A Travellerspoint blog

Santiago de Compostela

Pilgrim central

rain 8 °C

Santiago de Compostela

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We decided to spend Michelle's birthday weekend here in Santiago de Compostela located in the region of Galicia. It was very long 5 and a bit hours train ride from Madrid. They even put on a movie- Tin Tin's adventure (in Spanish) and you get free headphones :). We actually arrived an hour later- due to some odd technical problems during the start of the journey but spanish trains usually run pretty much on time, so pretty unlucky for us this time. We're fairly sure we jinxed it as we'd started telling everyone how efficient and reliable they are...

It has been raining since we've been here but the sun decided to come out for Michelle's birthday. Apparently she went to church the day before and asked for a sunny day on her birthday and looks like that is what she is getting :). We started Michelle's birthday with a champagne breakfast (actually they serve us champagne for breakfast every morning), a visit to St James tomb in the cathedral next door and a stroll in the park. Michelle stuffed her face with some chocolates and we finished the day with a yummy expensive dinner at the restaurant located in the basement of the hotel which used to be the stables :).
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Our hotel: Parador de Santiago (Hostal dos Reis Catolicos)

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This is Quintara Square- the centre of the city. To the left of the photo is Raxoi Palace; to the right of the hotel is the Cathedral

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Half of the reason that we actually came this far north was to stay in a fancy 5star hotel for Michelle's birthday. I (Blake) got to stay in a converted cave in Italy for my bday and Michelle chose a 500 year old building, which is the one of the world's oldest hotels, for hers. It's a royal hospital built by the Catholic monarchs in 1499 to provide shelter & medical treatment for pilgrims who had completed the Camino- the pilgrimage route to Santiago. The building was like a city on its own- with its own priests, health workers, apothecaries, accountants & administrators. It even had its own jail, wine cellar, stables, medicinal garden & dwellings for the staffs.

It was later also a orphanage & then turned into a luxury hotel & museum :). As guests of the hotel, we have access to all areas to the hotel. If you are not a hotel guest- u have to pay Euro 3 if you want to check out the place.

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Our bodyguards during our stay here: ie. the local police :)

Hotel Lounge:
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The room:
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The hallways to the rooms: PS: Thank you Mr waiter for my flower :)
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Hallways of the more expensive rooms:
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This was once the orphanage tv room; the church inside the hotel which is now a function room:
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There are 4 courtyards- Our room looks down onto one of these courtyard:
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Strolling around the hotel..
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Santiago de Compostela Cathedral

We actually pop into the church on Sunday- but there were so many people attending the noon mass service, so we left and return the next day when there's not so many people. So this Cathedral is the burial place of St James the Great (he was one of the apostles of Jesus- if you didn't know, like Blake).

So according to legend, the apostle St James brought Christianity to the Iberian Peninsula and was beheaded in Jerusalem. His remains were later brought back to Galicia. His tomb was rediscovered in 814 AD and after some locals witnessed strange lights in the night sky- they recognized this as a miracle. So the Bishop at that time had informed King Alfonso II of Asturias and Galicia of this event, who then ordered the construction of a chapel on the site. Legend has it that the king was the first pilgrim to this shrine. It was only later, on the orders of King Alfonso III of Leon that the Cathedral was built. It is now a major pilgrimage site.
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Inside the church:
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St James's tomb (in the crypt below the altar); & Blake standing inside altar (sort of).. but it's all gold in there.. amazing:
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Strolling round town

We spent our last day getting lost in the small alleys around town. My (Blake) brain hasn't quite adjusted to curvy roads, pretty used to the roman grid layout so my "follow this road in this direction" gets a bit confusing when the roads circles in on itself. Either way, we found the Galician folk museum which was supposedly a 'must do'. It was really a terrible museum if you don't speak Spanish or Galician though. So we were in and out in about 20minutes! We headed back through the local markets that we saw along the way and checked out some of the cool meats like whole skinned rabbits and buckets of pigs ears. We just took it easy for the afternoon and rested rather than seeing the monastery as we're a bit monumented out at the moment (as you can imagine, about 240days of sightseeing can get a bit repetitive).

