Today we are on a private tour organized by Frank and Edith’s son Steve. The tour company is WeHateTourismTours, we highly recommend them to anyone wanting an excellent, customized tour of Lisbon and surrounding areas.The trip was extremely enjoyable and well worth the money. In groups of 5-7 in a VW Caravelle van we set off at 0830. The 3 vans split up so it appears as if we are on a really private tour. The city, pronounced “LizhBoa”, is a beautifully laid back city filled with wide boulevards and black and white marble stone sidewalks. Many houses are decorated in extreme ornate tiles of many colours and are so lovely. It is a small city as capital cities go with a population of around 1 million. Most of the city was destroyed in 1755 by an earthquake and the following tidal wave. Many people lost faith that day and the earthquake
is never spoken of but is always on the minds of the people. The earthquake happened on a Sunday around 11:15am when most people were in church. In 1755 lighting was provided by candle light and fire spread quickly. The following tsunami killed thousands. Because the people were extremely religious the question on everyone’s lips was “why us Lord”. The effect on faith are still felt today. The plaza next to the main church that was destroyed is also where the bloodless revolution in 1974 occurred. There are still guards outside what is now the HQ of the national police.
The old part (East side) Moorish quarter of town survived the earthquake largely because it rests on a foundation of dense bedrock retains its charm today. Here many of the streets are so narrow 2 people can’t pass side to side. The Alfama is a legacy left over from the Moors who ruled Lisbon during the 8th century. It is a district of narrow winding streets, twisting their way up to the castle on top of the hill. The castle Castelo de Sao Jorge is Moorish in construction and was built on the site of a fortification built in the 5th century by the Visigoths.
The fairy tale town of Sintra which is 20 miles northwest of Lisbon is one of Portugal’s oldest villages. It truly is a beautiful place and Gerrit and I are thinking of renting a place here in a years’ time for a few weeks. It is known for its 14th century National Palace, once the royal family’s summer residence. Here we sample delightful pastries and chocolate cups with Cherry Liqueur. Stores sell beautiful lace work done on tablecloths and napkins along with incredible shawls. Pottery is very prevalent here as well and store fronts are very inviting.
The area is known for its palaces, most nationalized in the 1990’s for preservation. We drive a short distance to explore one of them, the “Quinta da Regaleira”. Here we have an hour to explore this incredible museum and grounds. Our guide Ricardo gives us a heads up for the extremely interesting parts and we immediately make our way to the” Initiate Well”. This is a subterranean tower that sinks some 27 metres into the earth, made accessible by a monumental spiral stairway. The hallowed space full of esoteric and alchemical associations, makes the relation between Heaven and Earth intensely felt. The entrance to the tower is via a secret door found in a rock formation. Very creepy. This property was designed by Manini in the early 1900’s, it took 15 years and 300 drawings. You can let your imagination get lost in the expansive grounds.
We have lunch at a roadside market that pops up several times per week. The traditional crusty bread has chorizo sausage inside. Adding some goat and sheep’s milk cheese rounds out an incredible taste. A glass of wine tops things off. Next we head to Cabo da Roca, the most western part of mainland Europe. Known in the past as the End of the World, it is an extremely windy place! The wave action is incredible to watch.
We drive along the coast to a favourite surfing spot, then on to Cascais. This town saw an influx of wealthy people who were looking to escape WWII (Portugal was neutral). It is now along with Estoril a wonderful place to vacation.
We end our tour in Lisbon near the ship. There is a wonderful monastery, a monument to Portuguese explorers and scholars who went off to sea and our last pasteis of the tour, Pasteis de Belem! You wait in line for over an hour unless you know to head directly to the kitchen.
An incredible day with a fantastic tour guide. We took over 600 photos (after weeding out duds etc.), the above is but a small sample. This city and surrounding area is worth another visit, and fortunately we will do just that in April on our return from Indonesia.