November Trip Week Two

18 Nov

Here is the second week of our trip and it is in the same format as last week, a copy of my notes.  So it carries the same caveats as previously.  I hope you enjoy it.

Monday, 12

– got up about 0800 so we could pack, get some breakfast and buy sandwiches for lunch on the flight to Lisbon when the supermarket opened at 1000. Ran a little early so we had time for a 5 minute walk in the park as well. Weather has improved, clear now but the light breeze was very chilly.

– left the hotel at about 1115 and had an easy trip to the airport parking. We took the Ronda Littoral and were parked at the park and fly place by 1145. Spent some time securing things in the car then got the shuttle to T2. We had checked in online so went straight through security to wait airside.

– we had never experienced non-allocated seating on a flight before but Leanne had researched it. Basically as soon as the gate number is posted, about 45 minutes before departure, everyone makes a mad rush to get to the gate and be near the front of the queue. People were actually running.

– we got a middle and a window seat in row 2 on the left. And we got space to put our carry-on bags.

– we got talking to the lady on the aisle seat. Loie was travelling with her husband Pat and another couple. From Fernie, BC, Canada. They are retired, Pat from teaching two years ago and Loie from Retail Banking six months ago. Have been travelling with the other couple for two months now. Always stay in apartments and for a week at a time. Have lots more travels planned including NZ. They have also done house swaps very successfully. All in all quite a similar situation to our own. Pat’s iPhone got picked on the Metro on a crowded compartment on Saturday.

– landed in Lisbon on time. Caught a bus that dropped us within 100m of our hotel. Checked in and spent the rest of the evening in the Executive Club lounge.

Tuesday, 13

– had a blinding headache all night plus the aircon had no cooling so the room was hot as hell. Woke up feeling like total crap so took lots of drugs and went back to bed till about 0900.

– finally left the room about 1000 and took the Metro to the city. Weather was fine and clear with a light breeze that made it cold in the shade. Headed for Tram 28 and rode it to the viewing point at Largo das Portas do Sol.  Wandered from there up to the entrance to the castle of St Jorges. Then headed down hill and found the Lisbon Cathedral. After the cathedral we walked down to Praça do Comércio which is 36,000sqm or 3.6Ha or 8.9 acres!  We left the square via the triumphal arch and up Rua Augusta for a couple of blocks then caught Tram 28 again for a ride up the hill to Praça da Estrela.

An example of the detail in the stone paving that was all through Lisbon. Probably not something to be staring at if you have a hangover.

Tram #28 covers a tourist loop around the city and is very popular. There are more modern trams on the newer lines but this small short wheelbase version is actually ideal for the tight corners and very narrow streets in the area covered.

The main entrance to the Plaça Comércio. This square was developed to be the new commercial centre of Lisbon after an earthquake on 1st November 1755 destroyed 80% of the city leaving only the red light district undamaged. A fact not greatly appreciated by the Roman Catholic population on All Saints Day.

After passing throughout archway from Plaça Comércio there is this very nice pedestrian precinct.

Free loaders.

– on the spur of the moment, since access opened right away at 1400, we paid €4 each for access to the roof and the inside of the dome. It was great. At the front there was actually nothing to stop you falling right off the building.  We spent 30 minutes on the roof and in the dome before spending another 20 minutes inside. Took lots of pictures.

The façade of the Estrela Basilica.

Panorama from the roof of the Estrela Basilica. The small door towards the back right is the access to inside the dome.

Inside the dome of the Estrela Basilica looking directly down on the crossing (facing one side of the transept). Part of the nave is in view on the left.

Inside the dome of the Estrela Basilica looking down on the crossing and into the choir.

– a 5 minute walk back down the hill was the parliament buildings and after pausing there we wove our way to Sao Roque chapel which claims to be the most expensive in the world, funded by Brazilian gold in colonial times. It was actually obscene. Then walked to the viewing point beside the Gloria funicular which ultimately took us back down to the Metro station of Restauradores that delivered us in the morning. Got back to the room just before 1700 and took up residence in the club lounge.

Many of the buildings were clad with ceramic tiles, some of them very intricate.

View from the viewing point near the top of the funicular with the Lisbon Cathedral near the centre and the Tagus River behind.

The funicular connects the lower part of the city to the area of the parliament buildings.

Roasted chestnut vendors almost outnumbered the pedestrians.

Novel use for an old car.

Wednesday, 14

– the room was 22.7degC at 2200 last night but 25.5 at 0800 today. I dragged the Customer Service Manager to the room to see for herself. She came back with an upgrade to a Junior Suite for our last two nights!  That should allow me to sleep better.

