The Best week in Portugal (days 100-105)

Day 100, Friday, 28.12.2012
Our day started a bit later in the morning today and out first trip was to see the Obidos Lagoon. Damir knew some side paths, because he cycled there with his bike a few times before. We went to the beach of the lagoon and realized that it looks more like some swamp than the ocean because of all the plants in the area, but also because the water there is really calm. But that’s just because it’s a lagoon and it’s quite closed, so not many ocean waves get inside. I really liked a beach house there, that is actually some sort of surf school and rent area for different kinds of water activities. It must be really awesome in the summer when there are people.
After the lagoon we went to the beach of Foz do Arelho and watched the ocean waves for a while. That is always fun to do. =) Well beside that, there was not much more to do in that area, so we got in our rented car again and drove to Nazaré, because everybody was telling us we have to visit it. On our way there we stopped at some of the old windmills that are so common here in Portugal. Damir knew where we can get close to one. Well there were actually two of them; one abandoned and damaged, but the other one was restored and renovated, so it looked like it still works. It was such a nice thing to see and I would love to spend a vacation in one like that. Good thing Damir explored the area with his bike and so he knew these small paths… =)
So then we went to Nazaré and well, people were saying Nazaré is a small fisherman village, but as it turns out it’s more of a beach resort than a village. There are few old houses left, but most of the buildings are some apartments and shops for tourists… We were quite disappointed by it, because it was really not what we expected and what we wanted to see. But we drove up to the top of the cliffs above the city and we stopped at the end of the road, where there is a small lighthouse. We enjoyed the view from there for quite a while, because it’s so amazing how the waves hit the cliffs there and the water splashes all around. Such a beautiful experience that totally made our day about thousand times better – not that it was bad before. =) Then we went off the cliffs to the sandy beach and we walked along the coast and had so much fun just running in front of the waves and taking photos. I felt so happy that I can’t describe it. The best feeling ever! =) And I found a dead dry fish on a beach, so Damir had some fun with it by preparing a bit like a funeral for poor fish. He even picked some flowers to put on a “grave”. Hahaha! =) Before we went home we stopped in a city to take a walk along the beach and we went for a cup of tea at some bar on a beach. It was a nice ending of an amazing day. I think we all had a lot of fun.

Day 101, Saturday, 29.12.2012

It was time to visit Lisbon one more time and we decided to drive off the highway, because we could see so much more countryside if we were on more local roads. So we drove a bit longer and we had to use a map a bit more, but it was nice and we even passed some of those large wind turbines that are all around the area. We drove directly to one of those and we couldn’t believe the size of it. We knew they are huge and we knew how they look like and all that, but when you’re standing directly beneath them you get that feeling of respect. You feel really small. It’s amazing.
Then we finally arrived to Lisbon and first we stopped at the Belem tower. We found a free parking space there and so we went for a walk from the tower to the Jeronimos Monastery. Damir and his mom decided to visit the Maritime Museum that is in the same building, but I wasn’t that interested in seeing the same exhibition again and also I’m sure I’ll be there few more times… So I went to the Berardo Museum across the street. The exhibition in there was the same as I’ve alredy seen the last time there, but I still enjoyed it because I took enough time to see some of the art works a bit more in detail. Some videos were really great and I didn’t see them last time, so I believe my time was well spent. =)
After we’ve all seen what we wanted we got back to the car and drove to the other part of the city. We went to Expo, that place where Oceanarium is. The sun was already going down and we were all a bit tired, so we went to Vasco Da Gama shopping center and walked around a bit. Maybe that was a mistake because it was very crowdy. You know, all the holidays and sales… After that we decided to go home.
We wanted to take a highway back home and obviously we didn’t see one of the road signs, so we were on a wrong highway to the north. We wanted to go on the one that goes directly to Caldas da Rainha, but instead we were on the one that goes directly to Porto, so it goes more inside the mainland, not so close to the ocean. And like that’s not all, we we’re a bit confused while looking at the road signs, so when we got to the toll where you usally take the ticket, we were on the wrong lane, where people with some electronic card go. When we got off the highway we had to pay a bit a higher tax because we didn’t have the ticket. But now we know we have to be more careful… As we were told later, we’re not the only ones that had this accident. It might be also because those signs are not in english so you’re not sure what they mean and you have to react quickly. Oh well, what matters is that we got back home safely.

