Part 1 - Gemma, Gareth, Mum and Dad
Night Location: Lisbon, Portugal
Mumisode of the Day: As we were leaving the hotel in Salamanca this morning the car was completely covered in ice. Mum whipped out her David Jones card and proceeded to scrape all the windows. She really got stuck into it. When she was finished, her David Jones card was a little worse for wear, so she thinks that she will have to request a new card as soon as she gets home. She went through her wallet to find a more suitable card and decided on the Diana Ferrari Rewards card. She thinks that this is a lot less important as she gets "Really good deals at David Jones."
New country today: Portugal. Mum was very happy as the service station we stopped at over the border sold Magnum Classics. Even though it was less than ten degrees, Mum stood in the sun and ate the Magnum with relish.
There were many funny comments said by Mum regarding Claude and his navigational skills, but sadly neither Gareth nor I can remember what was said exactly. We just remember her being very curt, and wanting to turn the chap off.
Late in the afternoon we went exploring the Palacio de Pena, high up on the hill in Sintra. This is a fairytale castle complete with great ramparts and pretend battlements. Dad hid in one of the alcoves in readiness to scare Mum (again), and Gareth almost gave the game away when he made a startled noise as he walked past. Luckily Mum did not hear this, and as she walked on by, Dad grabbed her arm. Once again she emitted a loud shriek that went echoing into the alcove and could be heard down in the castle courtyard. It was hilarious! As you can see from the long list of Mumisodes, Mum has been in very fine funny form today. Spain and now Portugal really bring out her funny side.
Not long after leaving Salamanca we were crossing the border into Portugal, another country for all of us, hooray! We drove for about three hours without coming across one toll booth, something extremely unusual for us at the moment and made a stop at the monastery of Batalha, constructed in the 13th century and the burial place for many of the Portuguese kings. There are two cloisters side by side which is quite unusual and a massive unfinished chapel at the front of the cathedral that has really intricate stone work but no ceiling.
After a quick lunch we were all back in the car, pausing briefly at the Moorish castle of Obidos before driving on to Sintra. Sintra is the little blip on the Western coast of Portugal, north west of Lisbon. It is home to the fairytale castle of King Ferdinand II of Portugal who was inspired by mad King Ludwig of Bavaria who built Neuschwanstein. He has made his own version of this castle, only a little more Arabic and very colourful. You can see the castle high up on the hill shining in all its colours for miles.
Equally impressive is the Moorish castle of Sintra built in the 9th Century and now a ruin of ramparts and towers that you can climb over. Gareth was up and down the stairs "like a gazelle," according to Mum, pretending to be king of the castle. The crenellated walls make the ideal backdrop for many pictures: you get a 360 degree view overlooking the Atlantic coast, the palace and the surrounding countryside.
After exhausting ourselves on the stone stairs, we ventured further up the winding road to visit the palace. Sadly for us we missed the parking on the level with the entrance gate and instead had to park in the scrub 100m down the hill. Emerging up over the side of the hill, we reached the gate, only to see the palace looming high above us. Fearing the worst, we entered the gate and saw to our great delight a tram/bus waiting to take tourists to the top. Gemma and Gareth went to buy tickets and when they returned, Mum and Dad had leapt on already. There was no way it was going without them. Gareth maintains it was the best two euros we spent that day.
At the top at last, we stepped off the tram and looked up at a building better suited to a Disney movie. The castle looks like a cross between the palace out of Aladdin and the castle in Cinderella. There are so many walls, turrets, tunnels and terraces you hardly know where to start or where to look. Every time you move, you feel like you need to take another picture, the view is so spectacular. The building was originally a monastery (which makes sense given its remote and difficult location), but then it had a building added on to complete the look. The traditional bedrooms, state rooms, dining rooms and kitchens were explored, but nothing can compare to the outside view and the walk around the walls. As you can see from the Mumisode, the walls made a great spot for scaring Mum which Dad delighted in doing.
The sun was setting as we were leaving the castle. We could see the red light of the sun reflecting over the water in the distance. It was so beautiful. Somehow we made it down the bush track to the car where we had to dig into the emergency supplies of oreos, maltesers and cashews as we were fairly starving after climbing over the castle and then the palace together with all the hill-climbing.
Entering Lisbon at night was quite beautiful. Cities always look so magnificent at night, particularly those with great bridges like those in Lisbon. The hotel is really comfortable: fantastic beds that are long enough and an even better shower with massage jets that is great when you can eventually turn it on. Gemma who was attempting to shower first had to call Gareth in for assistance to turn on the shower. It was a little tricky!
Dad found a great restaurant that was literally just out the door of the hotel. Gemma and Gareth went exploring to try and find a supermarket to restock the emergency supplies but unfortunately all that was in the immediate vicinity were a lot of banks and ATMs and a huge round-about complete with statue.
Interesting piece of trivia for the day courtesy of Gareth. Apparently a statue of a figure on a horse can let you know how the person portrayed died. If the horse has both legs up (rearing) the figure died in battle. With one leg up, the figure died from wounds sustained in battle and if all legs of the horse are on the ground, the figure died of natural causes. How's that? Can't imagine how many horse/figure statues we have seen without knowing that! (Looked it up on Wikipedia, fountain of all knowledge and apparently this mainly applies to American Civil War statues).
Part 2 - Amber and David
Night Location: Paris, France
Another day in Paris, another day spent wandering through parks, shopping and eating in delightful cafes! Today David and I did a walking tour of the shopping district of Paris. From our apartment, we crossed the Pont des Arts, walked past the glass pyramids that make up the Louvre and on through the Jardin des Tuileries. We entered the Place de la Concorde (at our own risk) and arrived at Avenue des Champs Elysees, the second most expensive shopping street in Europe, behind Bond Street, London, apparently.
Many shops were entered and many items were admired but none were purchased! We decided to return to our home suburb of Saint Germain for refreshments at our favourite macaron café, 'Laduree'. Therefore, we left the Louis Vuitton district, descended to the super effiecient Parisian Metro and soon after emerged at the Louvre. Two hot chocolates, four macarons and a passion fruit cream and raspberry tart later, we returned to the shops! All in all, not a bad day really!