A Travellerspoint blog

June 29

Madrid on our own

sunny 27 °C

June 29, 2007
Although our tour is over the Farina vacation is not. Today marks our first day on our own. We are in Madrid an extra day before we depart for Athens to drop Chris off for school. Cathy and I will have a few days to bum around Athens and Chris will stay until August 1. So today we explore Madrid on our own.

After another buffet breakfast we board our bus to Plaza Major. OK our bus today is public transportation and it cost us one Euro each but it is a bus right? Well the bus is crowded so we have to stand. There is A/C so we are dying hot but we are toe to toe with the locals.

One little girl is sharing a seat with her older sister and notices a small moth on the bus window. Apparently she is terrified of moths. Her mother, like mother everywhere, takes off her shoe and smashes the moth into the window, problem solved. We all laugh. Family in any language is the same. Believe me it is more comfortable to travel on the tour bus but this was a way to get closer to the people.

So we take the bus to the last stop and get off at the bus station and take a short walk to the Plaza Major which is the main plaza in Madrid. We learned yesterday that Madrid is the exact center of Spain. At the center of Madrid is a square where the mile market reads ZERO and there are four major roads emanating from this spot to the four corners of Spain.

The Plaza Major is once again very similar to the Plaza of St Mark in Venice. The center is a statue and the open plaza is filled with restaurants where seating is outside in the beautiful shade. The buildings are filled with high end shopping such as jewelry and clothes and other high end souvenirs. Out of our price range so we leave the plaza and begin to walk the area in search of shopping and we find it, everywhere.

For the next two hours we are in and out of stores of every kind. Indian, Moroccan, Spanish and other stores all selling things for you to take home. Chris finds the perfect gift for Lilly (sorry L I will not reveal the item you will just have to wait) and Cathy finds things for her friends and family. We buy a bull for ourselves and enjoy walking the streets of Spain.

The temperature today was in the mid 80’s and so we were getting a little warm so we decided to find a place to eat. Pizza was the target food. Yes we continue to eat Italian food even here in Spain, but the pizza is damn good and we just can not pass it up.

We try to find a restaurant outside the Plaza since we know the Plaza restaurants will be expensive. Although we could find many fine Spanish restaurants the only pizza was in the Plaza. So back to the Plaza we find a table in the shade and order 2 Marguerite pies and a salad. Beer and water were also on the menu. We slowly dined and watched the world go by. Fifty Six Euros later, I told you the Plaza restaurants were not cheap we decide to get a cab and return to the hotel for Siesta.

There are cabs everywhere so we thought this would not be a problem, wrong. Hailing a cab apparently is an art, one in which we have not been schooled in. So we walk in the direction of our hotel and figure we can get a cab.

Ok so we see a cab coming and wave only to see him pass us by. We did notice however, that in the window was a red sign saying Occupado. So now we know to look for a cab with Libre in the window. Unfortunately we see no Libre only Occupado so we keep walking.

Well it is now about 40 minutes since we started to try to get a cab. The temperature is getting hot and we are beginning to get desperate when a cab pulls up and drops some folks off. Yeah we are saved, wrong again. I try to get into the cab when the passengers depart but the driver waves me off and takes off. We learn this was a radio cab not a local cab. A radio cab is dispatched by a service and to get one you have to call the service. Ok now we have to eliminate Occupado and radio cabs and find the ever elusive Libre cab.

Soon we come to an intersection and traffic is much greater increasing our chances of finding the Libre. Soon sure enough we see a cab at the opposite corner and wave him down. He makes a turn and comes toward us and pulls over for us to get in. We are saved, wrong again.

I tell him we are going to the Hotel Agumar as I enter the cab. The driver begins gesturing wildly telling me to get out and go to the other corner, the corner he just came from to get a cab. Another lessen we learn is that a cab which is facing the wrong direction will not pick you up if you are going in the opposite direction. Since we really did not know where the hotel is we were at a quandary as to how to proceed.

