Sintra and Cascais

Greetings friends and family,

I spent part of my Lisbon time in Sintra and Cascais, which are both really close to the city. During the drive, there was a mountain that was covered with clouds. I was transferred back to childhood and remembered rushing home from elementary school to watch She-ra, which came on before Robetch, which I also loved. I can still vaguely remember the introduction…“I am Adora. He-Man’s twin sister and defender of the Crystal Castle. This is Spirit, my beloved steed. Fabulous secrets were revealed to me the day I held aloft my sword and said, ‘For the honor of Grey Skull. I am She-Ra!!! (She-Ra. She-Ra. Princess of Power).’ Only a few others share my secret. Among them are Light Hope, Madame Raz, and Kowl. Together me and my friends of the great rebellion try strive to free Etheria from the evil forces of Hordach.” I no doubt have a few words and spelling wrong, but that has been in my memory bank since I was little! LOL Anyway, I digress but I do remember my She-Ra doll, Spirit horse, and Crystal Castle. Ah, childhood.

Sintra was very beautiful. Back when Portugal had a king, it was the town the royal family and aristocracy used to spend the summer. I loved the hilltops and all the lush plant life. I didn’t have much time to explore the streets, but what I saw was nice. There was also a nice church off the main square I was able to visit. Most of my time was spent viewing the former summer palace of the royal family. I was not able to get up to the Moorish castle ruins that was above the city, but I was able to see it from below. It was a cool little town. There is a market (I assume in the high season only) that is the second and fourth Sundays there that is quite popular. It’s an old city that I would nicely describe as slightly worn, and that is a compliment.

The next stop was Caiscas, which is along the Atlantic. It was actually a quite warm day early on. Very nice to stroll the city and the main area. Nothing to do. Just strolling randomly. There was an area that fishermen used. It reminded me of Fishermen’s Terminal. Though I don’t touch that part of the port’s business in my work, it does make me happy to see working waterfronts. They are very important! There is a lot of fresh seafood here. Somewhere near the town is the western most tip of Europe. I got a picture. It reminded me of when Des and I were in Singapore before getting to India and saw the Southernmost tip of Asia.

Speaking of food in general, I think I’ve eaten more this trip than any other. I need to step my walking efforts up!

An observation I have about all of us, including myself, is that we are so attached to our phones and social media (Facebook, e-mail, etc.). My goal when I get home is to put my phone away more and be more present. I will always remember Portugal because I did drop my I-phone, which I was using to keep time, and the screen is shattered. Oh well. Jeez!

Anyway, I was thinking last night what a balance travel is. I think three nights in one place is the sweet spot. You have time to leisurely see everything and perhaps take a side trip. It’s kind of like weighing whether you think you will come back (and the hope is that you will). So do you see as much as you can in a short period of time or do you leisure in one spot? Perhaps a combination of the two.

Oh, and I am weirdly craving fresh popcorn.

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Lisbon!

Greetings family and friends,

The magic of Portugal continued with a few nights in Lisbon.

First stop was in the Belem district to visit the Monastery of Jeronimos. The building of the church was partly funded with money from a 5% tax on spices from India. The two local guides I have heard are very proud of the explorers from Portugal. The church was built where a small chapel used to be. Sailors would pray there before going to sea. It was dark and kind of had a damp smell, but there was a nice altar, nice windows, etc. And of course, historic.

In that area, there was also some monuments like the Monument to Discoveries, which was built do mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator. There’s a really cool marble map in the pavement that was a gift from South Africa. It marks the areas Portugal’s explorers reached during a time when many thought there was an end of the world. There was also the Belem Tower that was built between 1515 and 1520. It was the last things sailors saw when they left the harbor and the first thing they saw when they returned.

My guidebook had three recommended neighborhood walk strolls. I did some of the Baixa stroll, with Leslie, which goes through the downtown neighborhood. The walk started in the trade square and went down Rua Augusta to Rossio. Strolled down Avenida da Liberdade, which was originally limited to the aristocracy.

They also have a bridge that was built by the same architect that designed the Golden Gate Bridge. They are very similar looking. There is also a statue of Christ called Cristo Rei (Christ of Majesty). A cardinal was inspired to build it after visiting Rio de Janeiro.