– left the hotel eventually at 1045 and walked to Edward VII Park. There was a general strike in Portugal and all of Southern Europe so no public transport. No problem, it was a clear sunny day again so walking was good. Ended up right down at the city centre. Wandered through streets until we got to Plaça Comércio where we assumed there would be crowds of protesters and lots going on but it was deserted. Tried to find ‘one of the the oldest cafés in Europe’ but couldn’t see it so settled for gelato and a seat in the sun.

King Edward VII Park is about a kilometre long and was renamed from Liberty Park in honour of the King’s visit in 1903 to reaffirm the Anglo-Portuguese alliance.

Just below the fountain, flag and monuments are these clipped buxus hedges. This is what to do when your camera battery runs flat…

– at 1400 a ruckus and some Police joined the square in front of the big arch. This was the protest. Not very big but they had some type of firecracker that was good at getting attention. Bigger than anything we could ever buy at home.

Lisbon’s protest as part of the general labour strikes across Southern Europe against the austerity measures they are under. I guess there were about 200 people in total.

Probably summed up the protester’s sentiments. It was a popular garment with the crowd.

– after the protest passed us we finally saw the café that had eluded us earlier – we had been looking in the wrong part of the square. So we stopped for some liquid refreshments before starting the journey back towards the hotel.

– near Plaça Figueres we stumbled upon some very old style shops – one selling gardening stuff including a range of seeds, some of which were loose in small sacks and measured out with a trowel as required. The next one had some piles of salted fish, all smelling great of course and this is cool weather!  Interesting. At the last shop we bought a bottle of tawny port but passed in on the many hung dried legs of ham.

This garden shop was hidden away only just off a busy square near the commercial centre of Lisbon. Most interesting were the sacks of loose seeds at the right (only two visible) that were measured out as needed using a metal scoop.

Anyone fancy salted fish for dinner? The weather was cool but the smell was still strong enough. It must be seriously potent in the summer!

House sitting position available. I would like to visit friends in other cities over Xmas and need a trustworthy person to look after my home in this lovely park-like setting. Responsibilities are mainly to keep my cardboard clean and dry and stop other local home owners from pilfering it.

Lisbon had kilometres of paving just like this. Magnificent.

– walked back up the park and into the shopping centre for half an hour before completing the trip home. 17km in total.

– when we left this morning the staff had asked when we would return. The reason became clear when we got to the room… there was a 250mm diameter dark chocolate cake, plates & cutlery and a bottle of Portugese methode champagnoise. And a card. Very nice. And the room was nice and cool, thank goodness.

Our suite at The Corinthia in Lisbon. It was very nice!

– so we had some bubbles and cake before going to one of the restaurants downstairs for the rest of dinner. That was very nice. I had a traditional local soup made at Xmas – potato base with cabbage. From the colour it looked more like spinach but apparently the type of Portugese cabbage used is very intense green. We went back to the club lounge after our mains for some dessert snacks and a tea before bed.

Thursday, 15

– met a couple from Ballarat at breakfast. They have been travelling since April and go home in January 2013. Sounds like they are mainly using B&B. they have walked the El Camino Real.

– left the hotel at 1020 to catch the Metro to the city. First stop was the São Juste elevator for a view over the lower part of the city. Then we walked to the Plaça Comércio to catch the #15 tram to Belém. Waited half an hour for it and by the time it got us to Belém it was pissing down. Leanne bought a €5 umbrella off a hawker and I got a plastic bag from a food shop to protect my camera.

View to the St George Castle from the St Juste elevator in the bottom of the city. The elevator was completed in 1902 and powered by steam. In 1907 it was converted to electricity.

– walked short distance to the Berardo Modern Art Museum. Among many others they had works by Dali and Warhol. Have to confess that I just don’t get most of modern art.   Ended the visit in the café for some warm refreshments before heading back out into the weather. Rain had eased so we headed towards the waterfront but were stopped by the railway lines. Walked through the park instead and tried to grab a couple of photos from under the umbrella.

– there were lots of people waiting at the tram stop so when a bus arrived first that was headed in our direction and had room on board, we took it. That got us back to Plaça Figueres where we took the Metro to the new part of town.

– the new town was finished in 1998 and is all grand modern architecture. Not a day for wandering outdoors so we headed back to the hotel.

– at the hotel by 1600 but there was only time for a quick drink in the club lounge before heading back to the Metro to go and see the new James Bond movie ‘Skyfall’ at the São Sebastião shopping centre at 1700. Very good and as usual, action packed. In English, with Portugese subtitles.

– back at the club lounge for for snacks and drinks by 2015.

