Our latest trip began like always. No “knight in shining armor” could save us from the long flights ahead of us. Leaving at 3 pm on Monday, we arrived in Lisbon Portugal at 10:30 am on Tuesday! While this does include the time difference, it still felt painful knowing we could not check into our hotel for several hours. Tired but excited, we hotfooted out the door marching along like knights on a quest for the holy grail, or in this case something to eat! We were not disappointed as we sat at a beautiful bar and had some tapas and a local cheese and meat platter. The locally made goat cheese was excellent, but the meat was a tad bit salty for the two of us. The tapas we tried were deep fried barbeque pork with an excellent dipping sauce. It would have almost been at home in NC, yet was distinct enough to have someone say “this isn’t from around here.” Walking around, we explored the seaside area and just enjoyed the time out and being able to stretch our legs. Thankfully we were soon able to check into our room and just chill for a bit but then the “let’s go exploring” bug bit us!! Deciding the next knight’s errand was to “find” our meeting point for the next day’s tour, we headed out to find the Hard Rock Café in Lisbon, just a short 15 minute walk away. The quest fulfilled when we arrived at our appointed destination, we felt we were now deserving of a “treat”. That “treat” being a special pastry from Pasteis de Belem, considered the best pastry in the world. Now, how to get there……Soon we were in the back of a tuk tuk with a local guide who took us to the city of Belem to show us some local sights. Along the way we stopped and we tried the local pastry which lived up to its reputation. Yum!! We also visited the Monastary of St. Jerome (built in the year 1501), the Belem Tower, the Wall of Discovery, and an overlook that had great views of Lisbon and the Atlantic Ocean. Soon we were back to the meeting point and decided it was time for dinner. We dined at a restaurant called Pinóquio (sounds like Pinocchio) where we ate some local dishes and Kathy enjoyed a glass (okay, actually a small pitcher) of Sangria. We then back to our hotel where we crashed for the night since we hadn’t really slept in over 30 hours!
The next day dawned bright and early as we were out the door by 07:30 to meet up with our tour guide to head to the town of Sintra. The day was amazing, and our guide Ophelia was very knowledgeable about the local area. We arrived at Sintra and toured of the castle of King Ferdinand. The castle was intact with much of the original furnishings from the last kings. The monarchy was abolished in 1910 and at that time the new republic turned it into a museum with the original furnishing still in place. Included inside the castle was much of the art work from the ruling monarch King Ferdinand. The walk up to the castle meandered through the royal gardens which was artwork in itself. Included were some flowing rhododendrons that rivaled many of the bushes that grow in the wilds of NC. After the castle we headed down to the town of Sintra where we wandered around, tried another local pastry shop, and then did some shopping. Next stop on the tour was the highest point in the Lisbon area and Cabo da Roca which forms the westernmost point of continental Europe. Last stop was the oceanside town of Cascais where we had a lunch which was amazing!! Kathy had her favorite linguini with garlic and olive oil that was revved up with some local peppers to give it some pep!! The meandering drive along the coast back to our meeting point capped the tour off perfectly!!
Last part of the day was chilling for a bit in the hotel room for a couple of hours and then we were off on our next quest. This quest was a visit to St George’s Castle where we got to reenact some scenes from the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Dave climbed the parapets and hurled insults down at Kathy. (e.g. “Your father was a hamster, and your mother smelt of elderberries!”) Good thing there were no cows around as he might have started hurling things over the castle wall to keep the invading tourists out!! Wandering the castle grounds was amazing and afforded us with some beautiful views of the city of Lisbon and the coast. Soon a trek back to the hotel with a quick stop for dinner and dessert. Feeling like we had found our holy grail we settled into the room for the night!