Day 102, Sunday, 30.12.2012
We slept a bit longer today and our plan was that maybe we would visit Sintra again. After checking the weather forecast we realized that it will be raining in Porto for the New Year’s evening and so we decided that we go to Porto today and we wait for the New Year somewhere else. First we went to Obidos because Damir’s mom wanted to buy some souvenirs that she saw there. When we started our way to the north it was already 11 o’clock and we decided to go on side roads again. It was nice and interesting, but on about half the way we gave up. It would take too much time and we were already quite late, so we decided to go on a highway.
First we didn’t know how the toll system works, because there were signs of some sort of electronic toll payment and that’s different than the one with tickets. Then some people explained that it’s ok if you don’t have some small electronic box in your car and that you can pay the toll later in the post office. A bit unusual system, but obviously it must work somehow. =)
We arrived to Porto at around 3 p.m. and we found a parking garage near the city center. It wasn’t the best weather, it kept on changing from sunny to cloudy, but it was still much better than rain. We walked around the city and went to the river. We walked on that main avenue along the coast where most tourists go, then we went to some other tourist attractions in the area and we even visited two churches that were open. Anyway, we visited most of the important locations in the center area.
Now I must comment the city and the feeling of it. Everybody was telling me that Porto is really nice, that it’s even prettier than Lisbon, that it’s charming and lovely… My opinion on all that is that they are wrong. This city is awful. I usually like most of the old cities and I’m a huge architecture and history lover, but seriously, this city is just horrible. I really wanted to see the positive things and yes, there are some nice buildings, but that can’t hide the fact that the city is full of moisture problems, dark smelly narrow streets and destroyed old buildings. There are so many buildings that are abandoned and nobody cares to renovate them, there is moss everywhere, the city smells bad because of that. In many areas you can smell pee and in other areas you can see garbage everywhere. Similar that I noticed in Lisbon, but here it was much worse! I don’t know how it is in summer, but I guess old buildings don’t look any newer and moss doesn’t just disappear, but ok, maybe it doesn’t smell that bad. I don’t know. I guess there must be something about the city that attracts so many people, but to me, that city is probably the worst I’ve visited so far.
Well after the disappointment we went some bar that looked quite nice. Well I had to wait for my fruit salad for quite a while and I really don’t know why, because it’s not a complicated thing to prepare and also there were not so many people. I know, it happens, I usually wouldn’t notice it, but since the whole city was such a disappointment I did notice it.
So I’m not sure if I’ll visit Porto again or maybe not any time soon. Maybe in summer so I could compare what’s the difference, but for now, I believe it’s not worth the long drive.

Day 103, Monday, 31.12.2012
I spent most of the morning editing photos from the previous days. I made so many photos these days that editing and rating them was really a whole project, but I was able to edit quite a lot of them. Also I was able to take some time for Skype and so I’ve seen my family for the last time in this year. It felt a bit weird not being able to be with them for the holidays, but to see them on a screen was better than nothing. =)
In the afternoon Damir’s mom checked some locations nearby and she suggested we could visit some of them, even though it was raining. So we went to Alcobaça where there is some monastery. We found it and we were quite surprised by the beautiful gothic entrance. I didn’t expect something so pompous as that, but it’s true that I didn’t even know where we were going and I didn’t check anything about it on the internet. So it was a really pleasant surprise. The entrance to church is free, but there is fee to visit the monastery itself. We didn’t visit the monastery because we didn’t have much time, but we did go in the church. I must say that’s probably the most beautiful gothic interior I’ve ever seen. I just love that it doesn’t have any paintings, nothing too gold, no frescos or anything that would try to make it look more expensive. It’s simple and maybe a bit minimalistic, but honestly so beautiful! The high ceilings and the raw stone, the windows… Everything was perfect! And I’m a huge gothic architecture lover, so this was really like a dream to me. Amazing! =D
After being filled with all the positive and peaceful energy from the church, we went on a road again. We went to Fatima, the city that is quite famous pilgrim location. The sun already set when we arrived there, but it was still nice to see the church and the piazza in front of it. I would love to see how the city looks like when there is a crowd of people. We went to the church and it’s another beautiful architecture with huge organs above the entrance. Though I must say I was more impressed by the church in Alcobaça. But it was really nice to see this pilgrim location. And also when you think about how many people wish to visit it, you feel a bit privileged and grateful to have this opportunity.
We rushed home after that. We ate some food and relaxed a bit, so we had enough energy for the last trip in this year. We went to Nazaré again, because it’s quite close and everybody was saying that there is usually a huge party and beautiful fireworks. When we got to the city there were cars parked everywhere and people with bottles of wine walking along and across the streets. We managed to find the way up the hill and to the cliffs. Surprisingly we had no problem to find a suitable space along the road to park the car. So we went to the edge of those cliffs along with many other people and we had a great view on the city and the ocean below. There was a huge crowd on the beach beneath us and they had huge colorful reflectors that were “painting” the cliffs on which we were standing on. It was really beautiful. And when the final countdown to midnight began we could hear the crowd count and at 00:00 the fireworks started. They were quite long and really beautiful, but the best and most unique part were the reflections of the fireworks colors in the ocean. That was really fascinating. And from the cliffs we were also able to see some more fireworks in other cities few kilometers away. I think we picked the best place to wait for the New Year. =D

