Another day, another castle… and lunch on the beach

It’s Friday afternoon and we just got back from a day of exploring.  Our first stop of the day was a lovely medieval town nestled inside the walls of an impressive castle.   This one was, as they all are, perched on the top of a hill, but it seems that the owners of this one had to settle for a lot less vertical drop which must have made for a much easier life of it.  At least until some other group of tough guys came on the scene looking for a new place to live.   I guess that this particular town wasn’t pillaged to often as here we are today with a town that’s still intact and occupied.

The castle walls surrounding the town are quite impressive and I would guess that there are more than 100 tidy homes nestled within it’s walls.   I didn’t have the foresight to take a shot from the road as we approached.  You’ll just have to click here to see a description of it.  It seems that this place has been occupied since the Romans.  That’s a long time.  I’ll bet that there have been a slew of renovations since then. As you enter the walls of the city, you are greeted by, guess what?  Tiles.  What else.  We are in Portugal after all. Everywhere you turn there is a beautiful view.  There were several churches within the castle walls. I’ll bet that the residents spent a lot of time praying that the next conqueror to take the village wouldn’t have “terrible” as part of his name. Along the way we came upon several kitties, obviously related, enjoying a nap on the top of a Renault.  Nice day for a nap, I’d say.  Brenda wanted to take them home. After that we drove up the coast to visit the seaside village of Peniche home of yet another fine fleet of fishing boats.  The coast is amazingly rough.
This video doesn’t do justice to how treacherous this stretch of coast is.  Notice ththe fishing boats in the distance as well as the fisherman.  Everywhere you look the scenery gets more and more dramatic.  This sign makes the point.  And let me tell you, every so often a really big one can come up on you.   The graphics are well, “graphic”.   You get the point, words or not.
And nothing says “stay away” quite like a massive lighthouse perched on a huge rocky cliff. Just around the point is a harbor, one of very few for many miles up and down the coast.  The boats here are bigger than in other areas that we have visited.   

I went into a building where fisherman were selling their catch to a broker.  It didn’t look to me like they had caught much.   Quite a lot of fisherman and only a dozen or so boxes of catch. In town there was yet another castle and nestled just outside of it’s walls, a few locals were having a cookout on the beach complete with some nice red wine.  They didn’t ask us to join them.  However, as a group of young women peered over the edge…  Yes, they invited them to join them with much arm waving.  Alas, no takers. Everywhere there is even a tiny bit of protection from the surf, there will be fishing boats.  Launching through the surf is just part of a day.   And just on the other side of the cove you can see a beach.  We saw, lunch!And after an exhausting few hours of touring of course, we had to have lunch, of course.  The view from our table.  Not so bad.  Food and wine?  Good too. The road on the beach is on a narrow spit of land connecting this tiny island with the main land.  I’ll bet that there are times when the road isn’t passable.Well, as I finish this post it’s getting dark so I guess it’s time to eat again.  Yikes, we had better walk lots tomorrow to work all of this food off.  Did someone say food?

Nazare, boats and some beach time, sort of.

It’s Thursday afternoon and we just got back from a day trip up the coast and back.  We are staying very close to Nazare, a small resort town and fishing village.  As is the case up and down the Portuguese coast, there are very few protected harbors.  In Nazare, they have carved out a very well protected little harbor inside of two gigantic breakwaters.   Inside is an interesting mix of commercial fishing craft and some sailing and power yachts.

Most of the boats in the harbor were less than 40′ and it was pretty clear where the pleasure boats and working craft were located.  Not together, as by and large, they didn’t mix.  I guess that the “yacht set” didn’t want to smell fish.

