Cascais!

Lisbon to Cascais

After 2 days in Lisbon, we packed up our belongings and caught a train to Cascais, an idyllic seaside town, just under 17 miles along the Lisbon coast.

Across the River

Do you remember that old slogan: “Let the train take the strain”? Well there’s definitely something to be said for rolling along a railway track,  gazing out of the window the entire time, with not a care in the world!  No fiddling about with maps, or having to figure out how to drive on the wrong side of the road.  No stressful arguments with your spouse about navigation.  No sense of concern about how much a taxi fare might end up costing.  So relaxing!

Travelling by train is also a really good way to get snapshots of your surroundings.  Passing through pretty places, such as Estoril, only further convinced me that there is so much more of Portugal that I want to see.

Once in Cascais, we flagged down a taxi and made our way to our hotel.  The Villa Gale was good, but nothing to write home about – it was a bit dark and dated in places, and huge crowds of people made breakfast times feel like a military operation!  But it was clean and comfortable, and very conveniently located – and Emily enjoyed the swimming pool and the small children’s playground.

Cascais

Cascais started out as a typical Portugese fishing town, and apparently became the preferred summer retreat of the Portugese Nobility.  But over the years, it has grown into a wonderful fusion of 19th Century architecture, mingled with artisan shops, all kinds of eateries and an attractive marina.  There are beaches, museums and parks, so you can take your pick as to how you’re going to spend your day.

Pic 2

Pic 3

We strolled downtown just as evening was descending…

Celebrated Nathan’s birthday with an unforgettable meal at O Pescador, an award winning seafood restaurant, tucked down an unobtrusive little side-street,

Paella for two!
Paella for two!
Ice cream with hot chocolate sauce
Followed by ice cream with hot chocolate sauce – yum!  Spot the Beanie Boo in the background!

Mooched around the boutique style shops,

Cascais Shop

Took a ride on a carousel,

Carousel 1

And bumped into a big, grizzly bear!

Bear trouble

Floodlit buildings

Everywhere you looked there were smart hotels with floodlit terraces, and plenty of those typical Portuguese streets adorned with swirling mosaic.  Palm trees lined the central thouroughfare, reminiscent of the French Riviera.  It really was a very pretty place.

Downtown vibes

View around the bay

Walking back to the hotel, we kept looking over our shoulders to catch one more glimpse of the town – so beautiful with its lights mirrored in the stillness of the ocean.

Mansion

And stopped by the bridge, to take in the sight of this picturesque stately home.

Wonderful memories are made of such moments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lisbon – A Grand Day Out!

After a good night’s rest, we were eager to head into Lisbon City Centre to see the sights.

We took the Metro to a popular area of Lisbon known as Baixa which is a busy commercial centre with plenty of interesting shops, eateries and charming cobbly streets that rambled uphill and down.

Cafe

There were so many wonderful shops to explore, such as this inviting bakery:

Cake Shop

Sardine shop

And this very quirky shop that sold nothing but tinned sardines!

Rossio Square

Fountain 2

Fountain 3Fountain

The elegant streets and city Squares, adorned with fountains and moasics, oozed history and charm.  And in the midday heat, it was difficult to resist the urge to stop for an iced coffee or a beer in the shade.

Pic 11

Pic 9

Praca Do Commercio

Many of the busy streets meandered down towards the Praco Do Commercio, which means Commerce/Royal Square.

Cobbled streets

This impressive, historic gateway into the City, with it’s smart yellow facade, is situated near the River Tagus and would have once been a place of bustling trade and industry.  Sadly, much of this area was destroyed in a great Earthquake in 1755, but was later rebuilt.

Lisbon - City Square

Main Square 2

 

River Tagus
River Tagus

Tram 28

And of course, no trip to Lisbon would be complete without a ride on the iconic Tram 28.

Tram

Even if it was a bit hairy at times!

Tight Squeeze
Tight Squeeze
Hold on tight
Hold on tight

And Relax…

As it was Nathan’s birthday week, we ended our grand day out with a glass of wine (actually one of us had two! ) in a lovely bar that had tables outside.

And Relax

Nathan couldn’t believe his luck when he got the bill –  11 Euros for 3 glasses of wine and an apple juice!   Not bad at all!

Nice Price

All in all, we had a fabulous and very memorable day in Lisbon.  For a country-loving girl, I was surprised at just how taken I was with this beguiling, old City.  Elegant, charming, and even a little bit romantic, in the evening sun.  Lisbon – we hope to visit again some day!

 

 

 

 

 

Whistlestop Tour of Lisbon – Arrival

When your teenagers go off to Bible Camp for the week, what on earth do you do with yourselves?  Well, you could stay at home and enjoy the peace and quiet….But when you’re married to a travel agent, that’s never going to happen!  Before I could say lickety-split, Nathan, Emily and I were on board an aeroplane.  Our destination – Lisbon!

Now I must admit, I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy a City Break.  Ask me what I prefer – city or countryside – and I would definitely say I am drawn to the green field, the running river and the rustic farmhouse!

