Tag Archives: World Heritage Site

Portugal – Ericeira to Cascais and Change of Plans.

So, we left Ericeira around mid morning and headed south towards our next accommodation in Cascais with a simple plan of stopping off midway and visiting the Palace of Sintra.

It didn’t quite work out as we had planned.  Sintra turns out that this is the most visited tourist site in all of Portugal.

For the most visited tourist site in all of Portugal t isn’t very well signposted and we found ourselves in a massive queue of traffic all as equally confused as we were.  Eventually making it to the Palace there were no available car park spaces and the queue to enter looked a mile long.  We abandoned our plans and moved right along on.

This was a shame for Mike and Margaret but we had been before in 2017 so weren’t that disappointed.

Read the full story of the Sintra visit Here…

We had arranged to arrive at the apartment in Cascais at five o’clock so we had to change that for three o’clock but we still had about three hours to wait so we drove first to nearby Estoril on what is known as the Portuguese Riviera.

It is home to fifth largest casino in Europe and the place had a completely different identity to our two previous stops on Obidos and Ericeira.  The casino means wealth and Estoril is one of the most expensive places to live in Portugal with a seafront full of swanky hotels and a string of up market bars and restaurants.

I think I am right in saying that features in the title of a song by Fleetwood Mac – “Nights in Estoril”.

Not really my sort of place I have to say, rather similar to Vilamoura in the Algarve and I didn’t like it there a great either but we were only there for a couple of hours so it didn’t really matter a great deal.  I prefer fishing harbours to modern marinas, cathedrals and castles to casinos, sun-blistered doors and washing lines to modern street scene, cobbled streets to marbled boulevards.

We used the time at our disposal to walk the length of the seafront almost to the marina at Cascais and then turned around and walked all the way back again.

Our accommodation in Cascais was most unusual.  Not a holiday home as I was expecting but a private residence which resembled a shrine with an odd collection of Chinese artefacts which I imagine were quite expensive because they were all under lock and key.  I wasn’t so keen on the decoration so we stayed mostly in the kitchen during the stay.

Very soon after arrival I was beginning to think that maybe I had chosen badly to visit Cascais.  Not really a problem I concluded after only a short while because we planned next day to take the train to Lisbon.

Late afternoon and leaving the odd apartment we walked to the seafront taking several wrong turns on the way and then as the time approached seven o’clock we found a restaurant with prices that matched our budget and sat down for evening meal.

Leaving the restaurant our problems urgently began.  We weren’t sure where we were or how to get back to the apartment, it was beginning to turn dark and no one had been paying attention.  Mike and Margaret had no internet service on their phones, Kim’s battery was blinking warning red for low battery and I had left mine behind and I couldn’t remember the accommodation address which was sitting securely locked away in my e-mail account on my phone on the kitchen table.   Bugger.

I often leave my phone behind because, to be honest I find them to be very anti-social.

Without any mapping information to assist us we had to rely on guesswork and Kim’s limited navigational skills.  Eventually after forty-five minutes or so we came across a supermarket which we recalled was close to the apartment and after stopping off to purchase wine were glad to grope our way back to our temporary home.

The following day we explored Cascais in daylight but I had already decided that I didn’t like it a great deal, too South of France, too Costa del Sol and I was looking forward to moving on to Lisbon,

I didn’t even get any good door pictures.  Except this one…

 

Portugal – Pre-travel research and the Queen’s Funeral

We generally take our main annual holiday in September. Sometimes we go to the sea, usually the Greek Islands which are our favourite and sometimes we travel.  This year we decided to travel and we chose to go to Portugal.

There are organised guided tours available for this sort of thing but we prefer to make our own arrangements and not be restricted by a holiday company schedule and inevitable stops at shopping centres and outlet factories that suit the Company but not the Traveller.

Where exactly should we go this time we debated.  We had previously been to the Algarve in the South, Porto and the Douro and north of the Algarve to the Alentejo.  Eventually we agreed on the greater Lisbon area with stays in Obidos, Ericeira, Cascais,  Setúbal and the city of Lisbon itself.

In preparation for travel I carried out my usual research and used my favourite benchmarks to try and understand the country that I was visiting.

I started as usual with the Human Development Index which ranks countries by level of ‘human development’ and the statistic is composed amongst other criteria from data on life expectancy, education and per-capita gross national income. Portugal is ranked forty-first which is quite low, especially for Europe but it is improving and is up two places from the previous year.

Although it is in Western Europe (in fact it is the most western mainland European country) Portugal did not begin to catch up with its neighbours until 1968 after the death of the dictator António Salazar, the Left Wing Carnation Revolution of 1972 and eventual entry into the European Community in 1986.

Unhappily, the European economic crisis has had a negative effect on Portugal’s position in the Europe Happiness Index and it is rated at only fifteenth out of thirty which is one place behind the United Kingdom.  Finland is the happiest and Albania (no real surprise) the least jolly.