Galician Cuisine

On the left is a pie (tuna pie- taste like my (Michelle) mummy's curry puffs!!)- i think its empanadas which is a savoury pie; On the right is Galician style octopus with paprika & potatoes (The octopus is slimy on the outside and firm on the inside... kinda strange); the most tender grilled squid we've ever had; mussels
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Scallop; Local almond cake which is partially gluten free:
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We saw this in Madrid. Blake looked it up and its goose barnacles!! Looks like alien claws. But they actually taste like abalone.. Euro100/kgs!!!! So if you don't mind splashing around some money for it.. definitely should try it :).
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Yummy razor clams & garlic prawns:
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Michelle's birthday dinner:
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We ordered a 3 course set menu (plus a complimentary local champagne & entree- salmon terrine). Plenty to eat.
Entree: scallops; marinated sardines. Mains: fish & shell fish stew; pork. Dessert: Sherbet (with very alcoholic local liquor); cheesecake
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Thanks Blake for splashing out on my credit card this weekend- everything has been charged to the room, might get a heart attack when we check the hotel bill when checking out. But it was all worth it :) :) :).

Next stop Leon- to visit Jade's Spanish family. Its a hard life.. ahh.. We might even get to see some snow.. apparently it was snowing in Leon. :) :) :)

xoxo M&B

Posted by blake-michelle 14:13 Archived in Spain Comments (4)

Madrid

Spain Part I

overcast 7 °C

Madrid

Day 1

We have finally made it to Spain- Blake's favourite country in the world :). We took a door to door bus service from the airport (which was half the price of a taxi!) and we found ourselves right outside our apartment but we were too early & the owner of the place hadn't arrived (and it was freezing cold), so the warmest place we could find was a kebab place down the road. Our first meal in Spain: A kebab!!

After checking in and a nice warm shower, we decided to find ourselves some Tapas. Blake mumbled the word 'uhm' while he was thinking what to order and the waiter took it as he wanted jamon. So we ended up with the most expensive plate of Iberico Jamon but it was sooo yum :); Along with some mussels and beer, that sure satisfied our 1st Tapas experience in Spain.
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Day 2

We started the day with a walk through the 'flea' market (the well known El Rastro) right outside our apartment- the whole street was packed with lots of people- it is also a Sunday, so everyone was out and about.

Antique shops below our apartment:
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We slowly made our way to Calle Baja (as recommended by the apartment's owner) for some Tapas for lunch. If you want a decent sized tapas in Madrid you need to fork out 3-6€ which is a bit of a shame. Seems like you can get a very small nibble at some bars when you buy a drink but it's not common. One place that does free Tapas in Madrid is "El Tigre" which we'll head to on our way back through.
1st stop- yummy paella & sausage/potato tapas; 2nd stop- codfish on toast & shitake mushrooms on toast- very yum indeed :):
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We happened to stumble across this churros/chocolateria place - the churros was soo good. There's no going back to San Churros back in Australia. This is way better :)
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Day 3

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We went on the 'Free walking tour' in the morning. One of the better ones we have been on. The guy (from Colombia) was quite entertaining, spoke really good english and his spanish history lessons were actually quite interesting.

We started at Plaza Mayor and finished up Palacio Real (the former royal residence).

The oldest restaurant in the world, Restaurante Botin:
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Almudena Cathedral: the youngest cathedral in Europe (completed in 1993). The cathedral is built on the site of a medieval mosque that was destroyed in 1083. We were standing at the Jewish/Islamic/Christianity memorial park. During the rule of the Moors all 3 religions lived in peace (from what we're told) here in Spain- if only the rest of the world could follow on. The church in the background represents Christianity (the name of the church Almudena is actually in Arabic); The wall is what's left of the wall built by the Moors during the Moorish occupation- hence represents the muslims; And the star in the middle of the park represents the Jews.

It was really interesting to learn one of the reasons that Pork is so popular in Spain. As the northern Iberian Christians slowly took back southern spain (which was held by the Moors for about 700years) they needed a way to prove that the conquered peoples had turned to Christianity as many were Muslims and Jews. One of the ways the people used to show they weren't either a Muslim or Jew was to slaughter and eat all types of Pork. Thats also why a lot of the famous Iberian Jamon is hung with the hoof still attached, to prove that it really used to be a pig. There are a million 'politically correct' reasons why this was wrong but my (Blake's) stomach cares about none of them! I'm just happy we can eat so many different types of pork!

