A Travellerspoint blog

July 2018

Portugal Day 10: Belém Me!

sunny 93 °F

We started our day by going to mass at São Sebastião church near our hotel. It was very small on the inside...
But incredibly beautiful. It was rather full, too. Mass is fairly easy to follow in Portuguese, since it is similar to Latin. However, the sermon was a bit difficult. We did pick up that he mentioned bread, and buying things, and eating and drinking.
It was heartening to see that even new/replacement fittings of the church are done in the old style to match with everything else.
Some pictures of the Parque Eduardo VII, which is named for King Edward VII of England. Our hotel had a view of this park, and we walked through it to get to the church.
We got a taxi to Belém for lunch. We planned to explore the area, which we hadn’t seen much of yet. We got toasted cheese and chips at this little cafe, and Catherine tried a lemon radler (beer with lemon flavor.) It seemed to be made by Sagres, as most of the beer in this country seems to be.
Which is a jewelry store where you can make your own jewelery. Catherine loved it, and made herself a cork bracelet with blue Portuguese tile.
After that we went to the famous Pasteis de Belém, arguably the first bakery to create the pastel de nata. The recipe is supposed to be a secret, but we have now found pasteis de nata all over the world (if Hanford and Portugal count as all over the world.) These were very good, and we got an orange juice and a galão to go with them.
Next we visited the Jerónimos monastery. It was beautiful from the outside. There was a long line to pay to get into the cloister, so we chose to simply visit the church.
First was the tomb of the poet Camões.
Tombs featuring elephants: most of these graves belong to Portuguese royalty.
Various tombs and altars around the church. It is a beautiful place, obviously designed to impress the viewer with the glory of the Portuguese empire.
Catherine loves the elephant tombs.
The tomb of the lost king Sebastião. He went deep into enemy territory and was never seen again. This led, in the years afterwards, to a rumor that he was still alive. Various claimants insisted that they were him (some of whom didn’t speak Portuguese, making it less likely.) Later, it led to a legend that he would return someday to restore Portugual to its former glory. Apparently, Philip II did have some bones, which he claimed were Sebastian’s, placed in the tomb during the Iberian Union in order to solidify his power, but the legend persists.
The tomb of Vasco de Gama. We are hoping that this visit inspires Catherine to improve her sense of direction, in emulation of the great Portuguese navigators.
Various monuments around Belém, including the Monument to the Portuguese Discoveries and the Christo Rei statue on the other side of the river.
Some pictures of Belém tower.
Wine With a View stand, as well as the accompanying view of the bridge and the statue. The bridge was built by the same company that designed the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, but painted the same color as the Golden Gate Bridge.
We went to dinner and a fado show in Bairro Alto. Anthony, Catherine’s dad, tried octopus.
The singers.
Both of us remember the commercials for the “Vienna” ice cream lasagne, but neither of us have tried it. We took our chance and tried it.
Some pictures outside the fado restaurant. We had a wonderful night. Tomorrow we fly to the Azores!

Posted by danielcatherine 18:26 Archived in Portugal Tagged elephants bridge music dinner monastery kings octopus belem camoes fado discoveries jerónimos pastel_de_nata vasco_de_gama sebastião Comments (2)

