Portugal -- March 2000

Heather and I took our first big vacation in quite a while by going to Portugal from March 21st to March 29th. We mainly hung out in the capital, Lisbon. We stayed at the Hotel do Reno as part of a British Airways holiday package. On the way to Portugal, we couldn't get two seat together in coach, so they upgraded us to business class for free! Nice.

The Hotel do Reno Parque Eduardo VII

The weather was cool and spring-like, typically around 16C although it was both sunny and windy the whole time we were there. A light jacket and/or sweater was pretty much the typical dress.

Lisbon is set over seven different rolling hills. The streets vary from narrow and crowded to wide and spacious. There are also many broad squares and monuments. In addition to a fine subway system, Lisbon has busses, streetcars and funiculars to help people get around. The cost of transportation in Portugal in general is (relative to what it is here) ridiculously low.

Typical Lisbon downtown street Funicular

Praca dos Restauradores Castelo do Sao Jorge

On top of the most central hill in downtown Lisbon is the Castelo de Sao Jorge. Admission to the castle is free, as is the case for many of Portugal's monuments. Peacocks pretty much own the castelo.

Peacock de Castelo de Sao Jorge

Lisbon has many interesting sites to visit. There is a fine zoo, and Europe's largest oceanarium which was built for the World Expo '98.

At the zoo The oceanarium

Portugal is famous for its hand-painted decorative ceramic tiles. Lisbon has a museum dedicated to these 'azulejos'.

Museo Nacional do Azulejo

South Africa ('discovered' by Portugal) presented Lisbon with a monument commemorating Portuguese explorers. It is located in the southwest of the city, close to museums and the impressive Mosteiro do Jeronimos.

Monument to discoveries The monestary

A daytrip to Sintra is practically mandatory if you are in Lisbon. Sintra is the site of a 12th century castle built by the Moors, and a fanciful palace of much more recent vintage. Sintra is 15km west of Lisbon and is on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.

Moorish Castle Palace overlooking Sintra

Portugal was a fantastic place to visit. The people were all really friendly, and there was plenty of interesting things to see and do. Heather and I tried hard to pick up the language, which isn't too difficult once you get the hang of it.