Posts Tagged ‘Portugal’

Beach Time Fun

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Isn’t it funny how you don’t realise what you take for granted until you don’t have it anymore. Funny sad, not funny ha ha. In Perth I lived a 10 minute drive away from North Cottesloe and would go every morning for a wake-up swim. In Paris, the closest beach doesn’t even look like a beach because it has these weird lumpy bits of rock that you have to walk across and most people just lie in the sun turning into wrinkled, brown sausages. So a holiday to a country with potentially more passable beaches was a tad exciting.

Unfortunately, neither Lisbon or Porto are beachside resorts (although this is also a good thing because I tend to dislike beach side resorts with a passion) so to reach the beach we either had to catch a bus or walk a really long way. We did both. In Lisbon we waited at a bus station with bikini-clad girls and guys carrying bodyboards and headed to a beachside town called Costa da Caparica. Due to a miscommunication between myself and Tom, he had brought his bathers while I had left mine at the hotel, thinking we were just going to walk along the beach. Of course, as soon as I saw sandy coast with clear water and a few small waves, my brain switched to “Swim” mode and I went in search of appropriate attire.

Costa da Caparica

Costa da Caparica

At least it was cheap. For less than eight Euros I managed to buy a bikini (the first I have ever owned in my life) plus an extra four Euros for a pair of ugly shorts that would cover the fact that the bikini bottoms were very… well… Portuguese. However, it wasn’t until I was striding towards the water in my new outfit that I realised that despite me thinking I had developed quite an impressive tan while in Europe, I was most certainly the whitest thing on that beach. The sand was darker than me. My thighs that never see the light of day were reflecting laser beams of sunlight back to shore and people were cowering in fear. Ok, not completely true but almost. I felt like a Brit who sits in the shade on Australian beaches, looking vampiresque and rapidly turning into a lobster.

Jess at the beach

Please notice the beach and the fact that I am there. Please ignore my weird tan lines, food belly, awful shorts and the couple lying on the beach behind me.

Once I was in the water my whiteness was less of an issue and I managed to enjoy a cold but refreshing swim. It is such a pleasurable experience to have sea water gliding around you. I did have to fight with a few freak waves but the water was generally calm and there were little sparkles of gold floating through it. Delightful.

Our second visit to the beach happened in Porto. We looked at the map and decided to walk along the river edge until it hit the ocean and then head north towards where the map showed beach umbrellas and ‘sand’ coloured patches. The walk was longer than expected but it was really enjoyable, walking along the river and seeing little pockets of outer Porto along the way. Once we reached the ocean things got a bit windy and we discovered that the surf was up with a cold breeze coming off the water. Not very pleasant. So no swimming but the walk along the coast was beautiful.

Porto beach

Porto coastline

The problem was, there was too much wind for me to wear a hat and for it to remain on my head so I walked most of the way without it. Of course, there was then a lot of sun and I’m reasonably certain that the strong winds and sunny conditions were what led to me feeling rather unwell that evening and the following day. But that, my friends, is the danger of outdoor adventures.

Look! Photos!

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

I have spent the past two days uploading photos from my trip to Portugal on to my Flickr site. I could have been eating pastries; visiting the Mona Lisa; or staring out the window at the grey skies and falling leaves, but no. I was spending my time uploading photos so that you, lovely people, could look at them and feel a sense of involvement in my travels. Aren’t I generous? Now go and look at them.

Poet Fountain sign

Just a taste of the great photographs that await you...

Portugal, I Love You

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

You know you’ve enjoyed a country when your stomach is screaming with pain from eating too much food and drinking too much wine. Maybe it was the fried, salted peppers, or maybe I just over indulged but my stomach is currently on holidays from my excessive Portuguese eating habits. It is glad to be back in the country where while everything is full of butter, it doesn’t drip down your chin as you bite into your food.

Jess and toast

Butter chin!

We returned to Paris at lunch time on Sunday after a week away in Portugal. Sunny, warm Portugal. It was Tom’s birthday present – I bought him tickets and accommodation for four days in Lisbon and three days in Porto. The main reason for this present was because Portugal is a country I have wanted to visit and I had started to miss the beach beyond belief. Really, it was a present for me, but Tom didn’t seem to mind.

Lisbon was a fascinating city and I don’t think I have ever walked through a city that has worked my calf muscles as much. I thought there were hills in Lyon – that was NOTHING compared to the mountainous terrain of Lisbon. You can be walking along a street and decide to turn right, only to discover that to get to the next parallel street you have to go up an almost vertical incline. To add to your woes, you have to deal with cobblestone footpaths that are made up of super slippery tiles, so you have to grip on with your toe, feet and leg muscles to avoid going backwards.

