So, the plan was to shoot across to Lisbon and spend the day sightseeing in the city and retire to the coast in the evening for some beers, simple enough….
Not so. As with all good plans ours didn’t quite go according to plan…….
We made a good getaway from the campsite getting on the road for 8am. We reckoned on a 2 hour drive across to Lisbon – about 120 miles but of course that turned into about 3 and a half hours; not because there was a lot of traffic or anything but just because navigating around Lisbon can be a little tricky.
They are big on toll roads here and you can’t avoid them once you get to the periphery of Lisbon. They hit you up first on the bridges of which there are two. We took the Ponte Vascu de Gama which is the longest of the two. It is about 5 miles in length and cost us the pricey sum of 5.60 euros. Then we had to navigate the myriad of N and A roads that weave their way around the capital.
We paid another 2.50 euros further along but managed to avoid going on the Via Verde routes. These toll roads are a new invention here and basically require the driver to have a piece of electronic equipment fitted in their car (at great cost of course) which then logs you every time you use one of the Via Verde toll roads; I guess you then get a monthly invoice. If you use these toll roads without this equipment then you are heavily fined – and I mean heavily. Trouble is they don’t like to advertise the fact that the toll road you are about to go on is a Via Verde and so we were hoping that the scant information about which ones they were would be enough. Thankfully it was but it makes for a stressful journey.
Anyway, on with the plan. Instead of driving into Lisbon and stopping in the city (which would have meant much more stress and helpless navigating) we decided to stay on the coast and get a train in. I picked the town of Estoril – a pretty seaside resort with a regular 3 trains an hour into Lisbon. We got there and parked up and went in search of the tourist board to find accommodation. We wanted to get an apartment for the night as it is just easier for us to cater for ourselves foodwise.
The girl in the tourist board was less than helpful and said that there was only ONE hotel that offered apartments. She made a phone call that lasted about 2 seconds and then told us they had none available. She offered no other options so I asked her if there were any campsites that did bungalows (next best thing) Again only ONE and it was 15km away up the coast!!!
We didn’t really have any choice and so got back in the car and made our way to the campsite. This took another 45 minutes as the coast road was heaving. Finally we got there and got a bungalow sorted for the night. It was actually really nice, very new, modern and clean so beers and food deposited in fridge we then had to make a decision about what to do next.
To go into Lisbon meant driving back down the coast and finding parking so we could jump on the train which meant that we would probably not be in Lisbon until about 2.30pm
Or, we could scrap that idea and just explore the coast line instead. Hmmmmmmm what to do……..after some discussion we decided to go for plan B; if truth be told we are not really city people and the thought of rushing around trying to cram the sights in was not appealing.
So, we headed up the coast and stopped first as Cabo da Roca which is the most western point in Europe. The coastline here is typically rugged like much of the Atlantic coastline is and reminded us of Cornwall. We had fun wandering along the cliffs, taking photos and watching divers in the waters below looking for shipwrecks; of which I am sure there were many.
After that we headed inland to Sintra. This is a lovely little town nestled in the hills which boast a fabulous palace and castle on their peak. The palace is named ‘The Palace de Pena’ and was home to Queen Maria the II in the 1800’s. It is a colourful affair – pale lemon, pink and lilac (although the postcards have most definitely been photo shopped !!) but it was flamboyant none the less and reminded me of the palace in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, although hubby assured me that that one was in Bulgaria!!
After the palace we headed into Sintra and wandered around the little cobbled streets marveling at the number of restaurants and shops on offer. We were definitely in ‘touristville’ but it wasn’t too overdone and the town had retained its natural charm.
Tired out after an afternoon of sightseeing we returned to our little bungalow and enjoyed a reviving beer and some rather delicious food whilst making friends with the many little cats on the campsite!!
Sunday morning saw us up bright and early for the return journey – the cats are fine to be left for 24 hours (food left in cat feeders and plenty of water and they are safe and sound in the caravan) but we don’t leave them any longer than that and to be honest we both confessed to missing the little criters and it feeling strange to be traveling without them in the back of the car. How sad is that!! we sounded like new parents leaving their young uns for the first time, happy to be away but missing them like crazy.
Of course our return home was met with a frosty reception and it took them most of the day to forgive us for our obvious disgression…..
All in all though it was a great trip and good to see another side to Portugal. The region we are in really is a poor area and life and the landscape is hard and barren so it was good to see some different scenery and to see that there is a way of life here that is thriving.
Enjoy the photos below…..