Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Europe's Florida/California/South Carolina

I just got back from Portugal a few days ago, and if I had to describe this place as anything, I would say that it was a mix of California, Florida, and South Carolina, with a bit of European flair. Portugal was absolutely gorgeous and is worth a visit for sure. The first day my friend Jeff and I toured around the city of Lisbon. We went up this contraption called "The elevator" and got a full view of the city. White houses with orange clay roofs led down to the picturesque bay. Some people say that Lisbon reminds them of San Francisco with a slightly different flavor. I guess that's why they built their version of the golden gate bridge across the water.

After the elevator, we walked across a bridge to the Carmo Cathedral, which has no roof on it. It was destroyed during an earthquake in the 1700's. Peering up to the top of that ruined Cathedral seemed surreal. It was like nothing I have ever seen. We walked to the back of the church to the museum, where they had artifacts from 6,000 years ago and three mummies- two of which were on display in a glass case. I was utterly amazed at the history right before my eyes. I think that the artifacts were some of the oldest I've seen in Europe.

After these morning activities, we headed to the castle, where we got another great view of the city. Then we took a train to Cascais, which is a small beach town by Lisbon. That little town reminded me of Charleston South Carolina. All of the buildings were pastel and palm trees lined the streets. Rows of old houses lead up hills that continued past ports with sailboats. It was gorgeous. We laid on the beach for awhile and then headed to a small town called Belem, where we saw the Cathedral and water tower. After all of this, we ate some subway and headed to bed.

The next day we got up early and headed to a small town called Sintra. This is hands down one of the coolest things I have seen all year, without a doubt. This town was very mountainous and scattered with castles every here and there. The castles were some of the most unique castles I have seen while in Europe. They were painted with bright colors, mosaics, and had cone shaped towers on them. We walked through the small town a bit and then took a bus up to two castles on top of the hill. The woods were sort of like a jungle, with tall seqoias and palm trees everywhere. The first castle was not really a castle, but a great wall of china- esque lookout. When we climbed to the top, we got one of the most expansive views ever. We saw Lisbon, the coasrt, Belem, Sintra, Cascais- everything. The wind was blowing so hard that we could hardly stand, but it was so b eautiful. We hiked around that for a bit longer and then took some breaks to admire the fantastic views. After spending a couple of hours here, we took a bus to the second castle, where we only paid to see the gardens. We hiked all around the woods and climbed a narrow set of stairs that led to a stone throne where the queen used to sit and admire the view of the castle. I don't see how the queen got up there though, because that hike was scary, tiring, and steep. We saw some pretty cool things in the woods- small ponds, chapels, and mysterious mini castle looking things. It was like a fairy tale forest- something that you see in a movie or read in a fanstasy book. It kind of reminded me of where they filmed some of Lord of the Rings. I loved Sintra and I would say that anybody visiting Lisbon absolutely has to stop by this charming town in the hills. That's it for now...tons of work to do! I'll blog again in a few weeks...only 1 month left! wow!

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