Portugal once again…

We arrive in Lisbon and immediately I feel happy to be “home” – whatever home means! It is such a beautiful city and we have Dave and Jackie with us; I like having people around, it gives me a new perspective on the place and what my favourite things are.  So, first of all walking about in Lisbon is one of my great pleasures and we start our first days ambling about, discovering, roaming and observing.  It is a challenge to take photos of things I have seen so many times before but I try to look through others eyes and this is what I see…

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Views of the castle of São Jorge

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Red rooftops and the 25 de Abril bridge

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Doors everywhere…

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Old streets, prefect for walking about

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Old water fountain

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Monument to the Discoveries, love this place, particularly the Pasteis de Belém!

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Father and daughter sharing a moment

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Fountain with horses and ducks

No visit to Lisbon is complete without lunch with my brother Zé Pedro and his lovely wife Dulce.  They are the sort of people you can spend hours with and it feels nice and comfortable!

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Men full of fish and beer!

The most exciting thing about Lisbon this year was getting the kids registered as Portuguese citizens.  They now have ID cards – passports are next!  One week in Lisbon feeling jet lagged and running around from one government office to another, looking at shoes and eating a lot of food.  What more could I want…

And now for some proper exploring! One week is to be spent exploring Serra da Estrela, the highest mountain range in Portugal.  This is one of my old favourite places and the last time I was here was about 20 years ago, give or take!  We settle in Manteigas which is at the foot of the Vale do Zêzere, with high peaks and forest-draped slopes all around.  There are many mountain villages in this area but Manteigas has been a settlement here since at least Moorish times.  It is a pleasant, quiet town, not much goes on here although it is an excellent base for various mountain walks and to visit old schist villages.  Well, they did not disappoint!  Here is Sortelha which was truly magical.

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The castle built on a crag at an altitude of 760 metres

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Love how the windmills have become part of the landscape

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The 14th-century church

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On entering, there is a beautiful pillory, surmounted by an armillary sphere, the symbol of D. Manuel I, and the building that once served as the town hall, both dating from the time of this king.

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School toilets and others

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Geoff loves pillories….

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The strangest thing about this place is that there is nobody there!  Apparently only two couples live in the village now.

On to Belmonte, Belmonte is an interesting place…  We found out that there used to be a community of “marranos” known as the Belmonte Jews.  They are a community that has survived in secrecy for hundreds of years by maintaining a tradition of endogamy (look it up!) and by hiding all the external signs of their faith.  The community goes back to the 12th century and they were only discovered in 1917 by a Polish Jewish mining engineer named Samuel Schwarz.  Some of them resumed the public practice of Judaism in the 1970s, and opened a synagogue, Bet Eliahu, in 1996.  There is a small Jewish Museum which tells you the whole story.  Was not expecting to find that in Portugal!

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Belmonte from the castle

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Jackie getting into the spirit

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Nice colours….

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A Pelourinho which in English is a pillory.  These are found throughout villages and towns in Portugal.  They date from the 12th Century and were normally built in front of the council building.  They were used to sentence and punish criminals.  Many had a small house on the top made out of iron where criminals were placed for all to gawp at.  In other places, the prisoners were tied to iron rings and beaten or mutilated depending on the severity of their crime.  I am quite fascinated by these pillars and what went on around them!

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You can come down now…

I highly recommend a sojourn in the mountains.  It is a beautiful area and is good for the soul.

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By the house

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Too much time on their hands….

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David attempting to blend in!

The area is beautiful and we went on one of the best walks I have ever done.  Geoff and I set out with a bottle of water and a couple of bananas expecting to be a couple of hours. Five hours later, hot and very hungry we arrived back at the house!  I can only imagine what this walk would be like when there is more water around, before the dry season has sucked out most of the water from the waterfalls and all the snow has melted.  The best thing was not coming across more than 2 people in the whole of the walk!!

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Long climb and a view of Manteigas!

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And further….

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Made it to the waterfall

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This is actually the trail

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We were so hungry but there was nobody home!

Another highlight was seeing the glacier valley.  It is a truly magical place 13 kilometers long.  The last 8 kilometers are the best with a U shape caused by the glacial erosion on the side of the valleys.  It dates to around 19,000 years and it is one of the longest in Europe.  Here are some of the views.

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Beautiful views, beautiful drive – well, not if you do not like sheer drops….

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The glacier valley

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The road through the valley

At the end you reach Torre which is the highest point and where the sky resort is. Well, not in July but in winter it is a rather cool place to visit.  Nevertheless, we availed ourselves of the facilities on offer and took a trip on the sky lift.  Never been on one before so nothing like the present, snow or no snow!

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Posing in the old city

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The old part is full of great graffitti and you can see the old buildings mixing with the new

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A doorway

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Vandalism of old tiles in the church below.  Quite funny though….

DSC03784One of the great things about travelling with friends is that you at times end up doing stuff that you would never really even consider doing!  One of those things was a visit to the Burel wool factory in Manteigas which was just a short walk from our house.  Their website showcases some of their beautiful products all made from wool https://burelfactory.com/en/.  It is creative, imaginative and beautiful.  They offer a free factory tour which Dave and Jackie were quite excited about!  We thought we would tag along and I am glad that we did.  They talked us through the whole process and showed us the machines, some of which are pretty old!  They are still making most of the stuff by hand, incredible!

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So many gorgeous colours….

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Here you have it, a holiday in Portugal!

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