Category Archives: backpacking

Portugal – Lisbon to Setúbal

 

So after four days and nights we prepared to leave our city centre apartment in Lisbon and move on to our final stay south of the River Tagus in Setúbal .  This should have been straight-forward but obviously wasn’t.  I could have predicted that.

The cobbled streets are not good for drag bags and Kim lost a wheel after only a few yards so we had to find the missing parts amongst the stones and then put together some sort or temporary repair and cross fingers and hope that it would hold out.  We made the train station and then a two stop ride to the transfer station to Setúbal. 

Now, buying a train ticket in Portugal is not easy but when using the national rail operator the automated ticket machines all have an option to use the process in English.  Not so the service from Lisbon to Setúbal which is run by the only privately operated train service in Portugal and which obviously doesn’t consider the translation service to be essential.  That is the private sector for you of course, private profit rather than public service.

So, after a wait of glacial proportions I made the front of the line but was quite unable to interpret the instructions so with a queue forming behind me and beginning to feel slightly awkward I had no alternative but to  abandon the quest and stand back and observe.  I watched a few  local people to get some tips. 

The first man was far too quick for me  and he galloped through the process but the second and third were thankfully  a bit slower as I tried hard  to remember the sequence.  Eventually I felt mentally prepared and optimistically rejoined the queue.

After twenty minutes I was back at the machine and I sailed through it  this time like a local expert who had been doing it all of their life.  Insert cash now it said and I offered a twenty euro note that was immediately rejected so I tried again and was instantly rejected once more.  I tried a different note and was instantly rejected.  A line was beginning to form behind me again and then someone tapped me on the shoulder and helpfully informed me that the machines only take a maximum 0f  a ten euro note.

Now I needed change so I went to a cafe bar who said that they were unable to help but then discovered that they could help if I was to purchase something.  So I bought a small bottle of beer, drank it quickly and returned to the ticket machine line.  Twenty minutes later I had the tickets to Setúbal  but by this time we had of course missed the train so with fifty minutes to spare we went back to the cafe bar for another beer and spent the change that they had just given me.

After that it was all plain sailing.  The train crossed the 25 de Abril Bridge, the forty-seventh longest suspension bridge in the World (a long way behind the Humber Bridge near where I live at twelfth) and then carried on towards our destination.  I was looking forward to crossing the bridge but it was an inevitable disappointment because from on board the train there is nothing to see.  It is much better to view the bridge from a good viewing point with a train crossing over it than to be on the train crossing over it with nothing to see but flashing girders.  Anyway, I have done it and I was glad of the experience.

This is the Ribblesdale Viaduct in Yorkshire, much better to see a train crossing it than to be on the train crossing it.

On the positive side rail travel in Portugal is very reasonable, no, it is better than reasonable it is cheap, and the benefit of being over sixty-five, the fares are half price.

After the rail delays we arrived in Setúbal  around mid afternoon, stopped immediately for a pavement glass of wine and then proceeded to our city centre apartment which turned out to be quite excellent. 

I think I mentioned before that on this trip we had chosen apartments instead of hotels and we were so glad that we did, so much better value for money and so much space.  I generally wake first in the morning and in a hotel room this means lying still and not being able to make a cup of tea.  In an apartment I can get up, close the bedroom door and enjoy a brew in the kitchen.  We will be doing it this way again.

The facilities were so good that we thought we might stay in tonight and cook for ourselves so we took the short walk to the nearby Pingo Doce supermarket and thereby hangs another tale which I will tell you about next time…

 

People Pictures – A Bus Ride in Amorgos

When it comes to taking pictures I like doors, statues, balconies and washing lines, Kim on the other hand likes people pictures so I thought I might share a few of them with you.

Kim spotted this noble looking woman on a bus ride on the Greek island of Amorgos…

The bus fare to Katapola was good value at only €2.80 each and after we paid the driver started the engine and left exactly on time.