Lisbon hills

Danger hill alert!

Of course, you then get to the top of the hill, walk along a nice flat area for awhile, only to discover that you now have to go back down the slope without slipping over and falling on your butt. It was hilarious watching slow and cautious tourists being over taken at rapid speed by locals, often elderly women with walking sticks. I was once over taken by an old lady carrying a carpet over her shoulder. I wanted to bow, kiss her feet and compliment her on her walking abilities and hope that one day I could walk as well as she could.

Portuguese lady

Look at that skill!

The good thing about hills is that you often have a nice view from the top of them. There were LOTS of nice views in Lisbon and these vistas, terraces, or look outs were really well used. There was almost always a little kiosk cafe where you could sit and have a drink, a historical monument or an over priced tourist venture.


Beautiful Lisbon.

On our first day in Lisbon we were the stupid tourists who paid to go up a lift that used to be run on steam (if it still was run on steam I would have enjoyed it more. Instead it was just an ordinary lift with wires and electricity and stuff) for a 5-10 second ride in order to get ‘a view’ over Lisbon. If we had waited and walked around for a bit longer, we may have realised that if we had walked up the hill NEXT to the lift, we could have had the same view for free. But hey, what’s the point of being a tourist if you don’t get ripped off? Plus it was Portuguese prices which means we could have gone up and down the lift four times before it cost anything near the price of going up the Eiffel Tower.

Lisbon elevator

The Elevator of Santa Justa

It was interesting being in a European city where there are few buildings dating back past the mid 18th century. A massive earthquake in 1755 destroyed most of the city so it was interesting to then visit Porto which has some much older buildings and feels like a much older city. There is a feeling of hardship in Portugal – it is one of the EU countries currently struggling with its economy and it is quite obvious from the living standards in the cities and it the country towns we passed when on the train. People make do with less and have done so for centuries but global economies are making it harder for this to be possible. However, while people’s homes appear run down and falling apart, it was also interesting to see that houses with city or water views that had once belonged to generations of family members were being transformed into fancy hotels and tourist restaurants. This really annoys me. The fact that large numbers of delightful cities are transformed into Disneylands just to maintain economies and to satisfy rich tourists is horrifying. While I am one of those tourists, I don’t want to see a city taken over by souvenir shops and tourist menus. I go to a city to see its history, discover how people live there, and eat local food. This is becoming much harder to achieve.

Lisbon restaurants

Tourism is taking over

Anyway, potentially contradicting my previous statement, we spent one afternoon in Porto doing what the tourists do – visiting port cellars and sampling the local produce. Much like going wine tasting in the Swan Valley or Margaret River, there were hoards of tourists wandering from cellar to cellar, demanding free samples and feeling hard done by if they had to pay for something. We joined in and visited four port cellars and sampled approximately 10 different ports. That’s a lot for one afternoon.


The first three ports

In two of the cellars we were able to join tours that took us into the caves where the port is stored and provided us with a bit of information about how the port is produced. You can see a highlight of these tours in a movie on my Flickr site, where a particularly amusing girl provided us with a very interesting tour of the Croft cellar. The main reason it was interesting was the way in which she spoke English – it was just delightful. Plus the fact that she appeared strict and like a scary teacher at first, and then started dropping really sarcastic jokes throughout her speech just made it a tour to remember.

Basically, the key thing I learnt from my four cellar visits, ten ports and two tours, was that I like Tawny Ports because they are oakier due to being aged in smaller oak barrels than Ruby Ports. See? I was listening. And if you have a vintage port, drink it within 2-3 days of opening. And all Port grapes are grown in the Douro region in Portugal. SO THERE YOU GO.

Portugal was fantastic. I will write some more later but right now I have to go and buy a baguette for lunch. Tough, I know. I do have to venture outside into grey and windy Paris where it is fairly cold. That’s not sunny Portugal!

Next Trip

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

I am currently sitting back and contemplating what I have forgotten to pack. Tomorrow in the wee hours of the morning we’re heading to the airport and catching a plane to Lisbon, Portugal. At the moment I have packed all of my summer clothes – the forecast is for sunny, hot weather with temperatures above 30 degrees. I’m not sure I will survive! I haven’t experienced that sort of heat since I left Australia in January. I might melt. If I do, it has been nice. If I don’t, I’ll be back with stories of sunburn, heat rash and ice cream. We’re spending four days in Lisbon and three in Porto, before coming home next Sunday. Should be great!

Meanwhile, this is my 401st entry on my blog. Not bad! I shall attempt to reach 500 by the end of the year.