5.10.18

Cascais


Cascais is a charming seaside town in the Greater Lisbon region, located on the Portuguese Riviera.  It is a cosmopolitan centre and tourist destination.  It attracted the rich and royal families to spend summers with the excellent coastal location. Foreign kings and royal families such as King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom, King Carlos I of Spain and King Umberto II of Italy claimed the town as their home.  Today, Cascais is one of the wealthiest municipalities in both Portugal and the Iberian Peninsula.  It is a symbol of high quality living. Not difficult to imagine, the real estate cost is soaring high.

The little gem welcomes its guests with the picturesque beach, Praia da Rainha. Literally, it is translated as the 'The Queen's beach' as this beautiful small cove was chosen by Queen Dona Amelia as her private beach.  The beautiful beach with its proximity to the railway station draws crowds during the holiday period.


Cascais is dotted with cobble streets, beautiful houses, azulejos and nostalgic atmosphere. At the centre is the 5th October Square. The grey and white mosaic floor looks like waves which adds dynamics to the vibrant centre.


We then headed to the direction of the sea. A beautiful yacht harbour came into sight.  Round a corner stands the Tower of Santo Antonio de Cascais.  It is raw and mighty. Strolling along the streets we saw beautiful houses.  Next was the Pousada Hotel and Art District. It is a luxury hotel set within the walls of the historical fortress of the symbolic 16th century Citadel of Cascais.  This is the first hotel in Europe which has an art district.  It exhibits "in loco" creation by the residing and guest artists in constant dynamics between guests and Art.


Going west is the Museum Quarter. One can choose to visit museums or enjoy a leisure walk between the museums.  Museums include: 

It was constructed in early 1900 by the Irish tobacco millionaire Jorge O'Neill.  His private art collection is displayed.  Exhibits include 17th century Oriental art, Indo-Portuguese furniture and an assortments of other varied artifacts. The weather was terrific good. We opt to walk around the Museum Quarter,  Hens, peacocks walked freely around.

Condes de Castro Guimarães Museum - Chapel
Museo do Mar (Museum of the Sea)
It shows the history of fishing and sailing at Cascais and the royal connection of sailing.


Exhibits are primarily donations by Paula Rego. They include paintings by her late husband, the artist Victor Willing and some of the models used by the donor.


Around the Museum Quarter is the Jardim Marechal Carmona dotted with art pieces and sculptures.  Local residents enjoyed the space and sunshine.


Walking further west, about 2km from Cascais, lies the Boca do Inferno (Hell's mouth).  It is an interesting cliff formation, a small bay and natural arch resulted by endless pounding of the Atlantic Ocean.  The walk along the coastal line is gorgeous.  Visitors are rewarded with great views of rocks, birds and natural scenery.


Last but not the least, but perhaps the most beautiful and enjoyable promenade is the beachfront walk from Cascais to Estroil.  It is a very popular 3km flat walk.  Strolling along the path captures very beautiful views of the open sea,  best beaches, historical buildings, cafes and restaurants.

 
 
 



21.9.18

Obidos


We had quite a long sightseeing list of Portuguese cities. 4th May 2018 was the best day with sunshine.  So, it was reserved for SintraSetubal and Ericeira also require sunshine. Obidos is a small charming town and we would like to visit definitely.  So, 3rd May was picked.


Obidos is a medieval fortified town. It is still surrounded by a city wall. One can enjoy wonderful views over the terracotta tiled roofs with white painted houses decorated with sharp blue, yellow, etc. The panoramic views of the surroundings are green and soothing. The entire walk takes about an hour. There are almost no safety railings.  You need a bit courage and stamina.  Children could do it.  Therefore, no doubt, you can walk through.





The main gate entering Obidos contains a beautiful chapel with blue and white glazed tiles (Azulejo) dated 18th century. At time a young guy was playing instrument and a dark knight standing to receive money.


A striking enormous castle stands proudly at the edge of Obidos.   The area was settled by the Lusitanos as early as 4th century BC and Romans in 1st century and occupied by Visigoths in 5th and 6th century. It was the Muslims who fortified the town in the 8th century.


