Portugal and Spain: April 13 to
(Pictures are thumbnails. Click on them for a larger view. You may click on the subjects listed to go directly to them.)
Subjects: Lisbon Relatives Lisbon City Royal Coach Museum Belem Monastery and Church Sintra Royal Palace Sintra Moors Castle Evora Estremoz Portuguese Cork Trees Mafra Basilica Obidos Bucaco Palace Hotel Guimaraes Palace and Castle Ponte de Lima Northern Portugal A Coruna Madrid Spanish Royal Palace Madrid Cathedral Barcelona City Sacred Family Church
EUROPE!! We are now in France on our way through the European leg of our Odyssey, and we are excited to be here! As you know, Europe is filled with many ancient artifacts such as castles, palaces and monasteries. As we travel, we of course, are seeing a lot of these up close and personal. We know that many of you have overdosed on these items, so we will try to show you only some of the unique pictures and aspects of what we see. Other sights and scenery will make up our final updates for the Rich Odyssey. We hope you enjoy them as much as we will.
As an example of our first two countries, Portugal and Spain, these pictures are of some of the more exciting things we have seen. The first picture is a statue over the entry door of an old and beautiful royal summer palace in Sintra, Portugal. The second is part of the extensive set of Holy Family sculptures on the front of the fabulous Sacred Family Cathedral, designed by Antoni Gaudi, in Barcelona, Spain. Click on these and other pictures in this update for better details of what we saw.
We were pleasantly surprised by how wonderful and interesting Portugal was and we left Spain with a lot left to see. The May 1 May Day Holiday did create a bit of a problem for us as we had planned traveling in the south of Spain which was FULL and logistics were too complex for our limited skill with Spanish trains. Instead, we proceeded from Portugal to Madrid, Barcelona and then to Bordeaux, France. We would definitely like to come back to BOTH Portugal and Spain and are encouraging rumors that the next Reynolds family reunion might be in Portugal.
Check out our Itinerary for the current plan for the European part of our Odyssey and also check out the Trip Log to see where we have been day by day. Maps of Portugal and Spain show our travel routes on plane, train and automobile. We hope you enjoy following The Rich Family Odyssey's travels through Portugal and Spain!!
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We met some of our Reynolds cousins from Portugal at our reunion in New Zealand. They invited us to visit them in Lisbon, Portugal and here we are! The first shot is of the whole crew with Miguel, his wife Paula, daughter Katrina and son Artur at the pool outside their apartment. Jennifer and Stephanie relax with Paula who has since given birth to daughter Mafalda (Stephanie's newest 5th cousin). Miguel has fun with the three kids in the pool.
On Sunday, we went to an Easter family gathering, complete with an Easter egg hunt. Here are the kids waiting behind the door while the eggs are hidden and next they are showing off their considerable 'loot.' Stephanie with girl cousins Katrina and Maria Anna.
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We were very pleased with our visit to Lisbon, Portugal. It is a GREAT place. On several tours around the city during our 10 day visit, we saw lots of interesting sights. Among the many civic buildings, here is a colorful one right down by the river waterfront. Portugal is known for its great artistic tile and ceramic sidewalks. Workers work on one in a major construction project downtown. Next is a view of a typical Portuguese sidewalk. We decided they are a lot more colorful and interesting than concrete.
In keeping with the ceramic mosaics, here is a city bus painted with bright colors. Next, a concrete wall by a freeway with typical Portuguese tile. And, many buildings have colorful tiles on them. Click on the last picture to get a better view of the tiles on these three apartment buildings, which were only three among a dozen or so on a single block.
The aqueduct shown here is not from Roman times, though the Romans were in the area, but from around 1200 when the city needed a water supply. It is in marvelous shape and is a major city landmark. The major river flowing through Lisbon is the Tagus. Until 1966, there was no close bridge joining the city to southern Portugal. This one was constructed in the same design as San Francisco's Golden Gate bridge and you can see the resemblance if you click on the picture. It is named the Ponte (bridge) 25 de Abril after the 1974 revolution which overthrew the dictator's government and led Portugal to Democracy. On the east side of the bridge is a huge statue of Jesus Christ shown here, very similar to the one in Rio de Janeiro, a former Portuguese colony. Further south is another spectacular new bridge crossing the Tagus near the site of the 1998 world expo.
