February 3, 2013
Next morning we drove to get one more glimpse of Cabo da Roca, it was nice to see it with the sun shining from the East, as usual – there were crowds of Oriental tourists already. And then drove towards Sintra again with the idea of driving there on another road, but at some point we lost the main road. found ourselves on a super narrow road through some village, scared to death to drive there – what if a car from the in front appears? but no cars appeared, so we managed to get to the main road, but not on the right spot, had to skip Palacio de Moserrate, and we came back to where we were yesterday and then drove to the side to see one more palace – Quinta da Regaleira – it belonged to a collector and bibliophile and was designed by an italian architect Luigi Maninin in a neo-manueline style:
We wanted to visit this palace, for it didn’t look too big, it had a very cozy yard with the little church, but…we were too early there, and to wait for an hour was not convenient. In retrospect – one must allocate at least 3 days for Sintra alone. There are so many palaces, castles, chapels, monasteries and other fancy houses of different eras besides huge parks with long walkways, fantastic vistas and viewpoints. I would say – the Sintra Park is a very amazing place to visit and a very good place for those who like active rest with cultural elements.
Here is another palace of Seteais. We didn’t plan to see it. just wandered around and came to its gardens. The main entrance was very picture perfect in the morning sun:
From there we drove North. You don’t need to drive far away – no time even to relax in the car – there is another town with a monastery and a palace or castle, then there is another and another…Yes, lots of monasteries. It is even hard to remember their names or distinctions, big ones, huge ones, with impressive front spaces and tall Gothic naves (some a Baroque) in the churches…So you stop in the middle of almost each town, get out, walk towards the castle, enjoy the old streets. the views, get back into the car and 10-20 min to another town. Here is Mafra monastery:
It was Monday, the museum was closed,so we missed the big library on display, but went to wander in the park behind the monastery:
The alleys were like rays of sun – in each intersection there was a statue. And here is Torres Vedras, our next stop:
Modern buildings pleased me a lot, their architects are very creative, and I can’t say which I liked more – the old or the new?..Then on the way we see those two humongous figures -it is Christmas time, so here is the Nativity scene..:
So we had to stop and turn around to document this “humor” or a serious thing, I don’t know. Evidently the real monks built those statues, because at least this monastery seemed to be functioning with the gates closed:
There was a vineyard on the left, seemed that monks were having a good time making wine. There was a point in Portugal’s history when monasteries acquired so much land and real estate that one of their kings kicked them out of the country. Seems like they are coming back and settling in much newer buildings.
Here we reached Obidos – named after an artist who lived there. the town is all enclosed withing 14th century walls, so you park your car behind the walls by this ancient Roman aqueduct and then go up through the tiled gate:
to the main pedestrian street with whitewashed houses:
Kids are so important in Portugal that even without understanding their language one can see groups of them organized by kindergarten teachers for certain excursions or sight-seeings:
The center of Obidos – to imagine – this town was a wedding present from kind Dinis to Isabel of Aragon in 1282…
Here I liked the very old and big vine Andrei liked the cats …
It is an amazing town and I would recommend to stay there at least overnight…maybe in one of the fancy hotels, like this, established in a former castle or fortress:
But we rushed. as usual, to see more and more…On the way still stopped at Caldas da Rainha because of its hot springs, but none of them are now available neither for public nor for patients…
it was getting dark once we reached Nazare -only because we saw it in Rick Steve’s Europe on our public TV – otherwise we would have stopped somewhere on the way. But we were curious to see those little women wearing many skirts and looking for renters to their apartments on the beach front of the town. Believe it or not – they were there, even on an empty evening of December…waiting for us with their signs in front of them. And not all of them were little and wearing those national many skirts. The one who lead us to our apartment was a modern looking young woman, who apparently is one of those people who are drowning in debts and dragging the country to the same place, too. Seems that all the buildings on the ocean front street are apartments for rent and all of them except the one we took were empty…all the window shutters were down, no cars…But we didn’t suffer because of that. Were happy at least to help them in this way.