So we continue our walk to the next intersection. Here we stop to figure out where we are and Cathy, ever vigilant now that her feet hurt, spots our white knight. There is a white Libre cab and we flag him down. Ok he was stuck at a stop light but the result was the same, we piled in.

A seven Euro cab ride later we were back at the Hotel and ready for Siesta. Tonight we planned to have dinner on our own and pack for the journey in the morning to Athens.

7:30 PM
After a nice Siesta we dress and depart the hotel in search of a final Spanish meal. We walk along the road to a small outdoor restaurant with and English menu. We sit at a shady table; we are the only once there as it is much too early for any sane Spaniard to eat. We dive into the menu and choose our final Spanish meal. I choose a chicken Paella and Cathy and Chris dine on Pasta Bolognese. Yes the two of them choose Italian food in Spain and they said I have a fixation on Italy!

We top off the meal with a banana split and walk back to the hotel for packing and sleeping. We leave Spain in the morning to enjoy the 100 plus degree temperatures of Greece.

Posted by pfarina 23:03 Archived in Spain Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

June 28

Madrid and Segovia our last day on tour

sunny 26 °C

June 28, 2007
Ah Madrid. A beautiful mix of sights and sounds, people and traffic, horns and the sounds of the Spanish language where ever you know. Ah Madrid amazing.

Today we meet our local guide and head to the Prado Museum. Prado means prairie and is houses in what was once a residence of the Kings of Spain. The Prado is the most famous museum in Spain with a collection of over 8000 canvases and statues. There are only 1000 on view at any time with others houses elsewhere and some in the basement.

Today we learn another advantage of taking a tour. We have an appointment time at the museum, meaning no line. We arrive at the Prado at 9:00 am and are promptly ushered past long lines of “common folk” waiting to see the Goya, Velasquez, and of course El Greco. Another advantage is we have a tour guide well versed in the art contained in the museum and we have little radios in which she whispers but we hear clearly. It is good to be on a tour.

For the next two and one half hours we tour the museum and see up close many of the art we only see in print or on film. We were very up close in fact a little too up close. You see Bill; one of our tour family from Ohio (of course), is very tall and as such tends not to see objects below his knees. (Can you guess what’s coming?). He was walking forward and looking at a canvas to his right and BLAM out of no where comes a bench below knee height and Bill goes sprawling in the direction of some priceless Greco Roman Statue. The Guard rises quickly, face blanched white, not easy for a dark skinned Spaniard, Bill falls fast but bounces off the bench just in time to right himself just before a costly collision. The guard runs over to see if he (the statue not Bill) is all right and after a few watch were you are going looks, we proceed with the rest of the tour, with less drama. Bill of course sustains damage to his leg but the guard is satisfied and returns to his chair.

The priceless art work in the Prado goes on for room after room and is simply amazing but after two hours we are on art overload. It is a known fact that psychologists say that the average person can not take more then two hours in a museum and since we are a little above average we last until 2.5 hours but as a group we have had it. So we leave the museum and head back to the bus for a very short return to the Hotel.

This afternoon some of us are heading to the small town of Segovia another hill top city in which a King built another Castle called the Alcazar of Segovia. Apparently all castles are called Alcazar. So some of us are back on the bus for the 1.5 hour drive, or as I say nap, to Segovia.

Segovia is a beautiful small town that time has forgotten. It boasts three main attractions, The Alcazar, a Roman Aqueduct build 200 BC and still working, and a gastronomical delight roast suckling pig.

First stop is a visit to the aqueduct. It is amazing. More then 90 meters high with arches extending 750 meters it was built by the Romans with out use of mortar or cement. It is held together simply by precise fitting of stone and perfect engineering. The length of the aqueduct is relatively short as there was a small reservoir a short distance from town. With only a modest restoration the aqueduct can still conduct water from the reservoir to town but does not do so now. We take our photos and look for food.