Palacio Real: Apparently this palace building is bigger than the one in Versailles (Versailles gardens are still way bigger)
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Day 4: Day Trip to Toledo

A quick 30 minute train ride from Madrid, took us into Toledo- the former capital city of Spain. We shared a cab with some randoms girls into the city centre (because we were just being a tight-ass and didn't want to pay the Euro 5 taxi ride :)). We spent a good 10 minutes walking up and down the plaza following the signs to the tourist information centre, but at the end we figured it just didn't exist. We found a sign which showed the Tourist info was forward (up arrow), problem was it said it on both sides of the sign so either the tourist info was in the sky or no where... So we spent a whopping Euro2 for a map which still got us lost for the rest of the day. It was one of those A1 sized maps which required 4 adults and half of the street to unfold.

First stop, we found our way to the Holy church of Mary (the Cathedral). I (Michelle) wasn't too happy about paying to enter a church (especially when it is Euro 8), but with a free audioguide and the amazing stuff in it- it was kinda worth it. Still paying to see a church is just not right. Blake thinks it was one of the grandest churches he's seen in Europe though.
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Toledo is known for it marzipan dessert: It looks good.. but unless you like really sweet stuff made out of almonds, it is actually not that nice.

The cathedral turned out to be the only exciting thing we saw in Toledo, as the rest of our day at Toledo was just us getting lost and a disasterous lunch- which we can officially put down as the worst food we have ever had on our trip.

Does this building look like a Jewish Synagogue?!?
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Just happened to stumble across the Puerta del Sol & Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz (Mosque of Christ of the Light). The mosque is one of the oldest monuments in Spain with an inscription that says built in 999BC. It was originally rectangular but the transept and it was converted into a church in 1186.
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We returned to Madrid before the sun went down. Had dinner at Ginger's Restaurant as recommended by everyone: the food was really good, very filling & quite cheap. We both had an entree & main course each and the total bill was less than Euro50:
Very tasty octopus; beef capaccio; veal rolled with jamon; roast pig with hommus (very thin slices of pork- the white looking one on the plate; doesn't look like much, but it was really good and rich too:
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Day 5

Today the first day it has rained since we have been in Madrid :(. Boo hoo.. so we decided to spend the day shopping indoors. Blake actually bought heaps of stuff. And for a change Michelle bought nothing :( (Blake 1- Michelle 0).

Day 6: Day Trip to Segovia

30 minutes express train ride from Madrid and we are in Segovia (in the region of Castille & Leon). This city & its famous aqueduct is listed as a UNESCO heritage site.

We started at the Roman Aqueduct of Segovia located at Plaza del Azoguejo:
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Cathedral of Segovia:Nothing amazing.. just a church- a very gothic looking one:
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Walking through the Jewish quarter, we found ourselves at Alcazar of Segovia. A royal palace located on top of a rock between the rivers Eresma and Clamores. The castle is one of the inspirations for Walt Disney's castle in cinderella- spot any similarities?!?! :)
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Made it to the top of the castle tower after climbing 152 steps- not that hard really..
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We finished with lunch at Casa Duque Restaurant: this region is famous for its suckling pig and it sure didn't disappoint. This place has the best lobster bisque according to the soup queen Michelle :).

Massive chorizo; lobster bisque; roast suckling pig:
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Unfortunately we did order too much food and had to ask to take away our suckling pig & chorizos. The waiter spoke very little English, so we spoke Italian to him and he understood. Looks like our Italian lessons are paying off now :).

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===Day 7===
After a yummy Churros breakfast, we found ourselves a second hand international bookstore. Small little shop. I (Blake) asked the American owner how much a book was and he said, " 4€, do you want to buy a book store?"!! Hahaha.. I should have asked how much, not that we'd buy it but if it was a bargain :). So anyone looking for a hobby in Madrid...

After declining to purchase the bookstore, we went for a walk in Parque del el Retiro- a huge park with 2 palacios and a monument of Alfonso XII.
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Monumento Alfonso XII:
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Palacio de Cristal:
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Blake then left to check out the Museo Nacional del Prado, while I strolled the streets of Madrid- wasn't interested in spending hours checking out religious artwork.

The museo del Prado was full of great art. Probably only half was religious... There is nothing wrong with that but after 3months of churches in Italy I really can't stomach it (unless it's really unique). Michelle had the camera so I didn't get any photos. It was well worth the 12€ (+ 5€ for audio guide). My favourites were the The Garden of Earthly Delights (Bosch) and some of Goya's black paintings.