Portugal Day 9: Fátima, Nazaré, and a Princess of Óbidos

sunny 79 °F

We had a quick breakfast at the hotel before going out on our bus tour to Fátima.
Our first stop was the “factory” which was really a large store with a lot of religious and secular souvenirs. Apparently everything was made in Portugal, although most of it looked exactly like the souvenirs available at other shops. Catherine’s dad joked about turning over the tables like Jesus in the Temple.
The beautiful older basilica and the square at Fatima. We had somewhat limited time, and the group wanted to go to Mass. There was a mass celebrated in Portuguese in “the basilica” which we hoped would be this one.
Instead, it was this one. It was still inspiring to see how many people were at Mass and touring Fátima.
The Apparition Chapel where the children first saw Our Lady. When we went by there was a mass going on outside the chapel.
Some more pictures of the outside of the older basilica, where the visionaries are buried. They have a large area surrounded by walkways with statues of saints at the top, similar to the one at the Vatican.
Inside the older basilica, where there seemed to be a wedding or renewal of vows going on. There is a strange, peaceful but momentous feeling inside this building.
Catherine’s Aunt Teri and Uncle John in Fatima.
Next, we went to Batalha, where we had lunch and saw the monastery. There is an equestrian statue of St. Nuno Álvares Pereira, who commanded some of the Portuguese forces in the war with Castile in the fourteenth century. Batalha was founded to commemorate the battle.
Our tour guide suggested that we didn’t need to see the inside, that the outside was sufficient.
We went in anyway. It was really beautiful. Catherine loved the gothic architecture, and it was interesting to see the tombs of kings.
Next, Nazaré, where we just looked around at the ocean. It is a very pretty spot, and is famous for surfing. The world record for surfing a single wave was set here by Garrett McNamara (not, as our tour guide told us, by Robert McNamara).
Berlim pastries (essentially filled doughnuts). We go a pineapple filled one.
Next, we stopped at the beautiful walled city of Óbidos. The only small inconvenience was that it was extremely crowded due to a medieval fair going on throughout July. There were people in costume, mostly as medieval lords and ladies, but some barbarians and other characters from the past. There was a costume rental, but we didn’t elect to dress up.
Catherine’s Aunt Teri did take a picture with Tree Man, however.
More pictures of the beautiful walled city.
One of the major attractions in Óbidos is trying their famous sour cherry liqueur, called ginja. It is served here out of chocolate cups which you can then eat.
The Princess of Óbidos. Flower crowns were readily available throughout the city. They are made from real flowers, including lavender, and smell very nice.
Back in Lisbon for dinner. We went with Catherine’s parents and her Aunt Teri. We went to a delicious Italian restaurant.

Posted by danielcatherine 02:01 Archived in Portugal Tagged basilica cherry pineapples john anthony katie walled_city princess lavender teri fatima óbidos ginja berlim mass nazare mcnamara flower_crown Comments (3)

Portugal Day 8: Viagem

sunny 79 °F

We had breakfast in the beautiful common room. There were a few pieces of bread and some water, so we at first got a coffee and sat down. We asked one of the employees if there were any croissants left, and she said “one second.” We were starting to get impatient with waiting for a single croissant when she came back in with two of these huge breakfast boards. We ended up having a delicious breakfast.
Some last pictures of Porto. Such a beautiful city.

After that we drove from Porto to Lisbon to meet Catherine’s parents and aunts and uncles, who got into Lisbon yesterday. It was a beautiful drive, although we were a little pressed for time and couldn’t really stop and take pictures.

Our room at the Intercontinental Hotel. It’s a beautiful room with a great view.
We went with Catherine’s parents to the Time Out Mercado. We got Thai food (which owes its spiciness to Portuguese trade, according to João our AirBnB host in Coimbra), and then went looking for a place to hear fado music.
But first we got dessert. Daniel had a pastel de nata, but everyone else had ice cream.
Tiny doors as we climb the Bica hill.
The busy Bairro Alto, which had numerous fado clubs and bars. We found one that let people in in small groups for sets of three or four songs. It was very enjoyable to hear it in an intimate, less formal setting.
The fado singer and musicians.
We went back to the hotel early because we have a bus tour to Fátima tomorrow and need our sleep.

Posted by danielcatherine 00:11 Archived in Portugal Tagged breakfast family porto mercado fado time_out Comments (0)

