Travelling is good for the soul.
I think we all need to step out of the hustle and bustle of life every now and again. Holidays are so rejuvenating. We can forget about duties, bills and the everyday pressures of life. At least it’s true for me.
I’ve just returned from my first ever trip to Portugal and had such a fantastic time. My main reason for going there was to visit my brother Billy and his partner Roger. Last year they took the plunge, sold their house in Ireland and moved to Roger’s home country, Portugal. They bought property near the Spanish border and have been working like crazy renovating the three houses (which are now complete), clearing out wells, planting and beautifying their spot of heaven. I was really curious to see it for myself and had booked seven nights in the stone cottage, one of the properties on their land.
More about that in Part II.
When I mentioned to my friend, Muffy, that I was planning on stopping off in Lisbon or Porto and spending a night or two there, she said, ‘Oh, you must visit my friend, Margarida. She has a B&B outside Lisbon. Without further ado, I booked two nights in Margarida’s B&B.
Sometimes we are faced with challenges when we really want to do something.
My challenge was a tendon problem in my right leg. It appeared out of nowhere when I was walking with my husband a couple of weeks prior to my trip. I was seriously worried about navigating my way up and down stairs with luggage. I was also nervous because I’d never been to Portugal before.
Maybe I was getting cold feet!
Or becoming paralysed with fear?
Our bodies have an interesting way of reacting to our subconscious fears.
But I was going to do it anyway. I’m very stubborn when it comes to seeing things through.
A week beforehand, I was at the hairdressers. The hairdresser asked me where I was from. I said Ireland. “Oh, that’s interesting. I’d love to go there,” she said. “A friend of mine is visiting Scotland at the moment.” And she went on to tell me that this friend is very active in the local community and that she’s an amazing woman who just married a couple of years ago. “Both she and her new husband married late, just a couple of years ago, and her husband has a severe disability which makes walking difficult for him.”
That was it. Here I was fretting over a small problem but these two people were travelling to Scotland despite severe mobility problems.
The cosmic web has an interesting way of passing on messages to us. We’ve all heard of that book falling off the shelf, hearing an interview on the radio or a song that magically provides us with a solution to our problem. Oftentimes, these messages come in dreams. So be alert for messages.
I had a fabulous time staying with Margarida Freitas and her lovely partner in their B&B in Monte Estoril, outside Lisbon. Granted, I had to take the Metro, change lines, get a mainline train there, but it was well worth it.
As we sat out on Margarida’s terrace that first evening, exchanging stories, drinking wine and snacking on olives and cheese, she convinced me to visit Sintra instead of travelling back to Lisbon the next day. Since I tend to follow the signs, I did as she suggested.
The next morning we walked down the hill to the waterfront and continued along the coastal promenade to Cascais, which is a couple of kilometers away. The electric blue water sparkled and palm trees swayed in the breeze in 25 deg balmy sunshine. This was really exciting. I had no idea how gorgeous it would be. Joggers passed us by and people were sunbathing in early April! A woman in her seventies stopped to talk to Margarida, blew kisses to us and zoomed off with her shopping trolley. Margarida told me that older woman does that walk several times a day.
I’d been looking at brochures the night before and decided to visit Quinta de Regaleira, one of Sintra’s many tourist destinations. It sounded the most interesting as it is steeped in mysticism and contains an eclectic mix of esoteric symbolism, statues of Greek Gods, a deep well signifying Dante’s layers of hell, a lovely little chapel, statues of Greek Gods, and many other fascinating details. It’s not huge, and you can roam the forest-like grounds for an hour or two and soak up the peacful atmosphere, which is just what I did.
I took the bus to Sintra. I think I probably got off a bit too early; apparently there’s an old part of the city and a new part. After walking for a few minutes, I spotted an interesting-looking boutique and couldn’t resist . . .
That’s the joy of travelling by yourself. You can do what you like, when you like.
I bought myself a much-needed backpack and a straw hat. The sun was quite hot at this stage and the backpack was definitely a good buy.
But I need it, Mommy, as Cassandra, my friend’s daughter used to say.
I knew these would be my only purchases on this trip and, let’s face it, they were necessary. I dumped all my accoutrements, sunglasses, phone, diary, pens, scarf (in case it got cold) and my purse into the backpack and found somewhere around the corner, on a side street, to have lunch.
The café was perfect and the food was freshly-made and delicious.
Fortified and feeling quite peaceful, I continued walking into the buzzing centre of Sintra. It was teeming with tourists but not half as bad as late afternoon. From there, I followed the signs to my destination, the Quinta da Regaleira, hobbling a bit but curious at the same time. I think it probably took me another twenty minutes to reach the entrance. It was uphill but manageable. The guard at the gate directed the woman in front of me to continue on for another couple hundred meters to the ticket office. They were the hardest. Of course I could have taken a jaloppy or a taxi there. There were plenty of modes of transport available, but I’d made it this far!
I spent a couple of hours walking around the grounds and enjoying the peace and solitude. Despite the fact that there were many tourists there, there was plenty of space for everyone. Due to space restrictions, I cannot post too many pictures here. Besides, the internet is full of information and pictures.
Before going into the palace, I sat in the open-air cafe for an hour or so with its views onto the grounds and the imposing palace in the distance.
A view from the house onto the cafe, the interior, the long walk up, an interesting door (I couldn’t resist feeling it–surface was felt) , a fiew from the tunnel.
Returning back to the tourist centre was a shock after the peace of the gardens. It really was abuzz with people and I just wanted to get back to Cascais. I walked back to the bus station and made it back by 7 p.m. Margarida and her partner picked me up in Cascais. We took the scenic route along the waterfront and I was sorry I wasn’t staying longer. There’s so much more I’d like to have seen. But I hope to return one day. We spent another lovely evening on their spacious terrace.
Boy, does Margarida have interesting stories to tell.
That crispy chicken was delicious!
Margarida, her partner, her mother who is 96, and their lovely dalmation!
You can find her on Airbnb.
I’ll be posting the second part of my journey next week.
Bye for now.