Barcelona, Spain

We sadly left Lisbon Wednesday morning and arrived in Barcelona later that afternoon. For whatever reason, we ended up taking the wrong exit out of the arrivals gate and completely missed  the  luggage carousel. We had to work our way back in to the baggage area but other than being delayed a half hour or so, we still managed to catch the subway into the city and arrive at our BNB before dark. And what a beautiful apartment!! Probably one of the nicest that we have stayed at so far.

Today we took the metro to La Sagrada Familia, the most popular tourist attraction in Barcelona. Walking out of the subway, you immediately see why this is so. The structure is huge and so very different from anything that we have seen so far. The Basílica is a large unfinished Roman Catholic church, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. In fact, there are many buildings in Barcelona that were designed by him. The project was started in 1882 and at the time of Gaudi’s death in 1926, the building was only a quarter complete. After a number of work stoppages over the years, the building is slowly getting to the final stages, It is anticipated that the building can be completed by 2026—the centenary of Gaudí’s death. We did not take a tour inside today but plan to buy tickets online tonight and take the tour tomorrow.

We got back onto the subway and rode a couple more stops to La Pedrera – the home of the aforementioned designer Gaudi. Another odd looking building but we took some pictures and started to walk towards the Gothic Quarter. Along the way we saw the outside of the Casa Batllo (another Gaudi creation with a large entrance fee), the outside of La Catedral (a beautiful church but they were also charging an admittance fee so we could not bring ourselves to pay it after seeing so many FREE churches along the way). walked past the Museu Picasso (sorry Leah!), and stopped for a few minutes at the Placa de Catalunya (the centre of the city and the beginning of the Gothic Quarter) where Richard thought it would be fun to film the pigeons – EWWW!! We continued down La Rambla, a very touristy, esplanade that ends at the Columbus Monument by the Mediterranean. The monument is a tribute to Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas and was erected in 1888. We sat for about a half hour at the wharf, enjoying the sunshine and watching the boats come in and go out.

As the sun started to sink  in the west, we headed for home, happy that we had another wonderful day enjoying this beautiful planet….and the dream continues….

La Sagrada Familia

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Casa Batllo

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Placa de Catalunya

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La Catedral

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The Columbus Monument

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The Famous Tram 28 And A Few Last Stops.

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The delightful Remodelado trams date from the 1930s, and in any other city they would be housed in a museum, but in Lisbon, they are an integral part of the public transport network. These historic trams are still in use, as the 28 route is completely unsuitable for modern trams, due to its numerous tight turns and steep gradients.

A ride along the entire 28 tram route provides one of the best tours of the capital and is often a highlight of any holiday to Lisbon.

Today we headed out to board the famous Tram 28 for one last look at Lisbon.  On our way Col felt the need to experience Cod Fish A La Portuguese before we left so we sat ourselves down in one of the many restaurants for another culinary experience.  The fish was very tasty other than she needed a rake to comb the bones out of the Cod…

Once we were done with lunch and Col was done with picking the bones from her teeth  it was time to hop on the Tram to see a part of Lisbon that we had yet to explore.

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The inside of the Tram still has the original wood and you can tell that it is well taken care of.

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The Cod Fish….

Mine is the shrimp salad with the tomatoes in it, so……. Col’s Cod Fish is naturally the other one.

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Another Basilica.

We had no idea that we were going to come across this Basilica on the Tram route and believe me we have seen our share of Churches already, but this turned out to be one of the best.  We were glad we stopped to take a look.

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This was just a picture of an Arch that I thought was nice.

img_2280 We came across this Old Baba hanging her laundry so I thought it would make for a good picture.

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Finally, by far the best value in Lisbon was this one litre box of wine that we could purchase for about $1.40 Canadian.  We only purchased one box (today).

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Fatima, Nazare and Obidos

Our first organized tour in Portugal. Actually, our ONLY organized tour in Portugal. And, the only reason we took this tour was that we could find no other mode of transportation that would take us to these spots inexpensively. So, off we went to meet our small group tour at the corner of the Square by the Hard Rock Cafe. There were eight of us plus our driver/tour guide. We were the only Canadians – the rest were Americans from Colorado, California, Texas and Tennessee. A great group and our guide was funny and informative.

