Saturday, June 15, 2013

14 Jun 13 – Day 8 (Lisbon)

As usual, I messaged little big sis while waiting for my turn to wash up. Got down for breakfast and Kim said that we should check with the reception counter how to get back to the hotel from Rossio Square in case there were not enough people to form the optional tour. So after eating, we collected our stuff from the room and proceeded to the lobby. The lift took very long to reach our level and so we decided to take the stairs where we saw this interesting phrase “The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” when we reached the lobby. Approached the reception counter and the friendly receptionist gave us the maps and explained to us which station to board and alight as well as the direction to walk back to the hotel.

This morning we went on the city tour and our tour guide spoke very good English. She explained to us that the Portuguese speak pretty good English because of its geographic location. Portugal is located at the end of the Europe continent, is nearer to the United Kingdom and so has good relationship with the UK. Spain, on the other hand, is nearer to France and so is influenced by the French which explains why the Spanish tends to use more of their own language rather than converse in English even with tourists.

Along the way, we passed by The Column of Pedro IV and saw the 25 de Abril Bridge with Cristo-Rei on one end. Finally, we got to the Belem Tower or the Tower of St Vincent where we also saw the Monument to the First South Atlantic Aerial Crossing. From there, we could see the 25 de Abil Bridge again. Took many photos of the bridge, the Belem Tower and the surroundings. Walked around the place and saw a street artist selling his paintings. The Sim family stood around him and finally bought a small artwork from him.

Near to the designated meeting place, there were some souvenir shops where I bought a couple of magnets made of porcelain and cork as well as two postcards made of cork. I was sure that M will appreciate those. We boarded the coach to the next stop which was actually not very far. It was the Padrão dos Descobrimentos also known as Monument to the Discoveries in English. Near the monument was the Compass Rose Square with the world map on the floor. From there, we could see the Jerónimos Monastery which was our next stop. The local guide told us that next to the monastery was a shop that came out with the first original Portuguese egg tart recipe. From then on, many other shops try to imitate the recipe and thus resulting in so many shops selling Portuguese egg tarts.

Boarded the bus again to go to the monastery and it took quite a while to get there even though it was actually just across the streets. Along the way, passed by the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, a place where researches for cure to cancers take place. Got to the monastery and the local guide gave explanations while we walked through the place. Didn't catch a lot of the details because I was taking photos. Only remembered the place for the confession. Unlike the others where confession takes place in a box-like room, the priest sits inside a room with a door with a few holes arranged in the shape of a cross, the confessor then knee outside the room and gave his confession. Kim and I were puzzled; won’t the other people see the confessor and hear the confession?

After the tour inside the monastery, we were given time to explore the 2-storey claustro as well as to grab lunch before gathering again to go for the optional tour. Kim and I spent a long time at the claustro taking photos, trying to get the best view and eventually left with only just enough time to get lunch. We walked along the street which the local guide pointed out earlier where we could find food. Couldn't decide what to eat and then a waitress called out to us and explained the menu. Food looked good and since she spoke good English and explained the dishes in details, we decided to eat lunch at the shop. We were seated outside under the big umbrella and I ordered the Codfish in cream and cheese while Kim ordered the Calamari with fries and rice. Then we saw Mr and Mrs Chia eating in the next restaurant.

Our food took a long time to serve and when they were finally served, we took photos and the nice waitress helped us took photos with our food. Gobbled our lunch quickly and asked for the bill. Kim offered to settle the bill first while I went to the loo in the shop. Quickly got back to Kim and walked back to the meeting place. Along the way, took more photos with the pretty flowers and park.

Boarded the coach to continue with the optional tour and Nancee said the whole group opted for the tour and so the local guide was able to follow us through. It was also decided that after the optional tour, we would be dismissed at the Baxia for the free evening. On the way, we traveled along the Alantic Ocean and saw the beaches. The local guide explained to us about the different colored flags with regard to the condition of the sea for that day.

Started the optional tour with the Cascais and we passed through centre of Cascais to reach the fishing pier. Beside the fishing pier was the Fisherman’s beach called Praia dos Pescadores. Walked pass the fishing pier and we saw the Cascais Citadel which consists of Fort of Nossa Senhora da Luz and Torre de Santo António Cascais. Nearby was the Statue of Dom Carlos, King of Portugal in 1826. We were given some time to walk around and take photos before continuing on. While on the coach, the local guide told us about the rooster that was commonly found on magnets. It turned out that legend has it that a pilgrim was on his way to pay pilgrimage and a young girl took a fancy on him but he paid no attention to her. The girl became furious and decided to steal the money from the church and hid it beneath the pilgrim’s bed to frame him. He was caught and brought to the mayor who was having roasted rooster for dinner. The pilgrim said that he was innocent and just then; the rooster came back alive with feathers and all and started roosting. The girl was then caught but the pilgrim forgave her. So the rooster is now a symbol to ward off people who envy the others. 

Traveled along the Atlantic Ocean again and we were given a photo stop. Before we alighted, the local guide told us that it was going to be extremely windy and chilly so she advised us to wear a light jacket and hold on tightly to our stuff. Got down and sure enough, it was extremely windy and I was almost blown off my feet. My first thought was that small Lynda would probably be blown off if she was there. Took photos while trying to hold on to my bag and my hair. At the end of it, all of us looked like mad men and women with all our wind-blown hair.

We continued on to the westernmost of the Europe continent and the local guide told us that we could get a nice certificate for an amount of Euros from the tourist information center to certify that we were at the westernmost of the Europe continent. Reached Cabo da Roca, Kim and I quickly took photos with the monument that declares Cabo da Roca as the westernmost extent of continental Europe before the group came crowding. We also saw the Cabo da Roca Lighthouse from afar and the local guide told us that we were not allowed to go up to the lighthouse. Walked around the surroundings, took photos before going back to the designated meeting place to board the coach to go to the Baxia. The local guide told us that because Portugal is near the sea, their cuisine is mainly seafood and they don’t do frying, mainly baking and grilling. Salted codfish is their specialty and it was said that Portuguese cook codfish in different styles 365 days. Also sardines happened to be in season and the way they eat is by grilling without removing the insides. 

Got to the Baxia, Kim and I wandered around, taking photos of the street performers, the Santa Justa Lift and did some shopping. We were done with shopping about 8+pm and went to look for dinner. Kim wanted to finish up her cup noodle and said she will only get some snacks from MacDonald’s. So I had to get my own dinner. Didn’t want to eat fast food and so suggested that I would get egg tarts from the café Nichola and shared the snacks from MacDonald’s. Bought nuggets and Chicken MacBites before heading to café Nichola. I ordered an egg tart and a custard tart while Kim ordered another egg tart.

Went to Rossio station and tried to buy tickets from the machine. There were English instructions and we followed through. We indicated and paid for two tickets but only one came out. We figured that perhaps the “two” refers to round trip and so Kim agreed to take that while I get the correct ticket. Went to the platform and waited. There were some passengers on the platform but they were standing towards the other end of the platform. The train came but it only had a few carriages and we had to run to the other end of the platform to board. Unfortunately, the door closed when we reached the last carriage. So had to wait for the next train and this time we stayed put at that end of the platform. Boarded the train and it only took about 15-20 minutes to get back to the station near our hotel. Alighted, figured out the correct exit but had a bit of a problem navigating back to the hotel. While reading the map, we saw the father and son of the Sim family and we asked them for directions. 

Thoughts: Cannot complain too much about today since I got the best of both, the optional tour and going back to the Baxia, and also got to do some shopping. 

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