A Travellerspoint blog

Lisbon, Portugal - Thursday, 11 April 2019

Visit to Obidos - a Medieval Portuguese walled village

sunny 17 °C
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Queens Suite - Deck 9 - Cabin 9047

Today we are taking a shore excursion to Obidos - a Medieval Portuguese walled village. A description of Obdios says "a maze of quaint cobbled streets, brightly painted houses and overflowing flower pots". Obidos is so romantic that in 1282, the entire town was given as a wedding present from King Dinis to his bride Isabel. How lovely!

It has a 12th century castle encircled by medieval walls. This former fortress and royal palace was recently voted one of the "Seven Wonders of Portugal", and indeed it is. It is a bit reminiscent of Chesky Krumlov.

We are now in the Atlantic and the ship is rocking!!! Joel our butler, says it's because the ship is not going very fast. I think I'm okay, but time will tell. We are getting off in Lisbon today.

Due to the strong head winds we experienced yesterday, we will now be docking an hour later than expected.

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Leaving the ship today was organised chaos, but eventually we were all on our buses and away. It took about an hour driving through the suburbs, villages and countryside to get to Obidos.

Obidos is a gorgeous medieval town with only two main streets, and lots of little lanes and alleyways running off them. The centrepiece of the town is a 12th century castle. This former fortress and royal palace has been voted one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.

In 1282 the entire town was so lovely that King Dinis gave it as a wedding present to his wife Isabel. There are 13 churches in this small town because when the queen died, the town was passed on to the next queen and each wanted to have their own place of worship. This happened until a republic was declared in 1912.

The town must be kept exactly as is was originally built and the buildings only painted in white. The blue bits are supposed to keep the insects away - not sure how.

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There were a few "must try" delacacies in this town. First of all, they make a delicious cherry liquour from some local cherries that are very bitter. The liquour is very sweet and it is drunk out of a small chocolate cup and of course, then you eat the cup.

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Every shop is tiny and atmospheric and the bakery is no exception. Their speciality is a warm, crusty bread roll, filled with chorizo. Yum! The chorizo is actually cooked in the roll, not added later.

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And who could forget Portugeuse custard tarts. They really belong to Lisbon but are made all over Portugal.

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On the way back to the shop, our driver took us through the main city. It was lovely to see it again. There was quite a large police prescence because there was a soccer match in town and lots of crazy soccer fans hanging around the streets, no doubt looking for a fight.

We were back on board at about 3.30 pm and went in for afternoon tea, as only the British can do.

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Waiting to sail for Southampton now. We are on the final leg. Boo hoo! The P&O Aurora is now leaving port and she is blowing her horn so we are responding with ours. Lovely.

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After dinner, Chris, Robin and I went to a show. The Cunard dance group were performing numbers from famous Broadway shows. It was really good and the ship was swaying a bit but it didn't seem to bother the dancers. I guess they must be used to it.

Into bed by midnight and the minute my head hit the pillow, I was asleep. How am I ever going to be able to sleep in a normal bed ever again?

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Posted by gaddingabout 03:35 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

At Sea - Wednesday, 10 April 2019

sunny 16 °C
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Queens Suite - Deck 9 - Cabin 9047

Lazy day at sea today, so we slept in and rushed into breakfast by 9 am.

I went to hear Part 2 of John McCarthy's address about his release from his five year capture in Beirut.

The wind is force 7 today and is quite cool and very strong. The sea is choppy but we don't feel a thing in midships on this ship.

We had a light lunch in our cabin and had another very lazy day.

We passed the Rock of Gibralta at about 6 pm.

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At dinner, the chef had made the lovely Portuguese custard tarts. They were very good - not quite as good as the originals, but delicious nevertheless.

Wind clocks back another hour tonight. Now we are on UK time.

Posted by gaddingabout 02:16 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Barcelona, Spain - Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Visit to Tarragona Old City

sunny 16 °C
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Queens Suite - Deck 9 - Cabin 9047

We have now docked in Barcelona. It is the capital of Catalonia and Spain's second largest city. We have visited Barcelona before and been to Antonio Gaudi's Sagrada Familia, and strolled down Las Ramblas and Phil has visited the huge stadium that is the home of Barcelona FC and we've been to Montserrat.

