Sintra - Strike Two

Trip Start May 30, 2012
Trip End Nov 07, 2012

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Flag of Portugal  , Estremadura,
Wednesday, October 3, 2012

At our hostel in Belem, we got talking with a German couple who had just been to the place we were going next, Sintra. They said they took a train from Belem to a place called Cascais, then got onto a bus that stopped at a beautiful cliff lighthouse place called Cabo da Roca, then carried onto Sintra. They even gave us the map they used, with the names of the places to get off at, and the bus number to catch. This sounded way better to us because I really wanted to see Cabo da Roca. The only thing we were concerned about was the fact there was currently a train strike, and so how reliable were they? We had purchased a Eurail pass for Portugal and Spain that allowed us 8 days of travel within two months. After much thought and searching on Jess' part, we decided to ditch the rail passes and refund them when we get home. Even with losing a bit from the refund, it would still be cheaper and more reliable to travel by bus and not rail in Portugal and Spain. Anyways, we found out that the train we needed to catch for the Sintra connections was not a part of this strike, because it was kind of an intercity metro. So we went the way the German couple suggested. No problems getting to Cabo da Roca. The bus schedule gave us an hour to walk around before we needed to get back on the bus to Sintra (we made sure of this by asking the bus driver). Cabo da Roca is the western most point of mainland Europe. It has massive 100 meter cliffs all around it and a sweet lighthouse at the top. I will never get tired of the sights and sounds of waves crashing into massive cliffs. It's like a constant battle between rock and water. A battle of attrition. No matter how much stronger the rock is, in the end it will always lose, because the waves never stop coming. Time is on the waves' side. Meanwhile, back at the Portuguese city bus headquarters, stuff was going down. For too long has the price of fuel increased with no matching raise in wages. You know what that means...Strike! But unlike the train strike, they don't let people know or plan a certain day to have it, they just strike. So Jess and I wait...And wait...And wait. 10, 20, 40 minutes. No bus. You can really only get to Cabo da Roca with a vehicle so after an hour and a half of waiting, I start looking around for some way to get to Sintra. We talked to another couple, Lena and Josh from Belarus, who were also going to Sintra. We called a cab and shared the cost to Sintra. Once in Sintra (finally), we enjoyed the amazing Moorish architecture. The Arabs had once used Sintra as a coastal lookout and built a castle on the top of a rather large hill. The castle was more like a fort because it was mainly walls and towers. In the town of Sintra, the streets and buildings were just as spectacular. Moorish architecture is absolutely stunning. Nothing showed this better than the National Palace. We found a very good little sandwich restaurant off the main road a bit where we got enormous sandwiches and some soup for very little compared to the other places. Meanwhile, back at the bus headquarters, things were getting better, and the strike was over...Sort of. We had options this time to get back to Lisbon, because an intercity metro was occasionally going there too. However, since we purchased a day bus pass from the first bus driver, we wanted to make good use of it and take the bus back to Cascais. After waiting 10 minutes past the scheduled bus arrival time we were going to the train, when I saw a different bus that was also going to Cascais pull up to the bus stop. We booked it over to that stop and made it on. Stupid bus strike! Starts and ends in the same day, and absolutely no one knows about it. Everyone was originally waiting for buses at the stops, Portuguese and tourist alike. Ask Jess about her "poor old Portuguese lady waiting for the bus story" when we get back.

Despite the occurence of two strikes on the same day, we saw everything we ment to, and even made some new Belarusian friends too. It only cost us some time and €9 extra for a taxi. So I will declare this day a success.

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