Three go to Lisbon.

One of the iconic yellow trams which transport locals and tourists across the city. Cheap, clean and reliable and a great way to see this wonderful city. Take the number 28 tram for the classic Lisbon tram journey which screeches and rattles its way through the popular tourist districts. In this picture is also one of the hundreds of tuk-tuks ready to take tourists on a tour, costing rather more than the tram.

There’s no doubt that Lisbon is very hilly and our apartment was right on the top of one of the hills by the Sao Jorge Castle. We loved this area. In the day it teems with tourists rolling through the many souvenir shops or queuing to go into the castle and at night you’re transported back in time as you walk along the quiet, dimly lit cobbled streets. There was a full moon the night we arrived.

A full moon on our first night in the city.

Day one. First objective …to find a bakers for croissant and bread and a little grocers for fruit and yogurt. No problem at all. Our little apartment had a terrace which was one of the reasons we chose it. Perfect for eating breakfast al fresco or enjoying a glass of wine later. The terrace backed onto the wall of the castle which has several very noisy residents. It wasn’t unusual to see a peacock looking down on us from the wall or an adjacent tree, fortunately they couldn’t get out of the grounds! The thing about peacocks is that they are very noisy. I always thought that at night time birds go to roost and sleep. These delightful creatures sqwark all the time …morning, noon and night. No we didn’t get used to it! Our friend had the bedroom at the front of the building so she couldn’t hear them – we could!

Enough about peacocks, we had a city to explore. First stop was to walk down the hill to the the cathedral known locally as the Se de Lisboa. This Roman Catholic church is the oldest in the city and has an impressive Gothic cloister.

Not the prettiest church I’ve ever been in but the cloister is impressive.

Tour of the cathedral done, it was time for a sandwich and a beer before walking down to the waterside and the impressive Commerce Square.

Praca de Comericio (Commerce Square) by the Tagus river and the 25th of April suspension bridge.

This area is buzzing with tourists and locals. We thoroughly enjoyed just sitting by the river Tagus soaking in the atmosphere watching the boats go by and the antics of the seagulls. After half an hour or so we decided it was time for a little retail therapy …at least that’s what we girls thought.

You just walk through The Rua Augusta Arch and you’re into the main shopping centre. One of the most interesting shops was the window of a traditional bakers which was full of those delicious Portuguese custard tarts, Pasteis de Nata. More about these later. Having checked out the many shoes shops and making a mental note to come back to several we carried on walking to the ruins of the Carmo Convent.

You walk through a little door by the cash desk and suddenly there’s the impressive ruins of the convent in front of you. This ruin was one of the many victims of a devastating earthquake which hit Lisbon in 1755. As well as the ruins which in themselves are fascinating there is a museum housed in the apse and nave of the convent which still have a roof over them. The museum is full of an eclectic mix of objects, tombs and tiles. The party of school children in there found some of the objects very amusing … This ruined convent is well worth a visit and a great place to take pictures.

Carmo Convent, Lisbon
The roofless Carmo Convent and Church
Picking out the details.
To think that some of this stone work dates back to the 15th century.

After all the walking we’d done it was time to catch a tram back up the hill. Arriving at our stop we were definitely flagging and needed to re-charge our batteries. One last thing we wanted to do though before heading back to our apartment was to walk across the road to look at the view over the city. It was spectacular in the evening sunshine.

Stunning views wherever you look.

Even though we knew there was lots more to see in Lisbon we decided on our second day to catch a train to Cascais which is on the coast just west of Lisbon. It takes about forty minutes, mostly whizzing through the suburbs with almost every wall covered in graffiti. In our carriage we were serenaded by a group of students singing Queen songs – they were really good. Couldn’t help wishing that we get this at home on our trains sometimes!

Cascais (apologies for the slightly wonky middle picture)!

We expected the town to be touristy, what we hadn’t expected was all the tacky shops and oh my goodness, the buskers! A mixed lot! The tourist information website describes Cascais as … ‘an elegant fusion of decorative 19th century architecture and modern tourist facilities’. Yes there is some interesting houses especially away from the main street but overall we weren’t that impressed. We hadn’t gone to flake on the beach and we didn’t go into The Castro Guklmaraes Museum or walk far along the coast so we didn’t really do the place justice. Don’t be put off by my lack enthusiasm though.

Back on the train and this time we got off at the station nearest to the Belem Monument. An iconic structure built in 1940 celebrating the achievements of Portuguese explorers, it’s truly magnificent. There is a lift which takes you to the top for a modest price.

Bele
The work that went into these sculptures is incredible.

Just a stone throws away from the monument is the home of the iconic and delicious Pasteis de Nata. Pasteis de Belem is the place to go for Portugal’s famous custard tart. Flaky pastry and unctuous custard is a winning combination. This bakery and cafe have been making the Pasteis since 1837 and it appears the interior dates back from that time too. We may have missed out on a visit to the nearby Monastery on account of the huge numbers of tourists outside but we weren’t going to visit Belem and not buy Pasteis de Nata.

