Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Portugal and Spain June 26 to July 6 2014

Lisbon Thursday, June 26

 We arrived at the Lisbon airport around 10:30 a.m. Portugal time,  exhausted but excited to explore this part of the world we had never seen before.  Thankfully we had no trouble knowing what to do since a Uniworld representative was holding up her sign and we just had to follow her to the bus which would take us to our hotel. 
View of Lisbon from Hotel Tiara
You could see all the way to the waterfront of Lisbon from the  park near the hotel.  
Hotel Tiara was a short drive away and it was very well appointed and comfortable.  After a short nap we explored the area on foot at the recommendation of Pilar, our Uniworld local hostess who gave us maps and suggestions for where to go for dinner etc. 
Gulbenkian Museum 
We visited the Gulbenkian Museum and walked around a beautiful park with an outdoor restaurant for our first Portuguese beer. 
A beautiful Park near Hotel Tiara with a jumbo screen for watching soccer and for other events. 
The red umbrellas welcoming us in for a beer.
Back at the hotel we attended the welcome briefing with Pilar and got the scoop on a few things that would help us deal with the being foreigners in this lovely city.  We walked a few blocks away to “Relicario” a nearby local restaurant.  On the way we met up with Roger and Lynn from New Zealand and had our first of many great meals with them.  Already I felt comfortable and safe in this beautiful country.

Lisbon Friday, June 27 

Old Fortress at the Waterfront
We boarded the bus for a guided morning tour of Lisbon, Europe’s second oldest capital, next to Athens. 
Henry the Navigator Monument

This included the  waterfront and amazing Monument of Henry the Navigator UNESCO sight, a visit to the custard tart factory with a tasting, a tour of the ornate cathedral where Vasco De Gama is entombed, and a walk through the narrow streets of Alfama an old and incredibly soulful section of the city.  
delicious custard tart!

Vasco De Gama entombed at the old Cathedral
Sofia showing us the world map of Portuguese explorers


Famous Portuguese Tile facades
With recommendations from our intriguing guide Sofia, we set off on our own to have lunch at a lovely outdoor restaurant and then touring on our own. 
We took a public transit bus up the winding streets to the ruins of Castle Jorge and one of the most spectacular views I have ever enjoyed. 

our hotel from the castle

Castle views, ever present red roofs

Castle beauty

We could see our hotel in the distance from here and realized Sofia was not being over enthusiastic when she said it would be perfectly reasonable to walk back to the hotel. 
We did just that inhaling the sights and sounds of this gorgeous place.  We went to another local restaurant near the hotel called Sabor and Arte for supper where we met Ellen and Richard, from near Toronto.  We had a blast with them and would enjoy their company throughout the cruise.  Ordering was a fun challenge each meal but the locals were quite good at explaining but many of the menus had English as well as Portuguese.  Fish galore but I enjoyed the chicken.  

Sintra and Cascais Saturday June 28

This was an optional excursion that we chose which included a visit to Palacio Nacional de Queluz, an 18th century palace with Rococo architecture and breathtaking gardens. 

From there we went to the city of Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was stunning to say the least.  We toured the National Palace there which has Moorish features, an integral part of Portugal’s past since Muslims controlled the Iberian Penninsula for a period.  This was quite a contrast from the Queluz Palace. 

Tiles, tiles, everywhere! 

The town itself is set on hillsides with spectacular homes and buildings with charming winding narrow streets and shops. 
Sintra shopping streets
On the way back we stopped in the seaside suburb of Lisbon called Cascais.  This is a resort town with lovely beaches and cobblestone streets and shops. 

We enjoyed lunch at a cafe overlooking a small beach. 

The crazy streets of Cascais tiled with optical illusions! 
What a great day!  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Geocaching on Jekyll

What a glorious day for a bike ride but we decided to make it more interesting and do some geocaching along the way.  We have a new Garmin GPS specifically for this purpose.  This one can be used in forests or cloud cover and doesn't lose satellites.  Before heading out you download the coordinates from the Geocaching website on your computer onto the GPS.  This makes it so much easier since clues and all the needed information are right on your device.  John has a mount for it on his bike so you are hands free and can watch your progress while cycling.  

 We were not entirely successful at first.  We headed out on Driftwood beach and soon realized the cache we were looking for had to be more inland.  But the ride was amazing since the tide was low.  We saw lots of jelly fish.  

 We turned back onto the marsh trail after Driftwood beach.  With the help of the clue "hanging skeleton" provided  for this cache...look what we found!  We did not climb the tree to get this one down.  We were just happy to have found it. 

 We continued south on the east side of the Island and soon had to turn into the centre since the GPS was indicating a cache in this direction.  We narrowed it down to a spot near this interior fresh water pond.  We have not been to this pond before, at least not from this angle.  How beautiful!  We tramped around in the bushes being careful of snakes, bugs, alligators etc. but did not find the cache.  No worries, we found the pond and that's good enough.  

Now onward to the Historic District where several caches were beckoning.  After  a couple of misses, a tour through Goodyear House Art Gallery and the shops, we ended up here at "the hydrant eating tree." I have been to this tree many times but had never noticed the hydrant.  Look up about 8 ft. and you will see the tiny cache or at least what's left of it in a wee hole.  It needs to be repaired but at least we found it!  Some cache masters have become diabolical.  We had a couple of clues that were very complex requiring mathematical calculations to take you to another coordinate.  We did not have a calculator or patience for those today.  Also, some were so deep in the woods or marsh that we were afraid to go after them!  

 As we headed toward home, now on the west side of the Island we were diverted by the possibility of another cache down another road we had never taken.  We came across this gateway to the Amphitheatre, something we didn't know even existed and we have been coming here for years.  Once again we didn't find the cache but finding this Amphitheatre in the woods was treasure enough.  Azaleas bloomed in the forest.  Apparently this was used for theatrical productions in the 90's but fell out of use and into disrepair.  I have to do more research to find out when it was built,   but it was definitely post Club Era.  I now know there is a movement to revitalize the Amphitheatre but other projects are taking priority on Jekyll at the moment.  

We continued along the bike path toward the campground stopping along the way to look for a couple more caches.  No luck with one but then we did find the canister in a palm tree making us feel competent once again.

We thought we would head home to watch the Masters but got side tracked by the possibility of another cache!  This is addicting.  We headed toward the centre of the Island once again on a path we have never travelled and look what we came across.  A silo made out of tabby, and the cache nearby.  I have since looked up the history of this silo and it was part of the "Club Era" farm.  From the late 1800's until the 1940's Jekyll was a hunt and recreation club for powerful millionaires who came here in the winter months with their families.  This silo was attached to a dairy barn at one time.  The silo is amazingly intact.  During the Club Era all their food was grown or raised on the Island. 

We figured we would be out for a couple of hours but we were over 4 hours having got wrapped up in finding  caches and other treasures we have never seen on Jekyll.  What a great way to explore and take the path less travelled!  

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