We bought another suitcase to pack our 'crap' that we've accumulated- believe it or not it's already full too :(. (Paulyn/Jade: you did asked for a luggage of Jamon!! LOL :) :))

Adios Madrid.. time for Michelle's birthday weekend in a 5 star hotel (which so happens to be a Royal Hospital built in 1499 for the pilgrims) in Santiago de Compostela!! Oh yeah :) :) :)

xoxo M&B

Posted by blake-michelle 12:03 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Porto

Portugal Part II

overcast 10 °C

Porto

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Day 1

We caught the 3 hour train from Lisbon to Porto. The view of the river from the train on the way in was stunning! We had a bit of difficulty finding our hostel, took us a while as the gps on the phone seemed to have the wrong location. After checking in, we strolled the streets of Porto hunting for some lunch (at about 4pm). Most restaurants had finished lunch service so we decided to try the local Porto dish Francesinha, which means "Little Frenchie" in Portuguese. It is basically a toasted sandwich filled with layers of sausage, ham, steak topped with cheese & drowned with a bbq/tomato sauce, surrounded by french fries. Yes.. definitely a heart attack on a plate!! We shared one between us and that was plenty, though it would be an awesome "snack" before or after a big night out. After lunch we walked around town passing lots of really small bars with 1 or 2 old blokes having a beer inside. It was a really odd bar setup, no sign out the front 1 beer tap and a couple of bottles of wine with a mini bar. At first we weren't sure if they were bars of people's lounge rooms! Porto is quite a hilly town, as you can see from the photos, so we just chilled in the hostel after.
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Day 2

We started the day with a free walking tour around town starting at the main square in the centre of town:
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Town hall in the background

A lot of the buildings around town are tiled as shown on this church: apparent it was a cheap way of insulating the place.
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J.K Rowlings was apparently living in Portugal when she got her inspiration to write the 1st novel of Harry Potter. And it is this bookstore (with a cafe upstairs), in which she got her inspiration from. The staircase looks like something you would imagine in Hogwarts. We weren't allowed to take photos of the staircase on the inside of the bookstore.. so we sneakily took it from the outside :). The book shop is definitely something worth checking out. It seemed like we were flying on different parts of the staircase.
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The Clerigos Church & tower: you can climb the tower for a view of the city, but we didn't manage to get up there.. too lazy :)
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Awesome decorated tiled wall inside the Sao Bento train station (which was a monastery till the early 1900s):
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The oldest cafe in town: Majestic cafe. A expresso (or cafe as they call it) is about €2.50 - you could get one from a normal cafe for Euro 0.70. Looks nice from outside though...
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In the afternoon, we headed across the river to Gaia to visit a couple of the port cellars (also known as the caves) that were originally used to store port before it was shipped to England. Apparently you can tell how old the wineries are from their location. The higher they are - the older it is. As the river used to flood quite often back in the day (before EU river control policies).

On the left of the Duoro river is Gaia; And on the right is Porto (Really odd having different cities on opposite sided of the river!)
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A view of Gaia from Porto:
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The view of Porto from Gaia: Those boats were originally used to transport the barrels of port from the Duoro valley to Gaia to be matured in the so called caves.
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We started our port tastings at Taylor right on the top of the hill- for Euro3 we had a tour around the place and 3 port tastings each- pretty good value :) We had the White port (average), the Late bottled vintage (great) and the 10yo Tawny (which was also pretty good):
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The awesome barrel table & chairs at Taylors which Blake is going to make me a set when we get home!!:
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We followed it up with another port tasting at Ferreira (a local Portuguese brand- as you can see in the photo above, most of the wineries have english names- ie. Taylors, Offley, Calem, Sanderman): Unfortunately their port wasn't very good.

The Maria Pia bridge that connects Porto & Gaia which was designed in part by Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel tower fame) which explains some of the similarities:
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Day 3

We took the tram to the beach today. Not much of a swimming beach from what we could see. It was nice to sit inside a cafe and watch rough seas over a bite to eat and a glass of wine.

Day 4

Today is our 'M&B day apart' day- about time, as we were getting very snappy & grumpy at each other.

