April 6,7 and 8
Our next destination was Porto in Portugal. We were leaving Spain and driving to Portugal. When we were in Spain we had some problems in communicating with locals. But we always found some one who could speak English. In the hotels, most of the hotel staff could speak a little English or at least understand English. We had problems only when we had to deal with locals in small cities.
Strangely, in Portugal, most of the people we met, spoke a little English. One young person who served us in a restaurant told us that he learned English in school.
We left Salamanca after breakfast and reached Porto in the early afternoon. Our hotel in Porto was a small Bed and Breakfast hotel with a small number of rooms. We knew it was a very small hotel, but according to Trip Advisor reviews, it was rated as one of the best hotels. When we finally reached the hotel, the hotel owner himself was there to greet us and take us to our rooms. He gave us some small muffins, made coffee for those who wanted coffee and also gave a small bottle of Port wine for us to taste. We had only one night in Porto and had to visit the attractions on the same day we arrived inn the hotel. The hotel owner was very helpful. He marked all the important places to visit on a map.
We walked through the city streets for some time. We saw many buildings with outer walls decorated with wall tiles. One such building was the Blue House.
We had lunch in a small café and finally took a taxi to the river banks where the port wine warehouses are located.
This area where the Port wine warehouses are located is known as Vila Nova de Gaia. Porto, also known as Oporto, is an ancient city steeped in history and tradition. It is the second largest city in Portugal. This is the city that originated and named Port Wine, and gave birth to one of world history's legendary figures, Prince Henry the Navigator. It is also the birthplace of that world-famous fictional character, Harry Potter -- author J. K. Rowling was living in Oporto as an English teacher when she started writing her first book.
In Porto, there are many wine tours available in Vila Nova de Gaia, most of which include a guide and wine tastings. The area is also the main starting destination for river cruises offering great views of the landscape.
We took a taxi to Vila Nova de Gaia which took nearly 30 minutes due to heavy traffic. After watching the beautiful buildings and the skyline over the buildings on the river banks, we joined a river cruise. It was a good trip allowing us to see the beautiful buildings on the river bank and the many tall bridges built across the river. We came back and walked into one of the Port Wine cellars to taste port wine. We were given free samples of port wine to taste, but the more expensive ten year old port wines were not available for tasting. We ended up buying three bottles of ten year old white port wine bottles. Though we could not taste the ten year old port, the girl who gave free samples of wine assured they are much better than the ones we tasted. We had dinner in one of the restaurants near the river bank and finally came back to the hotel in a taxi.
The next morning we had breakfast in the hotel and started early to drive towards Lisbon. On our way, we have planned to have a stop over in Fatima.
The history of Fátima is based on three children Lúcia and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta who on 13 May 1917, while guarding their sheep, witnessed an apparition of a lady dressed in white. The lady, later referred to as Our Lady of the Rosary, indicated that she was sent by God with a message of prayer, repentance and consecrations. She visited the children on the 13th day of each month from May to October. The last apparition occurred on 13 October 1917. Lucia became a nun, Jacinta died in 1919 and Francisco in 1920 from the Spanish flu Epidemic. Lúcia meanwhile remained a nun until she herself died in 2005. In order to mark the location of the apparitions, a wooden arch with a cross was initially constructed The faithful began to travel in pilgrimage to the site. On 6 August 1918, with donations from the public, construction on a small chapel was begun.
The construction of the sanctuary brought local development to the region, which eventually allowed the town of Fátima to be elevated to the status of city.
When we arrived in Fatima, the entire church was closed for renovation. The entrance to the church has been blocked by a temporary partition. A temporary alter has been erected in the church yard to celebrate mass. There was a place to light candles. We purchased candles and lit them.
We had lunch in a small restaurant in Fatima and resumed our journey towards Lisbon.
We have booked the Holiday Inn hotel for two nights in Lisbon. We came to the hotel late in the evening. We had undercover parking in the hotel, but in Spain, parking is very compact. We had to go forth and back several times before fitting into the small parking slot in the underground car park. We had dinner in the hotel restaurant that night.
Lisbon is the capital and the largest city of Portugal, with a population of over half million in the city limits. Its urban area has a population of nearly 2.7 million people. Lisbon is recognised as a global city because of its importance in finance, commerce, media, entertainment, arts, international trade, education and tourism. It is one of the largest container ports on Europe's Atlantic coast. The city is the 7th-most-visited city in Southern Europe. Most of the headquarters of multinationals in the country are located in the Lisbon area.t is also the political centre of the country, as seat of Government and residence of the Head of State.
Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world, and the oldest in Western Europe, predating other modern European capitals such as London, Paris and Rome by centuries. Julius Caesar made it a municipium called Felicitas Julia, adding to the name Olissipo. Ruled by a series of Germanic tribes from the 5th century, it was captured by the Moors in the 8th century. In 1147, the Crusaders under Afonso Henriques reconquered the city and since then it has been a major political, economic and cultural centre of Portugal.
Lisbon enjoys a Mediterranean climate. Among all the metropolises in Europe, it has the warmest winters, with average temperatures 15 °C during the day and 8 °C at night from December to February.
On our second day in Lisbon, we went to the city centre and visited most of the tourist attractions. We walked in the city area and entered Alfama areas. The Alfama is the oldest part of Lisbon and yet, it is a fairly small area, filled with old houses and Fado venues, enticing visitors with its historical significance.
In one place, you get a beautiful view of the sea and the surrounding buildings. We saw an artist who is selling his paintings and bought one to be framed back in Australia. While walking down the narrow alleys, we found a very good tea room called Palacite Chafariz D'El Rei. We had lunch in that restaurant.
Another important place was the Jerónimos Monastery in Belém, Lisbon. This is where Vas Co de Gama's tomb is. Vas Co de Gama was a Portuguese citizen who travelled to India, Sri Lanka and other eastern countries. He was the first European to reach India by sea, linking Europe and Asia for the first time by ocean route. De Gama's discovery was significant and opened the way for an age of global imperialism and for the Portuguese to establish a long-lasting colonial empire in Asia.
After visiting the Monastery, we got into a tram to come back to the city. The tram stopped halfway due to an accident between two other vehicles which blocked the tram rails. We got out of the tram and walked a few blocks in the rain, then finally managed to find a taxi and come back to the hotel.