Travel Reports

South of Portugal (may 28 – june 14 2007)

Monday, may 28 2007
On board of a swiss flight we arrive at Lisbon. At the airport we dont have any problems, and with the local bus line 44 we reach the city center. Unfortunately the buspass „7-Collines“ is only awailable at the city center or at the metro-station. So we have just a one-way ticket.
Our room at the Ibis-Hotel is ready. As soon as possible we are on our way to explore the city. The weather is beautiful. We walk to the botanical garden http://www.golisbon.com/sight-seeing/botanical-garden.html, where we find impressive trees, flowers, cactus. Throu the alleay we walk to the river Tejo. We follow the river to the red bridge, the Ponte de 25 de Abril http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/25_de_Abril_Bridge. It seemed closer then it is. But we walk until we are under the bridge and here the traffic rolling over it. We would like to get closer, but we dont find a way to get on the bridge by feet. Mayby it’s just for the trains and the highway.We walk back throu the quarter of the embassys, the Bairro Alto, to the white church Estrela http://www.golisbon.com/sight-seeing/estrela-basilica.html. Nearby we find a aquaduct.

After a short rest at the hotel we go to the city center for dinner. We dont want to get into a restaurant where all the tourists are. And for the moment we dont find enything else.Finally we go to Mc. Donalds.

Tuesday, may 29 2007
With the tramway 12 we drive around the castle hill. Then we climb up from Placa Rossio to Castelo de Sao Jorge http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_of_S%C3%A3o_Jorge. It’s a interesting castle with a view over the river, the old city and other places of interest. Then we walk to the cathedral, throu a flee market to the pantheon. This was planed as a church, but when it was finally completed such a big church was not necessary anymore. Now it’s an emty room wich gives the possibility to have a closer look at the construction. And a amazing look from the roof.

Back we pass the church Sao Vicente de Tora, de lookout Miradouro de Monte, the Moorish quarter. Here we eat meet from the grill.
We have to go on the elevator Santa Justa http://www.golisbon.com/sight-seeing/santa-justa.html despite the fact that Gerda does’nt like the high. But it’s just an amazing view. Finally we find the „Laterna Verde“, a small restaurant behind the cathedral with small choice but fresh food. At the tv we see that they announce a strike for tomorrow.

In the dusk we take fotos of Praca do Comercio. On the way back to the hotel we see a lot of drug-dealers.

Wednesday, may 30 2007
We have breakfast at the hotels, taxis are on the road. But the subway is closed for strike, only half of the tramways are on there way. We take a tramway to the cemetary and back. We want to change to one of steep tramways, but apparentely this one is out of order. So we walk again.

Waiting for an other tram we find out that a bus is going to the station Oriente, where the Expo-Site http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expo_’98 is. It takes almost an hour throu suburbs to get there.
Here we stroll throu the Vasco-da-Gama-Shopping-Center, the parks, passed the Vasco-da-Gama-Tower. We have a mexican lunch. Then we visit the Aquarium http://www.golisbon.com/sight-seeing/oceanarium.html, which is really worth it. In the middle of the building is a huge watertank over 3 stores. Here we find shark, ray, moonfisch. At other tanks we see pinguins, birds, seestars, jelly-fish, seaotter. The bus brings us back to the city center, again throu suburbs, but this time nice small houses with gardens. Because of the strike we have to walk back to the hotel. We admire how peaceful the Portugiese wait for a bus on this evening without subway. They stay in a line for several hundret meters.

Thursday, may 31 2007
At the airport we take our rental car. On highway A 12 we drive over the Ponte de Vasco da Gama http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasco_da_Gama_Bridge, on A2 to the south.

Alcacer do Sal is our first stop. On top of the tower of the church we find the nest of stork. We have a beautiful view over the area, see rice fields in the plains.

The first village at the coast is Comporta. A nice coffee gives us the possibility to have a break and enjoy the nature. We drive up to the end of the peninsula to Praia da Troia. It’s just a big construction area: roads and hotels are renovated or built new. We drive to the south again, following the coastline.
We turn towards east. The landscape is very different: here we see cork oaks. They are harvested several times, but not all in the same year. A freshly cut oak has an almost red bark.