Portugal Day 7: Exploring Porto

semi-overcast 81 °F

Some views of the common area in the House of Sandeman, which is a hostel with dorms as well as the suites like we are in. There is a breakfast and a dinner available in this room.
We had a quick breakfast and walked around on the southern side of the Douro, which is not technically Porto but rather Vila Nova de Gaia. This is where the port wine cellars are located, and also the original larger settlement from Roman times.
Evaporative cooling. Porto is ready to convert!
We took the gondola to the top of the Dom Luis I bridge, which we could use to get to the attractions on top of the hill in Porto.
Catherine and the Douro.
Ruins of houses as we cross the bridge.
The outside of the cathedral.
A fado group was busking outside the cathedral.
Inside the cathedral. They have daily mass and confession, but when we were there it seemed that people were just coming in and sitting down for a bit, then leaving. You could pay to get into the cloister, but we decided against it.
Views of the city as we walk around.
The famous São Bento train station, with depictions of the history of Portugal in tile around the station. It was beautiful and impressive. It is a working train station, and is thus very busy with people seeing the artwork and people getting trains.
A very nice lunch across from São Bento.
However, I was less than sure about the restroom...
Porto is a beautiful city. It’s hard to describe what it feels like, but there’s a distinct feeling created by the architecture and the types of businesses in this area.
Vestir bem, e barato, só aqui (dress well and cheap, here only.) We couldn’t find any specific business this sign related to, but it was very fitting with the rest of the signs and feel of Porto.
Walking back towards the bridge to return to Gaia. We had our Sandeman port tour at 5:30 and needed to get back in time.
Our tour guide wore the costume of the Sandeman Don, a logo that combines the traditional Portuguese student cape (which represents their Ports) with a traditional Spanish hat (which represents their Sherries).
The tour was very interesting. There are several different sizes of barrels and vats which are used to produce red, white, or tawny ports.
They also make vintage port, which is aged in bottles. The oldest we saw was from 1904.
We got to taste a white port and a ruby red port.
Some “sneaking and plotting” pictures, and some that give a good idea of what the House of Sandeman looks like.
We went to dinner at an Italian restaurant. Catherine got a pizza diavola, and Daniel got a pizza with eggplant and garlic. It was delicious, but they were too big to finish. We should have only ordered one. The dessert was also very good.
Some pictures around Gaia as we prepared to leave. It has been a beautiful stay in this city and we hope to come back again someday.

Posted by danielcatherine 09:46 Archived in Portugal Tagged signs cathedral port porto don neighborhoods sandeman Comments (1)

Portugal Day 6: Batlioteca and the Footsteps of the Romans

overcast 69 °F


Walking up to the University of Coimbra was a bit of a climb, but we were able to get there pretty quickly using a direct route up stairs.
Many of the buildings at the university date from the mid twentieth century, and were built under the rule of António de Oliveira Salazar, the dictator of Portugal who had been a professor at the University. These buildings, our AirBnB host told us, are controversial because houses were demolished to build them. They have a very uniform feel, and seem to form an imposing entry towards the old square of the University.
Views of the old square, which is located in a former royal palace.
Us in the square.
The first part of our tour: knocking on the door of the chapel.
Inside São Miguel chapel. It was a royal chapel but is now used by the university. They have masses regularly, which prevents tours from going through, but we were able to go in.
A striking picture of the courtyard.
The Joanine Library, which also includes the Academic Prison. The prison was used when students and faculty were convicted of crimes in order to prevent university scholars from having to associate with “common criminals.” The lower level of the library is used for storage of older books. The upper level is the room where students would have studied, and where there are beautifully decorated shelves and paintings. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures in that room. It is also famous because there are bats that eat the insects that could damage the books. The bats live behind the shelves and eat moths and other insects at night. Pieces of paper are set down on the tables to protect them from bat guano.
The inside of the royal palace. One large room is used today for students who are defending dissertations: there was a student doing so when we toured.
Some last views of Coimbra before we left. Also, a couple pictures of our car and our AirBnB.
Next we visited the Roman ruins of Conimbriga. Coimbra is named after Conimbriga (in Roman times Coimbra was called Aeminium, and was renamed when Conimbriga was razed by the Suebi and the residents fled to Aeminium.


The ruins are fascinating: baths, houses, mosaics, and other buildings.
The Roman influence continues, in the form of gelato.
We then drove to Porto. We are staying at the House of Sandeman, located immediately above their tasting room and port cellars. Our room is very nice and comfortable, despite the somewhat creepy painting.


