Magical Spain and Portugal in December

Tripoto
9th Dec 2018
Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh

I was never that crazy about Spanish food. I mean I like a good paella but I've never craved Spanish food like I do Thai food, Italian food, or Japanese food. But eating at the humble tapas establishments in Spain just made me realise how honest Spanish food is.

To my husband and I at least. That's just it - we'd summarise Spanish food in one word - honest. No fuss, no frills, no bits and bobs, just good hearty food served as it is. It is what you see and just warms your heart (and body, because we went in winter so hot food was nice). And the plates. Those white plates. We noticed that quite a few places served the tapas on these sturdy white plates that you just know have been used for years and years and have served the same old comforting food. This is the good kind of classic food that doesn't need modern intervention and should seriously just stay the way it is.

And Portugal - hah, Portugal was a surprise. My husband and I had never eaten Portuguese food ever in our lives and the main thing we knew about Portugal was that that was where Portugese egg tarts came from. Haha.. and man, our minds were about to be blown when we visited Portugal. (not as much as when we visited the Alhambra, but still)

Brief itinerary:

Singapore --> Barcelona --> Madrid --> Granada --> Seville --> Lisbon --> Singapore

We took a train between Barcelona to Madrid, and Madrid to Granada, then a bus from Granada to Seville, and we flew from Seville to Lisbon.

Day 1

First stop, Barcelona

Holaaaaaaa we've arrived!! We went to check out La Rambla, the shopping street, the gothic quarter (be careful of pickpockets!), and Placa Catalunya. La Rambla was really pretty but the shops were pretty meh. Our host told us that the restaurants there were super expensive and to not eat there. She said that even the restaurants just slightly off La Rambla were better and cheaper. She's awesome by the way. Sat us down after we checked in and gave us a whole list of her favourite restaurants in the city! BEST.

La Rambla - a nice long street for a stroll. That's it.

Photo of La Rambla, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh

Placa Catalunya was a HUGE roundabout surrounded by department stores, offices.. many buildings. There's a HUGE department store called El Corte Ingles - check it out! They have food halls and a supermarket and in some branches, restaurants!

We were happy to see that one of the tapas bars we wanted to try, Cal Pep, was right outside our apartment. They open at 7.30pm and at 7.15pm there was a long line. So we knew we had to queue early (the Singaporeans in us were raring to go). It was at this bar that we came to the conclusion that Spanish food is just so honest. And then the other bars we went to just supported that belief. *happy sigh.

Simple.

Photo of Cal Pep, Plaça de les Olles, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh

Humble bar

Photo of Cal Pep, Plaça de les Olles, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh

This was magical: tomato rubbed bread drizzled with olive oil.

Photo of Cal Pep, Plaça de les Olles, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh

SQUID.

Photo of Cal Pep, Plaça de les Olles, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh

PATATAS

Photo of Cal Pep, Plaça de les Olles, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh

See what I said about the white plates.

Photo of Cal Pep, Plaça de les Olles, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh

Honest, right? No fuss. Also, those are shallot goals.

Photo of Cal Pep, Plaça de les Olles, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh
Day 2

Gaudi Day

Today was Gaudi Day. Haha we visited La Sagrada Familia! It is STILL under construction, supposed to finish in 2026. It is magnificent, both inside and outside - definitely worth a visit. After this trip, we really appreciate the brilliance and work of architects all over the world. I cannot imagine how someone can come up with something like that. Gaudi was really a visionary because his designs were something so different from the style back then. The fluidity is amazing.

Each side of the cathedral is different and I love it. The ties with nature and revolutionary and evolutionary.

Photo of La Sagrada Familia, Carrer de Mallorca, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh

Like trees in a forest

Photo of La Sagrada Familia, Carrer de Mallorca, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh
Photo of La Sagrada Familia, Carrer de Mallorca, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh

I was so amused by the fruits haha.

Photo of La Sagrada Familia, Carrer de Mallorca, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh

The gothic side

Photo of La Sagrada Familia, Carrer de Mallorca, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh

The stained glass windows!

Photo of La Sagrada Familia, Carrer de Mallorca, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh

These structures are supposed to be like the tendons and muscles.

Photo of La Sagrada Familia, Carrer de Mallorca, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh

You need to book your entry time to La Sagrada Familia and the guards are very strict.

