18 Leaders from across the County spent last weekend soaking up the sun, culture and custard tarts of Portugal’s capital city Lisbon.
Arriving in the dead of night, we woke to sunshine and a tasty breakfast in the eclectic and quirky Palacio Vila Flor in the ancient suburb of Alfama.
Left to our own devices for the 3 days I will fill you in on the exploits of myself and my Assistant Leader Jo.
Having collected our Lisboa Card (a must for anyone visiting a large city – always check as it will save you a fortune in travel and entrance fees) we jumped on a tram out to Belem to discover the Mosterio de Jeronimos and Torre de Belem. It would have been rude to ignore the pastry shop just along the street so custard tarts and tea were in order to bolster us for the adventuring ahead.
A 40 minute wait to get into the Monastery was rewarded with spectacular carvings and beautiful tiles.
The Monastery was built following the return of Vasco De Gama from his discovery of India and the East and the carvings and decoration reflect this influence.
It survived the 1755 earthquake which destroyed a lot of the centre of Lisbon due to being built on sand.
The adjoining Church contains the tomb of Vasco de Gama.
After a very tasty lunch from a street kitchen we wandered over to the Torre de Belem, a tower built as a defensive structure within the river but, due to changes in the landscape, now stands on the riverbank.
Again, this building is highly decorated and incorporates carvings depicting Eastern influences, including a rhino carved into one of the higher towers!
Next stop along the riverbank was the monument built to commemorate the discoveries of Vasco de Gama and other Portuguese explorers. Thank goodness for lifts as it was a long way to the top!! Great views once we got there though.
Next up was a tour of the city on the Hippo bus – to get to the departure point we decided to use a tuk-tuk taxi – what a hair raising experience!! Still, we made it in one piece and were soon greeted by our method of transportation for the next hour and a half…….
A very informative tour of the city centre followed, in Portuguese and very good English, interspersed by regular shouts of “Hippo, Hippo – oga!!!” generally to groups of people waiting to cross the road, people on other bus tours and to the Guards outside the Government buildings (didn’t even crack a smile). The highlight had to be the moment the bus drove straight into the river and proceeded to cruise along before returning to the road later.
A pretty packed first day, finished off with an excellent pizza before crashing for the evening. Roll on Saturday!
An early start to catch the train out to the town of Sintra where we were hoping to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Palacio de Pena and Castelo dos Mouros. We were not disappointed!
A coach ride up to the top of the mountain provided excellent views and terrifying hairpin bends in equal measure – I have no idea how the driver got our coach to the top, let’s just say you need an excellent hill start in Sintra!
Another long wait for tickets but WOW it was worth every minute I had stood there wondering exactly how long it took to sell tickets!!!
Built by the King because he fancied somewhere fancy to live it’s like a fairytale castle, Portmerion and Disney all rolled into one. Princess Jasmine would have been very at home in this Palace with all it’s Eastern influences and spectacular colour schemes.
With beautiful terraces enjoying views across the forest to the Atlantic Ocean it’s a place of serenity. Cooling tile floors and walls must have made it a very pleasant escape from the heat of the Portuguese sun in the middle of summer.
A short walk from the Palace is the Castelo dos Mouros, built by the Moors during their occupation on Portugal in the 10th/11th centuries. A fortress built to last, there is evidence from several different periods of occupation. The walk along the walls to reach the highest tower isn’t for the faint hearted but the views make it all worthwhile.
We decided to continue the walk back down to Sintra discovering nooks and crannies as the path wound it’s way down the mountainside. A tempting walk along a row of craft traders parted us with a few Euros before we caught the train back to Lisbon.
In the evening we had arranged a meal for the whole group and it was a lovely opportunity to swap stories of what we had each been up to over the last 2 days.
Our last day!!! Time flies and all that….
We wandered through the old streets of Alfama with the aim of reaching the top of the hill where Castelo do S. Jorge sits. Lots of steps later we finally reached it and we rewarded with more views over the city.
Due to the earthquake, only the main outer walls remain but they have installed a camera obscura into one of the towers which gave us an interesting 360 degree tour of Lisbon.
More tea and pastries followed by more shopping and we made our way back into the city centre. More hard work spending our Euros as we found a craft market in the Praça de Commercio – well no point taking them home!!
Working our way back towards the hotel we popped into 3 churches – St Mary Magdalene, St Anthony of Padua (built on the site of his birth) and the Sé Catedral (Lisbon Cathedral).
Before we knew it, the taxis had arrived to take us back to the airport. Thank you Lisbon, we had an amazing time and I for one can’t wait to go back.
A huge thank you to Justine Greenwood, International Advisor, for all her hard work in arranging this trip, especially as she didn’t get to come with us!
When the 2017 trip is announced I fully recommend that you come along – good company, excellent locations and lots of fun to be had.
Emma (5th Lancaster Brownies and Guides, County PR Advisor)