In the central city, there are a lot of great museums. A neat concrete sculpture in the corner of the Gulbenkian Foundation museums caught our attention. Jennifer and Stephanie enjoy a quiet moment near the Tagus river. Last a view of the Expo area with a fountain and the expo mascot.
Two days after we arrived in Portugal, Jennifer got very sick and spent a few days in bed while local doctors figured out what was wrong and got her on the right antibiotics. While she did not have to go to a hospital (which was an option she rejected), Stephanie is giving her moral support as she goes for a walk in our hotel. The lamp is replacing a rolling IV stand! As a rare treat, Dad took Stephanie to the nearest McDonald's, which in this case, has a fabulous view of the river Tagus.
While Mom was sick, Stephanie spent some time on her favorite hobby... reading. She has probably read 2 to 3 books every week since we have been gone. Our biggest problem now is finding English book stores in Europe so we can buy more. After Jennifer was feeling better, we took her out to a nice dinner in Cascais, a very nice resort town just west of Lisbon. A night time scene on the beach showing some of the picturesque boats.
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Royal Coach Museum
The Royal Coach Museum in Lisbon is the best in the world for showing coaches from the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Shown here are two representative samples of the coaches. They are all very ornate and done with great artistry and workmanship. Each of us had our favorites, but we all loved this wonderful place.
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Belem Monastery and Church
Belem (Portuguese for Bethlehem) in Lisbon is a major site worth visiting. This is the place that sailing ships set forth to discover new lands and continents. The first picture shows the church and monastery of St. Jeronimos built in 1502. The cloisters (a four sided open area) is shown next. Look carefully and you can see the improvements being made by cleaning the sandstone. The right is clean and the stone to the left is awaiting its work to be done. The gothic Santa Maria church is quite spectacular; with its tall columns it withstood nearly intact the major earthquake in 1755 which destroyed most of the city. A scary lion guards and supports the tomb of Portugal's favorite poet, near the cloisters.
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Sintra Royal Palace
West of Lisbon about 40 km is the small village of Sintra. This was the favorite summer residence for several kings of Portugal and is a favorite tourist and holiday location, and home to another cousin, Pedro Reynolds. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995. The first picture shows the old town built from the 14th Century. Sitting on one of the highest peaks on the Sintra mountains is the Palacio Nacional da Pena. This palace was built in the middle of the 19th Century and features some very eccentric architecture, as you can see in the next picture showing the mixture of colors and buildings. Hovering over an entryway is an evil looking character guarding the place. Unfortunately, they did not allow pictures to be taken of the royal chambers and chapel inside, which is also spectacular. Jennifer especially liked the alabaster alter; Stephanie's favorite was the king's bathroom.
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Sintra Moors Castle
Right next to the palace on the top of the mountains is the Moors' Castle, built in the 8th Century. It consists of a wall around the top of the mountain and has four large towers that you can see here. It was a lot of fun for Steffi to walk along the walls and pretend that she was defending against enemies 1300 years ago. It was a glorious day and you can see clearly the Atlantic Ocean from the castle.
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After Jennifer got to feeling better and the final tests proved she was OK, we left on our slightly delayed plans to tour more of Portugal. See the Maps Portugal & Spain update to follow our path. We started by heading east from Lisbon to an historic walled Roman town named Evora. Shown here is a Roman Temple erected in the 2nd Century, dedicated to the goddess, Diana. It was excavated only a century ago. The next picture shows the spectacular 16th century church Igreja de Sao Francisco. It's ceiling is particularly beautiful and, like its altar, used various colors of local Estremoz marble.
One of the more bizarre things that we have seen is a 16th century chapel (Capela dos Ossos) built by a Franciscan monk to induce meditation in his fellow men. If you click on the first two pictures, you can see the walls and columns are made up of the skulls and bones from 5,000 people!! Very macabre! Last, an equally bizarre statue of Jesus and the cross which you see as you leave the chapel.