Blake went off and did some retail therapy while i enjoyed my yummy egg tart at a cafe. (Paulyn: this ones were slightly better than the ones in Belem)

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In the evening, as it was our last day, we decided to visit Gaia again for more port tasting. This time we were feeling a bit lazy so we took the cable car down to Gaia- the view was really pretty though :)

Calem port tasting/tour: We found a 1983 vintage port- it was reasonably priced and since we couldn't afford the 1985 (my year) vintage port from Taylors, we couldn't resist but to buy this one. We will open it on Blake's 30th birthday this year- I hope everyone's ready for some port. We have about 2 days to finish it or it'll go bad!!
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That's it for Portugal. Off to Spain next- as Blake keeps telling everyone on our travels- Spain's his favourite country in the world, even though he hasn't been there. So, expectations are high :).

xoxo M&B

Posted by blake-michelle 09:39 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Lisbon

Portugal Part I

sunny 16 °C
View B&M take on the world on blake-michelle's travel map.

Lisbon

Day 1

We flew from Amsterdam to Lisbon, a quick express bus ride into town and we finally arrived at our apartment (which by the way is an absolute bargain for 40E a night in the centre of town!). We were pretty exhausted from the flight, so we just had a stroll around the city, sat by the 'beach' and did a bit of people watching.
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Eventually we ended up in the Bairro Alto district which has a lot of small restaurants and bars and a pretty good vibe. By the time we finished dinner the streets were starting to fill up with people spilling out of the small bars onto the sidewalks. The street itself was like a long bar :)

1st night's Portuguese food:
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Portuguese sausage; cod fish/potato/egg stir fry- very yummy; Grilled octopus; Grilled sardines

Day 2

We started the day with a walk to the Castelo de S. Jorge via the Alfama district. Went past the Casa dos Bicos which is an odd building with points on the front face of all the masonry.
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Went up to Lisbon Cathedral built just after Moorish occupation and was made to resemble a fort/castle on the outside.
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A quick look in the church and we made our way up to the Castelo de S.Jorge which is situated on top of a hill.

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The view of the city there was amazing. We could have spent hours in the castle looking over the city, or in the museum (which we ran out of time for unfortunately). The sunshine was out, it was almost tee shirt weather if only we had a book and a bit more time we would have sat there all afternoon. But we were getting hungry so we finished looking throughout and Michelle bought an awesome bag made of recycled coffee packets. It looks far cooler than it sounds...

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Walking along the castle walls:
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The Castelo de S.Jorge in the evening - on the very top of the hill:
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On the way back down we found some of the smaller alleys in the Alfama district with the old nonnas leaning out the windows watching the day go by.

We made it back to the only place we've seen so far that actually sells flame grilled chicken (Nandos style - sort of). It was nice but not hot and it really went down well with the 1/2L of white wine (2.50E) and a slab of salmon. Most of the portuguese restaurants have bread, sheep's cheese (yum), sardine pate and sometimes olives. None of it is free but they are all quite cheap and I've (Blake) really enjoyed them while waiting for my main meal. After lunch we went home and had a siesta. Just chilled in the arvo, planning the next few days we had in the Lisbon area.

Unfortunately Nandos does not exist in Portugal. But we found portuguese grilled chicken?!?!:
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And grilled salmon:
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The chestnuts here are cooked perfectly and are slightly salted and smoked. Michelle is really into these things, she gets about 2bags a day (well a bit less as I end up stealing a couple for myself). It is only 2Euros for a bag of about 10 chestnuts! Pretty good value.

Rossio Square; Santa Justa Elevator (opened in 1902 and was originally water powered!) which we didn't want to pay E5 to go up. So we just admired it from the street.
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Day Trip to Sintra

This place is worth more time than we had planned for it unfortunately. We only had one day spare to visit so we just had to fit in what we could. Sintra has always been a prominent place with a Moorish castle from 12th century and multiple palaces and monasteries in the area. We were going to buy the "see it all " ticket but the lady at the desk told us that we had no chance of seeing it all in a day (fortunately for us). We settled with seeing the Moorish Castle, the Pena Palace and the National Palace. By the time we fit lunch in there that was about the most we could have hoped to do. We caught the tourist bus up the hill to the Pena Palace to start. This place looks like it was built by three or four different people that just merged it together in the middle. The fact that all these opposing styles seem to fit makes the place perfect. The interior was nicely decorated (not as indulgent as the French or as spartan as the Italian palaces) with the interior decorated with Azulejo (which are the painted and glazed tiles in most of our photos here).

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We then made our way down the road and up the forrest path to the Moorish castle:
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After lunch, we headed to the National Palace in the town centre, at the bottom of the hill. The two towers poking out the top of the building are chimneys from the kitchen ovens. Good to see this ruler had his priority's straight!
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The tiled room:
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On the way home, we decided to try their local famous Ginja which is sour-cherry liquor. Loved it so much, we bought a whole bottle!!
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Day Trip to Evora

A 2 hour bus trip out of Lisbon is Evora. We were pretty lost the minute we step off the bus. Luckily we managed to get a map and somehow found our way into town.