Me, I was drawn to the fishing boats and enjoyed seeing the many colorful boats. In the distance you can see the “other side of the harbor” where the yachts are.One group of fisherman were unloading their catch.  Note that the two boxes closest to the front are full of octopus. or would that be octopi?  Anyway, the other one has fish, or should I say fishes?Nazare has several miles of wide beaches and along the way were large racks of split fish drying in the sun.  Tasty yes?  ”Mom…The fish are looking at me!!!  Tell them to stop.” We headed up the coast and stopped to watch the waves crashing up on the cliffs.  I can only imagine what this scene would be like in heavy weather.  In spite of it being a calm day, with no wind, the waves were sometimes crashing up as high as 100′ cliffs.   The noise was deafening.   If you think that these waves were more wimpy that I am describing.  Trust me, you had to be there.
It’s hard to understand how big these waves were and how high the spray was going.  However, one minute in this surf and you’d be crushed.

I guess this is like fishing and it’s always “the big one that got away”.  Anyway, if you look closely you can see some spray nearly up at the top of the cliff.  That’s Brenda standing at the top.  Still not convinced?  Oh well, I give up.  They looked big to me at least…

So, after that, we headed up the coast a bit further to have a late lunch.  We’d have eaten earlier but we weren’t able to find the place suggested as we blew by the “exit” on the coastal road. Anyway, we finally found it.  This beach was several miles long and nearly deserted.  We were told that, in the summer, it is mobbed.   The waves were huge here too.  Quite a few surfers. Interestingly, we drove along the coast through mile after mile of pine trees in what looked like a huge managed pine farm.  Nearly every tree for miles had these cuts in the bark to collect pine sap.  I wonder what this is used for.  You’d think that the process of cutting such a big slab of bark out would kill the trees, but it doesn’t.   We saw trees where the bark had grown back over the old scar. We did spend some time on the beach, no make that looking at the beach.  No swimming in monster waves for us chickens.  Besides, we are told that the water is always cold.  No, I’ll have an ice cream.  Brenda and I are happy to watch others in the cold surf.  Besides, it is nearly November.

Perhaps I should wrap this up for now and start to think about dinner.   I know, I’ll go wake up Brenda from her nap.  Yes, good idea.  Tonight we are going to head into the village for dinner at a place where locals eat.  

We got a bottle of wine at the the grocery and were stunned, as always, by how low the prices were.  There wasn’t a bottle in the place for more than six Euro. The best bottle of port was only 7.5 Euro.  No wonder many places have a sign that says “a meal without wine is breakfast”.   

I guess that we’ll share some wine to regain our strength after a hard day of almost going onto a beach before dinner.  Indeed…

A drive in the country through hundreds of roundabouts to Nazare

It’s Wednesday afternoon and we have just arrived at Quinta do Campo, a lovely Inn near the seaside resort of Nazare.  The owner met us at the door and gave a breathless description of the 900 year old estate.  It seems that this was at one time a monastery serving a local castle and has been in his family for hundreds of years.  Anyway, they now have turned it into a B&B and they also do a lot of meetings and weddings.  It’s an amazing place.  Check out their site for a video of it’s history.  I hope that you speak Portuguese.  If you don’t, there are words to follow and it’s quite interesting.

We’ll be here for a few days and then will continue north.  Our plan is to book each location a few days prior to arriving so we can be flexible on our itinerary and adjust as we go.  This approach is taking a bit of getting used to for Brenda who gets a wild look in her eye as soon as we are within a few nights of being homeless.  I expect that she will begin exhibiting symptoms beginning Thursday morning but I am sure she will find something really great for our next stop.

