Odds and Ends: Sintra, Cascais and Lisbon

Lisbon trolley
Lisbon #28 trolley

We are living in strange times with people becoming ill around the world from a virus that we are just learning about and fear taking hold of many whether it is warranted or not.

I am living in a form of isolation myself simply because everyone else has chosen to do so although some of my friends are quarantined for valid reasons.

That didn’t stop me from going out last week (with the precaution of taking with me my small bottle of 96% isopropyl alcohol which I used frequently) to hunt for Jordan Almonds for my grandson as part of an Easter gift from Portugal, but more on that later.

I have several photos I want to share that didn’t quite fit into other posts or were random shots that I hope tell the further story of this wonderful country I now call home.

First, Sintra

There were two locations I visited during my day in Sintra, the Palácio de Monserrate, and the Quinta da Regaleira which has this very cool stairwell called the Initiation Well.

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Quinta da Regaleira

The Quinta da Regaleira is a large estate that sits within an amazing landscape. It has had several owners and was eventually sold to António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro, a wealthy Portuguese entomologist, who transformed the estate into a unique palace with symbolic carvings associated with Masonry, the Knights Templar, and the Rosicrucians.

The grounds have a lake, grottoes, wells, benches, fountains, an extensive system of tunnels and even a small farm.

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The interior of the palace is amazing with intricate carvings in every room on the walls and the ceilings but what was most intriguing was the Initiation Well.

The well

The Initiation Well is made up of nine platforms which are said to be reminiscent of the Divine Comedy by Dante and the nine circles of Hell, Purgatory, and the nine skies which constitute Paradise.

At the bottom of the well there is a compass over a Knights Templar cross which is said to be a sign of Rosicrucianism. Very little is known about how the wells were used. That remains a wonderful mystery.

After descending the stairs and discovering the cross, you come across several tunnels which ultimately lead you to the outside and a series of grottoes.

You could spend the entire day exploring the grounds and I could imagine my grandson having a fabulous time climbing the small towers and running up and down the paths, exploring every nook and cranny of this amazing estate.

The Coast of Cascais

The coast along Cascais is varied from rocky landscapes to sandy beaches.

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The morning I was headed to Lisbon to find Jordan Almonds was stunning. I walked along the waterfront to first meet someone for a coffee and was met with sun, fresh air and a warm morning breeze.

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The building on the left is the Albatroz Hotel, a stunning venue that is a must at least for lunch or coffee on the veranda.

Along the way to my coffee with a friend, a little boy was celebrating the morning with his mother, in the outfit he was born with. It reminded me of how I felt, complete freedom and sheer happiness of where I was at the moment.

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After coffee and conversation, I headed to Lisbon for the Jordan Almonds.

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First, a little history about the almonds.

When I was about 12 years old, my parents, along with my brother and I, traveled through Europe for about six months. My dad was taking a teaching sabbatical and wanted to explore the different cultures of the European continent.

We took the trip beginning in early spring and were able to watch the religious parades through the small streets in Spain during Holy Week and enjoy the smell of Jordan Almonds being made as my brother and I ran through the small streets of Venice.

To this day, I love Jordan Almonds and equate them to Spring. In Portugal, they are a part of the candy offerings you see for Easter celebrations.

For that reason, it was important for me to find a confectionery shop in Lisbon that specializes in the creation of this Easter treat for my grandson and not even the threat of the cursed virus would stop me.

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With my new kicks on, featured below, I was ready for my quest.

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Sitting on the waterfront in Lisbon with my new shoes

The reason for featuring my new shoes (Joseph Seibel, the best walking shoe there is and called the European Walking Shoe)  is because it is really important, if you plan to visit or live in Portugal, to have shoes with good treads. The streets throughout Portugal are lined with a smooth and uneven stone that is slightly slippery when dry and very slippery when wet. To walk comfortably and with confidence, get a pair of shoes with good traction but please, no brand new pairs of white tennis shoes.

I have worn this brand of shoe for a few years now and they are the only line I wear.

When I arrived at the National Confectionery shop in Lisbon, there were no Jordan Almonds to be had. I suppose it was a little early in the month to see Easter candies so instead, I enjoyed lunch there.

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The Confeitaria Nacional is usually very busy and it’s difficult to find a table, but not that day.

After lunch, I decided to try the #28 trolley that is famous for its ride through the most interesting neighborhoods of Lisbon. Because of people staying home, there was no line so I hopped on and took the tour.

I recommend this tour to get a broad idea of the Graca, Alfama, Baixa and Estrela districts but after riding the trolley, you need to get off the trolley and walk the streets because you never know what you will find.

I hopped off the trolley in the Chiado heading back to the train station and decided to take another street down the hill, a small street off the beaten path just to see what I could find.

As usual, I was delighted with my discoveries.

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A random street off the beaten path, Rua das Flores
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There are these buildings with wonderful little balconies along the street.
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An interesting looking shop.
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And inside, amazing original walls and arches incorporated into the design of the shop.
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A restaurant with wine bottles decorating the barrel vault ceiling.
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And a cool little restaurant.

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All little treasures discovered along the way back to home.

-Dora Taylor

 

Since my trip to Lisbon, with friends being quarantined, I have also decided to cut down on my activities but still take my long walks.

Here is a highly recommended video on one man’s journey with the virus that includes information that I have not come across elsewhere:

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