We entered Portugal to be greeted by a different landscape to that of Spain, whilst most of Spain was very dry, rocky, and sparse, Portugal was quite different with more rolling hills, green pastures and many farm animals.
The southern coast of Portugal is an area known as the Algarve and is filled with little fishing villages and coastal resorts. We passed through several small towns before settling in to stay in Lagos, which I would imagine would be very pleasant in summer. It was by no means cold, even in December, but in summer due to the sea breezes it would not be as hot as some parts of Spain. There are some nice beaches in Lagos and loads of restaurants, it wouldn’t be a bad place to spend a week’s holiday in the warmer weather. We spent our evening wandering round the beaches and checking out the town.
The following day we piled into the car for the drive up to Lisbon, we had booked to stay three nights there and were all quite pleased at the thought of being in one place for more than a night. Our first day in Lisbon was spent seeing the
sights unfortunately we chose the foggiest and mistiest part of the day to head up to the castle above the city and check out the spectacular (so we’re told) views. We went for a ride through the historical streets of the city and the tram was quite possibly as old as some of the buildings, at one point we just stopped in the middle of an intersection and were quite surprised when the driver hopped out to reattach the connection of the tram to the power lines. We saw some spectacular churches, wandered around the flea markets for a few hours, and checked out the main square down by the waterfront where the New Year’s party was to be held the next day.
New Year’s Eve dawned and we decided to get out of Lisbon to a place called Sintra, which is roughly an hour away. In Sintra we saw the Castelo dos Mouros which had the feel of something out of Lord of the Rings, and the Palacio da Pena, which had the feel of Disneyland! Pena Palace was built in 1839 and is just not quite what you expect from a palace. We took the coastal route
back to Lisbon and drove past some spectacular beaches with some fantastic surf.
Our New Year’s night was fairly low key, we spent the evening in the pub listening to a cover band playing amongst other things some Crowded House! Around 11.30pm we headed down to the waterfront with tens of thousands of others to watch the fireworks. Some young punk tried to pickpocket me, but luckily I had left nothing in my pockets, anticipating that such a thing may happen. The fireworks were pretty good but unfortunately the wind was blowing all of the smoke directly across the throngs of people which made it relatively difficult to see the fireworks by the end!
We had briefly considered doing a rally of Spain and Portugal and driving direct from Lisbon through to Barcelona, but after thinking a little more about this, and the fact that it was 1300 km we decided to split it in half and drive to Toledo, just south of Madrid on day one. We arrived in Toledo to be greeted by a freezing cold evening and very little in terms of accommodation, we found one place in our price range that was open and
luckily one group hadn’t turned up for their room so they took pity on us and took us in for the night. We had a brief wander round town the following morning but soon continued on our journey to Barcelona.
The bright lights of Barcelona guided us into the city and it was quite something to behold. The city itself is just amazing and we were quite pleased we had driven 1300 kms in two days so that we could have three full days here. The architecture by Gaudi was something quite strange for the first day or two, but after a while it tends to grow on you. Gaudi designed Park Guell, which is just amazing, it is a fantastic place to go and spend some time.
We paid our money and joined the queues to go up in the lifts to the bridge of La Sagrada Familia (Church of the Sacred Family) and the view most definitely did not disappoint, it was breathtaking and is one of my favourite cities so far. The amount of detail on the church itself was also amazing, it has been in the building process for around 100 years and is
not expected to finish for about another 30. They are to put in a central tower of around 170 metres high - the current ones which you can see in the photos are only around 100 metres - it will be a sight to see when its finished!
We spent a lot of time wandering down Las Ramblas, which is the main pedestrian shopping street in Barcelona, as well as going to the Poble Espanyol, which has arts and crafts from every area of Spain.
Barcelona was a great place to wind up our trip, in our 2 weeks we travelled 3,500 kms and saw some fantastic things. Such a pity that it was back to the real world and trying to earn some money to pay for it all!
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