We started at the Fransician Church, which contains a chapel constructed with human bones.
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The Bones Church: On the top of the entrance the writing is translated saying “We, the bones that are here, await yours."
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The Temple of Diana
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The centre of town: Giraldo Square
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After a quick lunch of the local cuisine: grilled black pig (which Michelle said was so smelly- so resorted to eating prawn omelette); we headed down to the Aquaduct: you can see houses built in between them.
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Dessert: Toucinho do Ceu- It says "Bacon from heaven" on the menu?!?! Didn't taste anything like bacon. But it definitely taste like a gluten free cake!!
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Belem

We decided to conquer Belem today- a quick 15 minutes tram ride from Lisbon city centre. Fortunately for us it was a sunday and all monuments and museums in Belem are free from 10am - 2pm. It meant it was really busy but saved us about 20E. The photos of the Monastery do not do it justice. It is pretty much the nicest monastery we have seen on our travels, huge and intricate.

Monastery
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Belem tower: Torre de Belem
We made our way to the tower of Belem which is where a lot of the Portuguese explorers departed from when exploring the world. The tower was OK, probably looked a bit drab after seeing the monastery. The spiral staircase was wide enough for people going either up or down. As it was free, the place was packed and I think we must have spent 10minutes standing there waiting for people to either go up or down.
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The view from the top of the tower:
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Monument
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Lunch in Belem: cuttlefish & beans; stewed pork in beans & rice
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Before we went home, Michelle had to just try the best egg tart in Lisbon at Pasteis de Belem. Having already tried a few that did not live up to Michelle's egg tart standard, there were high expectations for this place- recommended in the guide book & by Paulyn:
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I think it is safe to say that Michelle was pretty satisfied. (Paulyn: she didn't quite eat a carton of it!!)

Last day in Lisbon

We spent the morning chilling out, people watching in the middle of the street with a cup/ or 2 of coffee.

We had dinner at the oldest pub in Lisbon: Cervejaria Trindade. It used to be a monastery. It sure does feel like we were eating in the refectory of the monastery.
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Followed by Ginja in chocolate cup: yummy!!
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Portugal has surprised us so far- not what we expected. Lisbon itself is very clean, the streets are wide, and people are very friendly and relatively cheap. We didn't quite expect being hush to buy drugs though- we (or should we say Blake) were asked more than 15 times in 6 days whether we wanted to buy drugs.. One day Blake while walking on his own, was asked 5 times whether he wanted some drugs.. They kept coming up and saying (hash hash or shh, shh). The guys looked like they had small bags of brown sugar and one of the tour guides says its one of their tourist scams. One of the local tour guides says that they sell fake drugs to tourists, pretend the police are there then run off... Guess I had the dodgy/gullible look. LOL

Can't wait to see what Porto has to offer :)

xoxo B&M

Posted by blake-michelle 11:54 Archived in Portugal Comments (1)

Amsterdam

NEW YEARS EVE!!

rain 8 °C

Ringing in 2013 in Amsterdam

First thing we did when we arrived in Amsterdam (after we checked in to our hotel of course), is pay the red light district a visit!! We must have started in the discount section because some of the girls there looked passed their used by.

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Anyway the three of us (Wally was still around) found the top shelf, had a bit of a look and proceeded to the nearest 'coffee shop' for refreshments. We tried the 'brownie'- tasted a bit strange and quite sweet... After a beer and a bite to eat we went into the sex museum and had a look around. Some of the 1970s pornography was quite funny!

Sex Museum:
The boys slightly stoned after their refreshment 'brownie'- trying to look excited in the sex museum.. come on boys.. SMILE :)
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We ended up finding a pub and having a couple of cold ones then headed home for the last of the belgian beer. The only bottle left was a 750ml Duchesse De Bourgogne which has a rating of 94/100 on one website and 92/100 on another. We tried it and it was rubbish. It has red wine tannins in it and was like drinking beer flavoured wine. It was more sour and fruity sweet than bitter so no good for us!