Here’s a view of the front of the “main house”.   It’s fairly new, only “hundreds” of years old.  This part, 900 years…  That’s pretty old, I’d say.   I’d love to look this nice after 900 years.   I understand that there is a big space inside where they do weddings.  The next time Brenda and I get married, perhaps this will be the place.  Talk about a destination wedding.   Want to go to Portugal?This is the library where I am doing my post.  Alas, no WIFI in our room.  Imagine… How archaic.  No wait, this place is archaic…really.  However, in spite of the age of this place, the Internet is the best we’ve had yet.   Perhaps it’s not that antique after all. Today we drove from Sintra up here via mainly local roads and that involved many, many roundabouts that everyone takes at breakneck speeds.  Along the way we spotted a lovely area to pull off and enjoy the view of the rolling countryside.  What a view.   Then, we noticed this funky food truck.  Inside was a commercial bread mixer humming away and two women turning out hundreds of wonderful smelling fresh baked breads and treats.  It turns out it is a coal fired mobile bakery and we bought a fabulous baked ham and cheese sandwich fresh baked roll.  We wanted to see some of the coastal areas on our way north so we took some local roads, sans GPS and decided to visit a lovely fishing village, Ericeira.  The town is on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic and there isn’t a harbor, just an enormous breakwater that juts out into the ocean.   The view of the “harbor” is beautiful.  However, “harbor” isn’t really a fair description as there were 4-6′ waves crashing up on the beach in the harbor itself.  This place makes the open harbors of the Bahamas look like a lake.  And, today was a calm day.  This is a real working fishing village with lots of traditional and modern small fishing boats.  The harbor is under a massive cliff reinforced with concrete.   This part was a sort of rugged park area. I walked out on the breakwater and took a panorama to give you an idea of what it looks like.  The breakwater was made up of hundreds of enormous “jack” shaped cement forms, stacked up on one another.  This photo shows how big they are.  No this isn’t an illusion.  They are huge, tens of tons each.  Amazingly, many were broken from wave action.  Imagine what sorts of waves would break something like this.The waves were crashing up everywhere.  I can only imagine what a winter storm must look like. To the right was a boat ramp where boats were attached to a tractor and dragged up a concrete ramp.  Timing things right was a team effort.
The older boats have iron skids on the keel and bilges so that they can slide right up on the ramp.  For the newer boats, made from fiberglass, they are lowered into the water from a crane.  All boats are taken out of the water immediately upon entering the harbor.  The “boatyard” was jammed with all manner of craft. Some were very colorful.  Notice the hard chine with the iron shoe to skid along the cement when the tractor is pulling them too and from the water. Along with the boats were huge amounts of fishing “stuff”.  I was particularly taken by this pile of ceramic jugs.  They are used to fish for octopus. These are left in the water for a period until a local octopus takes up residence.  Then they pull the jugs up and, what do you know, octopus for dinner.It was great fun to travel up the coast today and see the sights.  Tonight we’ll head somewhere local for dinner.  We’ll be here for a few days and then we’ll head up toward Porto, home of the famous wine by the same name.

Along the way… roundabouts at breakneck speed.  I am actually getting used to that and Brenda, hands over her eyes, is too. Well, sort of…

Off to find a nice bottle of wine for cocktails.

Sintra, beautiful now, brutish then…

It’s Tuesday morning and we are in Sintra, about an hour’s drive from Lisbon.   The weather is very nice with warm days and cool nights.  We are staying at a lovely old B&B that was once owned by the government and is now private.  It’s located just outside of town and like everywhere else in this area, is on a hill, no make that the side of a mountain.

In “days of yore” this must have been a pretty rough place to live where “might was right” and the baddest guys got their way, well at least until a “badder” guy came along.   And, there is an amazing castle that overlooks the town and overlooks our inn too.  Believe it or not, this is the view from our room.  Amazing.Our room is the corner one in the tower.  No kidding.  Nice job Brenda, for finding this place.It seems that towns were generally built within a reasonable distance of the “tough guy’s” castle, where there was some level of protection from the invading guys who wanted to kill the resident tough guy and take his place.

Anyway, towns were built under the watchful eye of the castle.   This is Sintra, viewed from the castle.  In the distance you can see the Atlantic.  The view is really amazing.   I would think that you’d have several days warning if invaders were on their way. The town of Sintra has many lovely buildings.  I enjoyed watching this artist painting in a particularly picturesque spot. Actually, everything here is picturesqueEven the local spring where folks fill up water bottles is pretty. The water at our inn is from a private spring on the property and there is so much water that spigots are left running at times to bleed off the excess.  There is an old cistern that is no longer used out back and now is the home for many goldfish.   The Castelo dos Mouros was built during the 8th and 9th centuries and is quite an impressive place.  I can’t imagine how hard is must have been to lug all that stone around in a time when all you had to work with was brute strength.  It must have taken hundreds of years and many laborers to build it.  I would think that if the local “tough guy” asked for your help, well, you helped and said “how high do you want that wall”.   Yes, that’s a real castle.  Yertle the turtle would have loved it here and he would have been able to see a lot. To walk along the top of these walls would induce vertigo in all but the most bold “knights of old”.  There was a young woman who was sitting on the very top of the wall in this tower and to look at her made me weak in the knees, and not in a good way. It is truly an amazing place.

