30.8.10

Sesimbra and around ...

For our summer family holidays, we had thus rented a house at Sesimbra, some 30-45 minutes drive south of Lisbon. Being so close to Lisbon, the place is of course very active especially during the summer months, having some very nice beaches, a lot of (fish) restaurants and an active nightlife.

I discovered that I had no decent photo of the place; our house was a bit distant from the little town and we actually mostly went there in the evening so I had to “steal” this Wikipedia one.

I have some photos from the surrounding coastlines and beaches. The below ones were taken at Portinho da Arrabida (as the top photo) and at Moinho de Baixo. Driving between these places you cross the Arrabida National Park, a just beautiful protected area, covered with especially pines.


I guess that we must admit that Sesimbra for us rather meant staying at the house we had rented; the weather was quite hot, we didn’t see one cloud during the two weeks we stayed there … and the swimming-pool became the major attraction, especially for the 7 and 3 years old grandkids, Paloma and Mattias.
(You may refer to the preceding posts from our holidays: Bilbao, Salamanca, Lisbon, Sintra, Cabo da Roca, Cascais.)

27.8.10

Sintra, Cabo da Roca, Cascais...

Some more illustrations from our family holidays (see previous posts about Bilbao, Salamanca, Lisbon).


In a very decent distance from Lisbon there are a number of places that you just must visit. We made only a few of them, as the major purpose with the holidays was to rest and enjoy the house and the swimming-pool that we had rented.

These are the places we concentrated on during a day trip.


SINTRA
Sintra, situated high up on hills, offers a comparatively cool climate and was during centuries a summer resort for Portuguese Royalty. The place is UNESCO World Heritage Site, basically due to its romantic architecture. Lord Byron said: “I must just observe that the village of Cintra in the Estremadura is the most beautiful in the world.”

There is an old castle built by the Moors, “Castelo dos Muoros” with origins from the 8th and 9th century on the very top of the hill (on one of the photos), also the Pena Palace (“Palcio Nacional da Pena”), “Palcio da Regaleira”, “Palaco de Montserrate”, “Seteais Palce”… – which we did not visit) and in the very town centre, the “Palacio Nacional de Sintra” , which we visited. This was the summer residence of the Portuguese Royalty, with the major parts dating from the 15th and 16th century. It’s today a museum and the pictures below are from the town and this palace.
The landscape around is beautiful, “Serra de Sintra”.

CABO DA ROCA
We took the road to “Cabo da Roca”

"Cabo da Roca" is the westernmost point of continental Europe. The impressive lighthouse was completed in 1772.
CASCAIS
Following the coastline back to Lisbon on the beautiful Estoril Coast, you pass by Cascais. Originally a fishing village, Cascais became fashionable when the Portuguese Royal family started to come here during the end of the 19th century. Portugal being neutral during WW II, the place became the home of several royal families – Spain, Italy, Hungary, and Bulgaria.

The other family members stayed around and looked better at the place, but I left earlier for a wonderful dinner with Mr and Mrs. Blogtrotter in Lisbon, so I have only a few photos.
I wish you a nice weekend!

25.8.10

Lisbon

I continue with some pictures from our family holidays (see previous posts about Bilbao and Salamanca).

The house we had rented was just some 30 or 45 minutes drive from Lisbon, so we made a number of visits there, although with grandkids and hot weather sometimes the energy lacked.

I had also the great pleasure to meet Blogtrotter who offered me an excellent lunch one day and, another day, an – again excellent – dinner, when I also had the privilege to meet Mrs. Blogtrotter. A charming couple and some very nice moments!

For those who never visited Lisbon, maybe a map can be useful.
The central parts of Lisbon offer some nice hills with steep and narrow streets on both sides of “Baixa” (Downtown). On one side you have the “Bairro Alto” (Upper Quarter) preceded by the slightly lower quarter “Chiado”, where you will find most of the bars and restaurants. On the other side, you find “Alfama”, actually the oldest part of the city, with “Bairro do Castelo” and the old castle “Castelo de Sao Jorge” on the top.
Along the coastline of the Tagus River, “Rio Tejo”, to the west of the centre is Belém (with its “Torre de Belém”,”Mosteiro dos Jeronimos”…) and northeast you will reach a new district, originally created around the World Exhibition in 1998, “Parque des Naçoes”(Nations Park).

