Entry Info

5th (Fri)
Aug 2011

[Day154] Sintra Excursion

Oh, before I noticed the gap between this travelogue and the actual travel date has became more than 1 year. Well, although I need to tackle it with the accuracy of my memory, I'll keep up writing this blog at my own pace.

Sintra ExcurionThis time I'm going to write about the story of when I went to Sintra, a small town next to Lisbon. Sintra is famous for being located on the Western edge of the Eurasian continent and also has some old palaces build in the monarchic era. As the access to the town was not really convenient, I had to consider about the transportation but luckily my accommodation, travellers house, was carrying a budget bus tour around the area and I decided to hop on.

On the previous posts, I wrote some about my personal anti excursion tour policy. I prefer keeping my own pace to being dragged by guides and that's why I chose backpacking. However, this tour to Sintra was hosted by Traveller's House that is world's no1 hostel ranked at and knows very well about the preferences of backpackers. Their basic style was that a merry driver just took us to the attractions and let us walk around the each area freely. On the bus, we listened to Portuguese history from the driver told and talked made chitchat with the fellow passengers. It was so relaxing that I became thinking of these kinds of "take-it-easy" trips are not that bad even though I like a sort of a hard core backpacking like toiling away on the unfamiliar roads yet laughing away the troubles.

Sintra ExcurionThe tour first arrived at Pena National Palace which is the foremost tourist attraction of Sintra. Unfortunately, it was prohibited to take photographs of its interiors, but shooting the brightly coloured exterior which is a mixture of multi construction manners was fun enough. I was wondering how come they decorated the walls with such a flashy style.

Sintra ExcurionThe next one was a famous castle too(sorry I forgot the name of it). It was like a little adventure to walk around the green garden with streams as there was a well down to the underground plus underground passages to the streams. Although the size of the building itself was smaller than the Pena Palace, I fully enjoyed walking on this castle and the area.

Sintra ExcurionCabo da Roca (Cape Roka) the westernmost cape of the Eurasia is the place I really wanted to come on this excursion. Having departed from the far east 6 months ago, I finally arrived at the western edge and observing to the even west, there should be the America continent over the ocean. Thinking of the journey afterwards, I was so exhilarated. Ideally, it would've been great if we could watch the sunset from here but it was the point I had give in due to the tour. Maybe for the next time in the future.

I stayed in Lisbon for 7 days in total and time went by so quickly as usual. From here, I was going to travel around Europe by train for 100 days. I'll write not about travelogues but general information about trains in Europe.

Entry Info

30th (Sat)
Apr 2011

Lisbon, my old home country?

Well, it's time I rebooted this travelogue, isn't it?I'm going to write about the trip in Europe starting from this entry.

Lisbon, my old home country?Lisbon, the capital of Portugal is the first destination. I guess it's bit too sudden though, my grandfather is suspected of inheriting Portuguese blood; he could be a quarter Portuguese. In fact, he is always mistaken for an European when he goes abroad as he's got gray eyes which are quite unusual as a Japanese and his attitude is not really ordinary Japanese. Thinking about myself inheriting a little bit of Portuguese blood too, I was deeply moved by being in this country. As far as I know, I'm the very first one of my family members coming here.

Lisbon, my old home country?Lisbon is called the "City of the Seven Hills" and is famous for trams running through narrow slopes. Once you get used to it, the tram is quite useful for touring around the city as it's cheap and runs frequently. Nevertheless, it was not really safe in my case. When I was waiting for a tram inthe daytime, a local guy, showing a big map and speaking in poor English, asked directions from me who undoubtedly looked like a tourist. Being confused with this bizarre situation, I at first checked the map but soon realized that the hand of guy standing at the opposite side was moving suspiciously. Hell, he must have been trying to open my bag. A pickpocket team presumably they were. Waving my arms furiously I stared the guy and he seemed to give up butwe couldn't be careful enough in Europe since the possibility of being involved with such crimes like pickpocket, mugging and soon is much worse in Europe than the Middle East (and probably South America is the worst.)

Lisbon, my old home country?In order to protect myself from pickpockets, I mostly used breast pockets. My wallet was compact enough to fit in the pocket and it was too hard to miss the wallet picked from there. Alternatively, holding the actual items tightly was quite effective. Although some people use special under clothes to hide their valuables, I didn't really care about exposing mine for a short time. Anyway, I was a conspicuous tourist so an obvious target for mugging. Rather than wearing unstylish garments, I preferred using convenient breast pockets.