The Country has fifteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites and we had previously visited ten of them and intended to add to this total this time.

Portugal is famous for its Atlantic beaches which stretch for one thousand, one hundred and fifteen miles and along this coastline are three hundred Blue Flag Beaches which is the fifth highest amongst all participating countries but looking at the statistics in a different way they get even better and dividing length of coastline by number of beaches, Portugal is way out in front and storms into first place with one proud blue flag flapping away every three and three-quarter miles or so.

When it comes to wine,  screw caps have all but completely replaced the cork. Interestingly 35% of the World’s cork forests and 50% of World supply comes from Portugal so there, for the time being the cork stopper still reigns supreme.

My next measure is always the Eurovision Song Contest and Portugal has participated in the annual contest forty-nine times since its debut in the 1964.  Up until recently the country held the unfortunate record for the most appearances in the contest without a win but they put that right in 2017 when they won in Kiev with Salvador Sobral’s entry, “Amar Pelos Dois”.

In my research I have discovered some more impressive statistics: Portugal is ranked third in the Global Peace Index, just behind Iceland and New Zealand.  The index gauges global peace using three measures – the level of safety and security in society, the extent of domestic and international conflict and the degree of militarisation. Portugal for example was one of only a few European countries that escaped involvement in the Second-World-War, the others were Spain, Switzerland (only in theory of course because they did a lot of Nazi banking and gold trading), Sweden and The Republic of Ireland.

On the subject or war and peace, the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance (Aliança Inglesa) ratified at the Treaty of Windsor in 1386, between England and Portugal, is the oldest alliance in the world that is still in force – with an even earlier treaty dating back to the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty of 1373.  England and Portugal have never been on opposite sides in any military conflict which is a very impressive statistic when you consider that in that time England (UK) has at one time or another been at war at some time or another with almost every other European country.

It was the day of the Queen’s funeral the day that we flew out which was rather a shame as we would have liked to have watched it on TV.  The airport was unusual, solemn, subdued and rather eerie actually, much more polite than normal.  Shops and restaurants closed for the duration, big screens showing the ceremony without commentary or sound .  The two minutes silence almost completely observed except for one young man taking a phone call until obliged to end it quickly on account of the disapproval of those around him.

There was a one hour delay before departure which was not bad under the circumstances.

The plane landed at Humberto Delgardo Airport, named after a lliberal politician who challenged the dictator Salazar and was assassinated for his trouble.  I am always interested in the naming of airports.  Porto in Portugal is named after another politician, Francisco Sá Carneiro, who died in a plane crash and I have always thought that to be curiously inappropriate.

A to Z of Balconies – Korčula in Croatia

Korčula is like a scaled down version of Dubrovnik with the same white Dalmatian stone buildings and red tiled roofs but sadly it is completely eclipsed by its more famous close neighbour and there has been little investment since the 1990s war that split old Yugoslavia apart.  Dubrovnik was the priority after that but the local authorities are now campaigning for Korčula Old Town, which is a gem of Venetian architecture to be awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.

 

A Picture Tour of Corfu Town

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

Entrance Tickets – The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Entrance Ticket - Leaning Tower of Pisa

There are two hundred and ninety four steps up a spiral staircase that take visitors up and which due to the absence of windows, and therefore orientation, is reminiscent of a fairground wacky house attraction, especially when although you know that you were ascending sometimes according to the extreme angle of the tilt of the building it feels as though you were going down at the same time, which, believe me, is a very unusual experience.

Mark Twain described it like this: “The winding staircase within is dark, but one always knows which side of the tower he is on because of his naturally gravitating from one side to the other of the staircase with the rise or dip of the tower. Some of the stone steps are foot-worn only on one end; others only on the other end; others only in the middle.”

Read the full story…

Cornwall, St Michael’s Mount

St Michaels Mount 01

“In 1067, the monastery of Mont Saint-Michel gave its support to Duke William of Normandy in his claim to the throne of England. This he rewarded with properties and grounds on the English side of the Channel, including a small island off the south-western coast of Cornwall which was modelled after the Mount and became a Norman priory named St Michael’s Mount of Penzance.” – Wikipedia

Everyone knows that driving in Cornwall can be a tedious and frustrating affair.  I knew it but didn’t expect it so early in the year as the month of April (even though it was school Easter holiday week).

Today we were driving thirty miles west to the village of Marazion and St. Michaels Mount.  A simple enough matter anyone might think.  Entrance to the castle is restricted by the tide because visitors have to walk across a causeway that becomes submerged twice a day so timing is somewhat critical.  I studied the tide tables and set a departure time which would give us plenty of time to get there for the opening of the causeway and a couple of hours wandering about at the site.