Porto is beautiful. At night, it feels like a city for making plots and schemes.
We went out for dinner and a couple drinks. Catherine tried bacalhau com natas (cod with cream) for the first time, and really liked it. It was a beautiful night of talking and walking near the river. We can’t wait to see more of Porto tomorrow.

Posted by danielcatherine 12:40 Archived in Portugal Tagged palace bridge university port royal porto library bats chapel romans coimbra gelato conimbriga sandeman Comments (0)

Portugal Day 5: Cloisters and Fado

semi-overcast 85 °F

We started our day with a breakfast that reminded us greatly of our Portuguese lessons. On each lesson some character would order bottles of water (Aguas minerais), some custard pastries (pasteis de nata) and a latte (um galão). This is what we got at a cafe called “The World Needs Nata.”
Some views around the cafe, including the buskers who were playing across the street.
The streets in Coimbra.
Next we went to the Santa Cruz monastery, where much of the knowledge of the Portuguese explorers had been gathered and collected. It was founded by St. Teotonio/ Theotonius in 1131.
Inside the church.
The sacristy of the church. There was a great deal of artwork on the walls, and several very beautiful liturgical artifacts. The church appears to still be in use to some extent, as there are current liturgical books on some of the shelves.
A side room with some religious art and relics. The “bust reliquary” in the middle holds the skull of St. Teotonio. The other two hold relics related to the Five Martyrs of Morocco, Franciscans who were killed for preaching the Catholic faith.
The Chapter room where meetings took place, with its own altar.
Some pictures of the cloister.
The tile work around the walls.
The relic sanctuary. This room was amazingly beautiful. It is highly symmetrical and perfectly arranged, but each element on the walls contains relics of various saints. It felt like something out of a fantasy novel.
Some pictures at the sanctuary of the church, including the tombs of the first and second kings of Portugal, Afonso Henriques and his son Sancho.
Some views of the street after we left. On our way up towards the old cathedral, we stopped at the Fado ao Centro and booked tickets for the show at 7:00 PM. We also stopped at the shop of an artist named Marcia Santos, who does illustrations with ballpoint pen. We purchased two of her drawings in frames to take home.
Then we arrived at the Old Cathedral (the new one was built in the 17th century.)
Inside the cathedral. Some tombs of various people, including a Byzantine princess who was a lady-in-waiting to Queen Saint Isabella (who lived in Coimbra at the end of her life).
This little creature at the foot of the tomb of one of the bishops. Is it a shih tzu?
The cloister at the cathedral.
For some reason, the floor of the cloister is covered in “2”s.
Outside the church.
A little restaurant across from the cathedral where we had a quick snack: caldo verde, a popular Portuguese soup.
The fado show was beautiful. Fado de Coimbra is distinct from other fado. The instrumentals were really impressive, as was the singing. After the show we got to drink some port wine and talk with the musicians. We bought a CD which they signed.
After this we went towards the river for dinner and a short walk. It was beautiful at sunset.
Gelato! Daniel got Azorean pineapple and mint, Catherine got Madeira banana.
And then, another fado show! One of the musicians from the first one played at this one as well. However, it was different: this show was Fado de Lisboa, which has a female singer and a different kind of sound. We bought this CD as well. It was an amazing show and we really enjoyed learning about the different varieties of the music.

Posted by danielcatherine 03:48 Archived in Portugal Tagged sunset river cloisters cathedral music port dinner wine relics gelato fado pastel_de_nata galão Comments (2)

Portugal Day 4: A Marvãolous Adventure

sunny 80 °F

We started our day by taking a taxi to the airport. We saw the somewhat less fashionable side of Lisbon on our drive, but also got nice views of the river. When we arrived at the Europcar office, they appeared to be closed. There was a sign saying that we should go to the office in the main terminal, so we did. Once we were there, they were very helpful. They didn’t have a car with WiFi like we had ordered, but they did find us one with a built-in navigation system that was a little larger than we had originally booked. We set out from Lisbon towards the east, heading first for the former Templar castle of Almourol.

