What is Eugene Levy doing in Portugal?

After three days in Lisbon it was time to explore the Portugal countryside.  Our plan was to hike as much as possible and get to know the country.  I usually like to settle in one place for a few days – but sometimes that first time visit to a country requires a bit more movement and exploration.  And with the promise to come back.

We headed to the coast and hiked from Praia de Maças south.  Our hope was to see if we could find the dinosaur tracks on the wall near Praia Grande as recommended by our friend and co-worker Andy Mason and his wife Kelly.

Praia de Maças is really cute and I only wish we had stayed long enough to have a cold beer in a chair on the beach.  On our way out of town we passed the little tram that goes from Sintra (inland about 10 miles) to the beach.  Next time.  Odd side note – in Praia de Macas – the main street through town is called Avenida Eugene Levy.  If anyone can explain this to me – I would love to know. (Yes yes I know a simple Google search would explain this but what fun is that?)

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We hiked south up and over the cliffs that separate the beaches here – in Praia Grande – the biggest hotel pool I have ever seen and a lot of surfers.

At the end of the beach was a lengthy (and new) staircase right next to a cliff face.  Thankfully Andy and Kel had informed us otherwise we might have missed the fact that the dinosaur tracks are on this vertical cliff face.  It seems that millions of years ago this cliff was a flat muddy plain.

At the bottom of the staircase was a warning – only 6 people are allowed to lean on the railing at a time.  Hmmm – sure enough as we discovered – to get a good view of the footprints – you do find yourself leaning out as far as possible on this railing.   The three of us were alone so no fear of breaking a railing – we hope.

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Impressive sight and so glad Andy and Kel had tipped us on this once in a lifetime experience.  We hiked a bit further down the coast – discovering one secluded beach after another.  Portugal is a great place to hide!

And looking out at the Atlantic – imagining Magellan or Vasco de Gama heading into the expanse of water – not knowing where they were going or what they would discover – sea monsters, mysterious islands, the edge?

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Portugal. Go. Now.

You know that feeling when you are first falling in love?  The giddiness?  How the whole world looks better because you have this awesome warm glow all the time?  That may be how I feel about Portugal.  And this guy below – St. Jorge.

This was my first long trip in over 10 years – when I say long – I mean a trip over two weeks.  Investing in the time and money to get to Europe from the west coast of the U.S. is substantial and I have made several trips over the past 10 years – they have been at most 11 days.  Which just isn’t long enough.  Two and a half weeks isn’t long enough.

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But it was long enough to fall in love with Portugal.  The people, the natural sights, the beaches, the churches, the food…. if you only go to Portugal to eat Nata’s it will be worth it.

Our first night in Lisbon we walked through the lovely Alfama neighborhood up to the Caste of St. Jorge (I love the Portuguese spelling by the way).  And that’s where this guy hangs out.  He is the king of his castle and master of his domain.

The castle is impressive and always brings out the 13 year old make believe child in me.  But the views are better.  You can see across the huge estuary of the Tejo River – ferry boats criss crossing and Lisbon has several impressive bridges – including a Golden Gate look a like suspension bridge.  Red roofs as far as the eye can see, which at sunset glows like no other city I have been to.  We watched the sun say goodbye to Lisbon from the castle walls – our faces smiling and glowing with the magical color of the Portuguese sun.

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A great moment but the walk down after sunset was even more memorable.  Tiny curvy streets with cute little hole in the wall restaurants and bars.  Laughing Portuguese families and couples – I want to move here.  We had a great meal in one of these that caught our eye – great wine, olives, cheese, bacalao (Portugese national dish), a little more wine.

Then a long saunter down through the neighborhood.  We stopped to listen to a Fado singer – and peered into numerous lively restaurants – “we have to come back here…” we exclaimed.  Happy Lisboetas wandered with us as we got lost and found again on our way back to our apartment.  Is this really Sunday night in Lisbon?