So today we went on an excursion to visit Tarragona Old City whose historical quarter is full of Roman and medieval remains. It was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Its origins trace as far back as 218 BC, when the first Roman presence was felt on the Iberian peninsula.

The remains of the Roman walls are impressive and we entered the walled area through "Portal del Roser". On our walking tour through the lovely old city we saw the Roman remains of the Provincial Forum, the Pretorio, the Roman Circus (no animals left - sorry), and the Amphitheatre. We also stopped at the Cathedral of Santa Maria and the Diocesan Museum.

Up early this morning for our trip to the medieval town of Tarragona.

It was dark and raining as we got up, but as has been the norm, the rain goes before we go ashore and it turned out to be a very lovely day - quite warm, in fact.

It took us an hour and a half to drive to Tarragona. Half way there we stopped for a "comfort" stop, which was the only one we were given all day. Not good enough for "old" people who need to go to the loo frequently.

We drove through Barcelona city and it was nice to recognise some of the places we visited a few years ago.

Along the way we stopped to photograph the Pont del Diable, an old Roman aquaduct. It was quite impressive but there were a lot of trees in the way.

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Our tour guide was Spanish and had a good command of the English language, but he spoke very quickly and had a very strong accent, so consequently he was very hard to understand.

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Tarragona is on the coast and is a very pretty place.

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We pulled up at an old Roman wall and we all got out of the bus. I didn't realise it was the old Roman city we were supposed to be visiting. An announcement would have been good. Anyway, we went inside and it was very important to stick with the guide because it was a very complicated laid out town and would have been very easy to get lost. People have renovated apartments in the town so it is a mix of the very, very old and the old that has been renovated. It had lots of narrow winding streets.

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We spent an awful lot of time in Santa Maria Cathedral. We were lucky that it was Tuesday, as there were no services being held so we could wander around and take photos of the old tapestries and frescos. It really was quite lovely.

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Outside, the guide showed us the top of the cathedral and said that this remains unfinished as a result of The Black Death. All the workers died and it has never been finished.

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We walked down to the amphitheatre, took a photo and then we were given 20 minutes free time, which just gave us enough time to buy a sausage in a roll for lunch and go to the loo and then we were back on the bus and heading back to the ship.

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I collect icons and would loved to have bought one at the church, but we weren't given any time to stop and shop.

Also, not enough "comfort" stops.

We were back on board at 2.30 pm which could have given us a lot more free time wandering around Tarragona as we weren't sailing until 4.30 pm.

We had afternoon tea in the Queen's Grill and then Robin and Chris joined us.

Now rest time before dinner.

At dinner we were talking to our Maitre de Osman about the delicious custard tarts that are made in Lisbon. He said he would get thd recipe and ask the chef to make them for us!!! If he can pull this off, I will sing their praises long and loud. So far, they are provided everything we have asked for, and them some. It has been wonderful.

Posted by gaddingabout 01:28 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

At Sea - Monday, 8 April 2019

semi-overcast 13 °C
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Queens Suite - Deck 9 - Cabin 9047
Gala Evening - Mariner's Ball

A relaxing sea day today, sailing to Barcelona.

There's quite a cool breeze blowing and it's 14 degrees.

After breakfast, I went for an appointment with Marco, the gym instructor, re working on my metabolism. I will join a gym when I am back home to receive some training in how to use weights properly.

I then went to a lecture by John McCarthy, who spoke about his 1,943 days as a captive in Beirut by the Islamic Fundamentalists. It was rivetting and will be continued in a couple of days. The theatre was almost full.

We are having room service for lunch.

We had a lazy afternoon and Phil slept, trying to recover from his cold and I finished reading another book.

It was another gala evening, so we dressed for dinner and after dinner we went to a show. We thought it was going to be Phillip Browne again. It was, but prior to his performance, the ship's dancers and singers put on a show. They were very good and then Phillip Browne came on and only sang a few songs this time, which was a shame. His first show was a knock out.

We have an early rise tomorrow for our shore excursion to Tarragona in Barcelona.

