Lisbon Day 2: Belém

Today we take the bus to Belém because it is a little far to walk.

First it is time for lunch, especially Portuguese roasted chicken. It is the best. A finds us a great place nearby to try.

After lunch of course it is time for dessert. We head over to Pastéis de Belém. We try their wonderful custard desserts.

We both ended up buying six, which probably wasn’t the best idea. But I finished them over the next couple days: ate them in the morning and as a train snack.

After our dessert we walked over to the Jerónimos Monastery.

Lit candle for my mom

We soon discover we are where Vasco da Gama the explorer is buried.

Rope with different knots

We have Fado reservations for the evening so we return to closer to the main part of town. While we wait we watch tourist boats in the harbor. I ended up taking this boat about a week later when I was traveling alone again. It was quite fun.

Now it is off to Fado. I’ll dedicate a post to this later. Bye!

Lisbon Day 1: Land of the tiles

I have arrived in Lisbon. This is exciting for two reasons: One is I have been wanting to visit Portugal for a while and two is my friend A is meeting me for a couple days. I am happy for the companionship so I’ll try to be on my best behavior for the next few days 😉

My arrival is less than glamorous. I am not a fan of the Lisbon airport. I’ll dedicate a post to that later.

Lisbon is a pretty big city with lots of hills which we soon discover. We leave the hotel to wander around soon after my arrival.

Before I mention our day can I just show you how creepy our hotel is. Don’t get me wrong, it is nice and it was nice to have a big window but with the black out shades it got scary dark in the place.

We start wandering around and I think we are trying to find this cute wine bar. We end up finding a famous street. Luckily we are going downhill but the stones prove to be very slippery for us. We almost fell a few times on the way down. We got to see the famous Elevador da Glória.

I imagine that on a rainy day one would slide down by butt.

I am already a fan of different tile designs but Portugal is where I start my obsession with tiles.

Eventually we find the pink street that has our pink bar. It is empty so we decide to get a bite to eat first.

Baccalhau and chips

After our so-so dinner it is time for our drink at the pink bar. I get an old fashioned and am not deterred by the sexist advertising. After a long travel day we call it an early night.

Bilbao Aste Nagusia

These guys are crowd pleasers

When I arrived in Bilbao I noticed preparation for some sort of festival. I had a hard time finding information on it and my hotel wasn’t too helpful.

After some research I found this link Euskoguide and Wikipedia.

There is a big party planned and it is happening a couple days after I leave. I contemplated changing my travel plans to stay for the festival. However I already pre-paid many things and am looking forward to my upcoming plans. I planned on coming back to Bilbao for another night before flying out for Spain but I am under the impression I had reservations at an airport hotel and would be too tired to come back to the action.

I am pleasantly surprised to find my new hotel is about a mile from the festivities and I am able to participate.

When the booths are being set up I noticed that they were put together in pieces, mostly from scratch. People hung by harnesses to attach the metal structures that would later form the booths.

A combination of plastic coverings and wood panels are assembled. On the wood panels the artwork is hand painted.

Many of the booths seemed to political in nature but it is hard to tell because most of it is Basque, a local language for the region.

It doesn’t matter if it is somewhat political; it looked like everyone wanted to have fun and the group was very inclusive with all ages, races, genders as participants. Seemed like my kind of crowd, even if I couldn’t understand much.

The festival mascot

If you order a drink they give you a string to help you hold onto your drink cup.

I spent a good amount of time watching this band do their sound check. I got bored and walked on. When I got back there was a huge screen blocking the stage. Not sure if they ever performed.

This punk band was great. I could only get a side view because they were so popular.

I walked around for a little more and decided to start walking back to my hotel to plan for my flight the next day. As I walk back I catch a fireworks display.

What an wonderful impromptu day in Bilbao!

Crowds thrashed to these guys as well

Ruta del Cares

Today is the planned hike. The hike is the Ruta del Cares. The trail is a gorge route with breathtaking views through the Picos de Europa mountain range.

The trail is 12 km long (24 if you do roundtrip). After watching the hikers yesterday I decide I’m probably only doing one way and taking the bus back to my town.

I eat breakfast at the hotel and load my backpack with water and a sandwich made from the hotel. Backpack already feels heavy when I start off at 10 am.

My hotel is about 500 m from the start. It is a little walk uphill to get to the start.

There is a light mist outside and it is a little cool (but for me it means perfect).

Before my face gets all flushed and sweaty.
And up you go

That first 2 km is pretty harsh since it is all uphill ( also bad going back down too – talk about that later).

I got dizzy which is new for me; and I took lots of stopping breaks.

Look at this view!

Thank goodness the trail gets flat.

At the halfway point so its sandwich time.

I eat 1/2 my sandwich then I am off again.

I arrived at Cain about 2 pm.

Lots of people stop there to eat but I have already eaten half my sandwich so no plans to eat, but I do notice a stream where people are chilling.

I stop and take my boots and socks off. It’s painful yet massaging to walk on rocks to get to water, but water is super cold. It hurts. The cold has got to be good for my feet right?

I sit down and rest for a bit. Have every intention of finding a bus to ride it back to my town (as I’ve seen posted in message boards).

I wander into Cain looking for a bus sign. All I see is a bunch of cafes and places to buy walking sticks (probably should have gotten some of those).

No buses to be found, only guy with a van offering a 30 euro nature ride back to my town. Something doesn’t seem right and that is expensive. Taxis are probably even more. Did I just insanely decide to walk back? I think about the route, the toughest part being the 2k downhill. And the sun is out and beating down on most of the trail.

The hike back was pretty tough. I think really fit people will have no issue. People who are semi-muscular like me can handle it but I think starting really early and eating lunch on the other side before heading back is the way to go. I didn’t rest enough before heading back because I was taking too long. I should have just taken my time though. The sun stayed out late this time of the year and there were still people on the trail at the end (but not as many). The really cool way to go is go with those trek groups who will pick you up on the other side (but you have to pay and are probably under time constraints).

More amazing views on the way back.

If I did it again I would stay more days in the area. I would still do the up and back in one day but I would take my time. I would also try other trails. It is my understanding there is so much more to see in the area. I only got a taste of the area and I liked it.

Picos de Europa

This is the part of the trip where I try to sneak a hike in to get some exercise (because walking miles and miles a day isn’t exercise :D).

I am nearby to Picos de Europa. So I book a little hotel in the small town of Poncebos.

Beautiful view coming in. I had to stop for pictures a couple of times because it was that pretty.

My little hotel sits in a valley. There is one hotel next door and maybe some more down the road but not many in the area. However as I arrive the place is bustling with day hikers. There are so many cars parked all over the area that I hope I find parking. Luckily the hotel has a free space open in their private lot.

When I check in I notice hikers drinking their celebratory beers. They seem like serious hikers. Am I out of my league here? I decide that I can do the trip one way only if it seems too much to do the roundtrip.

There is no staying up late. Time for dinner and then bed. I ordered the trout that I guess was served with bacon on it. It was very good.

In addition I ordered the mixed salad which I thought was a side salad but ended up being a meal of its own. Topped with tuna so I guess tonight is a fish night.

Hopefully it will all prove to be good fuel for tomorrow.

Goodnight.