Day 2

The next next day we visited the Rijksmuseum which has a great collection of Dutch history throughout its golden age and heaps of Rembrandt paintings. I (Blake) don't know much about fine art but a lot of the paintings in here grabbed me for some reason or other. We tried some Dutch food for lunch which was basically meatballs, herring and fish croquettes. It was enjoyable but I don't think I could eat it all year...

Dutch Cuisine:
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Raw/Pickled Herring; Meatballs; and more meatballs...

The three of us basically just chilled out for the rest of the day then went off for an early dinner at an Indonesian restaurant. The food was great, especially the Ikan pepesan. It's been difficult to find good asian food in Europe so this was a godsend. We had a couple of quiet ones then called an early night as Wally was leaving bright and early at 7am.

Day 3

Wally quietly snuck out of the hotel to catch his train and Michelle and I slept in. We headed down to the canals to try one of the cruises. It was ~16E each for 40minutes and worth it in the end. The tour guide was doing his best to confuse us. He gave us headphones for the english tour information, pushed play then started speaking english himself. I could hear the audioguide description in my left ear and the tour guides in my right. The audioguide mentioned that if we got bored we could walk around town looking at the 600+ different 'statues' under the roof gables. If it had come to that i'd have probably just given up on life...

Canal Cruise
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Boat Houses:
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Yummy Dutch waffle:
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NEW YEARS EVE :)

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We woke up on new years eve bright and early at 10am ready for a big day. As we were leaving the hotel we were given a glass of champagne each and a Oliebol which is a round fried doughnut kinda thing with icing sugar on top which is the traditional Dutch new years eve celebration food. Nothing exciting till this evening unfortunately. Just did some washing and had a great burger and wrap at a cafe near the laundry.

We returned to our room after lunch to find a complimentary bottle of Champagne (its actually Prosecco) in our room :) :) :). I suppose that kinda makes up for paying so much money to stay at the hotel during new year celebrations.

Unfortunately the weather didn't quite hold up today. It was overcast, sprinkles of rain, but lots of fireworks noises around the place. It is not illegal to purchase and play with fireworks in the Netherlands. Apparently fireworks celebrations usually start a few days before new years celebration, hence all the fireworks we heard last night. Apparently we could drink on the streets too.

Michelle had a nap before our massive NYE party tonight :) Then we headed out for a delicious seafood dinner.

Luckily we booked our NYE dinner early. Lots of restaurants were closed and most of those that were open looked fully booked. We saw heaps of people being turned away, even at 10pm!! Our dinner was: Smoked salmon, prawns & paling which is eel; Dutch croquettes; bouillabaisse; Lobster ravioli ; And coffee dessert (which Michelle forgot to take a photo of)- it consists of coffee ice cream, cookies, coffee sago, and mousse.
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After dinner we decided to head toward the fireworks "main event" which turned out to be about 40minutes walk, in the rain... We passed through a couple of large city squares on the way and there were fireworks going off everywhere. We kept going and eventually made it to the harbour where the larger fireworks were meant to be. It was pretty disappointing to find out that the official fireworks only lasted for 5minutes but brilliant to see all the private ones go up all around the city. It was really different to see fireworks in every direction imaginable instead of the usual designated area. After bathing in the glory we started to make our way home as we were both wet from head to toe. It was like passing through a warzone. There were fireworks exploding less than 1m away from us on the ground and drunk people aiming them seemingly everywhere but straight up in the sky!?! A few nearly exploded in our face. Luckily, we made it home...after a good hour walk and finished off our prosecco.. and went to bed at 3am (even at that time of the night, the sky was still exploding with fireworks!!)

Standing in the middle of the freeway in the rain waiting for the fireworks show & countdown:
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I (Michelle) would definitely choose a hot 40 degrees NYE then a wet, cold one.. anyday :) Though the fireworks and the vibe of the city was bigger than anything expected.

Day 5

Recovery day. We went for a walk into town the check out the mess left behind from the night before. We thought that the best cure would be some more Indonesian food for lunch and a massage. We found a great massage parlour (with no happy endings!) with some crazy chinese chicks that loved to walk on our backs. Just what the doctor ordered!
It was going to be a boring salad for dinner so I decided to get myself one of these fancy Febo burgers from the hole in the wall. Just put the coins in, push the button and the door opens so you can take your burger (or whatever you want). Not too bad at all.

FEBO: hamburger/ fast food vending machine (as Paulyn has corrected us.. its FEBO!!)
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Happy New Year everyone!!

xoxo B&M

Posted by blake-michelle 12:26 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

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