On Monday 4th September, we were off on our travels again, but it was just a short trip this time. Way back in 2001, we spent a weekend in Lisbon. We hoped to do a side trip to Sintra, but didn’t have enough time, so Sintra remained on our bucket list. And we love walking holidays – so when we found a walking holiday which majored on Sintra, that seemed perfect for us. It was a week’s holiday, but we added on a night at each end, making it a ten-day trip.
Monday 4: Taxi to Luton Airport, where we met our friends Ian and Martin for coffee. Ian is a part-time chaplain at the airport; he wasn’t on duty that morning, but he and Martin came to the airport especially to meet us, which was really nice as we hadn’t seen them for two years.
Our flight to Lisbon was on time; we took a bus into the centre and checked into a cheap hotel. We walked down to the main square, had drinks and went for a stroll along the riverfront. Then we walked up the main street. We intended to go up the Elevador de Santa Justa, but when we saw the length of the queue we decided to walk instead. We enjoyed the views towards the castle in the evening sun, and had dinner in the restaurant on the floor just below.
Tuesday 5: We took a lift and walked the rest of the way up to the castle. Great views from there over the city. Had coffee at another viewpoint, then back to our hotel via the cathedral. Checked out and walked with our luggage to the Cais do Sodré railway station. The queue for the ticket office was impossible, but the queue for machines was almost as bad – it took us 30 minutes to get tickets for Cascais. There we checked into the hotel which was the starting-point for our walking holiday. It was an attractive old house, with a beautiful garden where free port was available in the evening.
Cascais is a seaside resort (‘Yarmouth with sun’ said Sandie) and there were plenty of people on the beach there. A path stretches for miles along the seafront; we walked one way to Estoril, and the other way to the Boca do Inferno (Mouth of Hell), although the spouts of spray were not much in evidence while we were there.
Wednesday 6: We were to be collected at 11, which gave us time for another stroll around the town in the morning.
We were driven just a few miles, and then dropped while our luggage continued to our next destination. The notes for our walk had warned us that it was wise to take a fleece, and Jonathan explained that the temperature was likely to be 10 degrees cooler a few miles further on. Nevertheless, we were amazed to emerge from the car into a howling gale. We walked a mile or so along the cliffs, battling against the strongest wind we’d ever encountered. Cascais is in a sheltered bay, but now we had the open Atlantic on our left – no sunbathers here!
It was already past our usual time for morning coffee, but more than anything else we longed for shelter from the wind. After a while we came to some restaurants, but they were not yet open for lunch. Then a hotel, which looked incredibly posh, but we reasoned that it must be open (for resident guests) so we ventured inside. The receptionist called a suited underling who escorted us to the bar. We commented on the weather; she said it was ‘a bit windy, but not the worst’. We both made a mental note not to visit during the worst weather! We sipped our cappuccinos while sitting on luxurious sofas and watching the Atlantic rollers crashing against the shore.
Later we came to a beach which was surprisingly sheltered, so we had a snack lunch at a beach bar. Then we went inland – and encountered fierce winds again. We were quite glad to reach our destination, a former convent now a kind of hotel which caters mainly (though not exclusively) for walkers. Meals are served in what used to be the chapel; there is one long table, so you get to know your fellow guests. We met a couple on the same holiday as us, but they had started a day earlier, so they were able to tell us about the next day’s walk!
Thursday 7: The wind had dropped, and the weather was bright and sunny. We did a circular walk, or rather a figure of 8. There was a steep climb up to the Peninha chapel, a derelict and frankly ugly building, but the views were good.
Back at our accommodation, we checked emails and did not get good news. Ian did not get the job he tendered for last week, although he continued to work on the proposal for a major international evaluation project which ERA will be involved in, if successful. And we had worrying messages from our Florida friends about Hurricane Irma!
Friday 8: Problems with wifi this morning meant that we could not access emails about the proposal – and today was the deadline for submission. Phone calls were impossible as there was no mobile signal where we were staying!
At 10 we were driven to the Cabo da Roca – the most westerly point of continental Europe. It was very windy there, but nothing like as bad as on Wednesday. On leaving we did a detour up to a picturesque village, then down to a scenic beach: a very few sunbathers here, and we watched a few brave surfers. As we continued our walk along some sandy cliffs, Ian had a phone conversation about the proposal. Everything was under control, but I was strange to be discussing business in such a remote place!
Our new accommodation did not provide dinners, but the hosts will drive guests to any of the nearby restaurants. Along with six others, we went to the small café in the nearest village. It was packed, and there were two fado singers performing. Luckily the music was not as miserable as we remembered from our earlier visit to Lisbon! With good food, good wine (plenty of it) and good company, it was a very pleasant evening.