For the night we stay at Grandola. It’s a small hotel with a bar. A client tells us that from the 9000 habitants probably 1500 work in Switzerland.


Friday, june 1 2007
After breakfast we hike on the Rota da Serra. This brings us to the market hall of the town, stork nests, goats and dogs, to a dry landscape with hills, a small church and a beautiull view.
We have a break at the bakery, then we drive back to the coast. At Praia da Galé we can reach the beach only throu the campground. The hole cliff seams to be sand and it’s very unstable because of erosion. But it’s interesting to look at with it’s colours and struktures.

At Praia de Santo André all the lifeguards of the area have a training or a competition. We see all the Jeeps on the Sand, included the life-buoj and the lifeguards.
At Praia do Porto das Carettas we walk along the beach on the dune and back on the beach. We see some lizards and listen to the sound of the waves.
We spend the night at Sines. This town is on the sea, has a charming center, but a lot of industries around it. For dinner we visit the Churrasqueria de Sines.

Saturday, june 2 2007
Breakfast at the bakery near the castle is delicious.
Santiago do Cacem is more inland. The castle is interesting, specialy because the cemetery is inside the walls. The church beside it has typicaly blue-white tiles. But there’s more to see: a windmill, the alleys….
Roman Mirobriga http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mir%C3%B3briga is near. We walk throu the antique ruins, the temple, the big place, the thermes.

At Porto Covo we have a picnick on the beach. We drive throu farms with horses, ostrichs and a  donkey.
We’ve been told that Vila Nova the Milafontes is a small town, not overcrowded. It’s on the mouth of a river. After a pizza we sleep at the Pensao do Cais.

Sunday, june 3 2007
First we have a look at the small port, where fisherman clean there net, boats come and go, a special atmosphere.
Cabo Sarado shows us a diffrent bit of atlantic coast: a lighthouse on a very steep and high cliff. Again we see stork nests, this time on some rocks in the sea.
Zambujeira do Mar is very touristic: everywhere are souvenirshops. So we stay at the beach. Odemira is not at the coast. Bevore we reach the town we find a picknickplace with a view over the river and the town. We stroll throu the alleys, see fountains and a nice way around the library.

Aljezur is a small village in the mountains. We dont want to stay here. At Carrapateira we find a beautiful beach at the mouth of a river, cliffs, high waves. But we dont want to stay for the night eighter. So we leave the province of Alentejo and reach the Algarve. But still we are not in the touristic area of this region. We stay at Sagres, where we go for a walk. It’s a very stormy night.

Monday, june 4 2007
We want to visit the fort of Sagres, but it’s closed. Well, the Cape de Sao Vicente http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_St._Vincent is our next point of interest. On the way we see a castle who is almost fallen into the sea because of the erosion. At the cape we hope to climb the lighthouse, but the gate is closed. Outside are some merchants with souvenirs and food. But we have a closer look at the fisherman. The stand on a rock 70 meters above sea level. Even for small fish ist a lot of work to get them up, and it’s dangerous too.

Salema is a small village on the coast. We buy some cheese and walk throu the alleys.
At Ingrina we find a tall stone in a field. It’s almost 3 meters high and not easy to find.We found the beach of Praia da Figueira in our travel guide. After 15 minutes walk we find a beautifull spot. Unfortunately there’s now shade at all, but everything else you need for a perfect day on the beach: nature, cristal clear water, sand. And on the way we see butterflies, lizards, grasshoppers.

Praia da Luz http://www.praiadaluzuncovered.com/ is a village on the coast. It’s difficult to find a hotel because here they have first of all apartements. At the coastwalk we find a lot of restaurants. It’s a strange atmosphere here because some weeks ago little Maddie http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disappearance_of_Madeleine_McCann disappeared here. We find a room at the Aurora Sol, out of town.

