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Published: January 2nd 2008
Palacio da Pena, Sintra
The summer home of the Portuguese monarchs perched on a hilltop overlooking Sintra.
I barely managed to extricate myself from a serious clinch with a travel friend in time to catch the overnight bus from Seville to Lisbon, and send a cyber kiss to you cherie *mwah - mwah*. Eurolines decided, in their infinite wisdom, to schedule a traveller friendly departure time of midnight for the bus from southern Spain to the Portuguese capital, and to top it off the bus was scheduled to arrive in Lisbon at 5:30am Portugal time. I´d like to meet the genius who thought up that timetable ... Not! Anyways, it´s all good, and I was surprised to see my Chinese comrades from the dorm room we shared at a Granada hostel were also on the bus. It can be a very small world sometimes when you're on the road.
So I´m here in wonderful Portugal, dear reader, and after waiting ninety minutes for the metro to open, I wearily climbed aboard and soon got ensconced in the quality Goodnight Backpackers hostel smack bang in the city centre. Lisbon is a beautiful city, and I realise after six weeks in Western Europe I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but my impressions of these magnificent cities are
Praca do Rossio, Lisbon
Shot of a fountain with one of the plaza´s love walls in the background, including a reflection. That is a long winded description, and to be honest I just hope this photo doesn´t suck!
truly from the heart. For an Aussie there's nothing to compare with the cities in mediterranean Europe, and they never fail to impress. Then again, they don´t have any kangaroos so at least we still have something over the Europeans! Lisbon is hilly, but if you're feeling the pinch you can jump on one of the convenient trams, for a bit of motorised assistance in tackling the many steep climbs. The oldest tram is from the 1880´s, and Lisbon is a city of great history and tradition.
I settled into my hostel quickly, and was lucky to spend a special New Year's Eve in Lisbon. Everything came together so nicely here with a brilliant hostel owner making me feel welcome, and then I met the Spanish hostel guests. They arrived as a large group of eighteen people from Granada, and planned their New Years Eve well in advance. The entire hostel's guests for the big night consisted of the Spanish, a lone Mexican girl, a Japanese guy, and a hopping kangaroo. The Spanish group cooked up a huge banquet to celebrate the New Year, and one of the dorm rooms was magically transformed into a restaurant for the evening.
Cranky old gargoyle
Guarding the walls of the Palace in Sintra.
This was the start of a great New Year's Eve in Lisbon.
At midnight Spanish time we all waited for the countdown, while tuning into Spanish TV from one of the guest's laptop computer. Then everyone downed a dozen grapes for good luck in the upcoming New Year, which is a Spanish tradition I wasn´t aware of and great fun. Then we grabbed some whisky and coke, and headed to the main square in time for the New Year fireworks an hour later. The square was absolutely packed with revellers and the atmosphere was exhilarating. A band was playing on a giant stage erected for the festivities, and we partied along with the crowd on quite a mild evening. The Spanish know how to kick on, so then it was off to Bairro Alto which is a famous street for clubbing. We milled around on the street for a time polishing off more drinks, and eventually we went into a club to dance along to great songs, and a bit more partying. I think I finally crawled into bed around 6:30am, after a memorable New Year's Eve spent in good company.
New Year's day was spent by the
Looking out over the Palace
The architecture is really unusual, but well cool!
hostel guests resting and recuperating, which I capped off with an excellent Indian meal over a few beers. But you can´t spend all your time lazing around when on holidays, so the next day it was time to jump on an early train for a day trip to the magical city of Sintra, which is barely an hour out of Lisbon. This hilly town was a personal favourite of Lord Byron, and home to the Portuguese monarchs during the summer months. The tourist information centre in Sintra gets travellers sorted in no time, and a bus round trip will take you to all the sights for just four euros. The lady at the counter explained that one palace was closed because it was wednesday, and I just stared at her blankly. Mate, I don´t have a clue what day of the week it is when I´m travelling, but I appreciated the heads up from la senora.
The Palacio da Pena was the highlight for me, and within the palace the monarchs´ rooms have been recreated in the traditional style of the times. Sintra is a great little town to stroll around, and the historical centre is filled with gorgeous
little cobble stone streets so common in this part of the world. There are villas and gardens aplenty to explore and it´s all within easy reach of the capital. When I stopped off for lunch in the city I ordered a ham and cheese roll with a coke, and was charged two euro and sixty five cents. As you can gather, Portugal is a considerably cheaper travel destination than her neighbours in mediterranean Europe, and the weather has been surprisingly mild given it's now the middle of winter.
The Portuguese provide a special welcome to visitors in this gorgeous country, and on the Atlantic coast the capital city of Lisbon is a must see travel destination. I´ve enjoyed friendly banter with the locals, good food at affordable prices, and outrageously cheap beer. The main supermarket on New Year´s Eve was packed to the rafters, but I was happy to queue patiently for 45 minutes, because after all my six pack of beer cost the princely sum of one Euro and fifty cents; now that´s a price worth lining up for! In Portugal travellers come to discover the country that discovered half the world and, basically all of you should be here now!
I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake." Robert Louis Stevenson
As I continue my travels, until next time it´s signing off for now
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