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Silves, Sagres, Santiago do Cacém, Sines, Lisbon

World Trip Two

Monday, July 6 2009: Seville - Silves, Portugal

Silves in Portugal.

Three hours driving and we were in Silves, Portugal. We left the searing heat of Seville behind us for the more temperate climes of Portugal. We figured the breeze from the Atlantic Ocean was doing the trick. The only interesting event on our drive was at the Spanish border.

We were stopped by Spanish troupers armed with shotguns and automatic weapons! They were randomly stopping people leaving Spain and checking their cars for what I am not sure. We were one of the few lucky ones that were waved through the checkpoint unhindered.

The medieval architecture of Silves, its stone walls, and the castle are still intact. In fact, the castle has been somewhat restored. The area gains its income from the cork industry which is where the restoration funds came from I assume. There is an archeological museum in town which indicates people have gone to great lengths to do things right here. Julia and I were quite weary from the travel and heat of the day so we took full advantage of the siesta tradition this day.

Silves Video

Tuesday, July 7 2009: Silves - Sagres - Santiago do Cacém, Portugal

Cliffs at the southern most point of Portugal.

Spain and Portugal really have made an effort with renewable energies. Spain is third only to the USA and Germany in the production of wind generated power in the world.

Both in Spain and Portugal we have driven past vast farms of wind power generators dotting hillsides like forests of white-metal trees. Looks like people really do care about global warming here, or perhaps they just have a lot of wind.

Julia feeling the full force of the wind in Sagres.

We visited the Fortress at Sagres on our way from Silves to Santiago Do Cacém. Sagres is located at the most southern point on mainland Portugal. The fort is just a tourist attraction now but at one time it was brisling with cannon.

The Portuguese used it to defend against the likes of Sir Frances Drake who lobbed a few cannonballs at the place in his time. The area reminds me of Point Reyes in San Francisco. It shares rugged vertical cliffs, brown dry windswept fields, and vast vistas of a deep blue ocean. The ocean here is the Atlantic and at Point Reyes it is the Pacific, but the similarities are surprising.

A Point Reyes look-a-like.

I was pleased to see that eucalypt trees have migrated from Australia and our now well established all throughout Portugal. They make up the forests along with pines and cork trees. The shiny silvery greens of the Portugal forests are well contrasted against the little whitewashed houses with their terracotta orangey brown roofs.

In fact the colors of the buildings are so consistent that I assume it must be mandated by law. The only exception to the ubiquitous color scheme is the occasional blue trim. But the four hour drive to Santiago Do Cacém along the south west coast was very pleasant indeed.

Sagres Video

Wednesday, July 8 2009: Santiago do Cacém and Sines, Portugal

The castle at Santiago do Cacém.

This morning we visited the little church on top of the hill and the castle next to it at Santiago Do Cacém. Julia and I really like this town. It's not big, in fact It's small. It's not filled with tourists, in fact mostly locals.

Julia behind the secret symbol of the Knights Templar who ran the castle for a time.

But the town is friendly, and set in a beautiful environment. It is hard for me to put my finger on it, but I really like Santiago Do Cacém and Portugal. The Portuguese seem more organized than the Spanish and the old folks are a lot shorter. The town was first inhabited by the Celts, which was a surprise to me as I thought they were restricted to England. After the Celts, came the Romans, then the Moors, and finally the people we know as Portuguese. So the castle has a long history starting with the Moors. It now has an interesting purpose, which is to function as a graveyard. It holds all the dead of the town in vaults and mausoleums. The castle is well restored, I assume, from the money from all those funerals.

The center of the Roman town of Miróbriga.

Just outside of town are the ruins of a 2,000 year old Roman town, Miróbriga. This was a surprise, as when you first arrive at the site it does not look like there is much there to see. But after we handed over our six Euros and began to wander around the fields an ancient city was revealed. We walked past the remains of humble and more lavish homes. Then the Rome Baths with its many bathing rooms and extensive plumbing became clear to us.

Next we walked up to the town square where we could easily imagine the Roman Governor giving speeches to his minions from the temple steps. After this we drove to the small port town of Sines for lunch. Even with its deep water port and oil refineries Sines offered us cool breezes and really fresh fish. Not the most picturesque spot, but still very charming in an industrial kind of way.

Thursday, July 9 2009: Santiago do Cacém - Lisbon, Portugal

A Rio look-a-like.

Well it had to happen; all good things come to an end. Today is our last day of touring in Portugal. Mostly the day was spent driving from Santiago do Cacém to Lisbon.

The weather was nice in Lisbon.

It turns out that Portugal has a big initiative to plant trees and our observations completely confirm this bit of Wiki Wisdom. All along our route were trees; gums, cork, oak, and pine. What a wonderful sight it was to see almost every plot of land covered in trees. What a commendable activity. We also discovered that in the northern part of Portugal there are three national parks and they have bears and wolves in them. What a difference from Spain and France where many of the big animals are now extinct. Julia and I want to come back to Portugal to go hiking in their lovely forests.

A friendly gargoyle.

Poor Julia had to drive into the city of Lisbon. She did a great job as usual. But the GPS (NAV Chica) failed us once again and did not find the exact location of our hotel. So Julia circled the car around the hazard filled streets and eventually found it. But because of the crazy roads and unintelligible signs Julia ended up parked in front of the hotel in the wrong direction. I left to check us in and while I was away Julia was accosted by two hostile hotel staff. Each barked at Julia to move the car. In the end she lost her cool and told them in no uncertain terms to pull their heads in (well something like that). Once they realized we were checked in they changed their attitudes and could not be more helpful and polite to poor Julia.

Lisbon is a typical modern big city. And I do not like typical modern big cities. So our short walk to the old section of town really did not do much for me. It's not that Lisbon is any worse than any other big city. It's just that it is pretty much the same as all big cities; dirty, smoky, grimy, dusty, and full of hustle and bustle. We walked to the waterfront and then on to the Se de Lisbona (the Lisbon Cathedral). These sites did not change my opinion much. But Lisbon did not change my opinion of Portugal in general. The food is good here and the people are friendly.

Goodbye Portugal.

Goodbye Portugal Video

Trip stats

Miles Flown: 22,236

Miles Hiked: 262

Miles Skied: 2

Miles Driven: 5,666

Miles Sailed: 110


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