Before we arrived in Almourol we stopped in the little town of Tancos, where there is a restaurant called Restaurante Almourol. We strolled around the grassy area by the River Tagus, then went to the restaurant. This was an adventure all its own.the restaurant was very nice, but no one seemed to speak English. I told the waitress “Não falo Português” to which she replied “Mas percebes bem” and continued in Portuguese. The menu also was entirely in Portuguese. We ended up using Google Translate, which yielded that one of the menu items was “bunny” and that another was “potato punch.” So that was unhelpful. We ended up just ordering. We got fried river fish with rice and beans. Neither of us usually eat a lot of fish,but it was a good meal.
Some views across the river to the towns on the other side. There was a beautiful view from our restaurant.
The castle was a fortress used by the Knights Templar during the crusades. It formed part of a defensive line along the Tagus during the Portuguese Reconquista. It is a beautiful castle, and it’s fascinating to see how it would have been when the Tagus was the dividing line between the Christians and the Muslims.
Some amazing views around the castle. We were able to climb the staircases and look out from the walls. The river is much narrower on the northern side of the island. It seems like a very defensible position since it is surrounded by water, but it is obviously better protected from the south, which of course is where the Moors were.
The castle as we left in the boat. We missed the boat we were supposed to take, but thankfully it came back a few minutes later.
After that, we went further East to the walled hilltop city of Marvão. It is near the border with Spain and had been used to defend against invasion. It is beautiful, and reminded us quite a bit of San Gimignano in Italy. There are narrow streets, hills, ancient fortresses and churches, and a cafe that sells gelato.
The curious kittens of Marvão.
There is a beautiful garden near the castle made up mostly of hydrangeas, Catherine’s favorite flowers. The garden has a beautiful view of the surrounding area, and you can see the surrounding valleys in Spain and Portugal.






More of Marvão.


A tactile model of the city.
Gelato from the cafe.
Given how close we were to Spain, we decided to go in. There was a former border checkpoint that was entirely unmanned, and the only signal that we had left Portugal and entered Spain was this sign. We went in to a gas station and got some snacks, and it was intriguing that all of the packaging was in Spanish. The linguistic nature of the border is fascinating: the cashier at the gas station spoke something that sounded like Portuguese to locals at she knew, but perfect Spanish to strangers.
We then followed the GPS to Coimbra. Our AirBnB host, João, was waiting at a cafe. We met him and found a parking spot, then got everything set up in the room. We then met João at the tapas restaurant across the street from our flat. He gave us advice about what to do in Coimbra: he was a wealth of information about the city and the various things we could see. He left us to have a late dinner and listen to the singing of the Hungarian university officials in the next room (there is a sports competition between European universities going on in Coimbra).
Our dinner, including a bottle of wine from our waiter’s hometown in the Douro valley.
Our dessert: lime pie and a 1985 port.
We spent a long time visiting with our waiter, the Hungarians (who bought us a round of a Portuguese liqueur), and a few others who stayed in the restaurant late. We learned some Hungarian drinking songs and chatted with the waiter about the town, life in Portugal, and numerous other topics. It was a wonderful night. We went back across the street to our room at around 4 in the morning. We feel so lucky to be able to have these adventures and talk to such interesting people!

Posted by danielcatherine 03:56 Archived in Portugal Tagged castles fish adventure rice port wine kittens tapas coimbra lime beans talk marvão almourol Comments (3)

Portugal Day 3: Adventures and Resting

sunny 80 °F

A welcome sight: our room in Lisbon after our long journey! Before we could get there, we had to wait in a very long customs line. Then, when we finally got through the line, we couldn’t find our bags on any of the carousels. Eventually, another passenger from our flight (actually the family that had sat behind us) found theirs: it had been on the first carousel, but had been removed to allow the bags for a flight from Luanda. We got the shuttle to our hotel, and checked in and enjoyed the free breakfast.
The very steep street that our hotel is on. This little barrier slides down to allow drivers with the right card to get through, then slides back up.
We went to mass right down the street at the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Encarnação.
It is a beautiful church. The mass was rather quick and simple, but the surroundings were so beautiful that it enhanced the entire experience.
Another beautiful church, right down the street from the one we went to. There are several right in this area.
We visited the oldest continuously-operating bookstore in the world, Bertrand. It has been in operation since 1732. Most of the books are in Portuguese (understandably enough). There is a little cafe in the back of the rather cavernous bookstore.
An exterior view of the bookstore, with blue tile walls.
We bought one book, and plan to learn enough Portuguese to read it to our children one day.