A few churches serve the religious needs in the area.  Among all, the most beautiful is the church of Santa Maria, Matriz. It is the first church of the town which was built on the remnants of a Visigothic temple.  The construction is dated back to 12th century and has been restored in several occasions. Most parts of the building are Renaissance style.  It became famous in 1444 because of the marriage of the youngest (possibly) royal family took place here - King Alfonso V, aged 10 and his cousin Isabel aged 8.


Livraria de Santiago was converted to a modern bookshop. If Jesus Christ were there, he would have condemned the act of turning God Father's holy place to commerce.


Obidos is quite small.  Visit for a half day is good.  In case if you are hungry, head to Ja!mon Ja!mon which is outside the city wall.  It served wonderful lunch with daily specials.  We had grilled fish and ox cheek.  Both main dishes were very delicious.


Ginja is a sweet cherry liquor served in small chocolate cup.  It is produced within the Obidos region.  Various stores along the main shopping street Rua Direita sell Ginja at the store front. So, take one before you leave Obidos.


The best way to reach Obidos from Lisbon is by bus.  Express buses leave from Campo Grande (underground stations of the green and yellow line). The journey takes an hour and a single ticket costs €7.1.



7.9.18

Mafra


A visit to Lisbon will also include sightseeing at the neighbour towns: Sintra, Obidos, Cascais, Sesimbra, Mafra, Evora and Serra da Arribida (if you drive).  Sintra and Obidos are packed with tourists.  Evora is quite distant. Marfa is closer and relatively quiet.  It is a pretty town and has one of the largest and most extravagant palaces in Europe, the Palacio de Mafra.

Mafra Palace was constructed by King John V in thanks for having a healthy heir, Maria Barbara who became the queen of Spain. The king married to Queen Maria Anna.  They did not have healthy children.  So he vowed to construct a great monastery if he was provided an heir.  The wish has worked and they had 6 children further more.

Originally, the construction was meant for a convent of housing 13 friars. But the influx of gold from Brazil allowed the project scope vastly expanded for 330 friars. State rooms were added to the original design. The convent became a palace and as a hunting retreat for the royal family members.  There are over 1,200 rooms but only a handful were open to the public. It includes the convent's infirmary (hospital), basilica, royal rooms and a stunning Rococo library.


The basilica is situated at the middle of the palace, in between the King's and Queen's tower.  It enabled the royal couple to attend church services without leaving their royal quarters on the higher level. Alternatively, one can also enter the church on the lower level. It is immense and full of sculptures from Italy and Portugal.  Matching its extravagant nature, it contains 6 beautiful organs.


After purchasing the entry ticket, the first sightseeing point is the beautiful internal yard.  Immense empire building in lush green.  At time of visit, photo taking of eagles and owl was offered to gather money to protect the birds in the wild.


The first to be seen upon entering the palace is the place where the monks reside and the infirmary.  Visitors will see the simple furnished monks' cells, a kitchen with historical utensils, a small dispensary and the cubicles in a long ward for the injured and sick. At the end of the ward is a chapel.  The beds were pulled into the centre of the ward so that patients could see and hear mass on every Sunday.


 
 


Following are a number of royal rooms with the old-day furniture, magnificent paintings / fresco and portraits of the royal family of different generations.  Among all, the first is the flamboyant Throne Room, where the king met with the official audiences. Other rooms include the royal couples' bedroom, music room, hunting room, etc.





The library is the highlight of the palace.  It rivals the grandeur of the library of the Melk Abbey in Austria.  It is 88m long, 9.8m wide and 13m high. The floor is covered with tiles of rose, grey and white marble.  The wooden bookshelves in two rows are situated on the sidewalls, separated by a balcony and a wooden railing.  They stores over 36,000 leather-bound volumes, attesting of the extent of western knowledge between 14th and 19th century. The library is also renowned for bats protecting the books from insect damage.



The Palace of Mafra is opened from Wednesday to Monday, from 9.00 to 18.00.  The town can be reached by bus departing from Campo Grande which is also a major underground station. The bus journey from Lisbon to Mafra is about 40 minutes.  The visit lasts about 2 hours, depends on how deep you will like to go into. Afterwards, one can take the same bus further to Ericeira to enjoy beaches, water activities and sumptuous seafood.