Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Some things we did in Portugal

Right, this is just a list.. I can sense already the temptation to attach stories to everything but that's what books are for, not blogs!!

Anyway, here goes..well, what I remember, I returned the guide books yesterday incurring a £1 fine!

The Castle of St Jorge (Up in Almafa district. You pay, about 5 euros, your kids go free)

Oceanaria - said to be the world's second largest indoor aquarium but according to it isn't. No matter. It's good. My son thought it was brilliant, the first time he's seen a shark. (Don't they have a shark in the London aquarium? He was little when we went and my memory couldn't keep a fish alive)
Can't remember the euro's, sorry...8 for me, 6 for him? Family deals are about 29...

The Tower of Belem - Well the whole Belem district! Amazing. The tower costs 5 for you, free for the kids. I wasn't going to go in having been to the castle, but thought sod it. The queues to go up the staircase one at a time - definitely part of the adventure. My son loved paddling in the ocean surrounding it.

Castelos do Mouros - I regret not paying to go into these ramparts. We climbed up and up and up the mountain and when we got to the top, there was a gate. We could see the turrets, almost touch them. We could also see the ticket booth. 11 euro's for the two of us. Grrr.
Palacio Nacional de Pena - I'd been told you could walk around the Moorish Castle and Palace with not paying but when we got to the Palace, there was no walking in the garden for free. So I paid the 11 euros.

You can get tickets in advance that give you reductions on these thing. I just wasn't sure how many me and my boy would go to.

In the event, the garden is beautiful; ponds and lakes and crucifixes and views of the fairy tale pastel coloured palace. My son ran down a path and went flying. The screams through the woodland, the birds shot from the trees. "Five grazes in one fall!" he'd sing later to the crowded house tune about seasons in a day. One of each knee, a gash in his palm, a graze on his waist and a graze on his shoulder that would not heal and wept under this backpack straps. I told him to show the Mamma in Nazare. He looked a forlorn figure that day, maybe that's why they took us in.

Palacio a Quinta da Regaleira. 6 euros for you, none for the kids (!!!!) This garden's got caves and unfinished wells and all sorts. We spent hours exploring in here. It's what determined our second night in Sintra. I didn't want to leave without taking my son here.

A windsurfing beach. An English guy was travelling through Portugal windsurfing sleeping in his van. He'd booked into the hostel for a decent bed and a shower. I'd invited him a long with us to the Palacio a Quinta and on hearing I was going to take my son to the beach, said we could go along with him. I had a monster hangover from the meal the night before and this seemed easier than taking a bus.
My son was so excited, he donned his trunks, he couldn't wait. It was too windy though, as you might imagine but he found some kids to play football with and I read my book. Perfect! Oh I do like to be beside the seaside!


The beach!!!! Free!! Loud and brash. Modelling competitions and games to win a car. I've never been to Blackpool (yet) but it's how I imagine it.

Sitio - you take a funicular tram up the cliff to this old town. But the whitewashed back streets of Nazare speak of a history from a time gone so really, you'd go to Sitio for two reasons.

Bullfighting. I've never been. I wanted to see what my son thought of it. I'm surprised no-one was killed, apart from the bull, afterwards. The crowd whooped and cheered, my son jumping up and down gleefully beside me before falling asleep around midnight.
The bullfights start at 10.15pm. I paid 15 euros and my son nothing because the ticket seller thought he was under 6. Or rather, told me "6 yes?" er "sim!"

The next morning we were back in Sitio taking in the Sunday service at the Igreja de Nazare (not sure - I'd've plundered more of the religious side of this town with more time and no child with me. They take their religion as seriously as their bullfighting. For all its courseness Nazare felt like the most traditional place we visited) Outside the church there are fisherwomen selling er 'snacks'. I bought these claw things that tasted like squid, maybe, possibly. I couldn't wrench the meat from the claw. My son could, for me to eat - he refused to. Gotta give local things a go, ya know....

OK, three reasons for Sitio. The view! It's extraordinary how this town sits on the cliff edge like that.

The old university town. This is great just to get lost up those skinny streets with plentiful grafitti to entertain the eye. Visit the library when you're there, it's really worth the five euros.

The Roman ruins at Conimbriga. I came here for my son really. It's not a case of once you've seen a roman ruin you've seen them all, but I've been to many and Pompeii tops the bill. Anywhere, worth a trip. Kids free again!! I think....
A bus, a local bus, takes you there either at 9 or 9.30 in the morning. It will come and pick you up at 12.55. If you miss it, you have a 2km hike against a dual carriage way hard shoulder to a town which will will take you back to Coimbra.
We came out of the ruins and there were 2 luxury coaches. How were we supposed to know?????
Luckily we were with three Spanish people from our hostel and so began the walk up the hard shoulder. I would have surely cried had the Spanish people not been there. By this stage my son thinks it's all par for the course and goes along with it all without wingeing. In fact, I had to keep telling him to stop looking at wild flowers on the side of the road and keep up.

The Botanical Gardens. It was cloudy or we'd have gone to the Piscine. There's a new sky garden starting there. All ropes and ladders and adventures up in the trees. It's 12 euros for children over 10. Seven euros for little ones like mine to do the smaller assault course. I was going to spend the money on my child but they said I had to go with him for safety reasons and pay 7 euro's myself for the task.
I'd been chatting to a portuguese worker earlier who's on a really low salary. I shook my head and walked away. Fortunately the boy wasn't too gutted following the morning's adventures.

Fado - Coimbra in the second city for Fado after Lisbon (or is the first and Lisbon came second?!) We went to the Diligencia bar, just of Rua de Sofia opposite where we were staying. The playing, the voices! Before we'd left for our holidays I played my son some on youtube and he'd declared it "rubbish". He really enjoyed it live. Such a buzz and a vibe in the bar. So fortunate you can drag your kids out there and no-one judges you for it!

The Children's Museum. This is a definite if you have young children. Well, any children. All the palaces and castles that you've visited are here, on a tiny scale. Toddlers tower above the gates of a tradional house, older ones bending down to get through the door.
This place was a perfect way to end our holiday. We were both really knackered by this point and the museum had everything we'd missed! It's cheaper than lego land. 9 for me? 6 for my son? Go, if you're in Coimbra, go!! One young 20 something in the hostel said: "I fancy the sound of that!" "Go!" I told her!

Go, I tell you, to Portugal. There is SO much for you and your kids (I haven't mentioned museums because I didn't go to any. I tailored it around my boy pretty much)

I want to go back. Take a coastal route, go to Porto, head to the mountains. It's all a real treat whoever you are and whoever you're with, even if you're on your own like the 19 year old Swiss girl my son and I chatted to on our dorm bunks!


Frankie P said...

blimey, i can't believe how much you packed in, in a week.. that is very impressive...

Stigmum said...

I thought maybe, if we'd spent one night in Sintra instead of 2, we'd have got to see the caves but I'm not sure. With a car yes, but like you say, not bad going when it's only public transport at your disposal!! A month would be nearly perfect!!