Archive | September 2012

The England – Portugal Exchange – Review (Friday 17th August 2012 to Friday 7th September 2012)



Laura (who I actually know from Twitter), decided to make our own little cultural exchange. She lives in Lisbon, Portugal and I live in Southampton, England. Thus she flew over to England I tried to show her as much as I could of my country within 10 days, and then we both flew back to Lisbon together and she tried to show me as much of her country as she could in 12 days. This therefore was a total of 22 days! It was a great experience and I can’t wait to go back!



Day 1 [Day 1] –’Luton to Southampton’ (collecting Laura from Luton Airport, getting home, then spending the evening in a pub and visiting Martin, plus fish and chips) link

Day 2 [Day 2] – ‘Southampton and Romsey’ (the day in Southampton, then the late afternoon and evening in Romsey and the New Forrest) link

Day 3 [Day 3] – ‘Bedford’ (drove from Southampton to Bedford and spent the rest of the day in Bedford) link

Day 4 [Day 4] – ‘Cambridge’ (a day in Cambridge, including punting, I believe Laura’s favourite day) link

Day 5 [Day 5] – ‘Winchester and the Titanic Museum’ (a day in Winchester, although we went to the Titanic Museum on the way to the train station) link

Day 6 [Day 6] – ‘Portsmouth Habour’ (the Spinnekar Tower, Gunwalf Quays and getting Laura addicted to 2p machines) link

Day 7 [Day 7] – ‘Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square and a Sports Pub in Kennsington’ (arriving in London, meeting Nona there and doing a little bit of London including our normal pub) link

Day 8 [Day 8] – ‘Embankment, Westminster, Oxford Street/ Regent Street’ (as our first full day we did the most stereotypical parts and some shopping) link

Day 9 [Day 9] – ‘The No9 Bus, Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, The National Gallery, Piccadilly Circus, ‘M&M World, and an evening with Val’ (we did quite a lot, and met our mutual friend Val in the evening) link

Day 10 [Day 10] – ‘Harrods, St Pauls, Tate Modern, Tower Bridge, etc’ (we tried to visit as many places as possible during our last day in London, before going to St Pancras and on to Luton Airport) link


Day 1 [Day 11] – ‘Arriving in Lisbon and the river at Sexial’ (the day we flew from Luton to Lisbon and stayed close as we were very tired) link

Day 2 [Day 12] – ‘Walking Tour in Lisbon’ (my first day in Lisbon, so a tour by Laura’s Mum) link

Day 3 [Day 13] – ‘Sexial and Cork Factory’ (exploring Laura’s home town and visiting the Cork factory, which I thought was interesting) link

Day 4 [Day 14] – ‘The Castle, Cathedral and National Pantheon’ (some of the biggest attractions in Lisbon) link

Day 5 [Day 15] – ‘The Old Shipyard and Eco-Museum in Sexial’ (a few small museums we visited in Laura’s home town) link

Day 6 [Day 16] – ‘Belem’ (just west of Lisbon with a Monastery, monument, etc) link

Day 7 [Day 17] –  ‘Up the Hill’ (visiting the National Park Serra de Arrabida, just south of Lisbon) link

Day 8 [Day 18] –

Day 9 [Day 19] –

Day 10 [Day 20] –

Day 11 [Day 21] –

Day 12 [Day 22] –

This entry was posted on September 8, 2012. 1 Comment

A Different Side of Portugal: Day 7 – Up the Hill (Sunday 2nd September 2012)


Introduction: Out of all the days this actually felt the most like my family holidays and actually is something me and family have always do a lot of on holiday abroad. It was a Sunday so both Laura’s Mum and Grandmother were free all day so we drove up into the hills and further down the coast into a National Park called Serra da Arrabida [Wikipedia link], stopping several times on the way. We also called by Laura’s Aunt’s house and had a failed attempt at visiting the castle with Laura’s Goddaughter. On the way home we stopped a couple times on a search for cider, which too was unsuccessful and for the evening we went down to the cafe.

Breakfast and finally leaving

This was a very early start for at least. We got up at about 8am. I think I was actually the first up first. We had breakfast and Laura’s Mum was rushing around because we were leaving a little later than she hoped. She was literally acting as tour guide all day, we just followed and Laura translated.

A little walk by the sea

We drove a little down the coast and at a point which seemed to be quite random Laura’s Mum pulled the car over. There was a little path heading into the bushes which she walked down. We were all quite sceptical of whether this would lead anywhere. She did a dummy run and gestured it was OK. It came out to a headland looking over the sea and some country side with the cliffs. We followed it around further and came out near a cliff edge. She pointed towards a long beach stretching down the coast. It went on for miles and apparently stretched as far as the Algarve. She also said we should be quiet and just listen to the sea as it was calming. It was so quiet with nobody around that the sea was all you could hear.