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Proceeding on a little further east from Evora, we stayed overnight at a castle in the walled town of Estremoz. Many of these old castles and palaces have been converted into inns (called Pousadas). Here you see our rental car entering the gate to the old town. The wall is still in great shape and still surrounds much of the city, though we're not sure the drawbridge still works. This is the tower from the castle that we stayed in. The entrance to the pousada is in the lower right of the picture. Jennifer and Stephanie enjoy a game of chess in the late afternoon inside the castle (Steph won). It was really fun to stay there and pretend you were royalty even for a little while.
The next morning, we took a tour along the top of the castle. Stephanie is checking out the view down over the town and the castle swimming pool, which was obviously not standard equipment in the 13th century. A moat was as good as it got for swimming.
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Portuguese Cork Trees
East of Lisbon there are miles and miles (or kilometers and kilometers) of cork trees, some of which financed the Reynolds' migration to New Zealand. This was the staple crop that made this Portuguese area famous for hundreds of years. If you click on the picture, you can clearly see where the cork is cut from the tree and harvested. As the tree grows older, they can cut higher and higher up and still get a thickness large enough for a bottle cork. The tree isn't killed by taking the cork because the inner layer where it gets water and nutrition from the ground remains intact.
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Proceeding the next day north from Lisbon, we came to the the town of Mafra and the Monastery of Mafra. This very large and grand building was financed with gold from Brazil in 1711. It was originally intended to house 13 monks but ended up housing 300 monks and the entire royal family in a palace. The inside of this church uses a lot of marble and has a spectacular ceiling. The organ was one of six and was being played while we were there.
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Further north, we visited the walled medieval town of Obidos, where Steffi is standing in the entry way. They do let cars in the city (for local residents) and the traffic light helps avoid head on collisions in the narrow entry street. In nearly every old Portuguese town, there was a whipping post for imposing punishment on citizens for various offences. Steffi clings on the post much as someone would have done hundreds of years ago while waiting for their punishment. The palace of Obidos is shown next and has been transformed into an inn (pousada). It is very elegant, has only 9 rooms, and was definitely out of our price range, even if we could have gotten a reservation.
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Bucaco Palace Hotel
Even though we did not stay at the pousada in Obidos, we proceeded up the road to stay in the Palace Hotel of Bucaco, shown here. Along the way, we were in some road construction and a traffic jam. A work van hit and slightly dented the back of our rental car while we were stopped in traffic, and we are still waiting for Hertz to sort it all out. An officer was on the scene within two minutes of the event, but Dennis was in a bit of a bum mood until we arrived at the palace hotel. This was built as a hunting lodge for King Carlos around 1900. It is a very spectacular place as you can see from the outside shot taken of the dining room in which we ate.
The gardens and shrubs next to the palace are very opulent and well done as you can see in the first two pictures. But the lodge was also in the middle of a national forest, maintained for years by the monks from the abbey before the king took over. We went for a hike in the nearby forest where monks had built several hermitages and planted flowers along virtually every trail. Among the sites we saw was a cascade of water coming down the middle of 144 stone steps into several pools below. Finally, even on a dreary rainy day, the top of the hills nearby give a pretty spectacular view of the lands below.
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Guimaraes Palace and Castle
The next stop was the town of Guimaraes, which also has a palace and a castle and is known as the birthplace of modern Portugal. The palace shown here was built in the 15th century. We were struck by its simple lines and the fact that it had 39 brick chimneys. (We're getting further north and higher elevation, so the winters would be COLD.) The big rooms were laid out simply with artifacts of the time, and we were able to sneak one picture in though they weren't officially allowed.
The castle further up the hill was started in the 10th century and was completed and enhanced later in the 15th century. It is a typical fortified castle (at least as we view them) with high walls and walkways around for protection. It was in very good shape.
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Ponte de Lima
Jennifer is finding that she has Reynolds cousins all over the place. We met another one, Filomena Reynolds Abreu Continho, who runs a B&B from her 17th century home shown here in a very nice small town called Ponte de Lima (bridge over the river Lima). We only had a general address for her house. After driving into town, we asked a police officer where Casa das Pereiras was, and he pointed up the hill. To our amazement, we drove right into the courtyard in front of her house. Our room is the corner on the left. The Romans built this bridge over the river Lima 2,000 years ago, and it was partially rebuilt in the 14th century to look as it does today.
