Portugal – Dolphin Trail

 

I am used to travelling alone and often find myself ‘the odd one out’ in a group.   But never more so than when I joined a group of horse riders in Portugal.

  The group  had been riding together for several months and were

winding down towards the end of their epic adventure.

I had just arrived, all enthusiastic and

wound up at the beginning of my epic adventure.

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They had long ago worked out where they ‘fitted’ in the group and their conversation flowed quickly and with a familiarity that left me ‘out on a limb’ for the entire evening.

That first dinner I felt like I was on one of the wobbly things you use in the gym.70275_1_Something designed to keep you on your toes; fully engaged and concentrating and wriggling this way and that to keep your balance!!!

 

But ‘find my balance’ I  did,

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And the first morning of riding was filled with sunshine, smiles and a natural order….. me at the back, comfortable on my horse, Epico, by name,

following the straight backs and confident body language of the riders in front.

Now I know I don’t know much about much,

but this time I had done my homework.

I knew I was riding a Lusitano,

whose ancestors were found on the Iberian peninsula as long ago as 25 000BC.

Not that my Epico was that old  you understand,

but his father’s father’s father etc….. was there once.

   In fact, apparently this is his father,

which is hard to believe when you realise

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that This is Epico. (on a good day)

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But I digress (again).

Lusinatos and Andalusians were only recognised as separate lines in 1960.  Apparently the Andalusian has a straighter head profile and carriage and used for dressage and the Lusitano a rounder head and stronger athletic body for herding cattle and those bulls.

I also knew that the Iberian Peninsula was where Portugal ‘found’ itself, and the use of the word Iberian dates back to 500BC!!!

It is the second largest European peninsula (after the Scandinavian peninsula) with indications of habitation more than 1.2 million years ago.

The truth is the history of the Lusitano and the Iberian Peninsula is actually quite interesting, but something tells me it would bore you, so I shall remain interested without sharing 🙂 🙂 🙂

What I Will share, though is that I was on an ‘exploratory ride’ which meant we had a vague idea of what lay ahead, but only a vague one.

Which suited me.

I was on a 5 day trail in the  Costa Azul (blue coast) of Portugal,

with our guides, Miguel, Dennis and Vladimir

and waiting to see what unfolded.

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Vladimir – so helpful
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Miguel – so amusing
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Dennis – so good at creating a feast

 

We had amazing weather considering it was mid November.

We had wonderful riding, through villages where the horses hooves clanked on the roads, conjuring up memories of bygone days in books of those times.

And where Epico lurched and lunged when a bus or truck came rumbling past –

I was too busy staying on to see what vehicle it was 🙂

But I certainly learnt to hang on tight, breathe and expect the unexpected!

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The sound of horses hooves on bitumen is such an ’emotive’ one – at least for me….
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that sound
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mirrors to avoid traffic!

And what an unexpected morning it was.

A lost shoe meant a halt for running repairs.  Well actually not running at all, it was standing repairs so that we could go running later 🙂

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That’s my Epico
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while the others took a leg stretch.
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and still others grabbed a bottle…….
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which was shared all round – such a delicious port – at 11 am!!!!!!
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and which obviously intrigued the locals 🙂

Our days were spent riding through stunning cork forests

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so beautifully old
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images of the countryside
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beautiful in their neglect
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Epico and me….
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gazing across…
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at our reflection
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drinks time

 

And the most wonderful lunches, outdoors, with smiles, drinks and such fresh salads

(well mixed in Miguel’s big tub 🙂 )

 

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even our
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4 legged friends
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had a siesta
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and savoured the aroma of our lunch

Cork is ‘harvested’ manually and the art of this is not to damage the tree.

IMG_4084This is how it is done.  – Each tree is debarked every 10 years

 

(Portugal uses cork in so many fascinating ways, shoes, bags, hats – really beautifully made. )

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cork stacked and ‘ready to go’

We had stunning canters, and a wonderful day on the beach.

Full of adventure – the photos will ‘speak’ for themselves.