So, fast forward hundreds of years and the then king decided to build a country home on the site of a monastery that was destroyed in an earthquake.   This palace is situated on a mountain top that is EVEN HIGHER than the castle.  No self respecting king would settle for less.   And, it’s a lot more ornate than that nasty old castle.  And for almost 100 years, until it was opened to the public in 1911, it was a home away from home for various kings.  It’s currently undergoing a major restoration.   There is nothing subtle about the Palácio Nacional da Pena.The level of detail is something that only a monarch with access to the national treasury would be capable of.  To arrive through this entrance a king would know that he had indeed arrived and that yes, he also had a LOT of tile. No shortage of bright colors.  I would expect that the castle, in subtle granite tones, would have been painted like this if there had been a Home Depot nearby. I wonder if the king ever polled his subjects asking “What do you think?  Should I go for more earth tones?”Yes, tile everywhere and a really nice courtyard. Charming spot for an intimate dinner.  Perhaps we could take some cues from this for our dinners at home.  Great centerpiece.  Subtle like the rest of the place. Anyway, not a bad spot to visit.  However, it’s a really LONG WAY UP to get there and I would imagine that this was a place that the monarch would only visit for a really LONG weekend.  ”Oh Jasper, could you go into town and get me some more port?”  ”Yes, right away your Majesty.  I’ll be back in just two days time.”

Today, visitors take a bus and it’s still a long way up, both ways, to visit.  We were pretty pooped at the end of the day.

Yes, Sintra is indeed a lovely spot.  And, it makes me appreciate even more that I live in a softer, gentler time, when life is not so “brutish and short”, well at least not for me.  However, if I couldn’t be the “king of all that I could see”.  To be king, well that wouldn’t be very nice.  Yes, I’d like that a lot.

“Bob, Bob, snap out of it. You’re just a little guy and back then you’d have been fetching firewood for the king and if you were really lucky, port!”  

Yea, I guess…

Perhaps a drive in the car is more my speed.   Yes, I could do that… 

An amazing maritime museum. Leaving Lisbon and off to Sintra

Well, it’s Monday morning and yesterday we left Lisbon to head to Sintra.  We went back to the airport pick up a car and drove from there.  We plan on keeping the car for much of the rest of our trip as the rental is amazingly inexpensive at less than ten Euros per day and having a car gives us a lot more flexibility.   It will also be good for us as we plan on exploring some of the smaller towns along the way as we head north to Porto near the boarder with Spain.

Saturday we did a lot of walking, a great deal more than planned, in large part, because I got us really lost as it was getting dark.  Brenda loved that little bonus, let me tell you.  We were both plenty sweaty after that debacle.

“This way, I’m sure it is, you know, down the hill.  No wait, it’s back that way.  Hello, can you speak English?  WHERE ARE WE?”  Where’s Google Maps when you need them?

Funny how the streets look different when it’s dark.  During the day we explored the waterfront area of Lisbon, where a lot of museums are located.  So as to not completely exhaust ourselves, we decided to focus on just a single one, that and another 18,000 steps, the Museu de Marinha, recognized as one of the finest maritime museums in all of Europe.  I have to say that I agree with this statement, even if I haven’t been to many of them.  The displays told the story of the maritime history of Portugal.  What a terrific collection.