Clutching our delightfully package treats we caught a bus back into the city and then took a cable car up to the castle and our apartment.

Time to relax on the terrace with a Pasteis de Nata washed down with a glass of rose.

After all that it was time for a siesta. We needed to charge our batteries once again before before going out that evening to a famous fish restaurant down near the sea front. Should we have booked a table …yes of course we should.

Love this picture, top left of a traditional Portuguese twelve stringed guitar. It’s associated with the music genre, Fado. I took it whilst the street busker was chatting to someone. The guitar was just lying on the ground so I quickly took a picture with my phone. Fado is a form of singing which is very expressive and mournful and I would add, haunting. The music is often associated with pubs and cafes and originated in Portugal in the 1820’s. We noticed that restaurants advertising Fado singing were quite expensive which did put us off. I wish now we had tried one but as we will definitely be going back to Lisbon we’ll not miss out on this again. There’s also a whole museum devoted to Fado.

Walking the back streets of Lisbon at night is so enjoyable and feels safe. There’s lots of atmosphere, graffiti and interesting murals. It was a shame we had to wait outside Maria Catita restaurant for almost an hour for a table but we were given a drink along with all the other tourists waiting. Quite a party really except the wine was terrible! My lobster dish, pictured bottom right was delicious and well worth waiting for. This popular restaurant fully deserves its reputation but if you go, book a table!

Well we’re halfway through our week in Lisbon so I think it’s a good time to finish the first half of this Blog. Lots more pictures to come including what we got up to in Sintra and our visit to the Lisbon Oceanarium. I hope you’ll stick around to read the final part!

And onto Palma …

Our first trip to the island of Mallorca and we couldn’t miss out on going to Palma. I knew there was an impressive cathedral in the capital and an historic palace but I was surprised with the number of stunning Art Deco buildings … I love this style. I also cursed that I hadn’t brought a larger suitcase as there were lots of nice shops along the narrow streets but maybe it was just as well!

The streets of Palma, Mallorca by Maggie Booth Photography
Just a few of the interesting things I spotted as we wandered around.

We thought the streets were pretty busy but we were told by one of the shopkeepers that it was fairly quiet as there were no large cruise ships in the harbour that day. She complained that the tourists don’t bring much trade to the city as they buy their souvenirs on board and stuff themselves so full of food they don’t eat in the local restaurants. The ice-cream sellers apparently do well though.

Royal Palace of Almudaina, Palma, Mallorca by Maggie Booth Photography
Royal Palace of Almudaina, historic palace of the Royal Family
The harbourside, Palma, Mallorca by Maggie Booth Photography
The harbourside

The Royal Palace is right by the waterfront as is the massive Cathedral which is adjacent. If you arrive by boat the Cathedral and Palace must look even more impressive as they rise above the city.

Santa Maria Cathedral, Palma, Mallorca by Maggie Booth Photography
The massive Santa Maria Cathedral dating from the 13th century.

Inside the Cathedral is pretty impressive too. We had to queue about fifteen minutes to get inside in what must be the windiest street in Palma! The wait and the wind whipping round was worth it, the interior is beautiful even though jostling with lots of other tourists was a bit of a pain.

Santa Maria Cathedral, Palma, Mallorca by Maggie Booth Photography
Santa Maria Cathedral, Palma, Mallorca

It was a great to escape from the crowds as we slowly meandered back to the bus station. The weather was changing and we were beginning to feel the cold so we stopped and had a warm drink. Just opposite the cafe was a church. Nothing elaborate from the outside although clearly very old. Ironically this little church had much more atmosphere than we’d felt in the cathedral. Maybe it was because there was just two of us in there. Sadly I don’t know the name of the church but the picture below shows the incredibly ornate altar which dominated the tiny nave.

Tiny church altar-piece. Palma, Mallorca by Maggie Booth Photography
The elaborate altar in this tiny church in Palma.

The weather on the last two days of our holiday was definitely on the change. Bright skies one minute then showers and a very keen wind most of the time. Makes for great seascapes although walking along the seafront was quite a challenge.

Wild seas on the west coast of Mallorca by Maggie Booth Photography
Wild seas whipping the west coast.

Waking up on our final morning to sunshine we decided to go over to Bunyola in the foothills of the Tramuntana Mountains to visit the Jardines de Alfabia.

The entrance is impressive with an avenue of palm trees and at the top there’s an interesting ‘keyhole’ where you can look through to a still pond of crystal-clear water. The pergola further along was great too as you just have to push a button and watch small fountains of water criss-cross the path. Children would love this, particularly if any unsuspecting visitors are walking through the pergola at the time!

Interesting features in the Jardines de Alfabia, Mallorca by Maggie Booth Photography
View through the ‘keyhole’ and the Romanesque pergola.
Jardines de Alfabia, Bunyola, Mallorca by Maggie Booth Photography
Jardines de Alfabia, Bunyola and historical house. A great place to enjoy a glass of wine among the shady palm trees.