Ponte de Lima has its own small castle and lots of old buildings. The street you see here is right on the river's edge and in the other direction the street is lined with beautiful trees which Jennifer and Steffi are enjoying. The Riches enjoy a late afternoon drink in the town square by the river.
We were lucky while we were in Ponte de Lima because a traveling circus was in town. The Victor Hugo Cardinali three-ring circus was in a large tent. It reminded Denny of the circuses that used to come to Denver when he was a little boy and were also set up in a tent. As part of the main show, the animal trainer has lined up row of tigers and lionesses. Even though we could not understand the spoken Portuguese/French, we understood enough to know what was going on. And clowns are universal in any language.
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We headed for northern Portugal and Spain and came to Mino river, which separates the two countries on the north Atlantic coast. Here you see a few boats left sitting as the tide was out. The scenery and coves were quite spectacular here, and it is becoming a haven for retirees we understand.
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We entered Spain (nobody stops you at the borders in Europe any more) and drove through the hilly country to the city of A Coruna, which we had never heard of. Arriving a little late with no hotel plans, we stopped after driving around the city at the Tourism Information center and got some good advice. While Jennifer was inside, Denny took this picture of the buildings lining the street by their harbor.
A Coruna is a very nice city, and we enjoyed our brief overnight visit. It's most noteworthy sight was the Tower of Hercules, a light house built by the Romans in the 1st century. It is the oldest working light house in the world. In the park surrounding the light house, there was some interesting sculpture which you get a better view of by clicking on the picture. One of the more interesting buildings we have seen stands in their harbor. We were not sure what it's purpose was other than as an office building, perhaps for harbor officials.
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We planned to turn in our rental car in Madrid and decided to check out the trains because we were going to start using our Eurail passes there. So, we went down to the main railway station where the trains to Barcelona leave from. Here, Steffi 'holds' a suitcase on a sculpture of a person's belongings. We are down to three large bags (plus our small computer bag and backpacks) and were concerned about how this would all work on the trains. In summary, it is a little confusing to use the trains at the outset. Our first train was planned to be a sleeper overnight from Madrid to Barcelona and additional funds and reservations were needed. We hope to be experts by the time we are done, but we're still on the learning curve with this! The train station facade shown here is now a large open waiting area and the trains stop in a newer building built on the back of this one.
We took a Sunday stroll through the large Retiro Park in Madrid and noted that people are out walking everywhere. The first scene is a band that set up to play some impromptu music that sounded distinctly Ecuadorian. The lady in the purple was having a great time dancing to the music. Lots of people were enjoying the row boats in a lake. And we are always impressed when lovely fountains, like this one, actually work. In the US, we found most fountains not working and not generally maintained. While in the rest of the world, they generally ARE working, a real credit to civic pride.
One of the major squares in Madrid, the Plaza Mayor, also had many buskers performing impromptu entertainment. Here a marching mime drum, whistle, and (single) cymbal corps has a great time marching into the crowds and making them move aside. On a city tour, Jennifer and Steffi enjoy the nice day on top of a double decked bus. Along the way, a statue of Columbus honoring him for discovering the new world.
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Spanish Royal Palace
One of the places not to be missed in Madrid is the Spanish Royal Palace. This building was built during the period from 1700 to 1850. It has over 2,800 rooms although the main rooms for the royalty were the ones we toured and were enormous. The only guides that day were speaking Spanish, so Steffi had a great time reading us the description of all the rooms from an extensive English book that we bought. Here is a room showing the chairs for the king and queen and the major art work surrounding them.
Violins and this violinchello, all made by Stradivarius, were on display. If you click on the next picture, you can see this is a model of a forum that the queen wanted built. The model is a major piece of artwork in itself. Since funds were not available to complete the ornate forum, she frequently used it as a table centerpiece for formal dinners!
Another aspect of the Royal Palace was the armoury. It is probably the best and most complete display of middle age armor in the world and is enthralling. It was much more complete than what we saw earlier in London. The armor around the horses and the colors displayed were all spectacular. Some of the armor was colored black and was very impressive, but Stephanie was most impressed by the armor for the knight's dog!