We sat close to the front of the bus and in the seat directly behind the driver there was an old woman in widow’s weeds who was determined to talk constantly in some sort of quest to distract him and thoroughly test his driving ability as he eased the vehicle out of the village and began the ascent to the top of the mountain that separates the two ends of the island.

As the bus climbed higher into the interior and the engine began to complain and the gearbox groan the sides of the mountain became surprisingly greener with rugged plants clinging stubbornly to the desperately thin soil and then we reached the top of the mountainous spine of the island and we could see all the way down across the Chora and into the port of Katapola and still the woman in the seat behind the driver kept talking.

I’d have backed that woman in a talk-off against my mum!

The bus stopped briefly at the Chora to pick up more passengers and then the driver set off down the hairpin bends of the mountain road and down to the port.  I think he liked this part of the journey most of all because he made especially extravagant manoeuvres with increasingly theatrical turns of the steering wheel and he was confident too, even at one stage of the precipitous descent taking time out to make a telephone call while still listening all the time to the woman behind him jabbering away.

Read The Full Story Here…

 

Sunday Sunset – The Statue of Erato in Amorgos

At the entrance to the harbour in Katapola on the island of Amorgos is a statue of Erato.  In Greek mythology Erato was one of the nine Greek Muses who were inspirational goddesses of literature, science, and the arts. Erato was the Muse of love and lyric poetry,  Very appropriate because it is impossible not to fall in love with Amorgos.

We had a bit of fun with this one…

 

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Bratislava, The Old Town and the Blue Church

It was designed in 1907 by a man called Ödön Lechner who was a Hungarian Art Nouveau architect and whose favourite colour was obviously blue because the exterior is painted in various shades of cobalt, sapphire and sky with an indigo roof and blue-black windows.  And the theme was continued inside as well because again the predominant colour was a vivid sky blue that gave a pleasing and cheerful ambience to the building.

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Sunset Sunday – Egalia in Amorgos

Sunset Sunday – Katapola in Amorgos

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People Pictures – Hvar in Croatia

When it comes to taking pictures I like doors, statues, balconies and washing lines, Kim on the other hand likes people pictures so I thought I might share a few of them with you.

This one was taken outside the Cathedral in Hvar in Croatia…

Travels in Croatia – The Island of Hvar

We had to find some accommodation so we went to the tourist information office to see what was available.  The lady at the desk told us that the only hotel available was the Hotel Adriana that had rooms for €280.

This was obviously way beyond our budget and while this devastating piece of news sunk in she skilfully moved in with the alternative offer of a simple room in the town for 400 Kuna (about £50).  This was obviously her sister or her best friend but there was no contest and we took it.

Read the full story Here…

Travels in Croatia – Gradac to Hvar

After a drive to Mostar in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina we returned to Croatia to the seaside resort of Gradac and booked into the Hotel Marco Polo that was located directly on the beach and had a room with a balcony and a view of the perfectly blue Adriatic Sea.

After settling in we walked along the seafront looking for a bar with a view of the sunset but as the town is situated in a bay and faces south this proved stubbornly illusive. We found a nice restaurant that was entertaining a noisy birthday party and we agreed that this looked good for later on.

When we returned the party had gone and it was much quieter but I think the staff were worn out and weren’t in the mood for doing any more cooking because most of the menu was unavailable and the waiter presented us with a choice of fish starter, fish soup and fish of the day. This turned out to be a real bonus because the octopus salad starter was delectable and the fish was succulent and delicious.

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Travels in Croatia, Krka National Park and the Skradinski Buk Falls

A few posts back I told you that I had not been bitterly disappointed to miss out on a waterfall trail in Yorkshire.  This is one of the reasons why…

I haven’t seen any of the world’s major falls such as the Angel Falls in Venezuela (the highest, and twenty times higher than Skradinski Buk), the Victoria Falls (claimed to be the largest in the world by volume) or the Niagara Falls (the widest in the world), but these were nevertheless really most exciting, probably better than the Aysgarth Falls in Yorkshire but not quite as spectacular as Gullfoss falls in Iceland, both of which I have been lucky enough to see.

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