The museum is housed in an old monastery.  And let me tell you, this place must have been the home to a LOT of monks.  It is a HUGE building and the museum didn’t take up nearly half of it. The story of Portugal’s nautical history is told through a seemingly endless collection of scale models, many of which I understand were built by the staff of the museum.  I guess that tile work isn’t the only thing that Portuguese do well. They were constructed in exquisite detail and many were quite large, up to 8′ in length.  I took a lot of photos but most of them didn’t turn out that well as the rooms were not brightly lit.   However, here are a few examples.  There were dozens of glass cases packed with ship models. The detail on this one, like most, was amazing. The detail, down to the smallest gun was amazing. I really liked this little model of a boat for laying mines.There was also a room just packed with full size and beautifully preserved classic craft and royal barges.  The “queen” of the fleet had it’s last official visitor when Queen Elizabeth II visited, I think in the 50s.  And, the staff was nice enough to put most of the explanations in both Potuguese and English.  How thoughtful.With 80 rowers heaven help the one that got out of sync.  What a mess.  Off with his head!!!  How about this ornate stern?  Too bad that the queen wouldn’t have been able to see this while she toured about. While not good enough for QE II, this is quite a gig as well.   Perhaps for a minor prince.  Hmm…There are also a number of early amphibious aircraft on display. This is a particularly lovely Grumman.This wooden amphibian was built in 1917.  It’s hard to believe that it was less than 100 years ago.  Imagine what things will look like in another 100.  If Al Gore is right, we’ll have lots more amphibious craft to get around. Late afternoon we stopped at a lovely cafe for an “adult beverage”.  What a spot. There are great cafes all over.  Looks very “European” doesn’t it?  Wait, we are in Europe.The locals are not subject to pastry shortages, or are we.   Us visitors do have to keep up our strength.  Seeing the trolleys rumble past just completed the moment.
There are an amazing number of sights to see in Lisbon.  Bummer that we couldn’t spend our entire month there.  So many monuments so the golden age of exploration.  How about this jutting out into the harbor.  Really big…And impressive.  It must be frustrating to have gone from the “age of exploration” to the “age of austerity”.  Well, it’s taken two days to get this post down as the internet access isn’t so great here in the 19th century chateau where we are staying in Sintra.  I’ll just have to promise you a treat when I post about this magnificent spot.  Where else can you look out of your window and see a huge castle looming on the mountain top just outside?

Besides, breakfast awaits.

Alfama Lisbon after dark and nautical coming to a blog near you.

It’s Saturday morning and the sky is trying to decide if it’s going to rain or be sunny.  Me, I am hoping for sunny.  However, there’s been a forecast of rain for every day since we have been here and it’s only rained briefly once, yesterday afternoon.   So far, so good.

Yesterday with blog posts to be written and just plain not moving as quickly as we wanted, we underachieved, for the morning at least, visiting only a single museum all day.  Actually, with a month to spend in Portugal and only a few days under our belts, it’s probably a good thing to be a bit lazy.  Us newbie travelers will have to pace ourselves.

Brenda had read about a museum that houses the personal collection of a wealthy man that died in the 50s.  That would be the 1950s.   It seems he made his money in the oil business.  Anyway, within a 30 year span, he amassed an amazing collection of fine art including everything from Greek pottery, paintings of the likes of Mary Cassat, Rembrant and some of the finest Monets. That in addition to some lovely art deco pieces and an amazing furniture collection.

It’s sufficient to say that you should put the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian on your list if you visit Lisbon.  However, you will have to just use your imagination as I am only going to show a few pieces here.

I was particularly taken by some of the art deco jewelry, mostly hair pieces and broaches.  This piece, was amazing.  At about 10″ across, a women wearing this would certainly be making a statement.  I guess she’d have to have really big hair to pull this one off. Don’t even think of ignoring the wishes of a women wearing this piece over her breast.I mentioned in past posts that the streets, more like narrow alleys actually, that make up this area are a tangle of intersecting paths winding around in no particular pattern.  It’s obvious that cars were not in the picture when this area of Lisbon was “planned” hundreds of years ago by a bunch of guys riding donkeys.   

Fast forward hundreds of years to today, and thanks to the wonder of the iPhone, here’s a few shots from our walk and dinner last night.  The winding streets were packed with people making their way to the many restaurants lining the streets.   And, the proprietors were happily hawking their menus to entice you to dine with them.