January 31, 2013
We went to Portugal in the beginning of December – not the best time to go. But so went the travel plans combined with a trip to Lithuania. However , the weather was not as bad as I expected. Though we got our portion of rain/ At the beginning of the trip the days were sunny, therefore the nights were cool, close to freezing. That would be not so bad. but they are not used to heaters. Their summers are so hot that they must be enjoying the cool. On the other hand - there are almost no travelers. We in the hotels used to be almost or the only ones there. So after two freezing nights in different places we decided to stay at least two nights in one hotel so tat we could leave the heater through the day when we are traveling and come to a warmer room in the evening. That would be my main advice in case you decide to travel in December . They also said that closer to Christmas there will be more visitors. Here is the first hostel we stayed in Lisbon after arival, where a beautiful Lithuanian girl is working as a hostess. The world is full of us…:
The rooms were good, the hospitality also outstanding -we were met with hot wine, the rooms were private and not bad, except that as we later found to be wherever we stayed – the beds are very hard in Portugal…Hotels or hostels alike…
As we had only 8 days to see as much as we can – we drove out of Lisbon and rushed to see Sintra, only less than an hour away from Lisbon:
This is the center of Sintra. Across the square the Royal Palace of Sintra is very prominent with its two super large chimneys:
It seemed that Sintra is located by a mountainous park all saturated with different kinds of palaces and promenades:
The modern sculptures impressed me most of all…more than palaces. Though we didn’t visit them form inside, had not too much time and somehow lost interest. The parks were so luscious green, tall trees, nice paths, beautiful drives in that big “Paisagem Cultural” that we didn’t want to loose time while seeing only one of those palaces.
Tiles on the walls, special stone cobbles on the streets- they were everywhere we drove and went- i was wondering who made such an enormous number of those little street “squares”?
Here is the little car we rented – Smart. As you can see – the parking is almost empty…
Each time we come to our car – it made me laugh and wonder how can we manage to fit our not so small selves into it. But we did and felt very comfortable in it. It was even enough space for our small luggage. In addition it could ride pretty fast and was economical on gas, which is much more expensive than in the US and also than in Lithuania, too.
One of the buildings in those endless parks, decorated with cork tree. Lower is the Palace of Pena – they were all summer residencies for this or that monarch of Portugal:
This natural stone-wood combination reminded me of Orvidu Sodyba in Lithuania… So we wandered around, then found a tiny village close to the most Western Point in Europe and settled there for the night in an apartment that was rented by this tiny man:
As there was still some time till sunset, we visited the Most Western Point:
The evening was really warm, the Atlantic ocean was calm, no wind – too good to be true…
and then even drove to the Cultural Park again and walked around an abandoned monastery:
From this mountain we saw the sun sink into the ocean…
That was a good day!
November 21, 2012
On February the 6th Andrei was 50 years young. We had to celebrate! The first part of celebration was “Swimming with the dolphins”, and that was super! They sell tickets to the attraction everywhere. There are three levels or sorts of packages. We picked the most inexpensive, it was around $100 US per person. We went to the delphinarium, with a taxi about 10 min drive, at about 9 am. The activities there start at 10 am. but before that we had a wonderful chance to stay in the beautifully built grounds by ourselves, observing the trainers feed and doctor the dolphins in special parts of the whole big fenced area from the sea. They also swam loops with the dolphins at their sides as if competing or keeping company. They are the smartest creatures from the animal world I ever observed. And they seemed to be the most loyal. I never noticed a dolphin not fulfilling the orders…It was very touching:
The dolphins were having fun before their very tense work day. They were jumping in coordinated manner in twos or threes, quite a spectacle:
Then at 10 am the boats from Cancun started coming and crowds of tourists occupied the area. No more peace and quiet/ Everyone was lined up into groups, depending on the ticked they bought (the most expensive tickets were $150 US). We got instructions, left pour clothes in the safe boxes and lined up for our attractions in groups of 12. WE were taken to certain areas on the bridge and then went down onto a lower bridge in the water up to waste. Each group had a dolphin trying to please us…poor guy…At first he had to greet us, then one by one we would step up to the front of your bridge and he would come and kiss with you or reach your hands or lay in your arms like a baby:
The nicest two tricks were when we had to swim further from the bridge and wait with a special sign making with our hands for the dolphin to come and pick us from the bottom. The first time he pushed my heel and I was swimming like a rocket. And the second time he came from under me on his back, with his belly fins in front of me- I grabbed them and he pulled, it was fantastic! Those amazing dolphins, how can people be cruel to them…it breaks my heart.