We also visited Gaudi's other works in the city, Casa Milà and Casa Batlló, but we just took pictures from the outside. We had a 3.30pm appointment at Parc Guell to catch!

Photo of Casa Milà, Provença, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh

Parc Guell was gorgeous! Highly recommended! And yes you need to book tickets and a timeslot to enter too. Remember, in winter the sun sets early so if you want to explore the park in some light, you need to take that into account. The sun set at around 5pm-ish so we felt that going into the Monumental Core (the part that you need to book a timeslot for) at 3.30pm was a good time. You can explore the other parts of the park freely.

Unique, isn't it?

Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh

Gorgeous tiles

Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh
Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh
Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh
Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh

View from inside the monumental core

Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh
Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh

We also popped by La Boqueria but it wasn't very memorable to us. Perhaps it was for other people!

Day 3

Montserrat Mountains

Guys, if you ever go to Barcelona, please please please go to Monestir de Montserrat (Montserrat Monastery)!!! Worth taking the half day/day trip out! It's surrounded by the most gorgeous. park. ever.

Hayao Miyazaki film anyone?

Photo of Montserrat, Monestir de Montserrat, Spain by Dianne Goh

There's a monastery here and at 1.30pm, the choir boys come out to sing! Very nice.

Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh

In the old days, hermits used to live in the mountains and I can see why.

We're above the clouds

Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh
Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh

There are many hiking trails around and we hiked up to St Miguel's Cross, WHICH WAS ONE OF THE BEST THINGS WE DID ON THIS TRIP AHHHHHH.

The geog student in me was spazzing at all the rock formations.

Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh

Because this.

The view from St Miguel's Cross

Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh

Need I say more? A heavenly view indeed. The views while hiking up were breathtaking too. The hike wasn't too hard, it was a lot of uphill climbing though so you must wear comfortable shoes.

Ok now I'm just going to spam this post with all the mountain photos, because I love mountains and this is beautiful and you all need to see it for mental healing.

Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh

View of the monastery from St Miguel's Cross

Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh

Cloudsssss

Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh

The cross above the clouds

Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh
Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh
Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh
Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh

Maybe I'm taking pictures of the same mountain but its all so gorgeous.

Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh
Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh
Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh

One of the huts that a famous hermit used to live in.

Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh

There are other parts of the park that can be reached by funicular too. There are not that many food options in the park so bring your own food if you want! We bought our own sandwiches at the train station before coming down and bought some snacks too.

To get from Barcelona to Monistrol de Montserrat, get to Placa Espanya metro stop. Buy combined train and rack railway tickets. Take the regional FGC train number R5 to Monistrol de Montserrat. We took the 9.36am train. At Monistrol de Montserrat, buy tickets and take the rack train (cremerella) to Montserrat.

(Heading back to Barcelona: Rack railway leaves at 2.15pm, 3.15pm. Train to Placa de Espana leaves at 2.14pm, and 3.41pm) You can buy your tickets online, or we bought it at the Placa Espanya station - the part where you take the regional trains.

You can either buy rack railway or cable car tickets, but we bought the rack railway tickets because it was run by the same company as the regional trains, so the timings matched with the trains. The cable car is run by a different company and the station is slightly different, so the timings and station was not as convenient for us.

This blog post was useful (use your browser's translate function to read the article in English): https://www.passaportebcn.com/montserrat/

Day 4

A bit of Spanish Culture

We planned to visit Poble Espanol today, which was a little bit disappointing to be honest. It felt like a highly curated and unnatural museum. I thought the outdoor museum concept was cool, but the place was pretty dead inside. There were lots of school students. They were trying to create a huge village based on bits of culture from different parts of Spain which was interesting but it felt too curated and I didn't really feel any passion or spirit.

That's the only photo i took of the place. I don't even remember which part of Spain this was supposed to represent.

Photo of Poble Espanyol, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh

Feeling disappointed, we headed to Montjuic Castle next! We took a bus from Poble Espanyol and it was really convenient. The castle fort was a nice place to visit and the park looked pretty too, but we spent most of our time at the castle.

Photo of Montjuïc Castle, Carretera de Montjuïc, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh
Photo of Montjuïc Castle, Carretera de Montjuïc, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh

Oh, we also went to this cafe called Ugot which has unique Mediterranean food. AND REALLY GOOD CAKE. Guys. GO.