An hour and a half on the road north of Lisbon and we were in Fatima. For those that do not know the story, the simplified version is this: The Virgin Mary appeared to three children on May 13, 1917 and reappeared on the 13th of every month thereafter for six months. Because of this apparition, a shrine and a basilica were built on the site circa 1920. In 1967, 50 years after the first vision, one and a half million people gathered in the square to worship. This is now the fourth biggest Catholic pilgrimage site in the world. A new Basilica was built in 1996 but the original one dominates the square and daily masses still take place there. We were lucky enough to catch part of the mass, listening to the large pipe organ filling up the large sanctuary. Another beautiful work of architecture!

As a side note, we have been in a number of churches in Lisbon and though they are not as flashy or colorful as the churches in Italy, they are magnificent nonetheless. Large with high ceilings, beautiful side chapels and ornate statues, these churches are beautiful in their simplicity.

After lighting a few candles for our friends and families back home, we got back in the van and headed for the 14th century Monastery in Batalha. This monastery is an example of Gothic architecture and took a century to build. In fact, it never was finished. There are still a number of chapels in the back that do not have roofs. For anyone that has read the book, Pillars of The Earth, this is the church that I would imagine Tom Builder was working on. It is absolutely splendid and again, the artisans of that time were hugely talented. You will see the workmanship on the twelve apostles that line the entryway on one or two of the attached pictures.

Still in awe from the size and beauty of this monastery, we headed for the small coastal fishing village of Nazare. Nazare was a fairly obscure vacation resort town for the local Portuguese people until 2011 when a surfer dude from Hawaii set the world record there for surfing the largest waves ever recorded. Since then, surfers and vacationers alike come to Nazare to enjoy the sun, sand and surf.  Although the sun tried to peak out from behind the clouds,  the lack of warmth did not stop us from appreciating the large sandy beaches and the roaring surf below the rocky outcrops.  It is totally understandable how this has become a very popular vacation spot. We had lunch in one of the small restaurants in the village. The proprietor (who lived in Canada for about 20 years – too cold, he said), goes to the seaside every morning to pick out his fish for the day. A couple of the girls in our group tried the red snapper, one had squid, another couple shared some crab, Richard had swordfish and I had….well, steak. Let’s not kid ourselves – I am still not enough of a fish lover to try something that was still alive that morning. Everyone thought their meals were great – all with a little taste of Portugal.  Side note:  Col actually had about a third of the swordfish.  She is just too humble to mention it.

Our last stop of the day was the medieval village of Obidos. This village has been well preserved since its inception and other than the odd car driving down the narrow streets, you feel like you have taken a walk back in time. The entire village is surrounded by a wall and includes small shops and residences along the street, a large square where a medieval festival is held each year, churches and a castle which is now a hotel. Richard and I walked along the top of the wall and unlike other castle walls that we have walked on, this one has absolutely no safety railing. A couple of times I thought that I was suffering from vertigo but chose not to look down. It may not have been that far but I am sure that the ground would have caused some damage if I had succumbed to dizziness and gravity. Anyways, we both made it safe and sound back to the street and celebrated our victory over death with a shot of Ginga and chocolate.

We arrived back in Lisbon about 6:30, walked our 20 minutes home and spent the evening doing laundry and getting ready to leave for Barcelona. Today is our last day in Lisbon and we have enjoyed it immensely. We enjoy staying in one place long enough to experience the culture and hope that we will be able to do more of that as we travel through Europe. Our next post will be from Barcelona, Spain. Until then, Stay warm, my friends.

Fatima.

 

Below is the original chapel.

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There is actually a piece of the Berlin wall at Fatima.  

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The Monastery of Batalha.

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Nazare.

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First time for swordfish.

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Of course no meal in Portugal is complete without a shot of Ginja.

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Last stop of the day.  The village of Obidos.

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Our tour guide brought us to a place where we sampled homemade Ginja.  Oh, and of course we could purchase some if we wanted to.  Another thing I do not like about organized tours, you always seem to end up at some prearranged place for a free sample of something that you can purchase.  Oh well, we are getting better at it.  We had our two free samples and skedaddled out.

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The Castle, The Monument and the Fantastic Weather!!