As I wrote in the first part of my Blog on Mallorca, we were very pleased we’d chosen Puigpunyent as our base. We ate out several times in the town and enjoyed all the meals. The Rose Restaurant run by a Dutch couple was excellent and is very popular with tourists. The Bar Ca’n Jordi is more basic with very reasonable prices, good food and friendly staff. Sitting outside by the town square is a perfect place to enjoy a beer or a glass of the local wine. It’s a popular spot for cyclists to pause and have a drink before tacking the gruelling climb up the mountains. The family-run Ca Sa Nina restaurant at the edge of the town was our favourite. As well as the excellent local wine, the fish was superb as was the steak that John had (on both visits) and the staff were great too.

I can’t finish this without mentioning the micro brewery in the town. Cas Cerveser has only been going a couple of years but has already made its mark on the island and beyond. And no wonder, the beer is great! The good news is that the brewery opens its doors every Friday evening. Beer straight from the barrels. No need to cook either …a pizza van arrives and parks opposite the brewery serving delicious wood-fire pizzas. In addition they have a live band which adds to the fantastic friendly atmosphere. This is a real family evening with children running around the square while adults enjoy a pint or two. We only had a five minute walk back up to our apartment and slept very well after three pints of the Galilea golden ale! We felt very at home in the village. It’s a peaceful place but has lots to offer and has the added bonus of being off the tourist trail.

Cas Cerveser Brewery in Puigpunyent
Cas Cerveser Brewery in Puigpunyent

A trip to Mallorca

View over Puigpunyent, Mallorca

Hoping to grab some autumn sunshine and warm weather we decided to head for Mallorca (Majorca). My man had done his usual research and found a studio apartment in the small town of Puigpunyent just twenty minutes drive from Palma. It was perfect, very quiet, newly constructed with stunning views of the Tramuntana mountains.

Beautiful views of Tramuntana mountain range
Secluded terrace with beautiful views of the Tramuntana mountain range.

This is a hilly island with a great coastline. Plenty of beaches away from the popular tourist spots and lots of great walks to do. Don’t make the mistake that I did by thinking my little dinky trainers would be fine …they weren’t. I should have sacrificed some space in my case and taken my walking boots, it was a lesson learnt!

Coastal walk from Banyalbufar to Port des Canonge, Mallorca
Old smugglers route from Banyalbufar to Port des Canonge

The coastal hike from from Banyalbufar to Port des Canonge is a popular one. Even in October the car park at the starting point was full but eventually we found somewhere. The hike takes you through pine forest along high rocky crags and after 6km down to the beach to the small port. I’m grateful to the cafe owner for giving me iodine and a dressing for my knee. I was much more careful about where I walked on the way back! It’s a stunning walk but make sure you wear appropriate footwear.

100 year old narrow gauge railway from Palma to Soller in Mallorca and the old tram to Soller Port
100-year old narrow gauge railway from Palma to Soller and the old tram to the Port

Most tourists visiting Mallorca go on this little train, so we did too! Good bus service from Puigpunyent to Palma and cheap too. We found the terminus with minutes to spare and sat back enjoying the 50-minute journey to Soller. No time to look round as the next stage of the trip is to take the old tram so you join the queue with the rest of the tourists. The trams wind their way through Soller before going along the coast a short distance to the port.

Sollar port, Mallorca with old tram by Maggie Booth Photography
Sollar port.

Even at this time of year Sollar Port was heaving. Beautiful weather as you can see. We weren’t too bothered about eating in one the many restaurants along the harbour front or tempted by the souvenir shops so after a short walk and a beer we got the tram back to Sollar. We had an inexpensive lunch in a sandwich shop away from the main square with entertainment provided by the owner who was quite a character. The Japanese tourists just couldn’t work him out!

Near Saint Elm in Mallorca by Maggie Booth Photography
A quiet beach just by Saint Elm.

With the weather still holding we headed the next day for the coast to the small seaside town of Saint Elm. This place is beautiful! We had been tipped off that if we walked down from the town a little way we would find a quiet little beach and we did. Five people including us, it was perfect, as indeed was the lunch we had later back in the town.

The 18th century monastery in Valdemossa and and the gardens The Palace of King Sancho by Maggie Booth Photography
The 18th century monastery in Valdemossa and the gardens of The Palace of King Sancho.
Inside the monastery at Valldemossa, Mallorca with the old monastic pharmacy by Maggie Both Photography
Inside the monastery with the old monastic pharmacy
A decorative tile on a house in Valldemossa, Mallorca by Maggie Booth Photography
One of the decorative tiles on a house in Valldemossa

The guide book on Mallorca says that Valldemossa is the destination of thousands of visitors every year. You can see why it’s so popular. The winding roads up to this mountain village are interesting to say the least and the town is very cute. There are flowers everywhere, decorative tiles on the houses and some great shops! You have to visit the 18th century monastery which includes the pharmacy used by the monks. We didn’t pay extra to go into the rooms used by the composer Chopin. The guides want you to, but we are a bit too shrewd to fall for that. The Palace is interesting too and is included in your ticket.

I think this Blog is quite long enough! Part two on our trip to Mallorca will follow shortly …