A Travellerspoint blog

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Lisbon

Day 3 - May 15th 2009

sunny 25 °C
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Breakfast. Anthonio came by in the morning to take us out for breakfast. We ate pastries and croquets. My mouth is drooling just writing this. The croquets here are my favourite and they have so many varieties that it is veritably impossible to get sick of them. I tried to pay the bill but they wouldn’t take my money, Anthonio pulled rank. Thanks mate. He then gave us a guided tour of the new beach development in Costa De Caparica. A couple of kilometres of shops and restaurants on the beachside. They must have pumped a heap of money into it. Looks great now but it’ll be even better when it is finished.

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Belem. We caught the ferry to Belem. Another beautiful and historic part of Lisbon. We spent a good 6 hours just walking around and still didn’t get enough. There is a patisserie here that is famous for it’s Pastais de Nata (custard tarts), it’s a secret recipe that has been passed down for over a hundred years. Delectable. Small, crispy and warm. Like a crème Brule served in pastry, really really good. They also served croquets so you can guess what else was on the menu. We came back twice in six hours.
http://www.pasteisdebelem.pt/index.htm

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Sights of Belem. They were plentiful. Torre De Belem, Mosteiro Dos Jeronimos and Padraodos Descobrimentos were the standouts. I know I said in a previous posting that the Blue Mosque was the most amazing man made structure I had ever seen. I still stand by that in terms of the exterior but the interior of the Mosteiro Dos Jeronimos blew all else away. Stunning.

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Lisbon. From Belem we caught a tram to Praca de Commercio in the heart of Lisbon. A spot of shopping and Vicki was re-energised. It’s funny how she can be pale, grumpy and tired one minute and almost instantly revitalised the next. I’ve heard of retail therapy but that is just ridiculous. There was a festival of sorts in one of the town squares. There I had a Gingha (cherry liqueur) but this time in a dark chocolate cup. Now that was superb. Sorry Gabi, you would have loved it.

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Drinks. Sandra met us in Lisbon for some pre-dinner drinks. We went to a nice little bar in the backstreets of Lisbon. Vicki and Sandra drank a local delicacy. Can’t remember the name but it essentially consisted of Vodka with crushed strawberries and lime. The girls were downing them pretty quickly.

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Dinner. Portuguese dining. The food was great. Nothing but fish for me after the huge amount of meat we consumed in Turkey and luckily got to sample the famous Portuguese dish, Baccalau. Tremendous. Vicki on the other hand surprisingly opted for a pig based dish, black pig to be specific. No need to wash that plate.

Sandra refused to join us for dinner unless we allowed her to pay. It really wasn't necessary after all she had already done for us but again it was appreciated. We loved Lisbon and the experience could not have hit the highs it did without your help and hospitality. Thanks again mate. We hope to repay the favour in Melbourne sometime soon!

Posted by samandvic 16:57 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Lisbon

Day 4 - May 16th 2009

sunny 25 °C
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Last day in Lisbon. We decided to potter around in Sandra’s apartment in the morning of our final day. We used the time to pack and tweak our itinerary for the next stop, Porto.

Pig. Anthonio and Maria (Hugo and Sandra’s parents) invited us out for a special lunch, Suckling Pig! They also invited Hugo’s friend Nono and his wife Cristina to join us. Good people and great company. I was hesitant at first. Not a big fan of pork (love ham and sausage) but I find pork and bacon a bit strong. This on the other hand was nothing like anything I had eaten before. I suppose it would be right to say that it was the equivalent of eating lamb or veal. Succulent and tasty. No hesitation on the Vicki front. She still hadn’t consumed her quota of pig and what better opportunity than this? Does the term ‘hoover’ mean anything to you? I swear she must have eaten the bones and without hesitation attacked the crackling off the remaining pieces. Again we were not allowed to pay. When I snuck up to the bar, I was quite severely ‘told off’ by the waiter and bar staff. Maria said she was happy to fight me if I pushed the point. Thanks Maria and Anthonio for sharing your company and providing such a lovely lunch in your beautiful city.

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Adeus Lisboa. Nono was kind enough to drop us at the train station. Thanks Nono. Sure enough Sandra was waiting there to ensure we were safely off to Porto. She had caught the train to meet us, pre-purchased our metro tickets to save time and led us every step of the way before boarding. What can I say? Not sure if words can truly convey how grateful we were for your hospitality, Sandra. Thanks again mate!

Posted by samandvic 01:14 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Porto

Day 1 - May 16th 2009

rain 17 °C
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Porto. We arrived in Porto around 8pm. Quite a pleasant 3-hour train ride. It was different to Lisbon but also very beautiful. The weather was a bit like Melbourne and it was the first time we encountered rain on our journey.

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Bessa Hotel. We booked a place in Boa Vista, right next to the Soccer Stadium. Beautiful hotel, very modern and tasteful and talk about cheap. The hotel was that nice we decided just to kick back and recharge the batteries a little. A few drinks and probably the best Club Sandwich I have eaten before retiring relatively early. Just what we needed.

Posted by samandvic 01:20 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Porto

Day 2 - May 17th 2009

rain 17 °C
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Caught the metro into the heart of Porto. A kind man that we met on the first train helped us get around. It became a bit awkward after a while due to the communication barrier. We offered to buy him a coffee but he declined. Not sure he understood us completely. There was a breast cancer parade in the town square. Thousands of pink T-shirts filled the streets.