The path Laura’s Mum took us down, as you can see with she led the way

Me at the top of this hill

Me and Laura 🙂

Looking across the other side

Laura’s Mum at the end of the path we walked down to

More photos from this little walk here

Sightseeing from the car

We continued down the road and I was busy sightseeing through the windows. There were views on both sides, one towards the coast and other towards a valley and in land. We stopped several times for photos. They weren’t proper viewing spots and I’m unsure how many tourist actually came down this way.

Us one at one of our little view spots on the way

Balancing on the beam lol

Me sitting with the view of down the valley behind

Looking down to the sea

More photos take from both in the car and at our stops on the way here

Coffee in Azeitão

We stopped for coffee in a little town called Azeitão. We parked just outside the main town next to a line vineyard. This area seemed to be famous for wines and especially vineyards and companies which have been running for years. We walked down the main street past a fountain and a church and continued down the street. We even passed one of these old wine makers on their way. We stopped in a cafe further down the main street. There were so many cakes and pastries! I had no idea what to try and really wanted to try something traditional. Laura chose for me.

When we got back to the car, Laura’s Mum was talking about a very old wine producer which you could visit and was open to the public. We did call by it as it on way, however the gates were closed. They spoke to the security guy at the gate who informed us that it was closed on Sundays, so we didn’t really chose the best day to come.

The street we walked down (with old wine producers on the left, close)

The Coffee shop which we went to

Coffee and Pastries

The fountain in the main street

The wine manufactures which were closed as it was a Sunday

More photos from Azeitão here

The Monastery

It wasn’t too long until we stopped again. This time we stopped at a Monastery. I was a little confused at first as outside was a lot of people on motorbikes and what seemed to be a strange looking market place but this was just outside the Monastery and after walking around the corner it was clear where we going. The monastery I believe is called Santuário de Nossa Senhora do Cabo Espichels. It wasn’t too open but there were a lot of signs (including in English) which helped. We could also go into the church at the Monastery, although we couldn’t take any photos. Outside reminded me a lot of Portland Bill really as it was right on the cliff edge.

Looking down the Monastery

The front of the church

Looking back down from the church

Looking an archway to the sea (shows how close it is from the cliff face)

View down the coast from next to the Monastery 

More photos from the Monastery here

Lunch in Sesimbra

We continued further down the road again and was close to lunch time. We went into one of the seaside towns for lunch. We had to call by the supermarket on the way because although we bought water Laura’s Mum and Grandmother hadn’t. Then in a little restaurant we ordered sardines. I have had this once in the past but I’m sure it became very obvious I wasn’t very use to it. Also although I loved sardines as the taste I seem to have a phobia of eyes. I like meat but if it still looks like the animal even with its eye still there I can’t cope. My parents are use to this like when ordering prawns which are not already cut up I always have to get someone like my Mum or brother to sort them out for me. In the end Laura’s Mum had to treat me like a little child and cut them up for me, I actually much preferred this as I found it more manageable.

After lunch we walked down to the beach, which was actually only about 50m from the restaurant and could basically see it where we were sat. As well as loads of people on the beach there were a lot of fresh fish shops. Again proper fresh fish in that they weren’t even filleted. There was also types of fish which I had never seen before. After a little more wondering we returned to the car and back on the road which we were on before.

The restaurant we went to

The sardines

I thought the coffee was a little too small for more liking lol

The beach

The fresh fish being sold

More photos from the town here

Laura’s Aunt’s house and the unsuccessful trip to the castle

From here we drove to Laura’s Aunt’s house and I feel I was just starting to get use to their greetings. Laura’s Goddaughter was also there although she seemed quite nervy of me at first. I’m still getting my head around a Goddaughter and not even sure if we have in the Church of England, although I’m not christened so perhaps we do. She stilled tried speaking to me in Portuguese although the only reply I could give was to nod and smile. We had tea and watched Matilda as it was on TV, although I’m sure parts didn’t quite translate too well.

The plan was to go to a castle not too far away. We went taking Laura’s Goddaughter with us. The issue was there was a festival on and thus the castle was closed for the day. In the end we drove around a bit, got lost and finally got back later with nothing achieved. Although we had been teaching Laura’s Goddaughter more English in the car, lol.

The hunt for cider

After Laura’s Mum had heard I liked cider, she wanted to see if she could find any. We went to 2 different supermarkets and still hadn’t found any. In the second she even asked and had no success. Although one actually did have a sign for Strongbow but seemed to be out of stock. They said they might get some in on another day.