So the program lasted around an hour during which my teethe were shaking, so cold to stand in that water without moving much. After that – whatever you want to do. they feed you buffet lunch, then you can lay in hammocks, swim in their little pools and play in the fountains, or go and watch the sharks in a special tank, or snorkel in a cage with manta rays.
There were also a manatee and a sea lion – you could get an individual encounter with them for a special price.
What I did was watch others have fun with dolphins and watch the sea and birds, so that the day went by very fast. It is hard to understand how those cute pelicans balance on the wire fence with their water shoes…
Here is a man who bought the mos expensive package – their group had 2 dolphins and he is pushed by both on each of his soles.
After the wonderful encounter with nature and a little sad that poor dolphins have to work so hard for their fish, we walked some 2 km to a place which Leo and Susan ( also from Zion ) rented, on the beach. They had a table set right on sand and Susan had a dinner cooked, it was a good celebration of Andrei’s Birthday!
The next morning I went for a walk with Nancy and Craig to the other end of the island – 7km – to the very tip of it. On the way there were beautiful, creative villas, this one resembling a shell:
there was a peculiar cemetery:
at the very tip of the island there is a sculpture park:
and the very very tip looks like this, as if two seas meeting:
with Nancy and Craig having fun:
We returned home by bus – were lucky to nice on on our way. there are some buses there, but nobody knows their schedule because there is none .
The trip back was easy, so much easier than going and coming form Thailand…So this is my big suggestion – go to Yucatan! people are friendly, mellow, the food is great the hotels, motels and hostels are clean, the sights are beautiful and interesting, what else can one wish?
After returning the car in the center of Cancun we were taken by the car rental guy to the ferry pier where we took a 40 min boat ride to Isla Mujeres – the Island of Women which is seen from the coast of Cancun. It was a small enough and big enough island to spend the last 6 days Mexico and rest. It is 7.5 km long and maybe some 2km wide. Lots of Americans have their villas there, but there are also two towns and many Mexicans living there. They say that in comparison with the whole country their life standards are higher. We landed in the bigger town, I don’t even know the name . And walked through its cute little streets towards the sea to the hostel Poc-Na that we made a reservation and that I have mentioned in an earlier blog, it is owned by Argentinians. Interesting that we met Argentinian youths on every step. They work in maybe all offices and travel agencies in the town. Summer jobs. In our winter it is summer in Argentine.The good part about the hostel was that it was close to the sea, they had breakfast and also you could order dinner, cooked very well. The sitting area or dining area were always full of people fro all over the world so it was nice to hear about their lives. You could order any alcohol there, they had a bar and didn’t let anyone to bring alcohol to the hostel. In other words- it was their business. They also had music groups performing over there every evening. Some of them were really good. They had different classes every evening- macrame, Spanish language. etc. But the bad thing was the noise at night…They had very loud music till 2 am, seems it was enforced by the owners with the idea that guests will stay up and drink more alcohol…That is the main thing we are never going to stay there again. But this time it was convenient- our friends from Zion Nancy and Craig lived there for 3 months, so we spent some time together, went on to hikes, or just wandered in town and by the sea.
The room wasn’t very small, very light- windows on both sides, but nothing special Just how they make towels into swans .
This big yard or park on the sea shore or whatever it can be called – belonged to the hostel, to Andrei could stay in the hammock and work, as usual he does.
The building near by is without windows as well as some other son this stretch. Hurricane’s job…also – the sea was so close but it was not recommended to swim there. it is the open sea, therefore the waves are big and strong and many people have drowned there. So I had to go to swim on the other side of the island – the west side -where the waters are calm for the island is like a barrier from the open sea. Here is my Canadian acquaintance who is a very big traveler of the world:
The little doggie was everyone’s favorite, not hers, somebody’s. A real Chihuahua in Mexico! (it is a Mexican breed).
