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Saturday, 20 February 2016

Cruise and Land Tour in Portugal - July 2nd/2015....

On the Trafalgar bus tour, there were a total of 51 persons.  Being by myself, I had a seat on the bus to myself.

At 5:30 pm, we departed for a short tour of Lisbon.  The only site that we visited was the Park Edward VII, which was named after the British monarch in 1902. 

Afterwards, we went to a local restaurant for a welcome supper, where we sampled a number of Portuguese dishes.  The wine was included and unlimited.   The first dish was a green salad with goat’s cheese and olive oil, then baked mushrooms stuffed with chopped olives and herbs; meatballs; a baked sweet red pepper stuffed with cod and mashed potatoes; baked asparagus with pumpkin sauce and baked chicken legs.  Another dish was baked goat cheese with a red berry sweet preserve - this was unusual and unexpectedly delicious.  For dessert, we had an apple crumb with vanilla ice cream.  It was a very enjoyable meal with which everyone seemed pleased.

Next morning, the hotel offered a buffet breakfast which was just mediocre.   The selections in the hot section were not appealing to me and the cold selections were the usual sort of things and were alright.

This was a very busy day.  Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world, and the oldest in Western Europe, predating other modern European capitals such as London, Paris, and Rome by centuries.  We began with a city tour which included the historic sites in Belem - there were three major sites which we visited - the Belem Tower, the Monument to the Discoveries and St. Jerome Monastery.  

Trafalgar offered an optional tour of Cascais and Sintra, which I took.  The drive to and visit of Cascais and Sintra in the afternoon were an optional excursion at a cost per person of  €45.00.

Several times during the Trafalgar land tour, the tour guide treated the group to a pastry or other sweet treat.  As soon as we finished the tour of the monastery, we got pasties de nata which are custard-cream tartlets - they were hot out of the oven and very tasty.  There is a story behind how pastries like this came about - in 1833, when all the religious orders were dissolved and their lands and buildings appropriated in Portugal, nuns turned to making pastries to support themselves.

Cascais shows once-palatial residences which have been converted into bed-and-breakfasts and other businesses.  There is an impressive modern casino and shops are oriented to tourists.   There seems to be no limit to the number of painted tiles in Portugal - they are everywhere - on the inside and outside of buildings, historical monuments, churches, railroad stations, commercial buildings, personal residences.  We will see many more tiles.  For lunch, I just had Gelato ice cream.
Near Cascais, there is a weather-beaten coastline called Boca do Inferno.  This is, or is very close to, the farthest western point of the European continent.

Sintra’s stunning setting on the north slope of the granite Serra, among wooded ravines and fresh water springs, made it a favorite summer retreat for the kings of Portugal.  
We returned to Lisbon where we saw some more city sites; then we had another optional excursion to a restaurant offering Fado entertainment, at a cost per person of  €64.00.

The Luso is a dinner theater offering Fado entertainment.  Like the blues, Fado is an expression of longing and sorrow. For this supper, as for all suppers in Portugal, there were olives and bread on the table and the serving of wine began immediately and continued throughout.  We started with a green salad with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and olives.  Then we received the customary vegetable soup, a tradition in Portugal.  I had a generous portion of cod fish on a bed of mashed potatoes with some type of cheese sauce on top.  There was a flan for desert and espresso coffee.

Photos belong to Phil Bianco.

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