Photo of Ugot, Carrer de Viladomat, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh

Please try all their cakes. Please.

Photo of Ugot, Carrer de Viladomat, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh

And since we're on the topic of food, here are some of the awesome tapas we've been having. TAPAS ALL DAY EVERY DAY.

At Cervecería Catalana (nearby Casa Mila and Casa Batillo):

Photo of Cervecería Catalana, Carrer de Mallorca, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh

We ate like half of it before remembering to take a photo for memories.

Photo of Cervecería Catalana, Carrer de Mallorca, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh
Photo of Cervecería Catalana, Carrer de Mallorca, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh
Photo of Cervecería Catalana, Carrer de Mallorca, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh

Our new favourite tapas: grilled green peppers with salt.

Photo of Cervecería Catalana, Carrer de Mallorca, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh
Photo of Cervecería Catalana, Carrer de Mallorca, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh
Photo of Cervecería Catalana, Carrer de Mallorca, Barcelona, Spain by Dianne Goh

Photos courtesy of my husband because I take terrible food photos.

Next stop - MADRID!

Day 5

Hola, Madrid!

Madrid was considerably colder than Barcelona and the rest of the other cities we visited in Spain! Our hotel was along Gran Via, one of the main shopping strips. We popped into Primark for some shopping and I went a little crazy buying the cute, inexpensive Harry Potter stuff.

We also went to eat churros!!!!! Chocolateria San Gines is one of the establishments and it was quite an experience eating there. One part of the restaurant is located in the basement and we felt like we we going into a secret chamber. To eat churros. Secret churro club. Muahahaha.

The little ones are the churros. The big ones are just big.

Photo of Chocolatería San Ginés, Pasadizo de San Ginés, Madrid, Spain by Dianne Goh

Dipping churros in hot chocolate in winter? BEST. You don't really drink the hot chocolate, you practically eat it. Haha..

Although I must say, I prefer my churros coated with sugar. :D

We walked past a taco place, and I'm so glad we stopped by. These tacos reminded me of my time in Mexico.. :')

Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh
Day 6

Exploring the City!

Many people told my husband that Madrid was pretty boring, but he disagrees. He quite liked the city! We were supposed to visit Prado Museum today but decided not to because we didn't feel like we were in the mood for museums. So we did more shopping and visited Retiro Park instead. Retiro Park was very pleasant and nice green space in the city.

Photo of Retiro, Madrid, Spain by Dianne Goh
Photo of Retiro, Madrid, Spain by Dianne Goh
Photo of Retiro, Madrid, Spain by Dianne Goh

The Crystal Palace

Photo of Retiro, Madrid, Spain by Dianne Goh
Photo of Retiro, Madrid, Spain by Dianne Goh

While walking around, we also visited the Temple of Debod. It was donated to Spain by the Egyptian government as they needed to preserve the monuments when they were building the Aswan Dam. It was dismantled and rebuilt here in Madrid.

That's really cool, and its a sign that I need to visit Egypt soon.

Photo of Temple of Debod, Calle Ferraz, Madrid, Spain by Dianne Goh
Photo of Temple of Debod, Calle Ferraz, Madrid, Spain by Dianne Goh
Photo of Temple of Debod, Calle Ferraz, Madrid, Spain by Dianne Goh

The sunset from the temple is also very pretty.

Photo of Temple of Debod, Calle Ferraz, Madrid, Spain by Dianne Goh
Photo of Temple of Debod, Calle Ferraz, Madrid, Spain by Dianne Goh

We highly recommend this tapas place: Juana de la Loca. Make reservations! It had the best patatas bravas we had on this trip.

Photo of Juana La Loca, Plaza de Puerta de Moros, Madrid, Spain by Dianne Goh

Look at that.

Photo of Juana La Loca, Plaza de Puerta de Moros, Madrid, Spain by Dianne Goh

Come to mama.

Photo of Juana La Loca, Plaza de Puerta de Moros, Madrid, Spain by Dianne Goh

Even though we spent a short time in Madrid it was still nice. Now this next city was a place we were really looking forward to visiting. Granada.

We managed to find a train that didn't take a crazy amount of time to get there - the Talgo train. When we were doing our research, a lot of the trains took more than 10 hours and they were stopping over in random towns because the high speed rail trains don't go to Granada. You need to switch to a regional train, which we didn't want to do.

