Sorry it took a while to post – enjoy the stories!
The Movie Marathon – Melbourne to Lisbon via Singapore and Dubai, 28 hours Monday 30 March
Courtesy of Possum we got to the airport on time for check-in, but Billy nearly missed the flight in the customs area! The bloke in front of him put his on-flight luggage through the scanner, only to have it stop with Billy’s in there too. The conveyor shut down and the Federal police descended on the fellow with some heavy duty questioning. Turns out he had something resembling a pistol in the bag. Made the in-flight action movies seem tame by comparison.
A wander of the airports in Singapore and Dubai stretched the legs between meals, some sleep and movies. My pick of the bunch was ‘Selma’, a portrayal of events around a Martin Luther King inspired black-rights demonstration in Alabama in 1965. Jordy saw the Pyramids out his window, which boosted his seen-list of Ancient Seven Wonders to 5 – only Babylon and Alexandria to go. And before you knew it [cough, cough] we were waiting at the baggage carousel at Lisbon Airport with Jen, who had arrived the day before, but her ‘lost’ baggage arrived on our flight! For which she was very relieved.
Our brand new leased Renault Kangoo was waiting outside – a few quick instructions and Billy was pushed into the driver’s seat to negotiate Portugese roads and drivers. Without incident, and with a brilliant GPS we arrived soon after at the appealing hill-town of Sintra, resplendent with palaces and castles, 25km from Lisbon, and our home for the next three days – Almaa Sintra Hostel. Settled in, then walked the km or two into town for a reconnoitre, and an evening snack and tipple at the ‘Lord Byron Café/Bar’ who had evidently snacked and tippled at Sintra some time before us.
Up, down, walking around – Sintra, Tuesday 31 March
First task of the day was finding ‘Cycling Rentals’ and collecting our 3 ex-rental bikes I’d pre-purchased that would [hopefully] take us to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Catherine, and her sister Deidre with whom I’d negotiated the deal, run a fantastic operation. They were super-obliging, provided us with a few extras like drink bottles, spare spokes and hangers, and cycling tops each! It was a delight to wheel the machines out the door with their best wishes.
Then it was tourist time in Sintra: first the Moorish castle, then the Pena Palace, and lastly the National Palace. Each attraction different, but all required a stiff, hilly walk in the afternoon sun. There were lots of other tourists about, mostly Portugese nationals as schools were on an Easter week break. Probably the Pena Palace was the highlight. A sort of Willy-Wonka, candy-colored, oddity built in a Romantic style and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Billy and Jordy may have enjoyed the National Palace more, because it had a forecourt and they could boot around the soccer ball they had pooled their money towards.
Joao from Almaa Sintra had recommended a local restaurant serving regional food, but without the regional language we ended up with a massive amount of tucker that we struggled to do justice to. Amongst the dishes selected were liver, cuttlefish, octopus, wild boar…and spuds cooked every which way. It was a slow walk home!
Bad Boys – Lisbon, Wednesday 1 April
Some days, you just get a feeling about? Our grand plan was to park near the Sintra railway station, train into Lisbon for a day’s sightseeing, and come home content…
First win was getting timely assistance to buy our train tickets from a machine. The weather was great, and we meandered around the highlight districts and buildings of the inner city without incident. Phone shop for sim cards, great lunch at the market, waterfront stroll, stamps for our caminho passports at the cathedral, views over town, and a funky, art-jewellery shop for Elly and Jen to spend money on recycled coffee capsules[!] that they hung on their ears and necks. And yes, ‘Lisboniphiles’ will note we missed the big galleries and museums, but you have to leave something for next time. And we only had a day. And I felt uneasy all through it…
Returning in the late afternoon to our loved, 2 day-old brand new car, we found it had been scraped nastily down the driver’s side by a side-swiping car/truck/bus, which had detached the whole bumper assembly and left it dangling by a headlight wire against the footpath. I was the calmest, suggested Billy and Jen go to the nearby police station, Jordy to help me cable tie the bits together, and Elly to watch our backs. After the necessary police report had been made and they’d surveyed the scene, and calls been made to the very-helpful Renault Insurance, we drove carefully and quietly home commenting only about ‘bad boys’ not ‘bad parking’…