A day with 'We Hate Tourism Tours'

Trip Start Jun 01, 2010
Trip End Mar 11, 2011

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Flag of Portugal  , Estremadura,
Monday, August 9, 2010

Good morning Lisboa, or better Bom Dias. We set the alarm as today we will go on an adventure. We booked a day with a tour company called 'We hate tourism tours', the name appealed to me as I also have a profound dislike for hordes of people in big buses, being guided through historic landmarks like cattle following a guide holding up an umbrella. But to be honest, if you are completely new to a city and you don't have a week to explore it, sometimes a tour can be a good way of getting an impression. The art is to find a tour that is big enough so it can be done affordable, but small enough to keep it a personal experience. We hoped to find this in the tour with WHTT.

We made our way down the hill to Plaza Rossi. This is only a 10 minute walk for us. Ricardo from WHTT told us to meet him there at 09:30 as his van would not be able not make it up the hill to our hotel to pick us up. This I can believe as our little Golf already had some serious problems coming up. We were right on time at the plaza. We found some other people here, apparently waiting for the same tour. Everybody was doing their best to ignore the other people that were clearly waiting for the same tour. We all are 'cool' as we are all on a tour from a company called 'We Hate Tourism Tours' , I had to silently laugh within myself.

Anyhow, according to Portuguese tradition and proper customs, the van arrived about 20 minutes late, but Ricardo told us he was stuck in a narrow road with a cable cart that had a broken cable. I can imagine this would be a big problem here in Lisbon. Nevertheless we started boarding the van, when the next problem arose. The van can have 8 people and there were 10 people at the meeting point. This is probably because we called in at the last minute yesterday evening. But also this problem was quickly solved as Ricardo asked two random people to wait for the next bus. No worries, all was good.

So on our way we went. Our tour was not of Lisboa, but of the surrounding areas. This was a good thing, considering the soaring temperatures in the City. It was good to get out, into the countryside. We headed out to our first stop, Sintra. We had a mixed company on the van. A couple from Ireland, very quiet and to themselves, two lady friends from Melbourne Australia, very friendly people. A backpacking girl from Germany who studies tourism management in Holland (Leeuwarden), also very friendly. But the bus was dominated by the presence of a student girl, now living in Israel, who was traveling for a bit. She became utterly annoying constantly blabbing and starting every conversation with 'When I was in Vietnam, Cambodia, Israel or fill in some place'. She kind of enjoyed the fact that she was Jewish as this subject had to come up every 5 or 10 minutes as well.

Anyhow, we tried to ignore our student travel companion in a polite way and had a hot drive to Sintra. The van did not have AC and there were 9 people including driver. Linda and I shared the front seat. That was good for me as I had some space for my legs. We also had a full window at the front that gave us maximum airflow. Still it was around 40 degrees celsius outside so it was hot, very hot.

Arrived in Sintra we first got out for a little walk through the town. It is a magical place up on a hill with dozens of little castles. On the top of the hill we saw the Palace of Sintra. After our walk we took a short drive up the hill to the palace. It's a romantic palace made by some guy to impress a woman. This event caused Portuguese men to offer the women of their dreams a castle to persuade them. And so the entire hill town of Sintra is filled with Castles of all sorts and forms. We got ourselves some tickets to walk on the walls and went up. Luckily there was a little tram that took us further up the hill. When we got to the palace we noticed that it was in serious need of some paint and cleaning. The colors where fading and the walls were dirty and cracked. But all in all it was a magnificent palace with many little towers and walls. Absolutely not functional, but very nicely built. Ricardo gave us an hour and a half to entertain ourselves at the castle, but after 45 minutes or so we had seen it. We had to stretch the time a bit and slowly made our way down the hill to the exit. We thought we would be the first of our group to arrive downstairs, but the Irish couple was already waiting.

Soon the whole group was together and we headed to our next stop. We went to a small little supermarket to get some groceries for lunch. The trip included a light lunch at the 'fin del mundo', the most western point of continental Europe. At the supermarket we got ourselves some pastries to satisfy the first hunger, and our curiosity, as some things looked good and we had no idea what they were. It turned out we had ordered some fish/potato croquette and a nice egg tart. With our groceries the van was loaded up again and we headed out to the end of the world. There was almost no wind, so it was still hot here at the coast. Normally there would be a cooling breeze, but not today. We strolled along the edge making some pictures of the cliffs and ocean below. We had our lunch, a chorizzo and cheese sandwich with some vino verde and headed onwards to our next stop.

The drive took us along the beaches of north coast of Lisboa. Initially the plan was to stop at one of these beaches for a short visit and maybe a swim. But because of the hot weather and almost no wind, the beaches were packed with people. Even the fact that it was a Monday did not stop people from going down to the ocean. Instead we stopped at the town of Cascais, this is the Saint Tropez of Portugal, although it does not have the mega yachts in its harbor. Here we walked around for a short while, before heading onwards.

We drove further along the coast past the town of Estoril (where the formula one track and the big casino are) to the monument of the discoveries. Here we stopped for our last stop. We saw the monument and Ricardo explained what it all was. We saw the big map of the world in front of it and we walked down to the historic monastery. Unfortunately the chapel was closed, but we still got some impression of this monument. After all our sightseeing we went to our last culinary stop, the famous Pasteis de Balem. Here they make the world's best pasteis (egg tarts). Rumor has it that only three people in the world know the recipe to this piece of heaven. We ordered a pasteis and a nice refreshing coke. They both were delicious, the coke because of the heat, and the pasteis because they are supposed to be.

After all of this we were brought back to Plaza de Rossi where we said our goodbyes. It was a great tour, but all in all more touristic than what the name of the operator would make you believe. Then again, if you want to see the big sites, you can't escape that.

Back in town we got some cashew nuts and some bacalhau croquettes and headed back to our hotel. We were very tired and sweaty from the excursion, and desperately in need of a shower. After being refreshed we made ourselves a nice tapas platter with jamon we bought in Salamanca, cashew nuts, bacalhau croquettes and a bottle of port. We enjoyed our little snack which ended up to be enough for our dinner. We enjoyed the views from our balcony and the night in Lisboa. Tomorrow, we are heading back to Spain..

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