Friday, 16

– raining this morning. Had a good breakfast in the lounge, said our goodbyes and thank-yous to all the staff (who all know us by name) and caught the Metro at about 0940. Got to T2 by about 1030. Ran into an officious little bastard at screening who went through our bags and found a small fingernail file in each of our toilet bags. The same ones we brought with us from Barcelona. Wankers!

– after that we found out that our EasyJet flight was now an hour late.

– by 1215 the departure time was posted as 1630, a 5 hour delay. We were given a snack but there was no WiFi available. At 1530 the schedule was for 1650. I had a sleep sitting on the seats and also managed to take up enough seats to lay down for a while.

– finally took off at 1711. The pilot announced that the aircraft scheduled to fly this service could not get to Lisbon due to technical issues and they were called in from standby in Madrid. But instead of flying empty to Lisbon they flew to Barcelona and kept that service on schedule while exacerbating the delay for us. Otherwise both would have been late and they had to fly further empty. Bastards. Arrogant pricks wouldn’t even serve free tea and coffee because “you already had your voucher”. That was six freaking hours ago.  Bastards, again.

– at the long term parking shuttle pick up point at 2000. By the time we were ready to go it was 2040. We got one motorway interchange wrong near the centre of town and had to do a big loop to put that right. Then we were cruising all the way back to Hotel Ronda at Figueres arriving at 2230. Got a room for the same price as last time but it was small and at the back. Straight down to the dining room for some light tapas for our late dinner. See Evernote Food for details.

– luckily Leanne had cancelled our accommodation for tonight in Perpignan before the penalty window yesterday.  Turned out to be an inspired move because we did not feel like continuing that extra distance.  We also knew that Hotel Ronda had 24-hour reception so we would be able to get in the door.  Then it was just down to whether they had a room free and we were fortunate on that count.

Saturday, 17

– left Figures at 0950 after a good breakfast in their café (included in the room rate). Drove to Perpignan and got a park right in the centre about 200m from the Tourist Information Office and next to a Flea Market. Wandered the town, delightful place with a big selection of exquisite boutiques. One had a range of gear labelled ‘Otago Rugby Team’.

Perhaps this would be better for dinner than salted fish we saw last week? Also at the market in Perpignan.

Some fresh bread to go with your snails.

How long will this guy have all the fingers on his left hand? At the market in Perpignan.

The citadel in Perpignan.

These fountains in Perpignan were quite elaborate. This is one of a pair of identical pools that played a sequence and looked like they would be lit at night. In the background is a WWII memorial.

– left Perpignan just after 1400 and got to Carcassonne around 1545 but couldn’t check in till 1800. Spent our time exploring the castle and walled old city. Fantastic. Finally got in the room, unpacked and had a bottle of wine before going out again about 1930 to take photos and find some dinner. The place looks amazing by night.

One of the entrances to the walled city of Carcassonne.

A street view inside the walls.

Its official – the Roman Catholic faith is actually a cult!

By night the walled city looked fantastic.

The outer defensive line under floodlights.

– dined at Restaurant Adelaide (ranked 9/161 by 261 reviews on Trip Advisor). It was very good, especially very good value – €36 for two 3-course meals and a 500ml carafe of red. Back to the room by 2200.

Sunday, 18

– raining when we got up at 0800. Had a bath before going out for some light breakfast. When we got back to the room it had been serviced and all our gear moved off the bed where it had been in the process of being packed.  Very strange.

– the rain eased as we moved away from Carcassonne and was quite reasonable by 1330 when we arrived in Arles.  The autumn colours in the plane trees along various canals and in the vineyards was spectacular at times but since we were on the A-road we couldn’t just stop and get photos.  We parked out the back of the arena in Arles where the markets are usually held and walked in to the arena and on to the Rhône.

Looks pretty good for 2,000 or so years old. As with other arenas we have visited, there is a big effort underway to preserve and render these facilities useful to the community.

The arena at Arles contrasted with some modern engineering excellence.

The Arles arena is in the background and the houses in the foreground look to be shuttered for the winter.

The Rhône on the outskirts of the old part of Arles.

– Left again about 1500 and headed pretty much directly to Jeremy and Jo’s place.  We were spending the night with them because Jeremy got an unusual late season booking and they were leaving tomorrow.  Worked out well really for them and us.

– Robin, Natty and Tristan dropped by for drinks.  Jeremy put on a delicious 3-course dinner starting with courgette & parsnip soup, followed by a casserole with baked potatoes and buttered beans, and finished with an apple and raspberry crumble with crème anglaise.  Sleep was good.

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