As I said the feature food is suckling pig slow roasted and served as an entire pig on a plate. The pig is only 5 – 10 days old and is slow roasted in a very special spit until it is so tender they cut it with a plate and not a knife. There is a statue in the middle of town dedicated to the chef who invented the feast and past his recipe along so others can prepare this local dish.

We past several of the local restaurants that serve this meal but neither Cathy nor Chris were adventurous enough to partake. We passed up the chance to eat a baby pig and moved along to more normal fare, adult ham sliced thin with cheese and tuna sandwiches.

After lunch we headed to the Alcazar. This castle was said to have inspired Walt Disney’s design of the castle at Disney Land. There is some resemblance but this castle is huge and very well preserved. Among the Kings in residence here were King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Columbus fame. In the throne room we say the two chairs side by side of a King and Queen who both ruled as powerful leaders over the Spanish Empire.

Unlike other castles we saw this one was furnished as it was expected to be when the castle was used as a palace and court. The building is very open and since it was a summer residence it was filled with open courtyards and high windows. Tapestries were on the walls and the furniture was elegant throughout. It’s good to be the king.

The castle was built upon a Roman Garrison so under the castle is a foundation dating back to 200 BC so Segovia was inhabited for a very long time. The present castle was built in the 12th century and with very little restoration looks amazing. After a little shopping we board our tour bus, for the last time, for the trip back to the hotel.

As we arrive at the hotel it marks the official end of the Highlights of Spain and Portugal Tour. Thirteen days of fun, sights, foods and of course wine. Tonight we are all exhausted and a little sad as we will now be saying good bye to some new friends from all over the world. Since there is no scheduled dinner with Trafalgar tonight we retire to our rooms for a little rest and to make our own dinner plans.

It seems however that some people are not ready for the tour to end, however and soon a dinner is planned by 17 of us! We agree to meet in the lobby at 7:30 and to walk along the city until we find a place to eat.

So there we are, Americans, Germans, Australians and Canadians all coming together to have one more chance to make a lasting memory. We walk along for about a half hour and agree to dine at a small local restaurant with outside tables. The temperature is about 70 and the sun is going down soon so we settle in for a pleasant dinner.

Of course no one speaks or reads Spanish and the Korean family that owns the Spanish restaurant speaks no English and some Spanish. I know we will eat something just what however is up for grabs. Soon our waiter comes to the table and we communicate by picture, gesture, bad Spanish and much laughing our drink orders. It if take this long to order a beverage how long will it take to get dinner orders for 17?

We look at the menu; have no idea what it says. On the wall of the restaurant they list a special of the day which is kind of like a Chinese menu idea. Pick one from column A and once from column B and drinks are included. Sounds easy enough so we begin to decipher the food options. With help of high school Spanish, life experience, and Chris’ command of Latin we settle our choices only to be told by the lovely Korean hostess, this is the DAY menu and it is night now. She turns over the menu and there on the back are completely different options and so we order another round of beers as we try once again to decipher the menu.

The Farina family decides on a first course of Spaghetti followed by a Salad and finished off with a Veal Milanese. Ok folks catch this, we are in a restaurant in SPAIN, owned by KOREANS, ordering in ENGLISH, a full ITALIAN meal! Only us!!!!

The food come very slowly as there is no rush in Spain and we appreciate it as we are not in any hurry to say good bye. Our spaghetti comes perfectly prepared in a sweet red sauce. The portion is HUGE. Next came a salad of mixed greens, tuna egg and tomato. It too is delicious and we are well fed, but we just remember we have another course. We have been eating for 90 minutes and we are not nearly done. The veal comes out and the portion is amazing. Try as we might Cathy or I left half each while Chris managed to finish it all.

We talked and told stories for another half hour and by 10:30 we knew the inevitable time has come to say good bye and return to our normal lives back home. We walk back to the hotel and say Adios and promise to send e-mail and share photos. We head back to our room exhausted and ready for the next phase of the Farina vacation, GREECE.

