|Subject: Portugal 2003 - Trip Report - Coastal Aveiro to Sintra|
- Coastal Aveiro to Sintra --
Known as the Venice of Portugal for the many canals in its center, this is a very charming city; the colorful gondolas uniquely designed and painted buildings and statuted bridges make for a delightful feast for the eyes. Several churches and the SE are up some hilly sections, but we stayed right down in its midst.
Hotel Alboi, we learned from its sophisticated owner (Mr. Pires Santos) , was formerly the Church of the Fisherman's Wives
which he had renovated with high quality tile and woodwork just as he had done to the Residencial Alboi down the street#seems his retired hands just had to keep busy. It is within walking distance to an open air shopping mall where we dined and attended a health
expo put on by local university students. But, we wanted no part of the free weigh-in they offered # not after all those treats and delicious breads!
BARRA and COSTA BRAVA
What a pleasure slowly driving thru these beachside towns, the latter of which has tiny houses, each striped with a different solid color against a white background # quite unique and effective.
Wonderful fish restaurants called out as did outdoor c markets along the roadway where we stopped for fruit.
FIGUEIRDA Da FOZ
We found a gem in the stunning white Hotel Costa da Prata which
looked like a palace itself. We later walked to the Casino And had to laugh at their fee of 4E to enter the gaming room# particularly since here in Connecticut, one hour from home, we have the two largest (even more that Vegas and AC) native american run casinos # Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun#and never a charge (altho one pays by making the usual deposit!)
MARINA GRANDE and S. PEDRO do MUEL
While on our way to Pedro , per suggestions, we drove thru
Marina Grande and learned it has a reknown Glass Museum (which unfortunately was closed that day) since evidenced by the many light fixture/chandelier outlets and shops about town.
After driving a rather long way we finally came upon one of the very best beach sites and sights we've been to#S.Pedro do Muel has a long, rolling beach (surfers were out) at one end with pinetrees
lining th road across the street#at the other end of town is the center around which are high end, lovely homes. This is a spot we would like to return to some summer for outstanding coastal views, good beaching and its restful atmosphere. Highly recommended!!
was much different than my visit, lo those many years ago! Missing were the colorful fishing boats, little hibachies outside the
tavernas grilling fresh sardines # but this was not summer! A few kiosks were still open and some fisherman's nets on which they dry sardines were still standing on the beach. We found the Greatest!! And most delicious restaurant on a side alley # Taberna d' Adelia. Looking in, we were immediately attracted by the décor of colorful plaid shawls knotted around chairbacks creating a warm feeling along with the fishtank where folks were staring and prodding some of the species. My order of grilled sardines had to be deboned and packed with the luscious cornbread for a later snack since Dom's caldeirada (fish stew) was so delicious and too generous for one; we salivate thinking of that delectable sauce laden with various fish, onions, tomatoes and peppers. A local wine complimented the meal which was a definite Highlight of our trip.
CALDAS da RAINHA
Is a pretty large city compared to those we'd visited. The Cristal Caldas Hotel was a perfect choice as to location and amenities. The artfully decorated dining room featured a wonderful and generous breakfast buffet and we enjoyed a very good evening meal there as well.
We walked into town thru Church of S Conceico Square (two plaid tiled roofs) and wandered thru cobblestoned streets, some alleys of which had the most gorgeous tile murals outside various buildings. Many beautiful ceramic shops featured unusual items. Lots of good walking, sightseeing and we actually went to the old Caldas (baths) building which is still in medicinal use today.
This old fortress walled city high up a hill is like being back hundreds of years. Interesting exploring around its backstreets and up the many steps to the Pousada of Obidos (castle turned hotel) where we had lunched twenty years ago, at which time the stairs didn't seem that many! I remember it as the home of the Surprise Pear since my mom had ordered a fresh pear for dessert and it arrived plated, cut in half, with its top and stem also separated, then all put back together#the surprise was a grape inside once you started eating. The Pousada is still very elegant, and pricey. One of our pictures of a little shop, with things hanging outside on Its stone walls amidst flowers and decorations, is postcard perfect and always reminds us of that wonderful visit.
Again, good fortune brought us to Pensao Sintra Residencial, (45E or 40Ecash!) gated along the main road into town. Ages old, but updated and renovated, this manor house is run by Susannah who was born in Sintra of German parents and speaks perfect English. We loved the feeling of this place. Our bathtub wall had the most outstanding wrap around tiled mural of beautiful hydrangeas! And a simple but effective border of tiles framed the wall mirror.
After settling in, we walked about ten minutes into town thru a park and arrived at the large main square, the centerpiece of which is the National Palace, another interesting historical building. Hotels in the center offer limited parking which necessitates that overflow use meters, running back and forth every two hours limiting how far off the beaten track one can go#learning this, we were even more appreciative of courtyard parking at our home base.
Restaurante Albacaca was overflowing but worth the wait; we feasted on delicious grilled salmon and a great legume soup. The house wine, Biqueira from Carvoeira, is one we put on our Buy List.
We decided to do a 3.5E each bus route the next day which took us up to the Moorish Castle from the 8th century, restored in the 19th; no castle remains, just remnants and ruins # some very outstanding
making us wonder in amazement how such walls of stone could have been so well built, and so high! Turrets and significant differences in building approaches between the two time periods were pointed out by two guides in Moorish costume # large rectangular stones separated by smaller leveling ones during Arab times half way up the walls..then
continuing higher are smaller varied shaped stones, again leveld off and separated by smaller ones to combat the often tremors in the area during these eras. A Lot of walking and stair climbing up the wall provided a memorable view of Sintra down below. Both of us were awed at the sight and spent almost two hours amidst the ruins.
We dragged our weary bones out to the bus stop to catch the next one up to Pena Palace just a couple of miles away. Years back one could drive up closer but now you are deposited at the lower gate and then invited to trolley bus 1.5E up the hill.
Once off the jitney, the gold/pink/gray hued palace appears; and one immediately understands why it is listed as a World Heritage Site# what photo ops! ..allowed only outside and within exterior walls but cameras must be checked upon entering the
original living quarters, less further damage be done. Of particular note herein are the various angled, vaulted ceilings # the likes of which we'd never seen with decorative, ornate scrollwork up there. The extreme luxury in which Royalty lived (while the masses no doubt suffered) # etched, carved furniture, with one walled area featuring snowflake designs of some sort of acrylic like material over underlying hand painted scenes # was shamefully decadent. This is the most outstanding palace we've seen, architecturally at the very least!
Back in town we tried the conveniently located Tulhas Bar which was just okay and made note not to order corvina, a type of fish, again. But we sat with a young doctor and psychologist who had met on the internet and had a lovely conversation with them in both languages.
Next visit we'll find the wine cellar looking café we had spotted on our drive around.
After walking to the internet café, we found a wonderful coffee spot and ordered the local specialty, quesjadas, on the way back home and had a bite for dinner downstairs in our hotel since rain had begun.
Sintra has a most unique town hall # steeples and turrets # tiled with brightly colored flags flying in the wind. We stopped by but were not truly impressed with the 5 star Palacio Setais up into
Sintra Nova, although their breakfast buffet looked terrific. Our preference is to be located more centrally in town as we were.