Death March

12
Apr
2015

It started out so beautifully, so innocently. Since it was such a gorgeous day out, Olaf suggested we go for a hike. We got in the car and then drove to a little town called Güster, where we were to begin our walk. Olaf had researched some hikes and had decided on this one he had not tried before. We were about 10 minutes into our walk when Olaf made what I thought was a joke about the 10 miles ahead of us. Ha ha, I thought, whatever Mr. German Drillsergeant. Olaf had prepared some sandwiches that we would eat at some point along the way, and about an hour and a half later I was feeling a little hungry and asked if he wanted to stop. “Not until we reach the lake.”, he said. And when I asked how far the lake was, he showed me a map of our trail and I noticed that it seemed like we were only about halfway to the lake which was about the halfway point. I thought perhaps the map wasn’t to scale, so I fired up Google Maps and realized to my horror that he had not been kidding about the 10 miles. By the time we reached the lake, the bottoms of my feet were already starting to hurt (note to self: don’t hike this far without proper shoes). We stopped for about 20 minutes to eat, then began the second arduous 3 hours to complete our circuit back to the car. It started to rain on and off. For the last hour I could barely walk and by the time we reached the car I was weakly hobbling and muttering references to the death march at Auschwitz that Olaf’s forebears had subjected mine to. In total, the walk was over 18km (which sounds even worse than 11.2 miles), and I am glad to have made it, but informed Olaf that I would be having a say in the next walk.

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Sintra, sea monsters and such

8
Feb
2015

Yesterday we decided to take a little trip outside Lisbon, to visit a beautiful little town called Sintra. But first, we took a little walk along the water, over to the Mercado da Ribeira for breakfast at a super cute and new collection of little restaurants in a kind of market food court (definitely recommended). After that we made our way through the city towards the train station to catch a train to Sintra. We had also planned to go to Cascais after Sintra, and were asking the ticket agent about our options when she recommended the 15 Euro day pass which would work on all trains and busses in the region, so we took that.  I have to say that catching all the transport in Portugal has been a breeze so far, whether tram, train or bus.

Sintra is really a collection of several things to see, from the old town itself to the palace and castle in the nearby hills. I suppose the lesser fit usually decide to take the tourist bus up the mountain to get to those sites, but we decided that was for whiners and babies, so off we went. Let’s just say we probably worked off a lot of the pastry we have been eating on that walk, it was quite a climb up to the Castelo dos Mouros and on to the Palácio da Pena. Stijn and Xavier were giving me angry looks as we huffed and puffed our way up and up and up, expecting to reach our destination at every turn in the road and being cruelly disappointed that there was still some distance to go. But it was worth it (at least I thought it was), the path up was so beautiful, the views stunning, and the palace…well, the palace was one of the places that inspired Disneyland, apparently. It was beautiful in its way, but kinda over the top kitschy design, even for the era. Still, definitely worth a visit.

After that, we meandered down the hill, taking in the views and talking more and more about various body aches and how fun it is to get older. At the bottom of the hill near the train station, we arrived just in time to catch the 417 bus that was leaving for Cascais. We pretty much zoned out on the bus during the 45 minutes or so it took to get there, then had a relaxing beer in a local pub, and then went looking for (and found) an amazing seafood restaurant recommended to us by the owner of the apartment we are staying in. The place is called Marisco na Praça, and we ordered a number of sea creatures I had never seen before, one of which turned out to be goose barnacles, and the other some sort of gigantic deep red prawn from waters around Morocco. In addition to that we had an octopus salad and regular tiger prawns, and everything was cooked to perfection. If you go to Cascais, you must go to this place.

We had planned on going out dancing last night, but by the time we got back to the apartment we were beat, and called it a night and fell fast asleep.

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