Europe 2015‎ > ‎

N.Ireland & Portugal

Lytham (June 12 - June 18)

We spent several days in Lytham and visited friends and relatives. We took Joan out for a pub lunch one Sunday.


Joan had crab cakes



I had the Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pud


Annalong (June 19 - June 21)

After leaving Lytham, we flew to Dublin and drove to my sister Sarah's  new second home which is is about 35 miles south of Belfast at a place called Annalong. On  a sunny day, the scenery around Annalong is very pretty.



The house sits on a cliff above a pebble beach and her garden goes all the way down to the beach in a series of terraces. 


When the tide is out,  a large expanse of beach and rock pools is exposed.




We (Jenny, Sarah and Kris - and me of course)  took a walk along the beach 



The rock pools are very pretty and full of sea  life.







At the end of the walk - about to climb back to the house


Jenny posing for the camera


We spent most of our time in Annalong catching up and enjoying each others company. Sarah asked me to do a series of jobs around her house, which was fine with me. After three days, we headed back to Dublin, to fly to Portugal.



Portugal (June 22 to July 1)

We had never visited Portugal before so we started in the capital, Lisbon.

We stayed in a modern flat in the old part of town known as Chiado. The flat was on a narrow street and we were on the top floor. Those balconies at the top left were ours. At night, the restaurants were very busy and the street was crowded with customers. 




Inside the apartment


The next day, we took the tram to explore the city. As the city is rather hilly, walking was quite difficult.



View over the rooftops to the sea


Looking in the other direction, towards the Cathedral




Then back on the tram and down to the waterfront, to see the Rua Augusta Arch, built to commemorate the city's reconstruction after the earthquake of 1755.


The Rua Augusta Arch

Behind the arch, a pedestrian street filled with expensive shops and restaurants


Rua Augusta



Next day, we took a train out of Lisbon, to Sintra, to visit the Castela dos Mouros, The Castle of the Moors.


The Castle of the Moors viewed from an adjoining hill

To get to the castle we took a train to Sintra and then a bus up the hill. Finally we walked up to the castle.


The path was an easy stroll until we got to the castle


Then the steps got steeper. The castle walls looked like something you might make out of sand at the beach.

The castle was constructed by The Moors in the 8th and 9th century to protect the local population. It was captured by Christian forces  in 1147.






The view from the top (looking back towards the castle walls) was impressive but it was VERY windy






After the castle, back on the bus to visit another building on top of an adjoining hill, The Palace of Pena.


The Palace of Pena, photographed from the Moorish Castle


The Palace from the entrance gate

The building was originally a monastery and parts of the original building can still be seen, but between  1842 and 1854, King Ferdinand II had additional buildings constructed to serve as a summer palace for the Royal Family. The new buildings were in the Romantic style and as you can see, were quite remarkable.


View from above down to the entrance gate


Some of the buildings are almost toy-like, which may be the idea !


Upper courtyard




View from the walkway around the tower - still very windy


This area of the Palace is distinctly Moorish in character both on the outside


And on the inside




Here, the ceiling is Moorish but the candelabra is much more modern


And this room is much more modern -  almost Georgian in style


The kitchen looks very "Downton Abbey" although it has obviously been modernized over the years.


Back down the hill and back onto the bus, into the pretty little town of Sintra.


This is the  Sintra National Palace with distinctive conical kitchen chimneys. This was one palace we didn't visit.


The narrow and crowded streets of Sintra.



After an early meal in Sintra, we took the train back to Lisbon




Next day, we headed out to see more of Lisbon

We headed first for the Belem Tower or the Tower of St Vincent, completed in 1519. It was built primarily as part of the defenses of Lisbon but was also used as a prison in the 19th century.


The Belem Tower


Gun emplacements and storage inside the tower


The upper tower 


The view from the top of the upper tower


A short walk along the edge of the river is the Gago Coutinho Seaplane - a reproduction of the Fairey Seaplane which was used by two portuguese pioneers to make the first crossing of the South Atlantic in 1922. It took 79 days and they had to change planes in the middle of the journey. Not exactly non-stop.



The statue of the Gago Coutinho Cabral Seaplane




The Belem Lighthouse, made mostly of brick

A little further along is the massive Monument to the Discoveries. This celebrates the many discoveries made by the Portuguese. It was conceived in 1939 and opened in 1960. 



Monument to the Discoveries


The figures represent monarchs, explorers, missionaries, cartographers artists and scientists. The ramp represents the prow of a Caravel, the ship used by the early explorers.


Across the street from the Monument was the Monastery of the  Jeronimos, built in 1501 to commemorate the voyage of Vasco da Gama in 1498. 


The Monastery of the Jeronimos


We didn't go into the actual monastery itself, which required an admission fee, but we did visit the adjoining Santa Maria Church.




The Santa Maria Church


The interior of the Santa Maria Church


The tomb of Vasco da Gama, who died in Cochin, India in 1524. His remains were moved back to Lisbon in 1539. He was apparently a very cruel man.



On our final day in Lisbon, we took a short train ride down the coast to the small town of Cascais.


The two beaches of Cascais


We stopped for a coffee overlooking one of the beaches


Then we wandered around the town center and later had lunch overlooking the square.

Finally, we took a walk along the coast.


Our destination was the so called "Boca do Inferno" (Mouth of Hell) where large waves crash into giant caves, but it was very quiet the day we visited, so no drama at all.


The "Mouth of Hell"

Cascais was once a small fishing village but became a popular resort favored by the nobility in the early 20th century. Some of the houses along the coast were and still are, very grand.


Houses of the rich and famous



After a pleasant and relaxing day in Cascais,  we took the train back to Lisbon for our final evening.



Next morning, we took a taxi to the impressive main railway station, Lisbon Oriente. It was built in 1998 for the World's Fair and clearly owes some of it's design to Gothic Architecture.


As we often do, we arrived VERY early so we had to sit and wait for quite some time. Fortunately, it was a nice day.


Waiting, waiting, waiting for our train

The three hour train journey took us to Faro, on the south coast of Portugal. There, we rented a car and drove to Sao Rafael, where we had rented a flat (or so we thought) through AirBnB.

The "flat" was brand new and nice enough, but was only a single room. It also didn't have air conditioning so the first day or two were rather warm.


Our "flat" in Sao Rafael

However, the complex had a nice pool and we spent some time there.


The pool area 


The property was nicely landscaped as well


This entire area of the Algarve consists mostly of small beaches with large developments behind them. We explored several of the beaches, but in the end, didn't spend a lot of time on the beach.






Beaches along the Algarve coast

One day, we used our car to go exploring.  First, we drove to Sagres, which is the most Southern and Western point in Portugal. The southernmost tip is fortified but it's very barren and windswept.


The nearby fishing port is much more picturesque and made a good place to stop for lunch.


The port of Sagres




After lunch, we headed back to Sao Rafael, but we detoured to the mountain town of Silves. As it was a Sunday everything was closed.

However, the Moorish Castle on top of the hill was open,  so we had a look around. The castle was built between the 8th and 13th century and is one of the best preserved Moorish fortifications in Portugal.


Silves Castle from below


The interior ramparts


Ramparts and part of a garden

We spent our final day in Albufeira, the major town in this part of the Algarve. We had deliberately avoided the town up until now, thinking it would be very crowded and touristy. We were correct in that respect, but in fact, the town was quite pleasant despite the crowds and we went back in the evening for dinner.


The main restaurant street in Albufeira


And shopping of course


Unexpectedly, sand sculptures

That was our last day in Portugal. Next day (July 2nd) we flew back to Manchester and stayed in Lytham until our flight back to Orlando on July 6th.