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Next to the Royal Palace was the new Madrid Cathedral which was consecrated by the Pope in 1993. Since we are obviously going to see lots of old cathedrals, we wanted to see a newer one. The use of modern colors was spectacular. Although the use of huge amounts of gold throughout was minimized, the organ and the entire ceiling were quite spectacular.
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We survived our over night train trip from Madrid to Barcelona. The short version of that story is that we had to hustle to get our luggage from the Madrid hotel via taxi to the train, eat dinner in a hurry, and then find our sleeping car. We had two bunks (Jennifer and Steffi shared the tiny bed!) and the room even had a shower. The bigger problem was storing all our luggage in the room, but we found a way! The other problem was that the heater was stuck on full and the room was cooking! Denny, frustrated by the heat about 1 AM, hit the thermostat very hard and solved the problem. While the beds were adequate, we found sleeping on a moving and sometimes noisy train is not the best. The next day we had to take a long nap to catch up. We will see how things go during the rest of our Eurail train travels.
Here we are enjoying ourselves on the major pedestrian walkway and street, Las Ramblas, which was near our hotel. If you click on the first picture, you can see Jennifer and Steffi looking at merchandise--birds-- at what is really a pet store on the pedestrian walkway. This, in itself, was interesting, but the fact that there were at least 6 of them all right together was a little mind boggling! We assume they make money or they would surely not be there. The specialty was birds, but fish, rabbits and other small pets were all displayed. Further on, we found many other booth stores selling flowers, again all together. Along the way and off the walk was the main market where people were buying their meats, breads and vegetables. This was a huge market, again with many many shops selling nearly identical items. The last picture gives you some sense of how busy this street was. People were out everywhere and it was not even a weekend or holiday.
On one of our outings, Steffi and Jennifer enjoy some American food -- a hotdog (frankfurt). It was large and tasted very good, especially for a change. We have found all the food in Portugal and Spain to be very good, especially if you find a menu with the items translated into English. We wanted to see the old Barcelona Cathedral and had to make two trips because it was closed from 1:30 to 4:30. This afternoon closure is typical of many attractions and businesses and has caused us to miss several attractions thus far. Two interesting shots were of the main ceiling and the 'choir' area which is on the main floor of the cathedral. The wood work was quite something, especially in this area reserved for the knights.
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Sacred Family Church
One of our most memorable sights was the Sacred Family (Sagrada Familia) Temple and Church. This church was envisioned in 1882 and, one year later, Antoni Gaudi of Italy was appointed to design and guide the work on this unique Church. With the exception of a period of about 8 years during the Spanish Revolution in the 1930s, work has continued on Gaudi's design for over 100 years. Gaudi himself worked on his project for over 40 years until he died in 1926. The scene you see today is shown in the first picture with the four towers and the cranes overhead. As the work progressed, another artist was commissioned to design a set of sculptures to be used on the front of the Cathedral. His work is shown here. In keeping with Gaudi's overall design using innovative naturalistic geometrical shapes, these elaborate sculptures, with their sharp shapes and designs, are in stark contrast to other works of sculpture we have seen. Inside the Cathedral itself, you can get a sense of the columns holding up the very colorful ceiling. Gaudi loved nature, and the columns have the design of tree trunks with their limbs spreading out to the colorful heavens.
A close up view of Judas kissing Jesus is an example of the geometric sculptures at the front of the Cathedral. Notice the magic square of numbers next to the statues. It contains numbers whose sum is always 33 (Jesus' age when he was crucified) no matter what row or diagonal one uses. We climbed up the inside of the columns and this picture shows a view over a part of the design looking at Barcelona. Notice the colorful towers and the use of fruit on the tops of part of the church. All in all, Sagreda Familia is really something and a lot of fun to visit. We will want to come back when the entire church is done in 20 to 30 years. While 100 to 140 years to build is truly a long time, it does pale when we have learned that some of the older Cathedrals that we have seen took over 600 years to build. We guess modern technology and private funding does have a few advantages. This place is truly unique.
This last view from the top of the hill, Montjuic, where the Olympics were held in 1992, shows the Sacred Family Church in the background. We really enjoyed Barcelona and it is now one of the favorite cities that we have visited.