We chose a lovely spot down a narrow staircase below street level.  They had live music and some impressive singers took turns belting out Portuguese ballads. This guy one of three that performed, including the owner, had an amazing voice.   No, he wasn’t posing to catch a peanut in his upturned mouth.  My crappy photo just makes it look that way. And these two young women did beautiful duets between cigarette breaks. Actually, it seemed that nobody actually was able to sing more than three songs without stepping outside to have a nicotine fix.  Sorry about the “devil eyes”.  I guess you had to be there.  As the evening wore on the crowds grew and the views grew even more ethereal. It was a beautiful evening to be out for a stroll.Today, we’ll be visiting the National Maritime Museum.  Yes, these pages will actually have something that makes sense on a site dedicated to sailing.  Well, let’s hope so.

I guess you’ll have to check back tomorrow to see how it works out.

I’d better finish up and get some coffee.

Wow, hard to get up today? Can you say “time change”?

It’s 4:30AM.  No, make that 9:30am.  What time is it?  I know that the clock says it’s time to get up but, ugg…

Anyway, it’s time to get up and be on the move.

Yesterday was an amazing day for me and Brenda as we took in the sights here in Lisbon.  I won’t bore you with the details except to say that we took in the National Tile Museum and a local castle.  Both pretty neat.

Oh yeah, and we walked over 7 miles.  I have no idea how that translates into km as Brenda’s fitbit keeps track of such things and it’s set to miles.  It’ was plenty of walking and I could tell that we had walked a lot when I finally sat down at the end of the day.

The tile museum was a remarkable place that chronicled the history of, remarkably enough, tile.  You’d be amazed at the diversity of Portuguese tile.  I wasn’t clear about exactly what the huge building that the museum is in but somehow there is a chapel inside it that looked pretty original and that it had been there for a long time.  Some of the information on the signs was in English. Anyway, there was a chapel.  Pretty amazing.There was also a special exhibit that featured contemporary pottery which was wonderful.  The work was on the theme of the sea.  Yes, I promised a “nautical theme” now and then.  This will have to suffice as a nautical “token” for today.   The pieces were large scale.  This ceramic crab is about 4′ across.The room was packed with pieces and they were very well presented.  The centerpiece, sardines, a major commercial catch in these waters.  We had a nice lunch in the museum courtyard.  There was even a family of turtles in the courtyard fountain.Where every you walk, it’s up and down, but mostly up.  This street was particularly charming.  And, after dark, we walked by again.  Magical. We also walked a long way, up hill in both directions, to a castle.  That makes sense, I guess as by design, castles are ALWAYS up hill.  I understand that this is because up hill makes it tough for the infidels to bother you.

Yes, looks like a castle.There was even a resident falconer at the castle, with a beautiful owl who flew up into the trees in the castle’s central courtyard.Pretty amazing view the folks that lived in the castle must have had.  I guess there were fewer buildings back then.  Good thing, as now there’s plenty of places to hide if you’re planning a siege.There was even a “wine cart” called “wine with a view”.  You get to keep the glasses, which are plastic and very nice.  They will be a nice addition to Pandora’s fine crystal collection.All that for four Euros each.  Not bad. The view from the seats carved in the wall… Yes, quite a view.  Does drinking wine help if you have vertigo?  Not enough research on that yet.  Perhaps I didn’t drink enough to be sure.  There’s always today…Looks nice, yes?  I won’t talk about the gale blowing up the side of the castle. Brenda sat on the side looking into the wind.  Wouldn’t want her hair to blow into her wine, would we?

And a view of a lovely cathedral.   Several actually.Loads of up and down.  Mostly up, both ways, it would seem.  It was a great day. 

On our way back to the apartment Brenda was seduced, against here will, into a pottery store. Does she look like a woman with a “pottery problem”?  Yikes, looks like an itch that will need scratching.  At least there’s a 50lb limit on checked baggage.  Please, let that be true. Today, have to find a bank.  It seems that VISA isn’t taken EVERYWHERE YOU WANT TO BE, here in Lisbon.  First a bank, then another museum.  Actually, first the metro.  That should be a learning experience.