Posted by pfarina 07:20 Archived in Spain Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

June 27

Back to Madrid

sunny 26 °C

June 27, 2007
This morning breaks another beautiful day. Bright sunshine with temperature in the low 70’s will follow us on our way to Madrid as we wind down our last days of the tour.

This morning we have a short ride to the Escorial and the monument to the fallen.

Today is also another memorial; one year ago today I had a heart attack. Thanks to the quick action of my son Chris and the ability of the Toledo Hospital I survived and recovered to be healthy enough to take this trip. I thank God every day for this second chance.

Our first stop this morning is the walled city of Avilla. Still completely surrounded by ancient walls this is the home of St Theresa of Avilla. Outside the city about 1 kilometer from the walls is a four post memorial with a large stone cross. This point commemorates the spot where the seven year old Theresa was stopped by he parents when she left home with two of her thirteen brothers to convert the non believers. She was returned home where years later she once again left and began a life of religious work.

We continue our drive toward Madrid and the Escorial. One our way we made an interesting discovery. Our bus driver, Fernando, was actually a Portuguese Bull Fighter. He began his Matador years as a young man in his home country of Portugal but one fine Sunday he was seriously injured and carries the scars of the bull on his body. He became a bus driver soon thereafter and has been a perfect gentleman throughout our journey.

We arrive into a hill top city where King Philip built a Palace, a Cathedral and The Escorial a burial place for all the Kings of Spain. This is a building from the 16th century and is mostly complete with some restoration. Here we were able to see how a King of Spain actually lived as this was a continuous use Palace and Cathedral from the time of King Philip II.

This was a summer palace and as such was very open with a beautiful garden and several private and public rooms. We actually saw the bedroom of King Philip II in which he died at the age of 82. In his will he requested his successors would keep his private apartment as he left it and they did so we did get to see truly how a King lived and they lived very well. We visited the throne room and the private library and other rooms used for governing and living.

As part of the Palace he also built a Cathedral dedicated to St. Jeronimo (Gerome). As we may recall St Gerome was burned alive for evangelizing in Rome and always wore green as a sign of his order. The King preserved St Gerome’s memory in many paintings and dedication of the church to the Saint.

The church itself is still in use today and is built in the Baroque style so it is very ornate. Weddings, daily mass and musical concerts are still held in the church which is maintained by an order of Monks from the time of the early Spanish Kings. Spain was under a King until 1933 when the last King Abdicated and was eventually replaced by Francisco Franco a dictator who died in the 1970’s.

The highlight of this portion of our tour was when we went below the church and into the crypt of the Kings of Spain. Here we were in the presence of the main Kings of Spain from Carlos V Emperor of Rome as well as King of Spain down to the modern Kings of the 19th century. Here also are buried the Queens of Spain who were mothers to a King. It seems that for a wife of the King to be buried here she must also have produced a son who became a King. So not all the wives of Kings are buried in this special crypt. In any event it was an amazing place to see and to be in the presence of so much royalty.

When we left the crypt we crossed the church, still underground, and into the crypt of the royal families of the kings. Here was room after room filled with tombs on both sides of Princes, Princesses, Wives, Mothers and Children of Royalty. There must have been well over 100 tombs here all ornate and all beautiful.

This was a most amazing stop on our tour steeped in history and a very beautiful palace just on the outskirts of Madrid.

After our tour we headed for lunch as we were all starving. We stopped at a self serve cafeteria where the three of us dined on Lasagna, salad and delicious bread. We followed this up with Gelato, reminiscent of a fine meal in Italy. After lunch back to the bus for the short ride to the memorial of the fallen and the tomb of Franco.

When Franco took power it was through a civil war lasting from 1936 – 1939. This was a bloody period of Spanish history and one in which Spain fell far behind the rest of the industrialized world. By the time Franco gained power and began to settle the region Spain became a second world power and failed to be a part of the industrial revolution. Spain remained a poor country with few wealthy and many poor.

