Showing posts with label Lisbon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lisbon. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Travel Realities: The Other Side of the Postcard

“Do you ever write about the bad stuff. . .or do you ever experience any bad stuff?”

The question has been asked more than once of us.

In reality, we  haven’t experienced any real ‘bad stuff’ –  lost luggage, small rooms, cranky people, schedule changes – are irritations, but not ‘bad stuff’ in our book. 

0005540-R1-035-16Yet, we probably are guilty of focusing on the  pretty side of the postcard when writing of our travels. We’ve not spent much time on the flip side, the one on which the human message is written. 

Our travels -- particularly in Europe --have given us a chance to see the other side of the post card; particularly the graffiti and the protests.

Those images on the flip side of the card aren’t the picture-pretty tourism shots, and we don't focus on them but realize  it’s important not to forget them either. Today we remember:

Madrid, Spain


DSCF0663In Madrid, Spain posters announced a manifestacion (a protest) that would ultimately fill the Plaza del Sol with such numbers of unhappy Spaniards during our stay that we ultimately quit going through the square but took back streets to avoid it. We weren’t particularly afraid of going through the gathering but just as we avoid emotionally-charged groups of protesters at home, we do so on our travels as well.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

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From the top of the Old City wall’s of Dubrovnik, Croatia we had spectacular views like that to the right, but also far too many views of graffiti marred historic buildings like the photo above.

Bologna, Italy

Graffiti artists had struck nearly every building here – even those where owners had painted murals to decorate the metal security doors that are pulled down and locked each night.

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And while we loved this Italian city and hope to return one day soon, we’d be less than honest, if we didn’t mention the smell of urine that filled the air as we strolled through some of its famous arcades (and there weren’t that many dogs. . .let your imagination do the rest)

Naples, Italy

As we began our day-long explorations last fall the ‘welcome parade’ was a protest march – again by another unhappy group.

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SilhouettePt12012 034 In fact, it is always interesting when we see the notices and the signs being carried. . .prompting this basically monolingual pair to wonder what all the unhappiness is about?

Seville, Spain

One of the more interesting protests we encountered was a group of unhappy teachers who’d set up their protest camp inside the massive Cathedral:

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Venice, Italy

Even Venice was not immune to graffiti vandals who tagged walls where ever they saw fit:

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Lisbon, Portugal

Where the  tram was so graffiti covered that it almost appeared to be a mural. . .

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Madrid,  Spain

Where faux-blood, red paint was splattered near the sign of the Syrian Embassy when we went past one morning. . .and gone by the time we returned a  couple hours later.

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And  the protestors who lined the street near the Embassy the day before. (Just down the city street firefighters had set up a protest camp).

United States:

I wrote that first portion of this post prior to our arrival in Honolulu, Hawaii last week.  It would have ended there, but we’ve got a post script to that postcard now:  We spent three nights with this view of Waikiki – the postcard view, you might say:

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OahuKolina2013 053Saturday night as we walked back to our hotel, we sadly witnessed a fight between two street people; one who was using his leather belt to whip the bare upper body of the man who’d challenged him.  By the time we got past, they were grappling on the ground as sirens of the responding police cars could be heard. Three of the police cars were below our room for some time.  Just last night a police chase in Waikiki ended in officers killing a soldier, whom they were unable to otherwise restrain.

Yes, we’ve come to realize there are certainly two sides to the postcard. What have you learned from the other side of the postcard during your travels?

And that’s our contribution to Budget Travelers Sandbox’s Travel Photo Thursday.  Head over there for some additional armchair travel.  Hope you’ll visit our Facebook page as well. And come back again real soon.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saturday’s Satchel: BC’s Queer Film Festival, Music and More. . .

Travel tidbits from the satchel came from this week's emails:
kirkland 031 *Vancouver, British Columbia – Our neighbor to the north is celebrating the arts with two August event traditions.  Both have been around for years so if you can’t make it this year, keep them in mind for next year:

MusicFest (formerly Festival Vancouver), now in it’s 11th year, will present some 40 concerts between Aug. 5 – 14, including this year (2011) a performance by Sarah McLachlan with the Vancouver Symphony.

Queer Film Festival, Aug. 11 – 21,is the city’s second-largest film festival.  In addition to viewing independent films, many of the films creators will be on hand as well.
Click the links for schedules, ticket information and other details.
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solsticetransatlantic 043 Lisbon, Portugal – Ever dream of being named an Ambassador to some far away country? In case it doesn’t happen, you can still stay in a place that once housed an ambassador.