Arriving at the first supermarket

Inside the Supermarket

The shopping the second visit involved

Searching the beer and wine aisles for the cider

The river at night and Laura is officially lingual

In the evening we walked down to the cafe. This was because Laura needed to speak to the owners about her work. I did have the choice of this or the park, but seeing how I wouldn’t have my translator there and I spoke no Portuguese at all this might have been a little too difficult. While Laura was chatting I disappeared off for a bit to walk down the river and admire it in the dark. It looked even more pretty all lit up.

When I got back I got chatting to the owner’s 2 sons. They actually spoke English, although it did seem to me at least to be a little limited. I hope that this proved too that how good Laura’s English was. She kept saying she had ‘bad English’ and me and my family laughed at this as it is seriously very good! I actually decided earlier she was officially bi-lingual at her Aunt’s house as I was talking with a pen in my mouth and she still understood every word even though it was all very muffled. This time these 2 brother’s kept getting stuck and asked Laura to translate parts and without hesitating did so straight away!

The cafe at night

Looking across the river in the dark

Looking down the river (towards the south)

Looking down the river (towards the north)

This entry was posted on September 2, 2012. 1 Comment

A Different Side of Portugal – Day 6: Belem (Saturday 1st September 2012)


Introduction: This was a very long day. Don’t think this helped Laura who was still not well. After getting a tram there being and a few complications to visiting the Monastery… or at least to begin with. We were able to visit the monument for sailors, the Tower which was very impressive although a tad scary at places, and finally the Monastery. Before heading home we visited a shop which claims to be the oldest to sell those custard tarts they do. This seemed to be half a museum as well as shop, even if not intentional.

Back to Lisbon

Like normal for the majority of our days out we walked down to the ferry terminal and got the ferry to Lisbon. On this morning it was a bit of a rush as the boats weren’t as frequent and we almost had to run what usually is a 15 minute walk in order to get there in time. The other reason we had to get there a little earlier was that Laura’s pass had expired and she needed to renew. This took a little more time than expected, not because of the queue or anything but because the structure and system behind these had changed and made things confusing.

My view of my window that morning (not sure why I took these actually lol) – Towards Lisbon

Looking over the Fire Station


To Belem

From the boat we had to get a tram. This was my first tram in Lisbon. I suppose almost strange as Lisbon has them everywhere and the older ones are almost iconic and this was my 6th day in Portugal and yet my first. We got the number 15, which we seemed to share with a whole load of school children. The tram arrived in Belem just outside the famous and old pastry shop which sold the custard tarts. From here we walked only a few meters down the road to the monastery.

The tram arriving

Us on the tram

A few more photos from this journey to Belem here 


The Monastery – Take 1

Our plan was to go straight to the Monastery. We went past the main entrance and Laura commented how someone was playing a trumpet outside which was unusual and she didn’t think you could do outside of this building so close to the door. We then joined what seemed to be a very long queue and after 15 minutes or so it was apparent that this queue was not going anywhere. It all was very weird and not sure what was going. It did slowly become apparent when cars with ribbons arrived outside the main entrance. It was then confirmed by over hearing people’s conversations. The reason it was not open was because there was a wedding. We also couldn’t work out why half the wedding party was at one end of the building and the other at the other end. Then we realised they were 2 separate weddings! One wedding was finishing and the other was only just starting! The Monastery was only partially open. We weren’t sure what to do. We even discussed coming back another day but instead decided to just come back later. We were content with this the Spanish tourist apparently weren’t constantly complaining about it as if it would make any difference.

The Monastery 

The main front door (including musician lol)

The first little clue there might be a wedding here 😉

Just another minor clue



As it had just gone midday we decided it was time for lunch. Plus this is only place with food and we weren’t going to see anywhere else until we had visited everywhere else. This was one of the few times we didn’t bring any sandwiches. Thus we decided to go McDonalds. Being me I was fascinated by it all being in Portuguese.

I just loved seeing it all in Portuguese lol

And I just loved how the bins said ‘Obrigado’ on them hehe


The Gardens and Monument

We then walked through the gardens opposite to the Monastery. This took us to the monument overlooking the sea. The monument was a memorial to soldiers of different eras who lost their lives. On the floor next to it was a map of the world showing the different countries Portuguese explorers discovered and when they discovered them. It was possible to go up the monument but Laura suggested we didn’t. It would be an extra expense in time as well as money and we were already planning to go up the Tower in Belem which was a similar height and she said was a lot more exciting.

