July 30-August 2, 2008
It's hard to believe that I am writing this from our LAST hostel at our last stop on this three-month adventure. It seemed like this day would never come and now that it has, it is bittersweet. Both Danny and I are ready to be home, but sad to see this wonderful summer come to an end.
Portugal has been a great place to wrap up our travels. Cascais is a small beach town about 45 minutes from Lisbon. Although we had quite a hassle getting here (not a surprise based on our traveling luck…) it has been worth it and we are HOPING that getting back to the airport (via taxi) tomorrow should work out smoothly!
We have spent the past couple days with nothing pressing to do - just relaxing, getting some sun, minimal shopping (to Danny's relief), good food, and a quiet atmosphere. Our hostel, Cascais Beach Hostel, is really nice. It has a pool in the courtyard which we have eaten breakfast beside each morning. It also has a big communal kitchen, nice bathroom and shower, a TV with about 10 FOX channels (in English!), free internet, and we have our own private room with wood floors and a very comfortable bed! - We couldn't have asked for anything better!
We got here early in the evening on Wednesday. We hadn't looked up the name of our hostel or how to get here (we were kind of rushed from packing & cleaning before leaving Metz) so after getting some dinner we had to find an internet café. We had dinner at a pretty cheap place that we read about in our guide book that served Portuguese dishes. Danny had roast quail and I had roasted chicken. They were both very good and flavorful. After that, Danny checked the internet while I stood with our luggage - traveling/wandering the streets with your suitcases and two carry-ons each is horrible! We then made an uphill hike - again with our 45+ pound suitcases and our HEAVY carry-ons (we tried to keep our checked baggage below the 20 kilo limit, only to find it really didn't matter that much) - to our hostel. As I already said, the hostel is wonderful and we were really glad when we got here!
After ditching our luggage, we walked back to the supermarket where we bought some food and drinks for breakfast and snacks the next day. We also bought a bottle of vinho verde (literally green wine) which is traditional of Portugal. The wine is actually a "semi-sparkling young wine." It is less than a year old, but still surprisingly dry and crisp. We came back to the hostel and drank the wine by the pool. We both liked it a lot. Then, we crashed early with intentions of being more lively the next evening.
Early the next morning (and I mean EARLY) we were awakened by a local rooster cock-a-doodling away. And the thing about roosters is…they don't just cock-a-doodle-doo right when the sun first comes up, they continue it for hours on end. That made sleeping in a little tricky but we managed nonetheless. We finally woke up, had breakfast, and set out for the beach. Danny found a beach online in the next town over, Estoril, that had a neat looking fort right on the beach, so we thought we'd head that way. We walked along the water a few kilometers, but never found the beach we were searching for. We ended up settling on another beach where we had a snack of chips and salsa (soooo good) and laid out for a while. The water was very cold but very refreshing after basking in the sun. After a couple hours of that, we made another stop at the supermarket, and came back to the hostel. We sat out by the pool for a bit longer, I fell asleep, and then we took showers and got ready for dinner.
We both got sun burnt a little bit - Danny behind his knees and I right below my bathing suit bottoms, so sitting was tricky for us both. We headed to dinner to a Brazilian steakhouse, Fogo de Chão, which was a lot like the one in Atlanta but a good bit less expensive. I had never been to a Brazilian steakhouse before so I was really excited! Unfortunately, despite getting fatter, my appetite has shrunken since I have been over here (probably because I don't run EVER) so I was disappointed in my eating performance! The restaurant had a HUGE "salad" bar for beforehand with everything from fried potatoes to fish to eggs to soup…it was a lot of stuff but we tried to just get small tastes of everything to save our stomachs for the FOURTEEN types of meat we were going to get. I don't think we made it through all fourteen though. At about seven, I couldn't believe we were only half-way through and I think by about nine or ten I had to call it quits because my stomach was literally about to explode (not gonna go into any details!). We had chicken wrapped in bacon, sausage, pork roast, roast beef, Brazilian steak (rump roast), garlic beef, a pork rib, and more in addition to fried bananas (so delicious!) and roasted pineapple which was very good for clearing your palate after all the salty meats. It was all so good I really wished I could have eaten more - the regular, bottomless pit Laura would have been able to but…what can you do?