First of all we drove to the town of St Austell which is not a very appealing place I have to say.  It was once the centre of the entire World china clay production and most people will have an item of porcelain in their homes which came from this area but the quarries are all closed down now.  It is estimated that there are fifty years of clay reserves left in the ground but the owners find it more economical to concentrate on operations in Brazil.

Away from the dramatic coast line Cornwall is not an attractive place.  Pause for sharp intake of breath from readers.  Concrete not stone, render not brick.  The rural landscape is rather dull and the towns are depressing, grey and ugly.  Places look better in the sunshine of course but in Cornwall the sun has to try a lot harder than some other places.  I am reminded of the joke, “There was an earthquake in Cornwall last night, it did a million pounds worth of improvements to Cambourne”.  St Austell is surrounded by white peaks of spoil from the quarries but even the optimistic description of the Cornish Alps cannot really hope to make them any more appealing.

Cornish Alps St Austell

North of St Austell we finally reached the A30 and I foolishly looked forward to straight forward effortless motoring for the final twenty miles.  How wrong I was.  The A30 must be one of the worst roads in England.  You cruise along nicely for a couple of miles on a dual carriageway and then every five miles or so the traffic grinds to a standstill at a roundabout and then everyone creeps forwards at increments of about two feet every ten minutes.

The traffic was frequently at a standstill and according to my calculations the tide was coming in at St Michaels Mount and I could feel my normal calm demeanour rapidly evaporating.  I cursed myself for not allowing more time for the journey.

We finally arrived at Marazion and being late for the tide and the foot crossing it was so busy that we had to use an overflow car park which involved an additional fifteen minute hike to the causeway and then inevitably everyone wanted to go to the toilets which added another ten minutes or so and my frustration entered the red zone as I could see our tidal window of opportunity quickly ebbing away.

St Michaels Mount 04

Eventually we made the windswept crossing to the castle but we only had a couple of hours now before we would have to return or be cut off by the tide and have to stay there for eight hours or so.

I was keen to see St Michael’s Mount because a couple of years ago I had visited its counterpart in France.  Mont St Michel is a lot bigger and although a magnificent spectacle is disappointingly commercialised so I didn’t know quite what to expect.  It turned out to be quite different without the tacky tourist shops and cheap food outlets which have spoilt the French island castle but really I wouldn’t expect that sort of thing from the National Trust.

Interestingly, despite the fact that Mont St Michel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site St Michael’s Mount is not.  How unfair.

It is one of the iconic landmarks of Cornwall and today it was rather too busy for my liking with thousands of people swarming across the causeway and then making their way to the very top of the rock and visiting the interior.  Inside was hot and cramped so we turned back after the first room and skipped the visit preferring instead to sit outside on the rocks and wait while the family completed the tortuous route through the castle.

From the top we could see the tide beginning to advance so it was time to make our way down and cross back to the mainland before the causeway would be completely submerged.

Despite the crowds this is a place well worth a visit and I enjoyed our short time on the rock with its attractive harbour, medieval cobbles and stone built houses where real people still live.  As it happened there was no real need to rush off because there was a ferry boat service that would have taken us back for only a small charge.

St Michaels Mount 03

Just by way of comparison this is Mont St Michel in Brittany in France…

Mont St Michel France

Portugal, Travel Plans, Research and Arrival

Portugal Postcard Map

We generally take our main annual holiday in September. Sometimes we go to the sea, usually the Greek Islands which are our favourites and sometimes we travel.  This year we decided to travel and we chose to go to Portugal.

There are organised guided tours available for this sort of thing but we prefer to make our own arrangements and not be restricted by a holiday company schedule and inevitable stops at shopping centres and outlet factories that suit the Company but not the Traveller.

We had decided to use the Portuguese railways so we plotted an itinerary that started in the capital Lisbon and then worked north through the town of Tomar, the city of Coimbra, the seaside at Ovar (Furadouro) and then finished in the second largest city in the country at Porto, a couple more days by the coast at Vila do Conde, visits to the cities of Guimarães and Braga and then back home.

Portugal Tiles Ajulejos

In preparation for travel I carried out my usual research and used my favourite benchmarks to try and understand the country that I was visiting.

I started as usual with the Human Development Index which ranks countries by level of ‘human development’ and the statistic is composed amongst other criteria from data on life expectancy, education and per-capita gross national income. Portugal is ranked forty-first which is quite low, especially for Europe but it is improving and is up two places from the previous year.

Although it is in Western Europe (in fact it is the most western mainland European country) Portugal did not begin to catch up with its neighbours until 1968 after the death of the dictator António Salazar, the Left Wing Carnation Revolution of 1972 and eventual entry into the European Community in 1986.

I have been to Portugal several times before…

Unhappily, the European economic crisis has had a negative effect on Portugal’s position in the Europe Happiness Index and it is rated at only fifteenth out of thirty which is one place behind the United Kingdom.  Finland is the happiest and Albania (no real surprise) the least jolly.

