 😉
Waterfall, east Isle of Skye
Ellishadder waterfall near Kilt Rock, Isle of Skye
Uig, Isle of Skye
Glencoe lake, Scotland
Brook Linn, Callander, Scotland
Island on Lake of Menteith, Scotland
Loch Lomond, Scotland
Loch Lomond, Scotland
Highlands from the front seat, Scotland
Highlands from the front seat, Scotland
Church seen from Jacobite Steam Train, Scotland
St. Stephens Greens, Dublin, Ireland
St. Stephens Greens, Dublin, Ireland (better in color…?)
St. Stephens Greens, Dublin, Ireland (or sepia…?)
Monday, after landing in Dublin, we jumped right on the train heading south to Limerick (yes, it is a city). The next day, we drove west, stopping at Bunratty Castle that included a reconstructed Irish village (much larger than the Scottish one) then on to the Cliffs of Moher. What a fantastic sight, but it is also hard to photograph! Continuing the rock fascination, we putted around looking for the Burren (not so easy to find, but we explored an abandoned church along the way). We did eventually find it; a field of rocks broken apart in small crevasses… well, you have to see it to understand. Also featured was a small monolithic manmade rock formation. Very neat landscape!
And again, to continue the rock theme, on Wednesday we drove to the Rock of Cashel. This was a monastery in its day, built atop a hill with a commanding view of the Irish countryside. We took the guided tour, then made our way back to Limerick to catch the train up to Dublin.
Thursday was my birthday, and I wanted to see some awesome libraries. Our first stop was at Trinity College to see the famously lovely library; however, no photography allowed. No photography allowed!! I was so put out. So we left for the National Library, also no photography… then to the Beatty Library at Dublin Castle (we toured the castle as well) â€“ it was featuring an old religions exhibit we walked through â€“ but not very photogenic, and finally the Marsh Old City Library that was exhibiting old medical texts (some â€œcuresâ€ were very interesting), but again, no photography! It was not my day. We wrapped it up with a new local play called Bookworms, a humorous drama about a book club that invites their husbands and secrets start popping up.
We had seen a lot of Dublin walking around on my birthday, so we filled in the last day with a walk to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Guinness Storehouse. Comparing the Guinness brewery to the Heineken brewery, I liked the one in Amsterdam more. Of course, I don’t drink, so a drinker may say otherwise. The next day we flew back, quite exhausted from our vacation. I’m thinking attaching the second leg of the trip (Ireland) may not have been ideal, but I am glad we went.