Visited Sao Jorge Castle with Leslie, which is a castle used by Portuguese monarchs from 1147 to the 16th century. We took one of the trolleys up there. There was a great view terrace with a great view of the city and a castle town where the elite/nobles lived to be close to the king, whether during Moorish times or Portuguese times.

So after the castle, the intent was to see the Alfama district by foot, which dates back to the sixth and eight centuries. The area survived the 1775 earthquake. But “what had happened was” the sky opened up with monsoon. So we ended up taking a took-took (which reminds me of an auto rickshaw). The driver was a woman named Maria, who is a student. What a kindred spirit. She is someone who would be my friend. Very positive and with a “yellow” personality like my friend Mary. So we saw the Graca and Alfama areas from the inside of a took-took. I would so love to walk around the Alfama and get lost in the backstreets. It’s the oldest neighborhood. Very narrow lanes that end and twists. Very good vibe. Maria took us to the highest point in Lisbon that had another good view of the castle and city.

So the final neighborhood I wanted to visit was the Bairro Alto neighborhood. We took the funicular up there. It was the neighborhood I saw the least of because it was dark and rainy, but the one I had the most fun in. We arrived for a Fado show but arrived early.

So before Fado, Leslie and I ended up in the Irish pub. Oh my! What fun. One of the bartenders was very cool. His name was Armando. I have a picture of him, Leslie, and me. He was comedy central, down to earth, and just cool. He said that the world comes to him because he meets people from all over the world. He is Portuguese, but his parents moved to South Africa, so he spent a lot of time there. Then his parents moved back. We very briefly met one of the dancers from the Fado show we were going to. We also met one of the guitar players, Miguel. So Leslie, Armando, Miguel, and I had some really great conversations about race and other things that people allow to separate us. Armando shared some of his experience in South Africa and the hierarchy even among races there. Then his experience about being raised in South Africa, then coming back to Portugal and the treatment he receives as a result by some of the locals. Both good people and people I would friend in real life. Armando was an extrovert, but Miguel was more introverted and reserved. We did learn that his brother is one of the top three Fado guitar players. His brother is currently in New York playing. He joked he was in the top 100 or so.

Then we went to listen to Fado, which is folk music. It was cool to see Miguel playing in the trio of musicians. Ballads about lost sailors, broken hearts, and bittersweet romance. Not that I have ever experienced any of that. LOL! But to quote George Costanza, “When they like me, I don’t like them. When I like them, they don’t like me.” The music is all about longing, which I totally get. And some music can really take you there.

I really enjoyed my three nights in Portugal and of course need to go back to see more!

It’s just another day’s journey….

The last few days have been slow after a couple of fast paced days.

I am currently in Portugal! I am happy because I will gain two hours. One, Portugal is one hour behind Spain. So in Spain, I was nine hours ahead. Now, I am eight hours ahead. But they fall back tonight, so I get to fall back twice because it will fall back in the U.S. the night I get back. Doing the happy dance.

I am in the Algarve region, which is a beach area.

I spent most of the day in Lagos in the Old Town. Started in this square called Prace Gil Eanes. Look up the story of King Sebastian of Portugal. Disaster. I considered going to the Church of St. Anthony, which is a museum, but it was closed. There is also a Slave Museum, but sometimes that is too close to the surface. I did get pictures of the arches were slaves were sold from 1444 to the mid-1700s hundreds there. When slaves were brought from Africa, they were quarantined for 40 days after which they were sold. Saw the square that honors Henry the Navigator and an old fort.

Have hit a few beaches and really cool lookout points. I even have a new profile picture, but I am not vain. It’s the hair that makes me do and say such things.

So I was walking down the beach, and it hit me that I am in Portugal. When it comes down to it, life is good. Picture me walking down the beach singing “It’s another day’s journey, and I’m glad…glad…glad…glad.” Grace Apostolic Temple original church style of course.

Anyway, tonight will be relaxed. I am going to grab dinner, head back to the room, and relax. I will thankfully lay my head down knowing tonight time falls back.