Today is our first full touring day in a week. We’ve definitely enjoyed our downtime and binge watched a couple of series on Netflix and did quite a bit of planning for the next phases of our journey.  Oh, we went out for short walks everyday – usually to eat or drink or to pick up something to eat and drink. 😁😁🍷🍷 We thought you guys might like a little break too but, your break is over. Back to the blog reading grind!

Yesterday we walked up a few hills, took in some breathtaking views and spotted a castle not far from our apartment. However, it was a little late in the day to start poking around in old castles so it became our goal for today. I started the day with a haircut and a pedicure and was ready for a day of exploring. We began with the aforementioned Castelo De S. Jorge which consists of the castle, the ruins of the former royal palace and part of the residential neighborhood that was home to the elite. The castle was built by the Moors in the mid 11th century. When Lisbon was conquered by the Portuguese in 1147, the buildings were modified to accommodate the king, his court and the bishop. It continued to play a military role until the early 20th century. The castle is quite impressive and very well preserved. We only spent a couple of hours there as across the bay we had glimpsed the large statue of Jesus, known in Portugal as Cristo Rei (Risen Christ).

Before we got on the ferry that would take us across the bay, we stopped for a couple of  drinks in an outdoor cafe near the waterfront. After all, it was 18 degrees Celsius today – we had to enjoy the sunshine. (sorry to the folks at home that are living with -52 – Yuck!!) The ferries are part of the public transport system so we were able to swipe our cards and hop on the boat for only 1.5 Euros each (about $2.25). What a deal!! On the other side of the bay, in the city of Almada, we walked along the waterfront for about 20 minutes until we reached an elevator that actually took us up the side of a cliff. Though we could see the 103 metre iconic monument, we still had another half hour walk before we actually reached it. This statue of Christ stands high above the southern banks of the Tagus Estuary, and depicts Christ with arms raised, blessing the city. Since its consecration in 1959 Cristo Rei has been an important Portuguese pilgrim destination. The Cristo Rei has many similarities to the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro as the Brazilian statue was the original inspiration for the Portuguese monument.  And it is magnificent!! We took the elevator and a few flights of stairs and we got to the viewing deck at Jesus’s feet. The views of Jesus above are amazing as well as the views in each direction. We could see the Atlantic Ocean to the southwest, Lisbon to the northwest, the suspension bridge Ponte 25 de Abril (a copy of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco) directly west and the massive 17.2 km Ponte Vasco da Gama to the northeast, both bridges spanning the Tagus Estuary and linking north and south Portugal. As I mentioned earlier, it was a blue, cloudless sky and we couldn’t have asked for better weather to stand high above the city.

Instead of walking the 50 plus minutes back to the ferry, we took a bus from the monument to the waterfront.  And because the scanner wasn’t working on the bus, we got a free ride. How cool is that!! Another ferry ride across the channel, a 10 minute walk along the waterfront, up to our apartment and we are in for the night. My husband is slaving over the stove making, what smells like, a delicious pasta sauce while I write about our adventures. We have yet to experience Fado but we have a few more nights left here, so I am sure it will happen. Stay warm everyone. God Bless.

PS. The pasta was fantastic!!

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The New Pad

As Col mentioned in the previous post we have decided to spend an extra eight days in Portugal and today was moving day.  Needless to mention it went off without a hitch as I just followed Col on to the bus and fifteen minutes later we were at our new apartment in the heart of Alfama.

Alfama is one of Lisbon’s most genuine neighborhoods – its architecture presents the unique characteristics of old and colorful buildings that give it a joyful character and tranquility. Strolling through the Alfama district is an invitation to get lost among extremely charming streets and alleys. Easy to get lost in, even easier to find!

Alfama is one of Lisbon’s oldest neighborhoods and was founded by the Arabs who gave it the name “Al-hama” meaning ‘source of hot water, good water’. You haven’t genuinely experienced Lisbon without getting lost among the paths and charms of the neighborhood that is considered the heart of the city. While walking through the disordered and narrow streets of Alfama, you’ll feel like you’re in a small village, witnessing conversations between neighbors, listening to fado echoing through the stairways and being able to see the Tejo River from another perspective.

