26.06.2007 22 °C
June 25, 2007
Our wake up call was a little later today, 7:15 am, allowing a few extra precious minutes of sleep. Since we are staying two nights in our hotel there was no need to rush.
When we arrived at breakfast we learned the difference in a 5 star hotel. The breakfast buffet went on forever. Fruits, juices, cereals and breads were in abundance. To this were added eggs, sausages, potatoes, cheeses, fish and a plethora of other things. If you could not find something to eat here you were not hungry.
One other thing we learned on this trip is how fortunate we are with our cost of gas at home. In Spain the price of fuel ranges from .98 Euros to 1.08 Euro per liter. If we go to the US gallon that is 4.2 liters so the price is $4.11 – 4.53. Converting to US dollars we get a range of $5.46 - $6.02. So out $3.00 gas is really cheap compared to the rest of the world.
Today we board our bus for the local tour of Lisbon with our local guide. First stop is the Jewish quarter, which like the rest of Spain has now Jews. This area was very old with narrow streets and a friendly neighborhood atmosphere. This area is now the area of St. Paul and as such was decorated for festival. June is the festival of St. Peter and St. Paul so on the weekend there is a local festival with food, wine and music much like our church festivals at home only on a more local stage.
After our morning tour we then went on our extra excursion to the towns of Cascais (kass kis) and Sintra. The bus took us along the Tagus River toward the mouth of the river and the Atlantic Ocean. The Tagus her is a very wide river over 3 miles across. This is the same river that flows from it’s headwaters north of Toledo.
Our first stop is Cascais an ocean front resort town. This small yet very attractive city is the home of the rich and famous of Portugal. We pass mansions, hotels and the first golf courses we see in Portugal. The sites are beautiful and we stop here for our lunch and free time.
We stopped at a most unusual Pizzeria. Unusual due to it’s menu. The local restaurant boasts pizza, local Portuguese specialties and a full sushi menu! As we enter the restaurant we fist pass through the Japanese section. We continue on and we pass through the Portuguese section and finally come to an open air under glass Italian restaurant, all under one roof. The pizza was very Italian a nice thin crust minimal tomato sauce and cheese with light oil. It was significantly better then any pizza we can get in Toledo.
After lunch we explore the shopping section. Chris has been searching for a Portuguese flag. Some of you may know that back in the year 1160 the Farina name first appeared in Portugal. So early in our history we were Portuguese before we settled in Sicily, so Chris wanted a flag.
We searched diligently but the only flag we could find was in a store that was closed for siesta. We would continue our search. As we were heading toward our bus we glanced to our left and saw the perfect flag. Five Euros later we had the flag and were back on the bus
We departed Cascais and traveled toward our next stop Sintra the summer home of the Kings of Portugal. Along the way we saw the western most point of land of Europe. This was a rock at the very end of a peninsula known as the Roc. From here we were at the same latitude as New York City and on a clear day our guide tells us you can see the Statue of Liberty. Not likely but we get a good laugh.
We arrive in Sintra and depart the bus for a tour of the summer palace of the Kings of Portugal. The last King was in the early 1900’s. Portugal was the home of 72 noble families that controlled a world wide empire. Over time the nobles lost power and in 1910 Portugal became a republic.
The palace like all the palaces we visited was amazing. This one was built in the 16th century and was in amazing condition after some restoration. Since this was a summer palace it was built in a very open form with gardens and views of the sea. After the visit to the place we were on our own for shopping and resting.
We departed Sintra for the short drive back to the hotel and a well deserved 3 hour break (rest) before our Fodo dinner in a castle.
We depart the hotel again on our tour bus for a short drive back to the old city and our special Fodo Dinner. A Fodo is a traditional presentation of local dance, song and music. We were also to enjoy a 4 course dinner during the show something like dinner theater.
We enter a side door of a castle that was built in the 14th century and was the only building left standing in center city after the earthquake of 1755. We are seated in long rows with a large stage in front of the tables. To welcome us we are poured a glass of a sweet port wine. We begin dinner with plates of Olives, bread and sausage. Next comes a cold been soup, a traditional dish. After this comes a plate of fish in a red sauce and vegetable and potato. All delicious, but we are not finished. Next comes a plate of steak and more vegetables. Following this we have Flan for dessert. All of this is washed down with red and white wine.
The Fodo music was amazing. There were several dancers performing local dances accompanied by guitar and various percussion instruments. There were songs of love gained and love lost; songs of politics and songs of sadness. We did not understand a word but it was excellent. We all had a great time and gained 2 kilos in the process.
Back to the hotel at 11:00 for a good nights sleep and a wake up call at 6:30. Next we head to Fatima and Salamanca.