Saturday, 12 September 2015

Portugal: Sintra, Lisbon and Tavira


Lonely Planet guide to Portugal describes Sintra as 'a page torn from a fairy tale' for  its exotic gardens, glittering palaces and dewy forests with ferns and lichen and although we arrived there on a miserable, foggy evening, we couldn't agree more. We were instantly impressed by the town and its surroundings. It's simply magical! 

Looking for a campsite wasn't, however, a fairy tale. Our sat nav came up with three campsites, two of which didn't seem to exist and the third one was closed. There was nothing else to do but turn to locals for help so I run into a restaurant and having overheard a guy speak English asked him about campsites in the area. As I was getting some information, Aaron was doing exactly the same outside the restaurant using Wi-Fi provided by the restaurant. Both sources of information confirmed the nearest campsite was only 20km away, in Guichon, it did exit and was open! Hooray!

Enjoying another sunny day by thecampsite pool.

This girl can do anything to her daddy. Here she's practising her backpack.
The hat fits and suits daddy!
The tent pitch
Dilemma, dilemma, dilemma. What do you do when you can't decide which shoes to wear? 
You wear one of each pair! A fashion statement by Micky Moo. She's very clear about her choice of shoes. Her comment on this photo is: 'I love shoes (meaning the green ones). I love sandals!'

Beautiful Parque da Pena through which we walked to Palacio Nacional da Pena, one of many interesting places in Sintra. The area is full of impressive mansions surrounded by beautiful gardens, palaces, castles. We learnt, however, that with the three kids visiting only one of these places is enough for a day. By the time we finally got out of the car ready to walk to the palace, Aaron and me had already run out of energy and patience for sightseeing. They both went into feeding, changing and getting the gear for the kids ready to go the palace. 
The main map reader - Beany who these days has to fight Micky to get hold of maps.
The palace in the background.

Although this year's trip has been running through the peak time in Europe we haven't really experienced crowds of people on beaches, campsites or tourist attractions. However, here for the very first time we had to crawl after a crowd of visitors to go through the interiors of the palace. 

Sintra Vila
National Palace of Sintra


Waiting for tram no 28 that was meant to take us through some interesting parts of Lisbon. There were lots of other tourists waiting for the tram as well as already on the tram. We had to let a couple go before there was enough room in one for us to board. 
On board the tram. 
Largo do Chiado
It was a hot Sunday and ice cream after the tram ride was just right!
Arco da Victoria - looking toward the river front from Rua August
                          In the arcades of Arco da Victoria  Arco da Victoria seen from Praca do Comercio
Praca do Cemercio
The statue of Dom Jose I in the middle of Praca do Comercio
The river front - not as impressive as Porto's
It felt a bit like Paris here.
Praca dos Restauradores
Just like in other towns in Portugal (Braga, Sintra) there were quite a few abandoned buildings in prime locations. 
Praca Dom Pedro IV
Teatro Nacional D. Maria II
Eden Hotel 

Se de Lisboa
Entrance to the castle.
And we're out of Lisbon.

A town on the way to Tavira, full of graffiti. We captured this one.
We found Tavira a charming wee town and would've loved to stay there longer than an afternoon but unfortunately the campsite we were heading for, beautifully located on a close by island, was inaccessible by car due to a road closure.  There was another one in another town but we disliked it lots.
Anther hot day - another scoop of ice cream. We've had lots of both so far!
And it's Spain on the other side of the bridge.

El Rocio
Since we didn't find a nice campsite to stop in Tavira, we headed for Spain and stopped for a couple of days in a little town called El Rocio. Little did we know about the town as we chose the campsite as our destination, not the town. We got intrigued by the town after a wee drive around. El Rocio does not look like a typical Spanish town. Nor does it look like any other towns we visited! Just have a look at the photos below.
l Rocio is a place of pilgrimage, one of the biggest in the world and one with the largest crowds! The most typical way of doing the pilgrimage is on horseback (we saw quite a few horses around with 'parking spots' for them), in one of the carretas (decorated wagons) or on foot, journeying through the marshlands and sleeping out in the open. On Sunday night no-one sleeps in anticipation of being able to enter the church (unfortunately we don't have a photo of the church) and join in the procession of the Blanca Paloma (White Dove), by which the Virgin of El Rocío is known. 
Matalascanas Beach
We had beautiful weather all the way through Portugal to the South of Spain so we were seeking breaks by a pool or on a beach. Not far from El Rocio (about 20km) we found this little beach. This side of it wasn't very busy, probably because there was quite a long walk to it from the car park. Just a couple of kilometres East and the beach became a 'city of umbrellas' with hotels and cafes on every corner. 

I don't think Nela was very impressed with my attempts to cool her down in the Strait of Gibraltar.
Aaron's enjoying his favourite afternoon activity.
On that day our car registered 39°C which was the hottest to date. We just had to spend the day by the campsite pool.

23-29 July 2015

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