Enough of the day spent on this post.  We’re off…  More to come.


And now, a break from nautical. How about Portugal?

It’s Thursday morning and Brenda and I are here in Lisbon where we will be exploring Portugal for the next month.  For now you will have indulge me with a smattering of nautical posts but mostly writing about this trip.  I hope it’s fun for you as I am pretty confident that it will be fun for us.  Who knows, perhaps Pandora will be here in a few years.

Anyway, enough dreaming for now.  Back to here and now.  

When we flew over here yesterday I have to say that I discovered that I am not quite the world traveler that some of my friends are.  Actually, perhaps I am a really good traveler as it seems that I didn’t want to miss a single minute on the 300 hour flight so I stayed awake the ENTIRE TIME…

As you can imagine, I was POOPED when we got to our apartment in the old quarter, perhaps one of many old quarters in Lisbon, here yesterday. We had big ideas of taking a nap and then going out to eat a fashionably late dinner.  HA!

Yes, Brenda took a nap but I wasn’t quite ready to sleep so I did a bit of exploring of the neighborhood.  Actually, I went out looking for wine and cheese.  Success! And, imagine this, each of the shopkeepers spoke English.  That’s good.  Can you say “local wine” in Portuguese?  I can’t.

Next step, wake Brenda up from her nap and have some wine and cheese as an appetizer.  Now wait, after NO SLEEP for the last 24 hours…   Here’s an idea…  Let’s call wine and cheese dinner and then SLEEEEP…

Well, now it’s 08:00 and the sun is up with broken clouds and it’s a beautiful day!

Today?  Well, I don’t know as Brenda’s in charge and she’s still in the shower.  I don’t know what her plans are except that we will be here in Lisbon in this apartment for about 4 days and then we will take a train to well, somewhere else.

For now, perhaps I’ll put a few photos of our “neighborhood” here.  What a beautiful place.  The airport is very modern but oddly, the signs are all in Portuguese.  I thought that everyone put signs up in English and Spanish, just like in the US.  Well, you learn something new every day.  Here, the signs are first in Portuguese and THEN in English.

Our apartment is a very cute little, with the emphasis on LITTLE, efficiency apartment.  Well, it’s so efficient that you have to walk out into the kitchen to make it from one side of the bed to the other.  I will say that in spite of the fact that the buildings in the neighborhood are hundreds of years old, the inside of the apartment is very modern and quite European chic.  Little, but chic.

Here’s a view of the front of our apartment from out on the patio, yes the patio…  Very nice.The patio also has a view of a beautiful cathedral nearby.  It’s absolutely enormous.  Notice the wine and cheese in the foreground.  No, make that our dinner!  Remember, tired…?The streets are impossibly narrow.  This is a view of the end of the street leading to the two stories of steps up to our apartment.  I wonder how you reserve a parking spot?  Answer…You don’t!The buildings and the nearby streets are very beautiful and really steep.  Ever heard of Portuguese masons?  I hadn’t thought about it but I guess that they are pretty good at what they do.  Some of the buildings are completely faced with glazed tiles.  Amazing. As I write this I am sitting at a little table here on the patio and about the only sound I hear is the conversation of others in their apartments surrounding the courtyard and the fluttering of flocks of pigeons flying from terracotta rooftop to rooftop.  Don’t worry about me eavesdropping as my hearing is terrible and I DON’T SPEAK PORTUGUESE.  Very peaceful.  

However, enough of peaceful, I WANT BREAKFAST.  What do the Portuguese eat for breakfast? I believe that coffee is part of that.  Yes, a cup of coffee will set the day straight.

More to come…

Maritime museums of Portugal

It’s Tuesday evening and we are sitting in the airport in Providence waiting for our connection to Newark for a flight to Portugal where we will be traveling until mid November.