Day 7

A Magical Place

If you ever get a chance to visit Spain, you MUST VISIT THE ALHAMBRA. Just do it. Go out of your way if you must. VISIT IT. It is mind blowing. Don't go on a tour, just pay for the audio guide. The audio guides are probably my most favourite audio guides in all the all the places I've ever visited by the way. It's a smartphone and there are handy earphones (the kind that hang on your ear unobtrusively). So you get to interact with the exhibits and feel comfortable too, because you can comfortably slip the phone in your pocket or your bag.

[Useful blogs:

- https://jonistravelling.com/granada-spain-coolest-little-cities-europe/

- https://sometimeshome.com/one-perfect-day-granada-spain/

- https://shershegoes.com/things-to-do-in-granada-spain/]

Whatever you do, book your tickets to the Alhambra ahead of time. You need to book your tickets to visit this part of the palace complex called the Nasrid Palaces. We went in the morning and it was perfect - cool and the weather was gorgeous. We're super grateful.

Walking along the streets up to the Alhambra

Photo of Granada, Spain by Dianne Goh

The town itself is small and quiet, and outside the old city quarters, it looks just like any other city. We saw a lot of older folk, and the younger ones were only seen in the old city quarters. We presume they work in tourism.

Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh

Hand of Fatima

Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh

We took the route to the Alhambra which would lead us through Puerta de la Justicia, also known as the Gate of Justice.

We've always read about how the Alhambra has gorgeous Moorish elements in it, and I always thought.. mmm yeah sure that's nice. Until. I. Came. Here.

It's truly grand, magical, and so.. royal. I really felt so much at peace even though we were surrounded by tour groups and we were in a huge, endless palace.

View of Granada

Photo of Alhambra, Spain by Dianne Goh

The Alhambra is a palace city, and it was designed such that the people living inside didn't need to go out. It had everything. Water systems (very important for the pools inside the palace too), sewage systems, food, security, entertainment.

Hundreds of years on, these walls are still drawing gasps of awe from its visitors.

Photo of Alhambra, Spain by Dianne Goh

I love these. Little sanctuaries of peace and serenity.

Photo of Alhambra, Spain by Dianne Goh
Photo of Alhambra, Spain by Dianne Goh

The many many many pools and courtyards were just so calming.

I'm not sure why this is slightly crooked. Hehe.

Photo of Alhambra, Spain by Dianne Goh

There was so many carvings on walls like these.

Photo of Alhambra, Spain by Dianne Goh

those little alcoves

Photo of Alhambra, Spain by Dianne Goh

*dances between the pillars

Photo of Alhambra, Spain by Dianne Goh

These. Carvings.

Photo of Alhambra, Spain by Dianne Goh

There were quite a lot of people in this room but I remember feeling very at peace.

Photo of Alhambra, Spain by Dianne Goh

I can't get enough of these walls and carvings, obviously.

Photo of Alhambra, Spain by Dianne Goh
Photo of Alhambra, Spain by Dianne Goh

Garden courtyards.

Photo of Alhambra, Spain by Dianne Goh

Magical, isn't it?

This is the view of Granada's old town from the Alhambra

Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh

I wonder what the view was like back when the palace was inhabited by kings and queens.

Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh

View of Granada from Generalife, the gardens of the palace.

Photo of Generalife, Granada, Spain by Dianne Goh
Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh

View of the Alhambra!

Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh
Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh

One of my favourite views.

Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh
Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh

The old town side of Granada is also magical itself - its very quaint. We walked around the Albaicin and weaves through the quaint white alleyways...

Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh
Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh
Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh

View of the Alhambra from the Albaicin.

Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh
Day 8

The Cave People

The next day, we visited the neighbourhood of Sacromonte. These are known as the gypsy caves - homes carved out of the side of the hills. We took a bus up the hill and and just wandered around.

I love these signs! We ended up buying a sign like that for our house.

Photo of Sacromonte, Granada, Spain by Dianne Goh

Another view of the Alhambra from Sacromonte!

Photo of Sacromonte, Granada, Spain by Dianne Goh

Some of the cave houses. Obviously we didn't take photos of the inside of the houses.