Little did I know what a treat I was in for!

You can fly from London to Lisbon, quicker than you could drive to Manchester!   It takes around 2 hrs 20 mins.  There is no time difference, so you don’t even need to reset your watch when you arrive.  This was good for me, as naturally, with the kids away at camp, I wanted to make sure we could get back fairly fast in an emergency!

Outside the airport it was very easy to find a bus that would drop us to the door of our hotel.  It only cost around 2 euros each and the bus ride gave us a good view of the outskirts of the City.

The hotel Corinthia was modern, clean and comfortable and served a good continental breakfast.  Although the hotel was not in the heart of the city, it made an ideal base from which to explore.  The staff were helpful, and happy to suggest good places to eat, make reservations give directions etc.  It was also a calm and tranquil place to come back to after a day amid the hustle and bustle of the City.

Corinthia Hotel, Lisbon
Corinthia Hotel, Lisbon

The Corinthia is situated just across the road from the Metro Station, which was a real plus point.  The Metro is affordable and very straight forward to use – in fact, if you’re at all familiar with the London Tube, then it’s a doddle!

Come Prima

As we arrived in Lisbon fairly late in the afternoon, we decided to leave our exploring until the following morning.  However, we did go out for dinner.  The hotel recommended a good Italian restaurant, Come Prima, not too far away, which we got to by taxi.

If you’re looking for a bit of good, honest grub, then you must visit Come Prima!  It was wonderful.  Nothing too fancy on the outside – but everything was just how you’d want an Italian Restaurant to be.  The setting, with it’s dimmed lighting, felt cosy, authentic, and relaxing.  Our server, who was probably the Manager, was superb – extremely friendly, and he made such a fuss of Emily, even when she asked for Tomato Ketchup on her Spaghetti Bolognese!  Oh the horror!

Come Prima 2
10best.com

Come Prima

The wine and food were excellent and everything tasted fresh, delicious and home-made.  By the end of that first evening we felt like the whole trip would have been worth it just for that meal!

A great start to a fantastic week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

All kinds of Creatures…

One of the most memorable things about the Maldives, was the incredible opportunity to spot all kinds of interesting creatures.

Funny little guy
Is it a pebble, no it’s a crab?!

Shark Feeding

Every evening, at 10 o’clock, was Shark Feeding time!  Hotel guests were invited to gather on the jetty, to witness this fascinating spectacle. What amazed me was that about 10 minutes before the shark feeders emerged, dozens of Black Tipped Reef Shark and Manta Ray had already began to gather, circling the jetty in slightly menacing anticipation. Who told them it was almost 10 o’clock?  Amazing creatures!

black tipped shark
marinesavers.com

Bats

Fruit bats were a common sight, flying about the hotel grounds, and you could occasionally get quite close to them if you were lucky enough to spot one hanging upside down in a tree.

Sunset Dolphin Cruise

The Kuda Huura offered the opportunity to go out on a boat, on a Sunset Dolphin Cruise.  Apart from being a very relaxing way to spend the late afternoon, it was wonderful to witness a pod of Spinner Dolphins, performing their incredible acrobatic flips and spins!  A real joy to watch.  And sailing back to the hotel just as the sun was beginning to set  was the icing on the cake.

spinner dolphinsfuturity.com

sunset cruise 4

Swimming With Manta Ray

If you’d have told me ten years ago that one day I’d be swimming in the Indian Ocean with Manta Ray, I would never have believed you!  But every once in a while, life offers you a golden opportunity!  The Landa Giravaaru issued us with a beeper, that would only go off once a Manta sighting had been confirmed.  Some days, reportedly, it didn’t happen.  Luckily, for us, it did!   When that beeper went off, it was a case of literally abandoning your Pina Colada and making your way to the Marine Centre!  Here, we were kitted out with flippers, snorkels and goggles, and off we went on a boat to the middle of the open sea. After plucking up the courage to dive in, it was an incredible thrill!  There were so many of these mysterious creatures, which can reach up to 7m in width, swimming beneath us. They are named Manta Ray, after the Spanish/Portugese word for cloak or mantle –  When you’re swimming above them, it’s easy to see why, as they glide about gracefully in the water.

Turtle Sanctuary

As previously posted, the Kuda Huura have a Turtle Sanctuary on site, where guests can find out all about the work of the Marine Biologists, and help feed the injured turtles. Many of the turtles are amputees, with flippers missing, due to getting them tangled in ghost nets. Now and again, lucky guests will get to witness a turtle, after a period of successful rehabilitation, being reintroduced into the ocean.

turtle 3

The Maldives really is a dream destination – it’s got something for everyone.  Whether you fancy lounging in utter paradise, reading a book, or enjoying an amazing spa treatment, or whether you’re up for an adventure:  snorkelling, kayaking, or swimming with a whole host of marine creatures, it’s all here.

The Maldives really was the trip of a lifetime for me – It broadened my horizons, and gave me the opportunity to do things I would NEVER have imagined myself doing.  And isn’t that what travelling is all about?