The first pictures are from the central pedestrian street, Rua Augusta, leading to the large place on the riverside, “Praço de Commercio”, surrounded by ministry buildings.
A major attraction is of course the lift, “Elevador de Santa Justa”, also named “Elevador do Carmo”, dating from 1902, which will bring you from “Baixa” to the higher “Chiada” quarters.
All over, in the lower or the more hilly parts, you will be struck by the old-fashioned, nice lampposts.
Some shots from bars and restaurants, one of which is the famous “A Brasileira” in the "Chiada" district.
Some views on and from the medieval “Castelo de Sao Jorge”. There were a number of peacocks around.
… and some views of and from the “Torre de Belém”, another major attraction, built around 1520 to guard the entrance of the Port of Belém from where most of the Portuguese explorers (Vasco da Gama…) left. Belém is also where you can find the beautiful Monastery “Mosteiro dos Jeronimos”, which I missed this time (but had seen during previous visits).
“Parque das Naçoes” is a new district, developed for - and further after - the 1998 World Exhibition. It’s today an attractive area; the “Ocenario” is e.g. a fabulous aquarium. In the background you can see (part of) the “Ponte Vasco da Gama”, Europe’s longest bridge.
For the grandkids, the greatest experience was the trip with one of Lisbon’s famous trams.

23.8.10

Salamanca

After Bilbao (see previous post and map) and about four hours on excellent Spanish roads, we reached Salamanca, a beautiful city with a very long history. It’s famous for its university, one of the oldest in Europe (officially created in 1218) – together with Bologna, Paris, Oxford, Montpellier… - and for its architecture.

Again, we just stayed overnight and had little time for exploring (fortunately this was not my first visit) the multitude of amazing buildings. The centre is full of them, mostly built in a typical sandstone, which gives them a golden glow, especially during sunset and sunrise. The city is referred to as “La Ciudad Dorada” (The Golden City). Most of these buildings date from between the 15th and 18th century.

The central square, "Plaza Mayor", can compete about being one of the most beautiful in Europe. It was created during the 18th century and those days bullfights took place on the plaza. Today you will just find some peaceful cafés.
The specific style of architecture which you find all around, “plateresque”, is particularly visible on the University facade.
There is an older cathedral, but the bigger one, which you can see here, dates from the 16th century. The exterior as well as the interior are spectacular.
A completely different building is the “Casa Lis”, "only" some 100 years old. It was restored, the stained glass windows were added and in 1995 it opened as a museum for a collection of “art nouveau” and “art deco” objects.

20.8.10

Bilbao

I’m back. Sorry for a long absence, but it was nice! Before resuming my normal Paris posts, I will, as I often do, tell you something about the places I visited. Here is the map.













Leaving Paris by train for Biarritz close to the Spanish border, the trip continued by a rented car and the first stop was Bilbao. The real goal was a place called Sesimbra, just south of Lisbon, where we, kids and grandkids, had rented a house.









Bilbao is situated in the Basque country and is the capital of Biscay. We made only an overnight stop, so the visit was very summary. I show you some pictures of the older part of the city. You may recognize the Teatro Arriaga, the City Hall and the Estación de la Concordia.
From the old centre, a short walk along the Nervion River, will bring you to what has become the major interest for short time visitors, the Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry. The permanent collection concerns 20th (and 21st) century art, the most striking maybe (at least the one occupying the most of the space) the enormous steel structure, “The Matter of Time”, by Richard Serra (in the “Arcelor Gallery”, which has its name from the steel manufacturer, now ArcelorMittal). Outside the fantastic building you may find one of the famous spider, “Maman”, sculptures by Louise Bourgeois and some “Tulips” and a “Puppy” by Jeff Koons.


I wish you a nice weekend!