Thursday, September 9, 2010

Strolling in Sintra

Didn't try to get too early of a start yesterday morning, actually even slept in a bit, especially for me. Around 10:30 am Manny drove us into Cascais downtown and we had a bit of breakfast in a little cafe in the Jumbo store. The lady at the counter there was from Angola, and spoke very good English, gave us a full rundown on the menu and the operation of the lunch counter. Amazing thing was the prices. I had a presunto and cheese croissant and a double espresso, and Michele had a croissant with strawberry jam and a single espresso, and it was only 5 euros, 60! I think I'd have paid that much just for the drinks at Starbucks.

Went by a travel agent in the downtown area, Jorge, and talked with him about getting in a trip to Spain for a few days next week, but all of their packaged tours had the wrong departure dates. We talked with him for quite a bit, and came away with some suggestions of side trips wrapped around a core trip to Porto, up in the north part of Portugal. We spent a couple of hours strolling through the shops down by the beach, bought a beach towel, had some gelatos at Santini's, which is evidently frequented by the rich and famous. I thought I bumped into Angelina Jolie in the WC. Went by the toursimo office and gathered some information from them, bought a Portugal map, after they were done with their lunch break at 2:30. There was a flea market in progress, and I just couldn't resist the book table.

We stopped by the house to pick up Manny's younger brother, Roberto, as he needed to do some back to school shopping. Students here, in all grades, are responsible for buying all their textbooks and supplies, just like college students in the U.S., and the department stores actually sell textbooks. Manny drove Michele and I up to the historic area of Sintra, about 15km away, and dropped us off there, with Irene's cell so that we could call him when we were ready to come home. A role reversal from four years ago, when he lived with us, eh?

We visited the Ferreira da Castro Museum. da Castro was an author, contemporary with Hemingway, nature lover and ecologist. The front desk lady gave us a pamphlet about the museum longer than most doctoral dissertations, in English. He traveled widely, and turned to writing travel and adventure books after his early works were censored for political reasons, I believe. We sampled some ginginja, a legendary local cherry liqueur or maybe brandy, in little chocolate cups - delicious!

Sintra is filled with small shops, most of which cater to the well-off tourist crowd. There were some lovely things for sale, but a 250 euro handbag is just a little bit out of our league, so we enjoyed the hunt of shopping, rather than the kill, so to speak. Down by the park, handicraft artists lay out their wares on a little guard rail near the embankment, and Michele did find a couple of pretty necklaces that were only two for 6 euros, so she made her first purchase in a foreign currency. There's a series of abstract sculptures in the park area there that I really didn't quite get, except for a highly functional one I rather liked.

We discovered the Museum of Pedro Anjas Teixera, a very talented sculptor, not in the least abstract, where we spent about 45 minutes, and covered things very thoroughly. Sorry I can't oblige you all with the obligatory nude European statuary, though those works were quite good, but I took more photos of his other stuff, such as the praying mantis battle at left, and The Good Gardener Frog, which I'll have to send to my mother, avid collector of frog statuary that she is - the picture, not the actual statue.

We were going to have a light meal of appetizers in the local crepery, but when we sat down and looked at the menu, the prices were completely ridiculous, and the waiter, like all French waiters everywhere are required to do, ignored us long enough that we made up our minds to go elsewhere for our simple peasant fare. Found a little place called the Village Cafe tucked away by the church and had some cheese, olives and chorizo that was just mind-numbingly tasty and  couple of beverages for about 11 euros instead, while watching CNN on the big screen. Lot of terrible things going on in the world, but we're on holiday from all that, don't you know.

Called Manny a little bit later to come pick us up. Wandered over to the palace in town. We'd been by it earlier and thought about taking the tour, but it was closing in 30 minutes so we felt we just couldn't do it justice and skipped it. Heard a conversation in English between a couple going the same direction, and had a nice little chat with some Canadians from Vancouver on holiday. Michele took a picture of them and their toddler. Can't imagine traveling with small children, Michele has a tough time just keeping me out of trouble.

Came on home to a baked salmon and rice meal that Manny himself had prepared for us and his parents. Sat down with him by the computer after dinner to nail down the itinerary for the rest of the time we're here. My free-wheeling ways properly curtailed, I doddered on off to bed.

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