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I love the light….
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shadows and
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sky
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The team
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solitude of a stunning beach

Which inevitably meant we just had to canter and race and have So much fun.

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miles of nothing
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sea and light
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to take your breathe away
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even though it was not warm

Until, one of the waves washed up some green netting just in front of my Epico.

Dear strong and brave friend that he is,

he needed to save me from this monster

and so swerved (suddenly) away, without warning, and left me behind!!!!

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and that was me, 20 seconds after falling
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not sure exactly how I feel
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but better laugh – just in case
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while I have my glasses
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cleaned and returned – Note the green netting – Such a Monster!!!
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and there I was back on Epico!!!!

But it wasn’t all riding, there was laughter, drinks and a wonderful day out on the bay with the dolphins.

 

 

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views
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pools
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skies early
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and
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late
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images……
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and always food….. 🙂

and the black pigs.

A fun day out looking for, finding and watching the Bottlenose Dolphins in Setubal.

These are totally ‘wild’ and seem to be very happy playing around our boat for hours.

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No complaints
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Bottle-nosed friends
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each with their thoughts……
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Setubal
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as smooth as glass today
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where friends converged
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to chat
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and salute
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LIFE

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And suddenly it was all over.

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I didn’t feel like I was trying to find my balance anymore..

I had found it.

But then again perhaps not

since I clearly lost it on the beach –

with a fractured wrist as a reminder.

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moments
unnamed
in time
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always the sky
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and water…

 

I had made some new friends, knew where I ‘fitted in’ and was no longer out on a limb

(although I had a limb which was ‘out of order’ :-))

and was looking forward to our next exploratory ride in Morocco.

 

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Farewell Miguel – till another time

 

Photos thanks to ‘the team’

for more on Portugal see Long day in Lisbon, or rather Portugal 🇵🇹Breakfast – Lisbon style 😉 ; Lazy in Lisbon;  and Sintra – Dreamy Castles

Long day in Lisbon, or rather Portugal 🇵🇹

0AC06374-FF92-4A64-9430-D85946AB77C8There are lazy days in Lisbon and then there are Long days in Lisbon.   The capital ‘L’ is not a finger mis-type – not at all.  In fact it should be a LONG day and even that would not adequately describe it.  

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We had thought to use the red and yellow and even perhaps the purple busoes; reasonably priced, hop on/hop off, you know the type. 😉

 However the charming young lady at ‘The Blue House’ had captivated us and convinced that her private tour with Paulo was the best option. 

“Paulo is lovely, (which he is) 

Paulo is very knowledgeable (which I am sure he is) 

Paulo is funny (yes he made us laugh)

Paulo will take you everywhere (which he very definitely did)

And That, precisely was the point, or perhaps the ‘problem’.

I paid  (not sure how much exactly but clearly quite a bit as Margaret has continued to pay for everything since saying she still owes me money 😯)

We set off at 8am, after a coffee and banana, with the expectation of a long day.   And so it turned out – a long day followed by a long night 😴.

 And lovely, knowledgeable, funny Paulo set off to show us all the best pastry shops in Lisbon …. and beyond. 

Now I’m not saying there is anything wrong with pastry shops  – not at all.  In fact I love a good pastry – but a life time’s quota in one day 🤣 ? 

Obidas our first ‘tourist’ stop was really quaint and interesting.

 

 

It is a constant source of amazement, at least to me, to see the size of the stone walls, the strength of the fortresses and love in the churches built in this case in 13 century, all with manual labour and plenty of it I should imagine. 

 

Interesting and fun it was as we sat down for pastries and coffees – oblivious to the fact that this would be the first of many and what lay ahead 😊

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Which was Nazaré- which needs a whole blog to itself – I was blown away.   Almost literally and certainly emotionally.  

 

 

Ah I was mesmerised, and could have spent a few hours exploring.  Was befriended by a charming American surfer whose uncle had been the last lighthouse keeper here.   He explained the different boards; the subtleties of the ‘edging’ some smooth, some dimpled; fascinating.   He knew the surfers, understood the skill, the water flows, the winds.   Oh I could have stayed and listened to him for hours.   