Independente Hostel and Suites, at Rua Sao Pedro Alcantara, 81, where Lisbon’s Bairro Alto and Principe Real districts converge, is now offering pre-opening bookings.

The place, originally built as a home for the Swiss ambassador, offers 114 beds in 14 rooms (prices from 15 – 20E) or a private suite for 62.50E.  There’s a restaurant, bar and beer garden as well.
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cretan peoplenplaces 018 Greece – Kalokairi, is Greek for summer. It means, “good time”.
Hope you are having just that where ever you are this week!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sintra, Portugal: Visitng a Fairy Tale

solsticetransatlantic 042 “Once upon a time” as this travel fairy tale begins,“two cruise ship passengers set out on a train from Lisbon and found themselves some 40 minutes later in an enchanting place. . .a place of castles, kings and goddesses.”

It was tempting to spend the entire day-long cruise stop in Lisbon, Portugal's capital of more than a half million people, because it offers plenty to see and do. But we'd hit the highlights on a previous cruise stop so it was time to venture a bit further afield on one of our 'do it ourselves' outings. Little did we expect to visit a fairy tale. . .
solsticetransatlantic 044 . . .when we traveled to Sintra, Portugal

Prior to the cruise, Joel had read up on taking local trains to either Cascais or Estoril, on the coast or inland to Sintra (see map below). Any of the three sounded good, but the latter won out and we headed to this picturesque hamlet in the Sintra Mountains -- once a retreat of Diana, the huntress, or so the legends go -- today a popular tourist stop; a village of palaces and castles.

After spending the morning in Lisbon, we popped into the train station to check out the schedules and prices. Within minutes, we'd purchased round-trip tickets from the teller window (nice not having to figure out a machine).  Signs above the track directed us to the correct train.

We could have taken one of two ship's tours that included both Cascais and Sintra, but we generally shy away from those crowd-cramped outings. In this case, a commuter train runs regularly to this town of 33,000, a stark contrast to Lisbon. Our train tickets cost 4.10E ($5.85US) p/p round-trip, comparing favorably to the ship's tours at $45 and $118 p/p.
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The train made several stops in Lisbon's graffiti-wounded suburbs then picked up speed as it carried us to this UNESCO World Heritage site, where the only blemish on fantasy seemed the number of large tourist buses inching their way through Sintra's narrow tourist-jammed streets.

We didn't have enough time there, a common dilemma of cruise ship stops whether done independently or as part of a group. But we did have a leisurely cup of coffee and sampled Portugal's famous white wine, vinho verde, while we watched gaggles of tourists return to their buses. By being on our own we had an hour longer in the town than the 'bus people'. We'd also simplified the trip by buying round-trip tickets in Lisbon which gave us more time to enjoy Sintra without searching for return ticket machines.

If you can't get to Sintra, click the link above for a YouTube tour. If you do follow our trip, make sure to allow yourself time to get back to the cruise ship after arriving back in Lisbon's central train station.  You'll need to take a taxi or public transport as the cruise ship dock is not walking distance.solsticetransatlantic 045

Monday, May 9, 2011

Lisbon, Portugal

We’ve arrived in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal after traveling some six miles up the River Tagus from the Atlantic Ocean to reach this, the oldest capital city of Europe.
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We are docked in its expansive bay, called the Mar da Palha” or “Sea of Straw”.  We stopped here a couple years ago on a repositioning cruise so plan to re-visit some of our favorites today. Or we may catch the local train and head to Estoril or Cascais, nearby cities and within an easy day trip.

We loved much about Lisbon on our previous stop especially the clanking trolley cars that clattered their way up to the Alfama, the oldest part of the city, located on the sloping hills below the Castelo de Sao Jorge (St. George’s Castle) on a hilltop in the 12th century A.D. – on the same place they believe that Phoenician’s established themselves around 1200 B.C.

Phoenicians  were followed by a parade of ‘occupants” including the Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths, Moors until finally in 1147 A.D. it was conquered by the guy who would become the first King of Portugal, Dom Afonso Henriques.
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Whereever we end up today, we'll be strolling wide, tree-lined (in places) avenues, many paved with mosaics making them sprawling works of art. And we plan to sip coffee at one of the many cafes that frame those streets. 


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