Friday, October 07, 2016

Sintra, Portugal




I had never heard of Sintra, but followed a recommendation from a friend at work, and I was over the moon that I did. The home of monarchs, the town is filled with castles and palaces, all situated among the mountains. Whether you like your castles traditional, gothic, or a little whacky, you will find what you're after here.

The town is busy, and the roads leading into the mountains are more like tiny off road tracks. If you're arriving by car you may want to make sure you're a good driver (and definitely a good parker), I think I would have had a meltdown was I not with my brother.

Cabo da Roca was our first stop. As the westernmost part of Portugal, it took the longest to get to and sadly was sitting in the middle of a cloud when we arrived. It made for some beautiful photographs but we could just about see 5 metres in front of us, so marvelling at the cliffside wasn't an option. The journey however, was definitely an experience (like I said, make sure you're a good driver).

We ended up at the palace of all palaces, The Pena Palace. From a distance it looks like it belongs on a children's TV show, with fiery colour, sharp edges and quirky patterns. The place was heaving with tourists, but that can be forgiven considering how beautiful the spot was. The surrounding gardens are also rather lovely, providing a scenic hike up to the palace and offering different buildings and annexes to explore on your way.

If you enjoy a hike and want to feel like a princess for a day, I can't recommend this place enough.







Sunday, October 02, 2016

What to do in Lisbon


Bright, charismatic, and good looking - yes I'm talking about a city and not Tom Hardy. Lisbon feels old, but modern and fresh at the same time. Like it was built recently but made to look antique. I was travelling with a city scrooge who wanted to spend our entire trip beach hunting, so I didn't see as much of the place as I would of liked. But the best part of 48 hours was spent wandering, shopping, eating and taking an astounding amount of pictures.

Here is what I would recommend...

Jerónimos Monastery | For the architect in all of us
This building is astounding. So much so that the photographs I have taken don't do any justice to the amount of detail that has been carved onto the outside. The crowds were minimal, which meant we could have a look around without feeling like herded cattle, and the sunshine made the whole building sparkle





The fountain in front of Jerónimos Monastery |
With a light summer breeze, you can stand downwind from the fountain and cool yourself down in the mist. The gardens are picturesque, meaning you can sit down, cool off and just stare at the Monastery




Flea market at LX Factory |
If you're into second hand bargains, this place is a dream. It's only small, taking up the length of one street but it's filled to the brim with clothes, jewellery, ornaments and paintings. The weather was scorching when we went and the street provided zero shade - meaning I had little motivation to rummage and left without making a purchase. On a cooler day it would have been perfect.
It's open from 10am - 4pm every Sunday.


Doca de Santo Amaro |
This was my favourite spot in the city. You can look out to the 25 de Abril Bridge, and see Christ the King in the distance. At night, the bridge lights up, and you can grab dinner at one of the restaurants lining the dock.



25 de Abril Bridge | Love at first sight
I think it is fair to say I became obsessed during my brief stop in Lisbon. This bridge was stunning, from every angle, and at every time of day. I probably have hundreds of photos (and a film of us crossing over it), but I will spare you the torture and just share my favourites. It really it beautiful though, and considering it was built three decades before I was born, it has definitely stood the test of time.









Christ the King | Am I in Rio?
Standing at 25m, the monument sits pretty high above the city. Knowing it would be better from a distance we held no plans to go up to where he stood, but after taking a wrong turn we inevitably ended up there. You don't quite realise how big he is until you're sat at his feet looking up at him, you can take an elevator to the top if you don't mind heights - but if not, the site he is sat on offers the best views of the bridge (which one could argue was even more stunning).



Live music at Teatro Nacional D. Maria II |  
I have no idea if this is a regular occurrence, but we heard music and went looking, only to stumble across the strangest band I have ever seen. What looked like the most random bunch of people at band practice, turned into a really great performance by some incredibly talented musicians.



Find all the street art |
There is graffiti everywhere in Lisbon, some of it is questionable, but most of it is impressive.





Go looking for Dinosaurs | Praia dos Lagosteiros
If you fancy heading out of the city, we stumbled across an incredible spot due to a sign we saw with pictures of dinosaurs. The cliffs are steep, so maybe take a buddy and watch where you put your feet. I may go as far as to say this was the best spot in the world (or at least close to).







There is so much to do, what would you recommend?