Tuesday, june 5 2007
We stop at Lagos http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagos,_Portugal. We find a big town wall. Of course we visit Igreja de Santo Antonio http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagos,_Portugal#Igreja_de_Santo_Ant.C3.B3nio_.2F_Saint_Anthony.27s_church, a church with a room covered with gold. But also the fort near the port, the old houses and alleys, the small stores are nice to see. At the german bakery we find fresh bread.
We drive away from the coast and find olive trees, orange trees, peaches. At Alcalar we find an old grave. Then we drive throu a gumtree-forest. The trees are cut to make paper. Monchique is a village in the mountains. Here we find a interesting fountain, a nice church, people who make baskets… We drive up the mountain called Foia, which is 902 meters high.

At Carvoeiro http://www.carvoeirouncovered.com/ we decide to stay for two nights. Our room at the O Castelo has a view over the beach and the bay. Every room is unique, and we have a balcony where we can sit and look end hear the sound of the waves.

Wednesday, june 6 2007
At the bakery we get fresh bread and coffee, have breakfast on our balcony. Then we go on a boattrip to sea the caves on the coast. Each is different, some have a hole in the roof, some have more then one entrance. But we see also big hotel complexes right on the first cliff, we see that they have even worked on the rocks to give tourists the opportunity to go to the beach. And we see erosion working the rocks and cliffs, some houses already in danger to fall down.

We can reach the grottos by land, and here we are almost alone. It’s nice and quiet, and we can stay as long as we wont.
From Ferragudo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferragudo we have a look at Praia da Rochas and Portimao. But there are big yachts, so we are not interested to see the rest o fit. At Silves we visit the cathedral. It’s under construction, and the castle is closed. At Casa do Bife at Carvoeiro we eat meat from the hot stone.


Thursday, june 7 2007
At Senhora da Rocha we visit the chapel. At Armacao da Pera we find a fort and a unspectacular beach. At Praia San Rafael the cliffs are deep red. With the cloudy sky the colours are not bright, but it’s still a nice place.
Albufeira http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albufeira is the touristic center of the Algarve. After heaving read al about it in the travel guide we are quite sceptical it it will please us. In the last years the have built hotels and appartements with 130‘000 bed. We want to have a look, and if we dont like it at all we just drive around this part of the Algarve. On the way to town we get stock on the road: there’s as much traffic as if you drive into the city of Zurich. Of course there are not enough parking places. We find a opportunity to leave the car. In town we find many alley with restaurants and souvenir shops. The whole area at the coast is under construction. We dont stay for long, decide to take the way further inland.
At Loule the market hall is closed. But we find interesting fountains and flowers in the small town.
Most of the visitors start there trip at Faro http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faro,_Portugal because of the airport. But normally they dont see the city. We visit the old town with the wall, the gate, the cathedral from 1251, enjoy the atmosphere of a holyday, the orange trees along the roads, the small coffes.


Tavira http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tavira is also called Venice of Portugal. Some houses are built directly at the river. A bridge in roman style from the 17. century gives a perfect view of the river and the houses. But we explore also the castle with a beautiful garden inside the wall, the Moorish quarter with it’s special doors where woman could look from the inside to the street, but where it was impossible to look throu from the outside. We sleep at the Pensao Lagoas and have a big balcony there with a view over the roofs of the town.

Friday, june 8 2007
We drive some kilometers back to see the naturepark Rio Formosa http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ria_Formosa. Because of the sandbanks the water is shallow. It’s not possible to go for a bath. But thats why it’s very calm, and we see Portugiese Water Dogs (the one president Obama choose), water birds, tidal mills.

At Estoi http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estoi we wanted to see palace, but the gates are closed. Aparentely they are building a Pousada http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pousadas_de_Portugal.
At Sao Bras de Alportel we find an old roman road.Vila Real de Santo Antonio http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vila_Real_de_Santo_Ant%C3%B3nio is on the frontier to Spain. The shops sell linen, household appliences and toweling, because this things are cheaper here than in Spain. We spent the night at the Hotel Apolo.

Saturday, june 9 2007
Monte Gordo http://www.montegordouncovered.com/ is at the coast and has a large beach. Thats why we want to have a stop here. We see fishing boats on the beach to be save from the tide, people in the water and others walking along the beach.