 

But I was called away – guess why? 

Another pastry shop 🤣

Seriously though I was ‘dragged away’ to travel to Batalha.   More history, cathedrals, monasteries and amazing snippets of information – look at the column – every stone has an ‘initiial’ carved  into it.   Payment was made to families by counting the stones per this identification. (13 Century)

 

And then the local speciality – a pastry. Different from the last but as sickly sweet (at least to my palate)

And so onward and upward toward the purpose of our expedition- Porto

Via Aveiro and more pastries and I believe another cathedral although the mind has blurred a little by this time. Although I did see this quirky shop with random groceries from all round the world

Lunch had somehow passed us by , it being the latter part of the afternoon already as we headed finally for Porto with a list of the things we wanted to see.

Porto is beautiful, you could spend several days there.  Or you Should spend several days there was what we were told by everyone since.   We had a few hours, in the dark, under the raindrops- make that sheets of 😩.

We raced up stairs – many, of them, looked at the bridge and across the river, found ourselves separated by the dark and rain. Searched rather anxiously for some time and were happily reunited even if the air turned blue as we found each other!!!! Expressions of relief and frustration 😊 you get the picture.

And here are some more. (Pictures. Of Porto. In the dark)

And finally – some food.   By now so late a bowl of bean soup was all I could face.   But what I actually faced when it arrived was I Thibk pumpkin 🥣 soup 🤣🤣🤣

a Looooong drive home, sometimes at 160km/hr has us both wide awake rather than sleeping in the car.

At 2.30am we we’re droppes at our home having done a round trip of 700km!!!!!!

A long day in Portugal 😉

 

 

Breakfast – Lisbon style 😉

Yesterday’s eighteen and a half hour day on just bowl of soup and some pastries had left us a little fragile so we awoke today with rumbling bellies.

Just washing ….

So at the bright hour of 11am, we set off to get a brunch. Sunday morning – how hard. We have walked past cafe after cafe all week, two a penny everywhere we looked.

No matter where we looked

But not today, for love or money – we were prepared to offer either or even both – we could not find somewhere to settle the rumblings.

It was quite remarkable. If I had found a Mac Donald’s I would have settled even for that – but alas, not one in sight. Yes I know, but you have to believe me!!! Evaporated!

Go Natural

At precisely 11.59 we found a cafe “go natural” which was open . Surely an egg on bread and maybe even an avocado 🥑? In we went.

Happily we found a window seat so we could watch all the other people trying to find a coffee, wandering up and down the street. Happily they offered free wifi so I can write to you.

Passers by

Happily we ordered “2 poached eggs with avocado please, and two coffees please”

And happily (very) he took our money after checking they had 🥖 bread.

But I must confess that this is where the ‘happily’ bit stopped 😐 unless the fact that they wore hairnets and blue gloves made you happy 😉

After an interminable wait, an egg on toast arrived, deposited in front of me. Of course Margaret’s would follow immediately. Why would I be silly enough to assume an ‘of course’?

We waited, and waited, we checked our receipt – did he only charge us for one? Nope there it was – 2 eggs on toast.

Happily (?☺️) and finally an explanation.

“We only had one egg!!!! My colleague has just gone out to buy some more!!!!!”

They checked they had bread but didn’t check they had eggs?????? A restaurant????

Nothing to be done but to eat my now cold egg on toast while poor Margaret waited for her egg on toast to be found .

No words needed

And that was breakfast in Lisbon – we are now looking forward to lunch ☺️

Lazy in Lisbon

Today was a catch up day

The sun shone, the people smiled, the traffic was good and we ‘made like the locals’

Breakfast at our local bar – low on English, high on smiles. We managed to navigate the language sufficiently to get fresh orange juice and ham and cheese sandwiches dripping in delicious butter – heaven on earth, or at least on our street

Then off to Belém – where it all began. Well at least where Vasca da Gama set sail to discover me (aka South Africa – oh I remember our history lessons with pain 1497 😉) and the East.

