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Saturday, September 11, 2010

One Saturday in Lisbon

Outer Lisbon and the Costa de Caparica across the Rio Tejo from the air

This is the first blog in a five-chapter posting on our trip through Portugal, so this post contains a map of the journey as well as links to the other chapters, which can also be found in the blog contents list on the right of the page.

Portugal Blogs:
One Saturday in Lisbon
The Romance of Sintra
The Macabre Enchantment of Evora
Beja and the Sierras
Aljezur and the South Coast

Map of our journey in southern Portugal

When we arrived in Lisbon there was chaos as thousands of British holiday-makers descended on the rental car companies forming claustrophobic queues, so again we managed to use my current disability to get through the waiting to get our Guerrin rental through Nova care hire and after signing our life away, out onto the freeway and out to Sintra the medieval mountain town outside Lisbon full of strange castles.

After circumnavigating the town, we managed to find our way up the concealed road that wound right to the top of the mountain and I took a 'tram' ride up to the fairy-tale Palace de Pena famed on the cover of the rough guide to Portugal and took a stunning series of shots.

From there we drove along the coast through the searing, eye wateringly bright and hot beaches choked with bronzed bodies and technicolour beach umbrellas and eventually through the Saturday beach traffic around to the old historic centre of Lisbon, which was as charming in itself as Sintra.

Views of Lisbon from the air

Aqueduto das Águas Livres (1748) - Lisbon has always suffered from a water shortage

On the road out to Sintra

The beach coming from Cascais

Crazy colours of beach obsession

It took a considerable time to get from Sintra to central Lisbon, so we were beginning to run out of time to find a camp site on the holiday resort crazed south coast over the Rio Tejo. We stopped for a moment to view the main square - the Terreiro do Paço nostaglically named for the palace that was destroyed in the great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755.

The central square of Old Lisbon - Terreiro do Paço


Views from the square out over the Rio Tejo

Ponte 25 de Abril

An historical view of the Terreiro do Paço or Palace Square
named after the palace which was destroyed by earthquake in 1755.

We then took off through the difficult one-way system heading like a sniffer dog for where we imagined the good sites of the old Barrios might be.

Streets leading from the square

Looking for a steep ascending side street, I made a right into a narrow tram lined street which half way up became so obstructed it seemed we couldn't get through.

Streets leading up into Alfama - Arabic for al-hamma - baths

But then we found we had made it up to the promenade of Alfama, one of the most exquisite parts of Old Lisbon, although we had been trying to find the now more upmarket Barrio Alto on the other side of the central nexus. So this for us is home!



Panorama of Alfama area with Igreja Sao Vicente in the background

Alfama panoramas

Igreja Sao Vicente

Statue of Sao Vicente

I have included a few images of Barrio Alto for comparison to broaden the view of old Lisbon.

A square we passed through at the lower end of the Barrio Alto district

Internet images of Barrio Alto

Castelo Sao Jorge overlooks the centre of old Lisbon

An internet aerial view of the Castelo with Terreiro do Paço in the distance

After getting lost in the circuitous one way streets, trying to find the access, we eventually made it out over Lisbon's 'Golden Gate' bridge, over the Rio Teja, the Ponte 25 de Abril, linking to the resort cities on the southern spit.

Heading south over the suspension bridge Ponte 25 de Abril

After finding several repulsive packed camp sites full of loud music with no good pitches we nearly got stuck in the sand at a wild beach at the very end point of the coast road and had to be dragged out by eight husky surfers, before driving back to the autostrada and out again to the coast further south, where we found a camp site by a coastal lagoon Lagoa de Albufeira. The camp was full of loud disjointed music for a kids disco jerking and lurching through to past midnight.

A castle on the way to Palmeja

Next morning we threaded back to the local road heading towards Palmeja planning to turn East to drive inland to Evora. We stopped to have a snack in the little rest park by this castle but every shady spot was packed to the gunnels with Portuguese out on a picnic as if no one had until this moment thought that providing enough shade in the inscrutable summer heat might be something that it is worth having.

The road to Palmeja

Further along the road there were fine views in the baking heat of the coast and the castle at Palmeja, before we became hopelessly lost trying to link on to the road to Evora.

Three views of Palmeja looking towards the coast

A row of old sail windmills

Two panoramas looking inland

After driving in circles for an hour we entered the motorway only to find we were driving for at least 10 kms back to where we started as well as finding that unlike the bidge from Lisbon, this section was a toll road, so as soon as possible we took off finally finding the almost deserted road east to Evora.

On the road we began to see buildings with huge chimneys which we figured were convection funnels to dispel the heat in the houses although this may have been a delusion we were suffering from the extreme heat although again the rental car was comfortably air conditioned and was reasonably luke warm as long as you kept driving.

Strange chimneys looking like they are forms of convection-driven ventilation

We passed by Montemor-O-Novo and stopped in to break the journey and glance at the town and castle.


Montemor-O-Novo Castelo

Scenes from Montemor-O-Novo

Scenes on the road nearing Evora

Finally by late afternoon we were actually arriving at the vicinity of Evora ...

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