Lisbon, my old home country?Well, let's get back to the point. Lisbon was such a wonderful city that I can forget such a small accident. Especially for shooting street snaps, it was one of the best moments of this whole trip. Hydrants, street lights, laundries, any items on the streets were somehow very photogenic and I really enjoyed shooting them. Besides, unlike the Middle East, people passing by were used to cameras and didn't care about me photographing on the streets. I hadn't been able to take photos so freely for a long time.

Lisbon, my old home country?What's more, I liked the meals in Lisbon as this city had tasty seafood from the local port. Therefore I always had a seafood plate except for the very first day when I went for pork, (It had been literally impossible to find pork for a few month when I was in the Middle East). I had never imagined I could eat such a great grilled fish with salt which gets Japanese's heart. Besides, the price of seafood was incredibly cheap, almost the same or lower than meat though seafood at restaurants was usually too pricy for budget backpackers. Actually, the prices in Portugal were quite reasonable compared to the other Western European countries, and thanks to the fact I was so happy to savour tasty meals(with cold beer, of course).

I found that I can easily fit in well in Europe. Even though the Middle East had been a super interesting travel destination, Europe was more like a place for relaxing. Perhaps my Latin blood might have helped to me to fit in. Anyway the trip around whole of Europe was promising to be entertaining.

Entry Info

One of the Best First Class LoungesThe next destination is Lisbon, the western most European capital city and I intentionally used connecting flights via Frankfurt not using a direct one from Tel Aviv. The reason for this is, of course, the Lufthansa first class Lounge at Frankfurt Airport. Although the first class terminal (mentioned in the previous entry) is restricted for those who have an actual first class flight departing from Frankfurt airport only, the first class lounge is open for those who arrived by any Lufthansa first class flights as well. Therefore, technically I was eligible to use the lounge as I flew from Tel Aviv by their first class flight.

What's more I found a definitive advantage of the transit. You can set the transit time to your convenience providing a number of flights are available. In other words, you can technically stay at the lounge more than 10 hours. This is a huge difference from the direct flight which you can start checking in only 3 hours prior to the actual flight. As the previous flight had left from Tel Aviv in the very early morning, I could manage my transit time for 11 hours duration.

When I got the next ticket, I was bit afraid of not being able to use the first class lounge as the terminal of the next flight was designated for only the short distance flights within the Schengen countries -the European countries which you can travel without passport check-, which means there were no first class flights departing from the terminal. However surprisingly, Lufthansa was operating a full scale first class lounge at the small terminal too. Because of this, the number of people using the lounge was just a few. Sometimes, I was the only one staying at the lounge although they had at least three or four people working.

One of the Best First Class LoungesAfter having a hot shower, I went to a cabana. Although the bed making was quite simple -a large bare leather bed with a down quilt- warm lightings and amenities besides the pillow made the cosy room luxurious. By the way, when had I slept such a pretty private room before this? I must emphasize this fact in case you've forgotten; I'm a modest backpacker sleeping in dorm rooms. It's been a very long time since I could sleep well without any distractions.

One of the Best First Class LoungesMeals were waiting for me after having a nap. Shrimp cocktails, Iberico hams, the gorgeous buffet table was overwhelmingly appetizing. The bar had every liquor from all over the world and it looked like they could make all sorts of cocktails according to your order. In fact, the drink menu had a massive 16 pages including 10 types of water. Though some beverages were seasonal only, without any doubt it was impossible to complete within just a half day.

One of the Best First Class LoungesThanks to this fantastic lounge, I could spend 11 hours in a relaxed mood. Besides, the serving style by German staff was notable too. Unlike the other too casual Westerns or humble Asians, they were always friendly yet not too rude. Therefore, Lufthansa became my favourite flight carrier on this whole trip closely followed by JAL and Cathay Pacific. Oh, I ranked Star Alliance's company as my best, even though I was using Oneworld's first class round the world ticket.

As I mentioned before, this series of flights in the Middle East and Europe was not included in the round the world ticket. Nevertheless, I didn't pay a regular fare at all. The trick was "award flights". I'd earned a significant amount of ANA(Star Alliance carrier) mileage for three years when I was in Japan and got flights on the following route "London -> Frankfurt -> Cairo -> (surface sector) Istanbul -> Tel Aviv -> Frankfurt -> Lisbon -> London(cancelled)". Although they charged a little for taxes, fuel surcharges and such, it was just a marginal expense considering the fairy tale like experience of upper class seats.

Just using a proper credit card for a few years, anyone can earn 50-60k mileages for 3 years. If you say "I wish to be on a first class flight but for the costwise..", why don't you make a credit card and research about the mileage systems? You know, all it takes is a little ingenuity.

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