The Country has fifteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites and our travel itinerary was going to take us to six – The Tower of Belém in Lisbon, built to commemorate the expeditions of Vasco da Gama, the National Palace of Sintra, the Convent of the Knights Templar of Tomar, the University of Coimbra, The Historic town of Guimarães and The Historic Centre of Porto.

Portugal is famous for its Atlantic beaches which stretch for one thousand, one hundred and fifteen miles and along this coastline are three hundred Blue Flag Beaches which is the fifth highest amongst all participating countries but looking at the statistics in a different way they get even better and dividing length of coastline by number of beaches, Portugal is way out in front and storms into first place with one proud blue flag flapping away every three and three-quarter miles or so.

When it comes to wine,  screw caps have all but completely replaced the cork. Interestingly 35% of the World’s cork forests and 50% of World supply comes from Portugal so there for the time being the cork stopper still reigns supreme.

Furaduero Beach Portugal

My next measure is always the Eurovision Song Contest and Portugal has participated in the annual contest forty-nine times since its debut in the 1964.  Up until recently the country held the unfortunate record for the most appearances in the contest without a win but they put that right in 2017 when they won in Kiev with Salvador Sobral’s entry, “Amar Pelos Dois”.

In my research I have discovered some more impressive statistics: Portugal is ranked third in the Global Peace Index, just behind Iceland and New Zealand.  The index gauges global peace using three measures – the level of safety and security in society, the extent of domestic and international conflict and the degree of militarisation. Portugal for example was one of only a few European countries that escaped involvement in the Second-World-War, the others were Spain, Switzerland (only in theory of course because they did a lot of Nazi banking and gold trading), Sweden and The Republic of Ireland.

On the subject or war and peace, the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance (Aliança Inglesa) ratified at the Treaty of Windsor in 1386, between England and Portugal, is the oldest alliance in the world that is still in force – with an even earlier treaty dating back to the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty of 1373.  England (UK) and Portugal have never been on opposite sides in any military conflict which is a very impressive statistic when you consider that in that time England (UK) has at one time or another been at war at some time or another with almost every other European country.

Lisbon Tram Postcard

We arrived at Lisbon Airport early in the afternoon and took the metro into the city centre. A rather odd journey as it turned out because the automated on board information system curiously announced arrival at the stations one after the one we were stopping at next so we had to be careful not to get off one stop too early.  Anyway we negotiated the journey and then after a bit of map confusion which we sorted out over a beer at a pavement café walked the final half a mile to our accommodation.

We had selected a studio apartment for our four nights in Lisbon and it turned out to be most satisfactory. The Travel and Tales rooms were situated in a domestic block of apartments so we were going to spend our time in Lisbon rubbing shoulders with real locals and we were happy about that.

We were allocated the Fernando Pessoa apartment who according to Wikipedia turns out to be… “a Portuguese poet, writer, literary critic, translator, publisher and philosopher, described as one of the most significant literary figures of the 20th century and one of the greatest poets in the Portuguese language”.

I apologise immediately for my ignorance in this matter but I have to confess that I had never before heard of him.

Fernando Pesa Poet Travel and Tales

Weekly Photo Challenge: Converge – A Royal Palace in Spain

The Royal Palace of Aranjuez, Spain

On our way to Toledo a couple of days before the town of Aranjuez looked as though it might be worth a visit and as it was more or less on the way back to Madrid we decided to go there and see the Royal Palace.  We returned to the hotel and picked up the car and our bags and after negotiating our way out of the town made the thirty-minute drive to the World Heritage Site town.

Read the Full Story…

Entrance Tickets – The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Entrance Ticket - Leaning Tower of Pisa

There are two hundred and ninety four steps up a spiral staircase that take visitors up and which due to the absence of windows, and therefore orientation, is reminiscent of a fairground wacky house attraction, especially when although you know that you were ascending sometimes according to the extreme angle of the tilt of the building it feels as though you were going down at the same time, which, believe me, is a very unusual experience.

Mark Twain described it like this: “The winding staircase within is dark, but one always knows which side of the tower he is on because of his naturally gravitating from one side to the other of the staircase with the rise or dip of the tower. Some of the stone steps are foot-worn only on one end; others only on the other end; others only in the middle.”

Read the full story…

leaning-tower-of-pisa

Weekly Photo Challenge: UP

The Leaning Tower of Pisa:

We were glad of that and purchased a ticket for the trip to the top.  There are two hundred and ninety four steps up a spiral staircase that take visitors up and which due to the absence of windows, and therefore orientation, is reminiscent of a fairground wacky house attraction, especially when although you know that you were ascending sometimes according to the extreme angle of the tilt of the building it feels as though you were going down at the same time, which, believe me, is a very weird experience.

Read the full story…