It was nice to browse the store, but we were very tired already. We stopped by a little bakery and bought some pastel de nata and some whole wheat rolls (pão integral in Portuguese. Catherine says she agrees that it is integral for daily life) and then went back to the hotel and rested for a few hours.

We got up at around 8PM, and then went out for dinner. The man at the hotel told us about the Time Out Mercado, essentially a gigantic food court with a wide variety of options. It is located in the old fish market near the river. We decided to walk down there and see what looked good.
Lisbon is a very hilly city. A lot of people say it is similar to San Francisco, although it feels somewhat different.
A tiny door along the way.
The Mercado. There are tons of restaurant stands around a center area. In the center are bars selling drinks and tables for customers.
A spicy diavola pizza and two Super Bock beers, the other major Portuguese beer maker.
Dessert: Catherine got salted caramel with peanut and honeydew ice cream, and Daniel got passionfruit.
The streets in Lisbon.
A monument.
They seem to have very large insects here.
The Bica hill, home of the famous Bica tram.
The construction of some of the buildings.
After dinner we grabbed a drink right near our hotel, and then headed back to get some rest before
heading out to explore more of the country tomorrow.

Posted by danielcatherine 17:33 Archived in Portugal Tagged church ice cream books nata sleep dinner pizza bookstore mercado bakery mass bica pastel_de_ Comments (4)

Portugal Day 2: Snacks on a Plane

Which is What Our Day Mostly Consisted Of...

sunny 73 °F

We didn’t get to bed until about two in the morning, and we had to get up by four to make our flight. Daniel’s parents brought us to the San Francisco Airport, and we checked in with JetBlue, who we were flying to Boston.
Us in the airport waiting to board. We had an upgrade to “Even More Space,” JetBlue’s Economy Plus. This entitled us to board slightly early.
The Central Valley from the sky.
JetBlue had a free pantry throughout the flight which allowed us to get snacks and drinks the entire time. Since our schedules were off from travel, it was nice to be able to eat as we desired.
We got grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner at Johnny Rockets, then walked back to get to our plane. On the way over, we saw this Make Way for Ducklings themed mural.
Our plane was named Pedro Nunes, after this Portuguese mathematician and astronomer. Daniel especially appreciates airlines that name their planes, like Hawaiian (which uses the names of navigationally-important stars), Aer Lingus (Irish saints) and now TAP Portugal as well.
Our food options: pasta or meats. We got one of each, and tried a Portuguese beer called Sagres.
Our first glimpses or Portugal: the lights of Lisbon through the clouds at sunrise. We are so excited to explore Portugal, but so tired. We will write about our adventures in Lisbon on Day 3!

Posted by danielcatherine 03:49 Archived in USA Tagged clouds san francisco lisbon portugal johnny_rockets boston snacks sagres pedro_nunes jet_blue Comments (1)

Portugal Day 1: Vamos!

sunny 100 °F

Yesterday, Daniel went to Hanford to purchase some baked goods at the Portuguese bakery there. The pastel de nata and the biscoitos were especially delicious, but we can’t wait to try the ones in Portugal!
We finished packing and then got on the road to San Jose. We fly out early in the morning tomorrow for Portugal (by way of Boston). Tonight, we had a delicious dinner with Daniel’s parents and then played a game of 500, our favorite card game. Now we need to get a small amount of sleep before flying out!

Posted by danielcatherine 00:08 Archived in USA Tagged portugal san_jose 500 selma hanford pastel_de_nata biscoitos Comments (2)

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