Franco was a dictator who tried to help the people, but was ruthless with his enemies. Growth occurred under Franco but also a police state existed and freedom was restricted. Some people loved him and some hated him but most did not care they were more concerned with the state of their own life.

In 1940 Franco began the construction of a monument to those brave men who died in the revolution. Initially he planned a memorial and burial location for those who fought on his side but soon realized to heal his country he would allow any one who was killed in the revolution on either side.

He built a memorial of monumental proportions. In a mountain within 5 miles of the Escorial, the burial place of Kings, Franco commissioned a Christian Church under a mountain.

The church was built in 19 years by hollowing out the center of a mountain and leaving a natural cavity that comprised a church so large that the Vatican refused to approve the initial plans. You see Franco’s original plan was a church larger then the Vatican itself. Since no church can be larger then the Vatican, France added a wall cutting off part of the church so that the area that was sanctified was smaller then the Vatican by a few yards. Once approved the Cathedral was built and now houses the remains of 35,000 of the 100,000 killed in the revolution and houses the remains of Franco himself.

The interior is breathtaking yet simple. It is a modern church so the decorations are simple but what is there is grand in scale. There church is maintained by Cloistered Monks who say a daily mass and perform weddings on Sunday.

Franco actually wanted to be buried in the Escorial, but since he was not a king he could not. So he built a monument that rivaled the Escorial in size and scope. Franco thought a great deal of himself and his grave certainly shows how much.

We departed the area and headed back to the city of Madrid and checked into our final hotel of the tour. We will spend two nights here as part of the tour, but the Farina’s will spend an additional night in Madrid before we head out to Greece and the rest of our vacation.

Tonight is the group Farewell Dinner where we will once again eat more food then we should and drink more wine then we need. We are sure it will be a meal to remember, but right now some laundry and a nap are in order. More later.

7:30 PM
We board our bus once again for a trip to the old center of the city for our farewell dinner. Our destination is a local restaurant famous for Paella. Since we are early for the locals to be eating we have the restaurant to ourselves.

Tonight’s dinner is amazing. We dine on fine breads, a salad of fresh tomato and tuna filet, then a small fish deep fried (so small you have to eat it with your fingers), and finally the Paella. The Paella was a mixture of fish and meats in a delicious red sauce. Of course all was washed down with red wine (2 bottles for our table of 5). This gastronomical treat was followed by dessert which consisted of a large plate of pastries and cream with black coffee. At the end we had a choice of two after dinner digestives. There was a red sweet beverage (90% alcohol of course) and a green less sweet beverage. Of course we tried both! Chris liked the green and I the red. Cathy passed.

There was much picture taking and the saying of good bye as we prepared for our final day together as a “family on tour”

We head back to the bus and the short ride to the hotel. Tomorrow is our last day on tour where we will go to the Prado Museum followed by a trip to Segovia.

Posted by pfarina 01:53 Archived in Spain Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

June 26

From Portugal to Spain

sunny 23 °C

June 26, 2007
With two days left on our tour we depart Lisbon and head to Fatima to visit the holy shrine of Mary.

It is another beautiful day with bright sunshine and temperatures in the low 70’s. Our bus drive takes us through Lisbon along the Tagus and into the country where at 9:30 we arrive at Fatima.

I really did not know what to expect. We entered the town of Fatima which has grown up around the field where in 1917 from May to October three young children saw the Virgin Mary in a grotto. What was once a field to feed goats and sheep is now a paved plain large enough to hold several hundred thousand of the faithful. The 13th of each month from May through October the crowds are huge but today being the 26th it is relatively empty.

We enter into a park like setting where at each end a huge church is dedicated to the Virgin. Between the churches and set off to the side is a small glass and marble building which covers a small grotto. It is here on this spot the children saw the Virgin. Today the spot is covered and a mass was going on when we arrived.