Here is another building near by, which used to be a hotel before the recent hurricane:
There was this Belgian guy at Poc -Na who had a talent to paint such a big painting from a picture in 2 hours! He got permission form the hotel owner and painted and painted because he cannot not paint . Here is him painting a wall at our hostel:
What a gifted guy!
The name of the boat was Heyerdahl – I guess it was traveling around the world. And as usual – I like cemeteries…This one is almost at the tip of the island surrounded with big fancy hotels:
And of course – iguanas are there, too.
Even on the walls of certain buildings that they like:
Behind those romantic curtains they do a massage.
This is what we most often ate! The fish was tasty. Especially the cheeks as our friend Leo suggested .
What concerns snorkeling – we tried to snorkel on our end of the island in a lagoon, very few fish. the waves too big, no fun. then we went to the other side of the island and snorkeled there closer to the other end of the island , we even tried a “park” – where you pay the ticket and a wild area, no ticket . the wild area was better. there by the legs of a bridge we even saw a lion fish which we later found out to be very poisonous. Thanks God we didn’t touch it. The inner sea there is very beautiful:
November 18, 2012
From Koba we drove to Tulum, there is a direct road. Had a reservation at El Jardin de Frida Hostel.Actually it was called bed & Tacos. We didn’t see any tacos there, but there was breakfast included and a little strange one/ In the morning we found a kitchen with lots of dirty dishes – self serve …, and a lot of different veggies, fruits, eggs, all the product you may imagine that can be used to cook breakfast. And people were cooking, in full speed! Doing different fancy twists and turns on their pans. Single German men were especially particular what they were cooking and French ladies were more into making just juice, fruit salad and yogurt. But they set their table nicely. And of course – while cooking breakfast or eating – everyone is exchanging ideas what to see, what to do here, how to get from there to there. It is very convenient to stay in hostels in case you are not driving but using public transportation – you can get all the info about it and also companions for the trip. But we still had the car.
Our room was really big:
The hostel was owned by Mexicans. Which needs to be mentioned. because many of them are owned by foreigners. Like the hostel on Isla Mujeres is owned by Argentinians and therefore the order of things is a little different and and all the employees except janitors were Argentinians/ So here- Mexicans and I would say – a very good hostel! Rooms had two balconies each. This view was towards the yard:
This “Mushroom” house was seen from the other balcony:
And here are some room names on the doors:
And as it usually is – the hostel had a yard with different sculptures in it:
This time I already felt tired of pyramids and decided to skip the so called – picture perfect Tulum Pyramid, left it for the next visit. Just ate in the praised Fish restaurant across the street from the hostel, and drove to dip into one more cenote. This time cenotes here were outside. I man not bellow the surfaces, but like lakes – little openings in this white Yucatan limestone:
This one was called Casa cenote. We found out about it from the guy in hostel, there is so many of them to choose around…A really good place for people who prefer cenotes versus swimming in the open sea – like me! . The water in cenote sis so pleasant, the right temperature, very clear and blue and some people even dive there and look at their interesting floors and shapes, maybe some fish. Here is the alternative:
Winds, waves, what is attractive about that? And Andrei was tired of everything, so while I was swimming in the cenote. he was observing a family of racoons which surrounded him there while sitting on the bench and reading his i-pad:
So that was that, we checked some towns closer to the beach, saw how many villas are for sale…and how dangerous it is to have a villa there (hurricanes). The next day after breakfast I still had an hour to try two more cenotes. I have to tell that cenotes are not free. Each has facilities, some taken care of paths, definitely a rope or two stretched along them, I guess for making some water acrobatics or at least stopping for a rest. Here is a path to another cenote close by:
This is the last cenote I visited. They were peculiar in the sense that both were located on different sides of the highway…hard to cross, better to drive from one to the other, and they both belonged to the same ticket office .
So transparent… so clean…I wish we had more time here. I would suggest to stay at least 2 night sin Tulum – there is much to investigate. But we were heading towards Cancun and Isla Mujeres.