A Travel-Blog

For friends, family and anybody who may be interested in our adventure. Welcome!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Final Wrap-up

Vila Nova de Milfontes
Lots of "ringed" rocks at the beach

Layne on the beach

We're home in Seattle! We were scheduled to return on May 25, but the early arrival of our grandson. Ryan Andrew Sandberg, prompted a change of plans (not easy with an "awards ticket") and we walked in our door at 2 am May 20. Ryan was born at 7:30 on May 19, but we got to see him while he was still quite fresh, so we're happy about that. This blog is about the trip and not about grandchildren, so I will proceed with my wrap-up.

The Portugal portion of the trip was my pipe dream, and I had visions of ancient whitewashed houses and cobblestone streets spilling down to the blue ocean. While Porto was delightful, and we were enjoying Lisbon, I felt the need to travel down the coast in search of my vision. I selected a town called Vila Nova de Milfontes, primarily from a description in Lonely Planet, and we arrived there after a 4 hour bus trip. Well, at first I was sorely disappointed. Not only were the houses much too new and the streets paved, but there were practically no tourists there. We didn't want the place to be overrun, but it's somewhat like being the only patrons in a restaurant- it feels weird to be the only people there. We found a really nice pension with a friendly host, and I worked on revising my expectations. As it turned out, we spent 2 nights there, and enjoyed the time due to a really appealing beach (with wonderful "ringed" rocks and golden sand) and exceptionally nice people at our lodging and at a little family run restaurant in town. The last night we were there we struck up a conversation with 2 Finnish women who were delightful company and left us feeling pretty good about our time there. Then, on the bus trip back to Lisbon, we noticed that many of the oak trees had their bark stripped 4-5 feet up the trunk. We realized that they were "cork oaks". Portugal produces half the world's cork, and Spain is the #2 producer.
So, next on my list was a "well preserved, charming medieval town called "Obidos" north of Lisbon. My plan was to visit Obidos and then Sintra, which is only about an hour north of Lisbon- then back to Lisbon. Well, Obidos was a disaster. Yes, it was a well preserved medieval town- and charming- but overrun with tourists and all the trappings that accompany tourist sites- souvenir shops, etc. It was awful It was there that we discovered, when we checked the internet, that little Ryan was due to arrive via cesarean on Thursday morning. That changed everything for us, and we immediately took the bus back to Lisbon, followed by a taxi to the airport and then a rather stressful series of events leading to our ultimate safe arrival in Seattle.
So here are my final comments- little bits and pieces that may have been left out of earlier entries: 1. we are so spoiled as Seattlites having a varied and tasty selection of food; we found the food in both Spain and Portugal (mind you, we weren't in cities like Barcelona or Madrid) to be bland and uniform. Also, they have a strange little custom in Portugal where they bring bread and olives and other goodies to your table prior to your meal- but if you eat them, they get added to your bill. Fine, if you know the custom, but if you don't....
2. In thinking about the Portugal experience, I think that in the future I would rent a car to visit rural and/or small villages, concentrating more of my time in the bigger cities. The Camino was perfect, because most of the towns we walked through would not have been "worth" a train or bus trip, but were wonderful to walk through. I fear that most of the smaller towns either hold limited interest or become very tourist oriented, and thus less appealing to us. 3. I would recommend the Camino to anybody who wants an inexpensive vacation, a cultural experience and fitness (I lost 7 pounds!) and is flexible enough to deal with co-ed albergues and less than thrilling dining experiences. We got lucky with the weather, but I would definitely go for the same time of year- or possibly October. The crowds and the weather make it pretty unappealing in the summer.
So, there you go. That's it for me and my comments; on to summer in Seattle!

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