Photo of Sacromonte, Granada, Spain by Dianne Goh
Photo of Sacromonte, Granada, Spain by Dianne Goh
Photo of Sacromonte, Granada, Spain by Dianne Goh

Randomly, we followed the path till we saw a sign for an abbey. We went in and it turns out we were in time for a guided tour! We were the only ones there but the tour guide was able to bring us around.

She talked about the history of the abbey, and showed us the caves where the original chapel was. Very fascinating.

Then we emerged to this view:

I'm in a fairytale guys.

Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh
Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh

We had a bus to catch in the afternoon, so we headed to the bus station. It is more convenient to take a bus between Granada and Seville, and the ALSA buses are good.

Tapas di Sevilla

Tapas started in Seville, so obviously we ate allllll the tapas when we were there. My favourite is La Azotea.

Photo of La Azotea, Calle Recogidas, Granada, Spain by Dianne Goh

Fried eggs and ham - but so good.

Photo of La Azotea, Calle Recogidas, Granada, Spain by Dianne Goh

Special fish of the day.

Photo of La Azotea, Calle Recogidas, Granada, Spain by Dianne Goh
Photo of La Azotea, Calle Recogidas, Granada, Spain by Dianne Goh

Any establishment with anything from Studio Ghibli gets my vote. I'm very easy to please.

Photo of La Azotea, Calle Recogidas, Granada, Spain by Dianne Goh
Day 9

Continuing in Seville...

The Alcazar in Seville was pretty nice, but it looked better in the pictures to us, hehe. Still, it was a good place to visit to admire more Moorish architecture. We were getting lots of good exposure to architecture on this trip.

Photo of Alcazar de Sevilla, Mairena del Alcor, Spain by Dianne Goh
Photo of Alcazar de Sevilla, Mairena del Alcor, Spain by Dianne Goh
Photo of Alcazar de Sevilla, Mairena del Alcor, Spain by Dianne Goh
Photo of Alcazar de Sevilla, Mairena del Alcor, Spain by Dianne Goh
Photo of Alcazar de Sevilla, Mairena del Alcor, Spain by Dianne Goh
Photo of Alcazar de Sevilla, Mairena del Alcor, Spain by Dianne Goh

The gardens of the Alcazar were very pretty in my opinion.

Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh

When I was young, I loved the song "Lemon Tree".

Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh

We also paid a visit to the Plaza de Espana of Sevilla.

Photo of Plaza España, Sevilla, Spain by Dianne Goh
Photo of Plaza España, Sevilla, Spain by Dianne Goh

What I liked was how they had murals along the whole curve of the plaza dedicated to a different city in Spain. The Canary Islands are like a mystery to me, so I took a picture of the mural of the Canary Islands! There was a map indicating which part of Spain it was in.

Photo of Magical Spain and Portugal in December by Dianne Goh
Day 10

The next day, we spent time walking around the city, and one of the places we visited was Mercado Triana. We found a lovely little shop that sold jams and bread and had breakfast there! The market itself is a nice place to walk around - lots of fresh produce. We were tempted to buy green peppers home but we know they wouldn't last.

Day 11

Ola, Portugal!

Have I mentioned yet that Portugal was a great surprise? We really wanted to go to Porto but there was no time.

We decided to take a flight into Portugal instead of a train or bus (which sounded fun!), because the rides were either expensive, or too long. So we took the cheaper and shorter mode of travel. Which was still pretty good! We flew on TAP (Portugese airline).

Getting from the airport to the city was easy - we took the Aerobus. You can buy tickets at the bus stop at the airport and the bus goes to all the major areas in the city: https+://www.aerobus.pt/en-GB/Home-2.aspx

Elevador de Santa Justa

Photo of Lisbon, Portugal by Dianne Goh

The Elevador de Santa Justa was just a few minutes' walk from our hotel, so it was the first thing we checked out. It was pretty cool riding in this vintage lift to see the city from a higher point. The lift was built so bring people from the "lower" part of the city to the "higher" part. Lisbon is very hilly - it did remind me of San Francisco!

View of the city!

Photo of Elevador de Santa Justa, R. do Ouro, Lisbon, Portugal by Dianne Goh

The platform

Photo of Elevador de Santa Justa, R. do Ouro, Lisbon, Portugal by Dianne Goh

And so my husband and I began our egg tart tour! First up was Confeitaria Nacional. It was pretty good. I felt the pastry could be better but the filling was just the right amount of sweet and eggy.