The coolest thing about exploring Alfama is feeling the neighborhood’s true spirit and being surprised by the peculiar characteristics of typical buildings with sloping roofs, clothes drying on clotheslines that reinforce the intensity of local colors and the daily life of the residents with their customs.

Our new apartment.

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One of the things in Lisbon I have been looking forward to is Fado.  Although the origins are difficult to trace, today fado is commonly regarded as simply a form of song which can be about anything, but must follow a certain traditional structure. In popular belief, fado is a form of music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and infused with a sentiment of resignation, fatefulness and melancholia. This is loosely captured by the Portuguese word saudade, or “longing”, symbolizing a feeling of loss (a permanent, irreparable loss and its consequent lifelong damage). 

Fortunately there is a wide variety of clubs right outside our door or down the street to choose from.

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Lisbon, Portugal

We arrived at our BNB in Lisbon about 8:30 PM after a rather long day of travel. It began at 8:30 AM when we caught the underground Metro for Napoli Centrale Station where we were to catch our train to Rome. At the station, we had  an hour to kill so had a bite to eat and did some people watching. We truly enjoyed Naples. It has a completely different feel than Rome. Though it is considered the poor cousin to Rome, it still has a lot of history and charm. The narrow little streets are lined with cafes, shops, bars and people outside smoking and drinking. It is a large street party every evening!

We caught our express train to Rome at 10:04 and arrived at Roma Termini at 11:10. The monitors told us that our top speed was just under 300 kms/hr. It was a great ride!! Out of the station, we walked around the corner and caught the shuttle bus to the Campiana Airport. This airport is the smaller one in Rome and acommodates budget airlines companies such as Ryanair and Easyjet. We flew Ryanair and we were a little apprehensive as it really does have some terrible reviews. However, everything went smoothly and we arrived in Lisbon a couple of minutes ahead of schedule. Don’t get me wrong – it is definitely a budget airline – no food or drink (not even a glass of water) without paying, seats are very basic and not even a pocket in the seat in front of you to hold the water bottle. But we were aware of this beforehand and prepared accordingly.

In Lisbon, we gathered our bags, took a few minutes to get our bearings and headed back down into the subway. We took two different trains, walked a few minutes and voila – we were at our BNB. We are starting to get pretty comfortable using public transportation and it is a fraction of the cost of taxis. It also gives us a slice of local daily life which is just one of the reasons for this Incredible Journey.

Lisbon is described as Portugal’s hilly, coastal city and though we have yet to see the ocean, we have definitely climbed a few hills. Our BNB is a climb of about 50 steps from the main street below and from it, you can either go further up the street or down the other side. We went to church yesterday and climbed up a hill one way and then back down the other before we reached it.  We should definitely tighten up a few muscles here!!

We have also decided that we are going to spend a few extra days here. The last six weeks have been pretty intense (India, Egypt, Israel, Athens, Rome, Naples and Pompeii – WHEW!!) so we thought we’d take a few days off to enjoy the scenery, the music and the food. We also need a bit of maintenance – haircuts, pedicures and the like, and this seems like a good place to get caught up on these things.

We are thinking of you all at home and though I am not missing the snow or the cold, I am definitely missing all the people that make my life go around. Stay well, stay warm and enjoy every day.  XOXO

Colleen…

Col mentioned that we getting comfortable using public transportation and she is correct.  What she failed to mention is that she is the navigator for all of this and I basically follow along.  She is doing a great job and even though from time to time she tends to wonder where we are going my confidence remains unshaken as we have arrived at our chosen destination each and every time.

Richard

 

Pompeii

The lost city of Pompeii. We’ve all read the history of how the city was enveloped and smothered in ash when Mount Vesuvius blew her top. Some of us have seen a movie or two based on the story. However, it only becomes real when you actually see the city ruins and the bodies that were buried alive. What terror they must have felt!

Pompeii was rebuilding as the result of an earthquake in 62 AD. Though the coast was subject to many smaller quakes, the one of 62 was large enough to do damage to nearly every building in Pompeii. It is believed that though many people stayed to help rebuild, many other citizens relocated further inland or up the coast. Seventeen years after the quake, with still much restoration work remaining, Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD killing an estimated 2000 people in Pompeii alone. There were many other cities that were buried as well but Pompeii is the largest and most well known. Historians now conclude that it was the extreme heat that killed these citizens and not suffocation by ash as was first thought.