Posted by gaddingabout 01:09 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Civitavecchia, Italy - Sunday, 7 April 2019

Visit the undiscovered City of Bagnoregio

semi-overcast 13 °C
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Queens Suite - Deck 9 - Cabin 9047

Today we went on a shore excursion to the Undiscovered City of Bagnoregio. Curious name - if it's "undiscovered", how can we find it??!!

Well, we found it. How could you miss it? It is a stunning medieval city, perched on top of a plateau, overlooking the Tiber River valley.

It was founded by the Etruscans more than 2,500 years ago. It was the birthplace of Saint Bonaventure who died in 1274. The locatiion of his boyhood home has long since fallen off the edge of the cliff. By the 16th century, Bagnoregio was beginning to decline and by the end of the 17th century, the municipal government was forced to move due to a major earthquake that accelerated the old town's decline. It is now known as The Dying Town.

The city is much admired for its architecture spanning several hundred years. The population today varies from about 7 people in winter to more than 100 in summer.

The town was placed on the World Monuments Fund's 2006 Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites, because of threats it faces from erosion and unregulated tourism.

Early rise this morning as we are going ashore in Rome. We had to turn our clocks back one hour and for some reason, this proved quite difficult so we set three alarms and they all went off at different times; one at 5 am, one at 5.50 am and one at 7.00 am, when we were aiming for 6 am! Anyway, we were up and dressed and ready for our breakfast at 6.45 am.

It is very overcast, quite cool and pouring with rain. This ship has different paintwork!

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By the time we went ashore, the rain had stopped, but there is a very threatening sky. We have three bus loads going to the undiscovered city of Bagnoregio, where only six people live, the oldest being 103.

It took about two hours driving to get there - 100 kilometres but on back roads. At least being Sunday is a help - not much traffic.

The Italian countryside is green and beautiful. We passed through lots of small towns and villages, oozing charm. I have always loved Italy. Crumbly and falling down, but oozing charm.

We arrived at Citiva di Bagnoregio, in the Viterbo province of Lazio, along with several other tour buses but definitely nowhere near the amount that were at Petra. We queued for a while, waiting for a shuttle bus to take us to the ticket office, where we would then commence our walk, up and down and then up, up, up to this magnificent medieval city on top of an enormously high rock.

Our first glimpse of Bagnoregio was jaw dropping. It is simply magnificent. Watching people slowly walking along the path to the top, reminded me so much of the Great Wall of China.

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It was quite an effort to walk to the top. The new, strong cement and iron bridge was constructed in the 1950s - before that there was just a ricketty old wooden bridge and when the wind was blowing, it had to be closed.

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The town is about 300 m wide and 200 m long so it is impossible to get lost, even for me. There is a town square, with a church and a few streets radiate off it.

It was built in the 13th century by the Estruscans. They chose such a high place to avoid being attacked. Well, let me tell you, no self respecting enemy would have the strength to climb that high and then launch an attack!

We had about three hours on our own to wander around this fantastic place. It also reminds me a lot of San Giminano in Tuscany. There were photo opportunities everywhere you looked.

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We found a lovely B&B called Trattorio Antico Forno and went in for lunch. We were the first there and Phil chatted with the owner who then provided us with some of his home made red wine. Just delicious. Then we ordered several different types of bruschetta, some sausage and a coffee. There is nothing quite like a genuine Italian feast in a genuine Italian village. Belissimo! They even had free Wifi which turned me into a rude person, emailing at the table, but I had to reply to a couple of urgent emails. The bill was 37€, so we gave them 40, for a most enjoyable experience.

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All too soon, it was time to leave for our "climb" back up the hill to the top. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but Phil suffered a bit with his breathing because of his cold. What a fantastic trip this was. It is one of those places that you will never forget and will tell everyone who are visiting this area, that it is a MUST to visit.

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Because it is Sunday and the roads are very quiet, we were back at the ship before 4 pm, so time for a nice cold beer, sitting on the balcony, sun baking and writing my blog.

Thank goodness it didn't rain today. It was cool but that was a blessing for all the walking we had to do. The sun came out mid afternoon and it is even quite warm.

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Posted by gaddingabout 01:03 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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