The grotto shows a statue of the Virgin with a gold crown. Contained within the crown is the actual bullet that was fired into Pope John Paul II. He dedicated his life to the Virgin for saving him from the assignation attempt so he gave her the bullet as a sign of his faith.
Also in the grotto was a large piece of the Berlin Wall. It was part of the Virgin’s prophesy that communism must fall and the word must be dedicated to the Sacred Heart before there can be peace in the world. Although communism did fall there are still parts of the world yet to be dedicated to the Sacred Heart so our world remains in turmoil.

After our visit to the grotto we proceeded along to the main church where another mass was just ending. In this church is the final resting place of the three children the last of which just died in 2002. All three were beatified by Pope John Paul II. The church is modern and very beautiful with a large portrait of the visitation over the main alter.

We left the sacred area and did some shopping for religious articles and of course some coffee and pastry. All in all it was a most pleasant stop. Now we are back on the bus as we drive north to Salamanca.

On our way we stopped at a road side stop for our lunch. We enjoyed home made soup, salad, ham sandwich and goat cheese.

We crossed the border from Portugal and now we are back into Spain. Once you enter the EU you do not have to show passports as you cross between borders. This is very helpful as it make travel much easier.

Salamanca is about 1.5 hours into Spain and we pass through mountains and fields. Once again we see the fighting bulls in the fields. These are magnificent animals much larger then the dairy bulls we see at home. Unlike popular belief the fighting bulls are not always black. Many we see are Roan (red) or White but there are some black. We see them by the hundred all destined to someday meet their matador.

We arrive Salamanca and it is a wondrous site. This is an ancient city with a modern flair. Salamanca is home to many churches both old and new as well as a University. The University was begun by donation of a Palace by a Spanish King. The Palace is still in use today for classrooms but the center of the city is surrounded by academia.

Where there is a college there are college students. The streets and cafes are filled with the sounds of young people laughing, discussing and in some cases studying. This area is steeped in tradition as well.

One tradition involves a frog. It seems that there was a belief that if a student could find the hidden frog in a certain wall behind the statue of a monk, that student was destined to pass their exams. Well tradition aside it is better to find a book then to rely on a frog. To keep the tradition alive, every shop sells all forms of frog. From stone to ceramic to stuffed to plastic they are all there for the student or more likely the tourist to carry on the tradition. To help the local economy Cathy bought a frog.

In addition to University there is shopping galore. From high end Jewelry to the lowest form of tourist junk it is all there for the asking. Chris also helped the economy by buying some tee shirts and a soccer shirt.

One amazing site in Salamanca is the central square. It is modeled after the famous St Mark’s Square in Venice. It is a little smaller and is in red stone rather then white marble, but it is essentially a large square with shops and the ubiquitous café and geleteria. It is filled with students, locals and tourists and is a wonder of sites and sounds.

We walk out the square into the side streets on our free time. We head toward several churches. One was the ancient cathedral now replaced by a newer one. The old Cathedral is now St. Mark’s church and is beautiful in it’s architecture. The new Cathedral, it is still several hundred years old, is down the street and is magnificent outside and in.
After our visit to the church we continue to shop and decide it is time for a slight food break. So we spy a nice pastry shop and buy a large sharable pastry which is a light flake cake with chocolate and vanilla icing…marvelous. All the food, the drink, the pastry and the wines have been like nothing we have had before. It must be a combination of the location and the fine work of the chef. Every bite is a memory as we will carry the weight of each bite for at least a month after we get home.

Our Hotel is a little outside of town this evening and we have just arrived at 7:00 pm. I am writing this in the middle of the hotel lobby as they have FREE internet access and I must take advantage. Dinner tonight is to be a simple affair in our hotel. We dine fashionable at 8:00 and expect to be done in time for a long nap. Tomorrow we rise a 7:00 for an 8:00 am departure for Madrid and our final stop on this tour. But not the final stop for the Farinas. More on this later.

Posted by pfarina 10:33 Archived in Spain Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

June 25

Portugal

semi-overcast 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.

7:30 PM
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.

Posted by pfarina 10:15 Archived in Portugal Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

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