We had decided to take an extended trip to Europe and after much discussion, we settled on Portugal.   A key consideration was that the country had to be far enough south so that we wouldn’t freeze at this time of year and we also thought it would be fun to see a country with such a strong nautical heritage.  Of course, being away for a month meant that we also had to pick a country that wasn’t going to be too pricey.  Let’s hope that we won’t be reduced to sleeping in a rental car for the last week.

Actually, that’s not too likely given the fact that I’d be putting my relationship with Brenda at risk by pulling such a stunt.   And, as luck would have it, Portugal has a “textile rich” history as well. I hope that my luggage is large enough for her “haul”  If you weren’t aware, Brenda has a “linen problem”.  Could be worse as most linens aren’t too big.  ”Here Brenda, look at these lovely hankies!”

All kidding aside, we are very excited about going and I expect going to a “nautical country” will offer up some great blog ideas.  However, you will have to forgive me if I stray from “all things nautical” a bit for the next month as I am sure that some landlocked spots will be worth writing about.

I am told that one terrific museum is Museu de Marinha, which I think is the national maritime museum of Portugal.  However, I can’t be sure about that as WE DON’T SPEAK PORTUGUESE.   However, we have heard that anyone under the age of 18 speaks English.  Let’s hope so.

Anyway, even if we can’t read the plaques in the museum, we can still say “wow, nice boat” and mean it, in Portuguese or not.

Brenda, admittedly not as excited about the marine museums as yours truly, is excited about the fact that there is a strong, and ancient fiber culture there as well.

Not sure where we will be going but this shot, from the web, suggests that there are some nice small craft.    Yes, it’s a shrimpy picture but I should be able to get some good ones when we get there in person.  So, that’s what’s up and we’ll be coming home in about a month.

On the home front, Pandora’s in St Mary’s GA now and even though I spent plenty of time and money on her this summer, there continues to be a to-do list of pending items.  A bit of work on the new autoprop as one of the blades seems to be a bit tight on it’s swivel.

I was also distressed to learn that my autopilot computer, the spare one that I sent for repair a while back, can’t be fixed so I will have to purchase a new one. Now, that’s going to be painful.  Oh yeah, the wind direction instrument is also acting funny in a not-funny-at-all sort of way.

I should have ordered them before I left with the hope that I’d get a “boat show discount” but I didn’t get to it.  Perhaps as I struggle to adjust to the time change in Portugal, I can order them.

Well, that’s about all I have to report for now. Perhaps I’ll close with a seasonal shot of Pandora taken a few years ago in Annapolis at the height of the fall color.  Quite lovely.  Seeing this shot reminds me that my yard will be knee deep in leaves when we return.  Did I mention that we have a LARGE yard.  Ugg…

I hope that a month of traveling will give me time to build my strength.


Home to CT and a dolphin play date with Pandora

It’s Saturday morning and I am mostly, no make that somewhat,  dug out from under the bills and correspondence that piled up at home while I was away delivering Pandora to GA.  It’s amazing how quickly things get out of control.  If you missed it, Pandora’s in GA so that Brenda and I can join her somewhere sort of warm in January when we head down to spend the winter aboard.

The 800 mile trip from Essex to St Mary’s was uneventful but it was a bit of a bummer that 600 miles of the run was under power.  Oh well, after two north-bound runs under sail and one southbound sailing run, I guess I was about due for a motorboat trip.   Well, at least I know that I like my new Autoprop (propeller).

It’s safe to say that the highlight of the run was when we were visited by a pod of dolphins that swam with us for quite a while. Yes, we see dolphins regularly when making the long ocean runs in the spring and fall.  However, this was a particularly great experience as the water was just so still; more like a run on Long Island Sound in August, than time in the ocean.  I understand that dolphins are quite intelligent and to watch them play under our bow that they were having a fun time, if not a full blown “play date” with Pandora.  I sure was enjoying watching them, that’s for sure.

This video is perhaps a bit longer than you’d like but I have shown it to a number of folks that suggested I post it in it’s uncut length of about 15 minutes.   Actually, well to me at least, it gets more interesting the further you get into it.
Let me know what you think.

Anyway, I had better get going as I am going to see my mother today for a visit and had better get going.  I hope she enjoys it as well.