Rio Guadiana is a river and the frontier to Spain. We follow the river to the north, back to Alentejo. At Castro Marim http://www.castromarimuncovered.com/ we visit a castle with old trees inside the wall. From there we have a look over the village. Then we explore the big market, where they sell chicken from the grill, clothes, toys and kitsch.

Again following the river we have a small road wich is lonesom. At Alcoutim we find again a castle, this time with excavations. Rio Guadiana is here 200 meters wide.

Over a pitoresque bridge we reach Mertola http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%A9rtola_Municipality.
For the night we stay at a farm, the Casa do Guizo at Moranes. They speak only portuguise, and we dont, so we have to use hand and feet to understand each other. We stay at the small pool, but the puppies like to play with our sandals and towels and keep us buisy. For dinner we drive to the village Moreanes and try a speciality of the region.

Sunday, june 10 2007
After breakfast we are on the way to Pulo do Lobo. Gerda is skeptical, because waterfalls often are disapointing for someone coming from Switzerland. But this waterfall is 14 meters high, and we get a good view of it.
On the way we see frogs, dragonflys and a small owl.
Back in Mertola we stroll throu the town. Church and castle are closed, but we climb the stairs and find beautifull houses, views, a Moorish town.
Serpa http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serpa_Municipality has become our favorite town on this trip. The wall is almost closed around the old town. All the houses inside the wall are perfectly white, the alleys narrow and originaly. There is a big place, a castle with a view over the roofs, and a part of the citywall is an aqueduct. Here we can see how cattle had to work in the past to pump the water into the system.

We drive throu fields with sunflowers. Moura http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moura_Municipality is a Moorish town, high over the river. The church is covered on the inside with tipical painted tiles. We sleep at the Residencial Alentejana, have dinner at O Trilho.

Monday, june 11 2007
We reach the reservoir Alqueva http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alqueva_Dam, have a look at the dam and drive up to Mourao. On the way we find a village that has been moved because of the reservoir. It’s clean, modern, but we have the impression that the soul is missing. From Mourao Castle we have a view over a part of the reservoir. The houses in the village have very high chimneys. It’s a pittoresque place, with clothes drying at the sun, a post office, a small supermarket.

Monsaraz http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsaraz is a very nice town on top of a hill. It’s sorrounded by a wall, the houses are mostly white, but sometimes also bare stone. It’s peacefull, the bullfight stadium is unique. But it seems to be just mantained just for tourists.

We drive on a road with trees on both sides. At Evora http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89vora are so many things to see, it’s impossible to mention everything: the cathedral Se, the chapel of bones, the temple of Diana, the aqueduct. The city is an UNESCO world heritage. We sleep just outside the citywall, at Ibis hotel.

Tuesday, june 12 2007
Near the city we find the Cromelque dos Almendres http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cromeleque_dos_Almendres. Here almost 100 monolith are toghether. There meaning is still not known.

Anta grande do Zambujeiro http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anta_Grande_do_Zambujeiro is an old grave.

At Montemor-O-Novo we find an other castle to visit.

For the end of the trip we go back tot he Atlantic coast, on the Setubal Peninsula. We drive along the coast throu the Serra da Arrabida to Sesimbra http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sesimbra. At the Residencial Nautico we find a place to stay. From the breakfast room we have a view over the bay and the village. For dinner at this village you get fish everyway.

Wednesday, june 13 2007
It’s a long walk from the port along the beach to the other end oft he bay. Oveously all schools make there anual fotos today. Bus full of kids arrive at the beach, kids with bathing caps in bright colors climb an artificial whale and fotographers try there best. But we see also groups of seniors, having there exercise on the beach.

Over all we find a castle, and above some paragliders are in the sky.
At Cabo Espichel http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabo_Espichel we see again the rough side of Portugal. Here the coast is very steep. And the church is impressive.
We are totaly surprised when we find the footprint of a dinosaur. At Setubal http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Set%C3%BAbal we want to stay for our last night. We are not lucky with the rooms: at the first the toilet does’nt flush, at the second it smells from fish.

Thursday, june 14 2007
We drive back to the airport of Lisbon, but on the way we have almost an accident. So we are happy to return the rental car without problems, go to the check-in and fly back to Zurich.

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