So, when life offers you an unexpected opportunity …grab it with both hands!  You never know how much fun it might turn out to be!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arrival at Landaa Giravaaru, Maldives

Landaa Giravaaru is a totally extraordinary resort!   Travelling in by seaplane and speedboat is actually a very fitting way to arrive –  It’s certainly not the norm!    But then, nothing about this hotel is the norm.

the name's bond...
A refreshing drink on arrival…

I don’t think I’ve ever been shown to a room that made my jaw drop more than this one.

In fact you couldn’t really call it a room.  It was more like a house.   Parked outside were a pair of his and hers bicycles, with our initials monogrammed on the front!  I guess, when you have an island to explore, the most scenic way to go is by bike!

bike 2
One of our trusty matching bicycles…
not a bad pad...
Not a bad pad I suppose…

front doorarrival and landaLandaa swimming pool

The room was situated on a HUGE plot with lushly planted front and rear gardens – much bigger than our back garden at home –  with the added benefit of a path that meandered down to a secluded beach!  We had a large swimming pool all to ourselves.  The room also came with a pavillion style ‘outhouse’.  Underneath the canopy were a myriad of chairs and loungers plus a table for snacks or a game of cards.  A winding staircase took you up to a mezzanine balcony, complete with large sunlounger and hammock – just the place to curl up with a good book, or be lulled to sleep by the hypnotic rythmn of the sea.

Crows Nest
The ‘outhouse’
the cat that got the cream
Cat that got the cream…
and relax
Well, it was bound to happen…

spectacular

Our home for 4 days
Our ‘Room’ with a view!  Incredible.

The only challenge we seemed to be faced with over those fleeting few days, was choosing exactly where to relax…there were just so many options.

Although we knew there were other guests at the hotel, somehow it felt like you had the whole island to yourself.  The beach was a stretch of pristine white, powdery sand, gently caressed by the calmest of turquoise waters.

The restaurants and eateries were amazing – the highlight being an incredible Italian, called Blu, which gave you the feeling of being suspended over the ocean.  I’ll never foget eating one of our meals in the middle of a tropical downpour – giggling at the frantic race of the waiters to batten down the hatches and shut up all the shutters!

curves
Nobody about…
Just before dinner
Just before dinner…

For a mother of four, who spends her busy days running the kids here, there and everywhere, doing school runs, countless trips to the supermarket, cooking meal after meal and wading through endless piles of laundry – it felt as though I’d just been given the greatest gift!  Four days of total relaxation.  I will always be grateful that I had these moments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Off to Landaa Giravaaru

Our prize-of-a-lifetime, trip for two to the Maldives was doubly sweet.  Spending 3 nights in the beautiful Kuda Huura Hotel was only just the beginning.  The next leg of the journey, was a four night stay in the exclusive Four Seasons resort, Landaa Giravaaru.

It was sad to say goodbye to the Kuda Huura, and we were given a wonderful send-off.  Yet there was a sense of excitement for what was next in store.

restaurant
Not an easy place to leave…
see you soon
I hope so….

Our transfer was in a tiny Maldivian Sea-Plane.  This in itself was an incredible experience!  I have never taken-off or landed in the sea before!  It was all a bit of an adventure, to say the least.  We had to wear ear plugs that looked a bit like cheesy Watsits!

cheesy watsits
Cheesy Watsits!
captain
About to take-off!

flying about

Flying over the Maldives is an astonishing sight.  Atol after atol like shimmering pearls amidst the irridescent jewel-like ocean.

birds eye view
Atol after atol…

Around 40 minutes later, our destination came into view.  We had certainly arrived in style!

landaa
Birds Eye View of the Landaa Giraavaru

Two years  later, I still look back and pinch myself.

Off to the Maldives

We were all packed and ready to go.

I’d finally got my head around leaving the children.  The four of them would be spending the week with various family members.  Everything was neatly arranged.  All that remained was to try and get a good night’s rest before a day of gruelling travel.

And that’s when the puking began.  It was about 3:30 am.  All of a sudden, our four-year-old, Emily, appeared at our bedside and announced that she was going to be sick.

She was absolutely right about that.  Poor little angel.

What on earth were we supposed to do now?  Perhaps this was a sign…that we shouldn’t be going?  I’d never felt so torn.  What if she had a bug?  How could I leave her with my parents like this?  “Hi mum and dad – Thank you so much for looking after our child – Here’s her suitcase….Oh and here’s a sick bucket…”

At about 7am, I nervously called my parents to explain the situation, half expecting that we would have to cancel the trip.

Of course, they insisted that we still go…Let it be said, right here, right now, my parents are absolute heroes.

And so, choking back the tears, we said our goodbyes.  My heart was in knots as I watched little Emily wave us off, tightly clutching hold of her beloved Winnie The Pooh Bear.  Saying goodbye, even if just for a week, is the hardest thing to do.  But nevertheless, we were off to the Maldives.