After dinner, we were WAY too tired from eating so much to do anything adventurous so we just went back to the hostel and watched some television and went to bed fairly early. This morning, once again, the rooster woke us up, but once again, we managed to go back to sleep…we had breakfast out by the pool again and headed for the beach once more. We had read about a big cliff/cave called Boca do Inferno ("Mouth of Hell") which we wanted to check out. Our hostel didn't know where it was but we found a tourist information center and asked them, as well as where souvenir shopping was - I had to get my charm and Danny had to get his patch to complete our collections!
At the souvenir shop, we found lots of rosters EVERYWHERE! We were wondering what the significance of them was - besides the fact that they are super annoying and wake you up every morning. Turns out there is a legend about a man who was accused of stealing. He was found guilty and could not prove his innocence. They gave the man one last chance to prove that he was not guilty. Seeing a rooster in a cage nearby he said, "If I am innocent, the c*** will crow." Sure enough, the rooster crowed and the man was set free. Kind of corny, but apparently legitimate enough to make the rooster a pretty national symbol - enough so that I bought a rooster charm and we also bought a "ceramic cock" for a gift.
The walk to Boca do Inferno had us walk through the heart of Cascais and it is REALLY beautiful. We definitely walked the wrong way yesterday! We passed a pretty quiet beach and a huge old fortress that overlooked the harbor. We also passed a lighthouse and some beautiful buildings and hotels. We have lots of pictures, which we will post when we get home. We had another snack break on top of some rocks that overlooked the water. There seem to be a lot of these old structures - we don't know what they are - but they have stairs and the remnants of walls but now they are surrounded by/covered with rocks. We ate on one of them and enjoyed the sun and the blue water.
Boca do Inferno was really cool. The cliffs were unbelievably tall and the "mouth" was actually a huge hole in the cliff that led to another area. Huge waves splashed up against the mouth and the water crashed in from all directions over the rocks. You could definitely see how that would be a dangerous area for a ship or swimmer. There were lots of people fishing off the cliff and we saw a couple people catch some small fish. Cascais is traditionally a fishing town and the seafood here is fresh and caught daily.
After that, we headed back to the hostel to drop off our souvenirs, write some postcards, and get some refreshments. Then we went to the post office to mail our postcards and went back to the quiet beach we had seen earlier for a few hours. We relaxed and read and ended up falling asleep on the beach - waking up with red noses and pink cheeks! The ladies here wear REALLY small bottoms, which we found to be kind of disturbing in many cases. Also, some women choose to go topless - our favorite being the over 40-year-old who was topless with saggy boobs and wore a thong bottom - gorgeous!
At about 4:30, we headed to the fish market which I had read about in the book. We were expecting a huge market with lots of fish everywhere and heard that there was an auction at 5:00. Well…it wasn't quite what we expected, but it was still kind of interesting. The fishermen bring their catches from the day to this market, where they go across on a moving line and at the end of the line, the type of fish and a starting price show up on the screen, the prices start decreasing until someone pushes a button to buy the fish. There were TONS of octopus/squid for sale and some other pretty crazy looking fish. The whole thing went pretty quick but it took us about half the time until we figured out what was going on.
We then walked around the area to scope out potential dinner places before returning to the hostel for showers. I really wanted seafood for dinner this evening and I had read about many of the traditional Portuguese dishes. One things that Danny and I both wanted to try were "large barnacles" just because it sounded so odd, but we couldn't find any place that sold them. We went to a place that had arroz de marisco (rice and seafood stew) that was absolutely delicious and some more vinho verde. The arroz de marisco had just about every kind of seafood you could dream up - calamari, shrimp, crab legs, mussels (which are literally EVERYWHERE around here - they are the majority of the shells that litter the beach), clams, and more in a reddish sauce with rice. It came as a serving for two people in a big silver pot and we ate every bite of it!
We had promised to see a sunset over the water, so we headed to the beach, which of course was in the wrong direction to see the sun. We started walking in the direction of Boca do Inferno just hoping to find a place we could see the sunset. We ended up getting all the way to Boca do Inferno where we got to see the very tail end of the sun setting behind the cliffs but we stayed to see the sky as it glowed orange and took some pictures and just took in the tranquil beauty. After that, we walked back to the hostel, "our last walk through the streets of Europe" (at least for this summer) as Danny pointed out…now we've packed up and are ready for a long day of travel tomorrow. Home again, home again, jiggity jig. Hope you all have enjoyed our blog for the summer. (Even though we still have a couple more we missed and still intend to post…) It has been a great trip and I'm glad we could share it with you! More pictures to come so keep checking - we aren't ready to let this thing go yet! haha