Day 104, Tuesday, 01.01.2013
Srečno novo leto! Happy New Year! Feliz Ano Novo! =) Time goes by so fast! I still can’t believe it’s already 2013! And when you’re in Portugal that feeling of time goes totally different, because I feel like we’re stuck in autumn and don’t notice all the Christmas spirit that usually lets me know the year is coming to an end.
Anyway, late in the morning we left Caldas da Rainha and we stopped at Peniche. Damir’s mom wanted to say goodbye to beautiful ocean waves. =) It was windy so the waves were even bigger and more impressive. I think she was very happy she could see that before she left home. Then we took the local roads to Lisbon and we arrived right on time to return the rented car. And since we’re in Portugal it was nothing unusual that we had to wait for a person from the company to come and pick the car. Anyway, everything was ok and Damir and I felt a bit handicapped when we realized we depend on our legs now. On times like this you realize how comfortable and luxurious a can be… =)
So his mom got on an airplane and we still had most of the afternoon to spend in Lisbon somehow. We decided to walk to city center, even though we knew it must be about 6 km distance. But it was nice sunny day and we don’t mind walking. As a matter of fact, I love to walk. =) There was not much to see, but we did notice again that there are so many homeless people at some places. It’s really sad, but what can you do… And again there was a lot of garbage everywhere, though maybe not as much as the last time we walked through those areas.
Well we went to Bairro Alto, because everybody was telling us that we have to go there. Well most of the shops and bars were closed anyway, but it was interesting to see how those buildings are built on that steep hill. And we passed some gothic shop where I saw some really awesome creepers. Next time I’m in Lisbon I hope the shop will be open so I could try them and if they fit I’m sure I’ll buy them. =D Then we went down to the center and to the sea side, we took some photos and now we were able to see the Christmas lights in the city. I noticed that most of the cities here in Portugal don’t have as many lights as Slovenian cities do.
After that we went to the subway because we wanted to catch the bus to Caldas da Rainha at 19:00. We arrived at the bus station later than we expected so the time was 18:57 when we got there. I went to buy the tickets and Damir went to see where our bus is and he asked the driver if she could wait just a little bit. I waited in the line and there was only one lady standing in front of me. That man at the register was returning her money and there were only coins. He did that so slowly. When we got to the register we told him how many and which tickets we would like and he was saying something in Portuguese. We didn’t know what. He took some money from the register and he went somewhere. He returned with a lot of coins and he started to slowly sort them in the right boxes of the register machine. When he slowly finished that he finally gave us those tickets and we ran to the bus. It was still there, waiting for us. Lucky us! =D Then we were finally home and it was time to just relax.

Day 105, Wednesday, 02.01.2013
I slept as long as I wanted, I had breakfast when I wanted and I didn’t have to hurry anywhere. It felt nice after a week of running around and traveling. Not that I mind that, but it did feel great to have a day off. So I spent most of the day writing this blog post, because I didn’t have any time to do that the previous days. Also I had some time to edit few photos, I cleaned around the apartment a little and I had time and the right weather for some laundry. Oh yes, and I had time to Skype with my family. =) That’s it for the day. Now I have to do some homework… I’ll add more photos when I’ll have time to edit more. =)

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