Where Da Gama set off on his voyages of exploration

And a Pasteis de Belém.

To have had one of these is ‘Truely to have Lived’ was what I had been told. I smiled sweetly- I mean how good could they Really be? Good yes, but Really, let’s not exaggerate.

No one was.

We walked past a queue (line) of at least 80 people waiting to order and didn’t know about the side entrance leading into a labyrinth of rooms. All tiled in various colours, with tables and chairs everywhere and people coming and going, and sitting, eating and all taking photographs.

On an ordinary day 30 000 pasteis are baked but on a holiday up to 90 000 can be made. According to the same recipe since day one which was in 1837!!! Every one is hand made.

And to have one is indeed ‘to have Truely lived’.

I smile now, in agreement.

It really is something special – almost impossible to describe, a bit like a soft melk tert, but not, a bit like a french custard, but not.

A lot like heaven when you sprinkle the cinnamon (from the East) and the sugar (from Brazil) onto the warm pasteis and quietly swoon as the smell reaches you and that is even before it reaches your mouth!

And then you die 😍

But ah what a way to go!!!!

With 2 napkins always – 1 for your mouth and 1 for your tears when the pasteis has been eaten 🤗

A visit to the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art in Belém was so interesting. The school uses Lusitano horses from the Alter Real Stud farm established in 1748!!!! We were shown round their stables and watched the horses (or some of them) practicing.

And with such stunning weather what else but a train ride to Caiscais and lunch overlooking the sea, a gentle stroll around the town, a quick horse ride and train back.

And just to round off a lazy day In Lisbon – a delicious Portuguese drink – Liquor Beirao which has left me quite light headed and ready for 🛏 bed

Sintra – Dreamy Castles

Sintra – a city larger than Lisbon and with the most expensive real estate in the country is set in the Sintra mountain (hills actually) just north of Lisbon.

It also has a Whole lot of castles. Castles , of every shapes and size imaginable and even unimaginable. So much so that even Madonna thought to buy one here 🤣

So off we went to see what the fuss was all about.

And….. I hear you ask.

And indeed – What a day

Where do I begin? (Didn’t Frank Sinatra day something like that – perhaps he had Sintra in mind 🤣)

Maybe with the second place we visited : Palace of Pena

I quote “this palace is the finest example of nineteen century Portuguese Romanticism….. they (the castle and gardens) constitute the most important part of the Cultural Landscape of Sintra’s World Heritage site “ I unquote 😉

How do I begin?

A monastery (12 century) converted into a royal summer palace by King Ferdinand II beginning in 1838 and completed roughly some 12 years later.

How do I describe what I found?

I must confess – totally conflicted 😐

Ferdinand’s folly?

Fun in the summer?

Fantastic dreams?

Or just a case of ‘over the top’

A mishmash of styles,

A hodgepodge of colour

A chaotic combination of cultures

One man’s indulgence – or perhaps not – I am still trying to get my head around the place – suffice to say a bit of this and a bit of that and everything in between.

And still it was amazing, interesting and challenging

And in case our senses were not overwhelmed already we went to another castle the Quinta da Regaleira where we got totally lost trying to find the famous finished well which should have taken us underground to the lake. And may I add, we were not the only ones 🤣 we encountered at least 12 people doing the same and at the end felt like the pied piper. For some reason my look of knowledge 🤣🤣 found me leading the way to nowhere with several groups blindly following!!!!

and then of course there was our first castle – the Moorish one (my favourite – perhaps a blog one day) and before that there was …. can I even remember ?

Oh and the setting of the sun over that Atlantic at the most western tip of the European continent. Next stop – New York 😄

( we were not alone as you can see 😉 but no one fell off the cliff today which was a relief))

And then there was the famous Santini ice cream and did I tell you about the Belem pastry to die for?

Or the night in a local bar Fado singing and far too much wine ?

No of course I haven’t because the ‘day’ ended at midnight and another day begins with new adventures, so interesting as they all were, a few photos will have to suffice till I find more hours in a day