Continuing on our egg tart tour, we tried 2 more:

Egg Tart 1: Confeitaria Nacional. Score: 4/5

Photo of Confeitaria Nacional, Praça Dom Pedro IV, Lisbon, Portugal by Dianne Goh

Egg tart 2 is from Manteigaria. We went to the branch inside the Mercado da Ribeira which is a TimeOut food market. The market has other good food too! Egg tart 2 was good, our favourite so far. The pastry was good, and the filling was a little sweet but very nice and very eggy. Texture was good too!

We also tried the egg tart from Alcoa. Hmm.. the filling was not that eggy if I remember correctly but everything else was not bad. Not mindblowing though. Manteigaria is still a fav.

We took a break from eating egg tarts to explore the city! Here we are at the bayfront area.

Egg Tart 2: Manteigaria. Score: 4.5/5

Photo of Manteigaria Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata, Rua do Loreto, Lisbon, Portugal by Dianne Goh

Egg Tart 3: Alcoa. Score: 3.5/5. It was so-so.

Photo of Manteigaria Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata, Rua do Loreto, Lisbon, Portugal by Dianne Goh
Photo of Manteigaria Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata, Rua do Loreto, Lisbon, Portugal by Dianne Goh

It was lovely walking along here.

Photo of Manteigaria Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata, Rua do Loreto, Lisbon, Portugal by Dianne Goh
Day 12

Around Lisboa

We visited the Jeronimos Monastery and was literally blinding. It was painted so white and the sun was so bright that day, so the reflection was just everywhere. The monastery was gorgeous though.. Check it out! Gave me a bit of a Hogwarts feel.

It made the sunlight even more blinding.

Photo of Jerónimos Monastery, Lisbon, Portugal by Dianne Goh

Harry Potter Hallways.

Photo of Jerónimos Monastery, Lisbon, Portugal by Dianne Goh

These grand columns!

Photo of Jerónimos Monastery, Lisbon, Portugal by Dianne Goh

Quidditch lesson about to start.

Photo of Jerónimos Monastery, Lisbon, Portugal by Dianne Goh

The tomb of Vasco de Gama!

Photo of Jerónimos Monastery, Lisbon, Portugal by Dianne Goh

After touring the monastery, we took a ferry to Almada, an island that's a part of Lisbon. Kind of like taking the ferry between Kowloon and Hong Kong island.

If you think the 25th of April Bridge looks like the famous one in San Francisco, well, that's because it was built by the same company! It links Lisbon to the municipality of Almada.

Photo of Almada, Portugal by Dianne Goh

That's Lisbon! No, we're not looking at the Golden Gate bridge.

Photo of Almada, Portugal by Dianne Goh

We wanted to come to Almada to eat at this restaurant! Ponto Final, it is literally on the edge of the beach. Watching the sunset was awesome and the food was pretty decent too.

By the time we finished dinner and wanted to walk around the town, it was really dark. And creepy. So we just headed back.

Photo of Ponto Final, Rua do Ginjal, Almada, Portugal by Dianne Goh

Prime seats.

Photo of Ponto Final, Rua do Ginjal, Almada, Portugal by Dianne Goh

Our egg-sploration of egg tarts in Lisbon continued. We tried the famous egg tart from Pasteis de Belem in the hip neighbourhood of Belem. It was pretty good - but could be eggier I felt. Manteigaria is still on top.

Egg tart 4: Pasteis de Belem. 4/5.

Photo of Pastéis de Belém, Rua de Belém, Lisbon, Portugal by Dianne Goh

And then. We tried the one from Fabrica de Nata. Oh my. Ohhhhh myyyyyyyyyyy. This one definitely came out on top! Just the right amount of sweetness, eggyness, and the pastry was just the right amount of flaky. Perfect. We gave it 5/5. MUST TRY!

Egg tart 5: Fabrica de Nata. 5/5!

Photo of Fábrica da Nata - Pastéis de Nata, Restauradores Square, Lisbon, Portugal by Dianne Goh
Day 13

On our fairytale holiday, Ferdinand showed us who's King

Sintra is as beautiful and fairytale-like as they say. We took a commuter train there, easy peasy!