View across the gardens back to towards the Monastery

Arriving at the monument

The map of the World on the floor next to it

The Monument from the side

A close up in the bottom

More photos from both the gardens and the at the Monument here


The walk to the Tower

From the monument it was possible to see the Tower just along the coast, even with my bad eyesight… although I did at first confuse it with an old lighthouse. We followed the path up towards the Tower, after a minor detour due to a dead end and large gap of water on the way. However we did get there in the end.

Looking to the tower in the distance

Looking back from where we had just come from 

An old lighthouse we went past on the way

A quote written on the floor which Laura did try to translate for me

When we realised we had hit a dead end but so close to where we wanted to go


The Tower

We perhaps took a detoured route there slightly as Laura was still unwell and wanted to stay in the shade as much as possible. Once inside we slowly worked our way up. The bottom floor was a series of cannons all pointing out different directions. The plan was by the position this the beginning of the river Tejo and where it meets the Atlantic so it was to stop invaders getting to Lisbon. In the centre of this area was a small courtyard with a staircase on the other side in the main part of the building. We went down to the basements which had the function of both an Arsenal (storage of munitions) and dungeons for prisoners. Upstairs was a kind of platform with little turrets in the corner for archers, etc. Inside the main building there was a further 4 floors and literally like a tower with a small spiral staircase joining them. Some were simple rooms. Others had tiny turrets leading off each corner with a small corridor a normal sized person would have to squeeze through. The information signs and set up was about a different subject area on each floor. Also on each floor was a balcony or something similar. One I found particularly scary as there were holes in the floor with no grid or mesh over it.

Approaching the Tower

The room with all the cannons

Looking down one of the floors in the tower down to main open space and courtyard below that

The scary balcony with the unprotected holes with a massive drop

Me in one of the tiny turrets at the top of the tower

A lot more photos from the tower here 🙂 


The Monastery (Take 2)

After finished the Tower we left and had the long walk back to the Monastery; this time with more luck. There was no queue and everything was open. We walked around the cloisters which had so much decoration and sophisticated carvings; you would take it all in if you look really carefully. Around the cloistered area were a few interesting things too. Like 13 doors leading down one side. This turned out to be for confession. On the other side of that wall was the church, so the monk or priest would enter this side and the confessor the other side. There was also a monument and grave for Fernando Pessoa (who seems to have featured a lot through this trip). Laura particularly was interested by this as she learnt a lot about him before at school. I was a little confused by the varying names on the sides, and discovered that this was because he wrote under different names.

From here we went upstairs. On both the lower floor and the upper floor there were a few rooms. They varied from large halls and rooms dedicated almost to people. There was one floor which we spent a particularly long time in. It had history related to Portugal, Europe and the whole world. It was summed up in the middle with a long timeline throughout the ages leading up to the modern day. One side was in Portuguese the other was very kindly in English. The last room upstairs was ‘the upper choir’ looking down on the church part. On our way out we went into the church part itself.

The entrance to the church part (next to where we queued)

The Cloisters 

A kind up of close up (won’t do it justice though)

Fernando Pessoa’s grave


Looking over the church from the ‘upper choir’

The little doors for confession inside the church

A lot more photos from the monastery here


The Pastry Shop

As we headed to the tram again to go home it only seemed right to get some more of the custard tarts. They claimed to be the oldest shop. The queue was so long! And this was just for the take away section. We did consider to sit down inside, but there was no space. From the outside the shop looked tiny but it turned out was massive with passages leading further and further back with room after room with seating. The shop also seemed to act like a kind of museum. There was old tills and other machinery on display. In one part there was a large window where you could actually watch them being made.

In the end we just joined the queue to take away and bought 6. The plan was to eat them a little later.

Outside the entrance to the shop

Inside and the queue for take away

An old till on display in one of the corridoors of the shop

Watching the custard tarts being made

A couple more photos from inside the shop here 


Going home

We wanted to get the old tram of the 15 as there were many on this route. We just missed one due to getting the custard tarts. We let 3 new ones go past and then gave up. When the next arrived we just got that one and was done with it. On the boat we had one of these custard tarts. In fact they didn’t last too long because we had a further 2 for pudding (/desert) as part of dinner.

In the evening Laura fell asleep early. She was ill and only just starting to seem to recover, thus bed to bed early. I ended up staying up with Laura’s Mum and Grandmother watching the Portuguese equivalent to ‘You’ve Been Framed’.

The old tram I wanted to get but we kept missing 😦

Us on the ferry home, eating some of the custard pies we bought 

This entry was posted on September 1, 2012. 1 Comment