For nearly 1500 years, Pompeii lay forgotten beneath 12 meters of ash and dirt. It was first re-discovered in 1592 while digging a channel to divert water from a nearby river. However, the ancient walls of frescos were considered scandalous and lewd for the time (counter reformation) and were quickly covered up again. The city under ash was ignored for another 200 years until Charles of Bourbon, later King of Spain took great interest in the antiquities as they reinforced the political and cultural power of Naples. Since then, the city has been under excavation. After being buried for almost 2000 years, Pompeii is very well preserved. However, due to weather, animals and increased tourism many of the items are now beginning to deteriorate. We noticed that many of the areas are now closed off to tourists in order to preserve what is left.

So, that’s the history lesson – now our observations. We were amazed at how large the site is. It is actually the entire city and you could walk around for days and probably still not see it all. As mentioned, the buildings are well preserved and it definitely gives you an insight into day to day life during this time. We saw the public baths – and some private ones, two theatres (one large, one small) that were dedicated to plays, music and recitation, the large amphitheatre which entertained the citizens with gladiators and wild beasts, the market and street food area (storefronts with counters that have holes through them to keep food warm), storage granaries, government buildings, the court basilica, temples, the prostitute’s house (yes, they actually had one of these) the gymnasium and many, many private houses. There was also preserved pottery, statues and even a few bodies that were discovered with their hands covering their heads and others curled in the fetal position. That was a little eerie but fascinating just the same. As for the sexual frescoes that had been covered up many years before – these are now on display at the Naples Archaeological Museum but are considered so explicit that minors still need a guardian or written permission in order to view them. We won’t have time to see them for ourselves, so we’ll just have to Google them in our free time.

So, that’s our day in Pompeii – the reason that we came to Naples. Tomorrow, we head back to Rome and catch a flight to Lisbon, Portugal. Sadly, we say Arrivederci Roma but eagerly look forward to the next leg of our journey.  

 A selection of people and one dog in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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A typical street and a typical girl.

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Station 18 in Region VII was the Lupanare which translates into brothel.  Below this picture is one which shows one of the beds inside which does not look very soft.  Hope they had furs on it.  There were quite a few frescos inside, but this is not an X rated blog so they were not included. 

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The big Theater.

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And the small one.

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A house which was owned by a very rich man.  

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The street food vendor.  You can see the holes in the granite countertop which was used to keep the food hot.  There were a few of them along this street.

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The Amphitheater…

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First level concourse.

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Notice below how well the path or road is preserved going into the Amphitheater.

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The old vineyard…

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Some random pictures to finish off.

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In Old Napoli…. That’s Amore..

We left our Airbnb in Rome around 10:30 AM and headed for the train station, jumped on the iron horse that was pointed towards Napoli.  That’s Naples for those of you who are not Italian.  Our Airbnb here is again right in the heart of the old city which means we are walking distance to all the real cool sites, sounds and smells.  After settling in we wandered out for a walk and being that Napoli is the birthplace of Pizza we had planned to stop at Pizza Di Matteo which was recommended by our host.  Of course after supper we stopped at a little side cafe for ice cream and an espresso.  Napoli has a  real good vibe to it.  It is not Rome, but then again Rome is not Napoli.  It has more of a relaxed feel to it and the whole place where we are is like one giant outdoor food court, but of course with an Italian flavour.  Pastry shops, cafes, pizza and whatever else you can think of.  Tomorrow we head to Pompeii to see the sights there.  Ciao….

This is what greeted us as we came out of the subway..

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Our Pizza in the town where it was invented.  It is different from what we have in Canada, but it was very good.  One thing that was different was that it was not cut into pieces when they brought it to us.  We were not sure what to do with it until we saw a couple of guys next to us tearing pieces off with their hands and rolling it up.  It was almost like eating a crepe…..

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Dessert and our wonderful server…

 

I saw this little statue and I wanted to take a picture and post it.  The reason is that as we were walking down the street I noticed a lot of the couples were either kissing or cuddling.  Well, like the song says.   THAT’S AMORE……. 

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