Once in Sintra, we caught a "round trip" bus to visit the 3 main sites we wanted to see. Bus 434 makes a loop from the railway station to three major sites in Sintra: the Palácio Nacional de Sintra, Castelo dos Mouros, and the Palácio Nacional da Pena. We took the bus to Pena Palace first, then we planned to walk about 10 minutes downhill to the Moorish Castle, and then catch the bus back down to the center of town to see the Sintra Palace.

Photo of Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh

Look at the view of the Pena Palace on our way up!

First thoughts - what a hodgepodge of a castle this is. It's like someone recreated a child's drawing maybe?

It does look a bit cartoon-y. In terms of content, the audio guide at the Pena Palace was such a joy. The guide really felt like a story, not someone reading out historical facts to me.

Well, turns out, that's what the castle was meant to be like! The Pena Palace was constructed under the direction of King Ferdinand II. He wanted to make this place like a castle in a fairy tale, like the Neuschwanstein in Germany.

As a result, the castle served purely as a place to view the gorgeous landscape of Sintra and the Atlantic ocean. He put in the usual defensive elements you would find in a regular castle, but they would not really protect the castle in the event of an attack as they were pretty much decorative!

When King Ferdinand II first came to where the palace was located, it was an old monastery. Then apparently he saw Vasco da Gama's ships returning from India from this viewpoint (below), and took it as a good sign to build the Palace of Pena here. He bought over the monastery and made extensive renovations.

After wandering around the fairytale castle, we headed to the Moorish Castle.

Photo of Pena Palace, Estrada da Pena, Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh
Photo of Pena Palace, Estrada da Pena, Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh

The "gap" where archers can shoot from is so wide

Photo of Pena Palace, Estrada da Pena, Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh
Photo of Pena Palace, Estrada da Pena, Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh

Dat view. The expanse of blue in the background is the Atlantic Ocean.

Photo of Pena Palace, Estrada da Pena, Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh

View of the Moorish castle and the Atlantic Ocean beyond!

Photo of Pena Palace, Estrada da Pena, Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh

One of the courtyards. Plus posing lady.

Photo of Pena Palace, Estrada da Pena, Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh

The route down the Pena Palace to the Moorish Castle.

Photo of Pena Palace, Estrada da Pena, Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh

The Moorish Castle was just magical beyond words. I really felt like I was taken back in time to the medieval period of knights and dragons and magicians. But minus the blood and killing.

After picking my jaw up from the ground and resting our legs (there was a lot of climbing up and down the palace walls), we decided to head back to town. We walked down instead of taking the bus, and it was such a lovely walk!

Here's a view of the Sintra Palace!

The white cones you see are the chimneys!

Here is the inside of the palace!

This is what the town of Sintra looks like. Very sweet.

Leading up to the castle wall.

Photo of Castelo dos Mouros, Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh

Troops used to patrol the castle walls here. If I was a soldier I don't think I'd be able to concentrate because I'd be too busy staring at this view.

Photo of Castelo dos Mouros, Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh
Photo of Castelo dos Mouros, Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh
Photo of Castelo dos Mouros, Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh

View of part of the Moorish Castle and the Pena Palace.

Photo of Castelo dos Mouros, Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh
Photo of Castelo dos Mouros, Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh

Unreal.

Photo of Castelo dos Mouros, Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh

View of the Pena Palace from the Moorish Castle!

Photo of Castelo dos Mouros, Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh

The quaint streets we saw on the way down!

Photo of Castelo dos Mouros, Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh
Photo of Castelo dos Mouros, Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh
Photo of Castelo dos Mouros, Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh
Photo of Castelo dos Mouros, Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh

Inside the magpie room

Photo of Castelo dos Mouros, Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh
Photo of Castelo dos Mouros, Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh
Photo of Castelo dos Mouros, Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh
Photo of Castelo dos Mouros, Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh

Here's what's below the chimneys. The royal kitchen!

Photo of Castelo dos Mouros, Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh
Photo of Castelo dos Mouros, Sintra, Portugal by Dianne Goh
Day 14

Ciao

Spain and Portugal was simply magical. We wish we had more time to visit Porto.. so many people told us that it was gorgeous and even more magical. I cannot imagine anything more magical than what I had seen. I also read blogs raving about the gorgeous Portugese coastline. This means we need to make a trip back again some day.

Thank you for taking good care of us and showing us your magical beauty, Spain and Portugal.

See you again soon!

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