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Hey Tourist. We opted for the Hop on Hop off double decker roofless bus to get around Porto. A great decision in the end as we only had a day to see it. This place was magical. We stayed on the bus and did a complete tour before getting off by the river. On one side you had all the famous Port cellars and the other a string of restaurants. They were joined by a bridge built by Gustav Eiffel’s apprentice. The bridge shared the architecture of the Eiffel tower, really beautiful. The whole place was spectacular. After tasting some of Porto’s finest we crossed the river for lunch.

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Lunch. We sat on the top floor of a quaint little restaurant on the river’s edge. The dining area was encased in a stone brick dome with a glass window at the end overlooking the river. Lunch was superb.

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Separate paths. For the first time in our trip, we split up. Vicki went shopping and I went to the soccer. I had to travel by coach for an hour so we parted ways at the bus station.

Braga. Sporting De Braga was playing Benfica (a Lisbon based team). As I was in the home town of Braga, I quickly bought myself a Sporting de Braga scarfe to blend in. I thought of buying a Benfica scarfe just to piss Hugo off but decided against it. Didn’t want to be wandering the streets of Braga late at night waiting for my bus dressed in a Benfica scarfe. They take their soccer pretty seriously here. Good move in the end considering Benfica beat Braga 3-1.

Stadium. The stadium was something special. The two wings had tiered seating which made up the majority of the stadium and the other two walls were actually part of the rock face. You could see out into the Valley. Great views inside and out. Don’t think I’ll see too many built like that in my time. Unforgettable experience.

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Shopping. I could see a twinkle of excitement in Vicki's eyes as we parted ways. This was her opportunity to hit the shops without the finance grinch assessing her every move. To Vicki's dismay (and to my advantage) the shopping trip was not a success. Most of the shops, including the largest shopping mall in Porto, were closed. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall (or taxi window) when she eventually gave up and asked to be taken back to the hotel. For a fleeting moment I felt sorry for her...

Gusto and Paolo. I sat in a café waiting for my bus when Gusto asked me over. He asked where I was from and the moment I said Australia he offered to share a joint with me. Gusto spoke broken English but Paolo didn’t speak a word. Paolo spoke French and I spoke broken French. It was probably the most challenging yet satisfying conversation I have ever had. I would speak to Gusto in English but then would try to say it in French so as not to exclude Paolo. When I struggled, Gusto translated my English into Portuguese so Paolo could understand. Likewise when Paolo struggled to get his point across, Gusto would translate the Portuguese back into English for me to understand. The small talk was ok but when we tried getting a little more detailed it got a bit tricky. I exchanged email addresses with Gusto and set off to catch my bus.

Early departure. As I arrived at the bus station a coach was pulling out. The front said Lisbon so I ignored it and made my way to the information booth to check which berth I would be leaving from. “Gone” she said. “Excuse me, you mean that bus?” “Yes.” “Well, call him, tell him to stop and I will run”. “No, midnight next bus.” “It said Lisbon and it isn’t 11pm yet!!” “Gone.” Fucken brilliant.

Luckily Gusto and Paolo were still at the café. I had some time to kill so we had a couple of beers. Thanks for the company lads.

Posted by samandvic 01:21 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Paris

Day 1 - May 18th 2009

sunny 21 °C
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Arrival. We landed in Paris at 11am. We dragged our luggage from plane to bus to Metro before finally reaching the hotel. Nothing could rob us of the excitement we felt.

Hotel. The location of the hotel was ok. About a 10 min walk to the subway. The Subway here is great, a bit dicey at night when suspect characters are lurking but we didn’t run into any trouble. The real feature of the hotel was price. Vicki found an absolute steal on the net (it must have been a mistake). We got a 4-start hotel in Paris for less than A$80 per night. Unheard of. Admittedly, half of the view from the room was train tracks but we got over that pretty quickly. We only spent about 6 hours in the hotel each night. Nice one, my little internet scavenger.

Lunch. First lunch in Paris. We opted for something cheap (for Paris anyway) and got what we paid for.

Basilique du Sacre-Coeur. Perched on top of a hill in the Montmartre region, it is apparently the highest point in Paris with amazing views of the city. I asked the guy at the information desk where the Fenicular (a cable car/tram to take us to the top of the hill) was. He chuckled and replied by saying it was for disabled and elderly people. Cheers, I’ll walk then.

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We walked for hours viewing numerous historical monuments and buildings (too many to list) and I don’t use the term ‘walking’ lightly. No wonder the French don’t get fat. Surprising when you take into consideration the food they eat. Everything is either full of sugar or drenched in butter.

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Shopping heaven. The streets of Paris (almost everywhere) are lined with boutique designer shops. You couldn’t wipe the deep-set grin from Vicki’s cheeks. We allocated some shopping time before heading out to do some more typical tourist stuff.

Champs-Elysees. More designer shops! Everywhere you looked. All the high end designer stuff and the place was pumping. Great atmosphere.

Arc de Triomphe. I remember these words distinctly. As a child my father hired a French tutor for a number of years and she must have had a thing for the Arc de Triomphe. It was every bit as impressive as I had imagined. My other most vivid memory was when the tutor gave me an open hander to the face but that is an entirely different story. You remember it, don’t you Emma?!

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Maccas. The good old golden arches. After walking the streets exploring the city until about 1am, we finally felt hungry. Our options were limited so burgers and fries it was. Not sure how we felt about travelling all this way to France only to be consuming an American diet.

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Metro. What a great system. Anything and everything is accessible via the Metro, and finding your way around is so simple to work out. May not have been entirely safe to be travelling on the Metro this late at night but to our surprise, no freaks. Plenty during the day so we at least expected a few. There are certain stations that are best avoided at night but we didn’t have to visit any.

Posted by samandvic 16:04 Archived in France Comments (0)

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