We’re in Clover

2018 7

(The neighbours)

We stayed in Mafra again last night but this time at the aire beside the Palace. We didn’t notice it on the way in but here it is and here we are. As we hadn’t had electricity for two days and the drive from Mafra suburb to the Palace wasn’t enough to charge the battery we were running dangerously low on power.

2018 6

(Beautiful sky over Mafra)

When I got back from visiting the palace I uploaded photos with only 20% battery and by the time I sent the blog post to WordPress I had only 6%. There are some electrical connections at this aire but they were all in use. We talked to the couple next to us from Italy (getting away from the snow there…) who said they were leaving today so if we could just hobble through overnight then we could use theirs and we’d be in clover.

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(Window at the Palace)

Ten minutes later the battery alarm light went off… that never happened before. Unplug everything. There was only the wifi router so I unplugged it, soon we would have no wifi…. how would we know what the weather was like…? We made plans for the move in the morning but there were very few aires within 50km of Lisbon with electricity. Time for a walk.

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(I love the windows at the Palace)

And that’s when we noticed the empty space. All the camper van spaces had been taken except one which we took when we arrived and when I got back from the Palace they were still occupied. But now a few hours later there was one… and it was beside an electricity connection!

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(The view of Mafra from the King’s balcony at the Palace)

We looked at each other and then ran back to the van (who am I kidding, we walked back to the van) and even faster than the night of the flooding river we had moved to the spot with the electricity. We have electricity! The electricity is free! We plugged in the wifi and the laptops and went for our walk. The rain stopped.

We really are in clover, Mairead.

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I like an apple…

2018 7

(The National Palace of Mafra. That’s the Basilica in the middle with the bell towers)

Contrary to expectations, there was sun this morning so there are lots of photos. We are in Mafra about 30km north of Lisbon. It’s situated on a high plateau and very windy at times. It’s home to the National Palace of Mafra which was commissioned in 1717 by King João V. He had promised to build a monastery if he and his wife could have children.

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(See the M’s for Mafra on the light pole? And the blue sky?)

It’s a huge building and comprises a Basilica, a Royal Palace, a convent (which might be the monastery) and hunting grounds which are a bit outside the town. The royal family only came here for holidays and the hunting.

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(There’s a balcony outside this window looking out onto the town for the king to address his people)

I went for a walk around it this morning. I’d say it’s lovely and cool in the summer but I was glad to be well wrapped up today because they have gale force winds coming through their very beautiful not double glazed windows. Actually the light coming through the beautiful windows was particularly lovely today. Nice contrast to recent dark skies.I might have taken a picture of every window on the first floor…

2018 18

(Can you see them too…? That’s the lady with the furry stole)

While I was walking around there were very few visitors but some of the museum curators were dressed in period costumes. I was drawn to one lady’s furry stole… looked very warm. The guys dressed up as monks might not have been dressed up, they may have been actual monks. They were chatting with the dressed up ladies so maybe they were just dressed up too.

2018 13

(And old pot in the pharmacy section of the palace)

That’s something I’m noticing each time I visit a museum, the curators go around in twos and chat all the time. They have seriously lots to say to each other. This adds to my assumption that the Portuguese are a very sociable people and the groups of people working at the Palace are a very good example. Each time I passed they smiled at me and then went back to their conversation. I’d love to know what they’re saying. In fact I’ve started learning Portuguese… I can say, Eu gosta uma maçã, it means I like an apple. Not as useful as, can you tell me what you’re talking about, please? but at least I’ve made a start.

2018 14

(Anyone need a high-sided bed?)

Part of the monastery was set aside as a small hospital with a pharmacy and curtained off beds. One of the explanatory signs pointed to a high sided bed as being for people with high fever or “mad monks”… well, we’ve all been there and I for one felt encouraged to think there might be a bed for me here if the rain keeps up.

From our Palace in Mafra, Mairead.

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Beware – food pictures!

2018 3

(Denis can hardly wait to get inside the door of TimeOut Market, Mercado de Ribeira)

Forgot to tell you – yesterday was a beautiful day! A little bit of sunshine and no rain! We woke this morning, surprisingly surprised to hear rain on the roof. We had forgotten that we chose yesterday to go to Lisbon because the Weather app promised cloudy with sun! It promised rain today.

2018 1 1

(My favourite stall)

We have moved to a beautiful place but it’s way too windy and wet to have a look so we are parked in a free aire, five minutes drive from the town and two minutes from a nice supermarket. I really want to bring you pictures of the town tomorrow because it looked amazing through the windscreen. Maybe I should check the weather app. Ok I checked the weather app… might have to take pictures through the windscreen.

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(I choose steak in a cream sauce and spinach in a cream sauce… It was very good but I wish I’d chosen Denis’ meal)

Fortunately I do have some food pictures from yesterday in Lisboa. Denis knew almost immediately what he wanted to eat and he even had a suggestion for me. But I wanted to look for myself so I wandered round and round and got more and more confused. Eventually I saw a picture of the meal I thought looked good and choose that.. without noticing the price.

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(Denis choose pork crackling with special pickle sandwich – it was amazing, he shared. Those crisps were hot and tasted like potatoes…)

When we compared receipts mine was double the price of his… so top tip if you go here (and I recommend you do) check out the prices as well as the nice pictures.

My mouth is watering, Mairead.

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Singing in the Metro

2018 1

(Can we eat now?)

Denis is very good when it comes to understanding metro maps and finding his way around so I usually leave him to it but as I would be on my own next week navigating Lisbon I decided to pay attention to where I would be going and to study the map last night. It wasn’t too difficult because I really like the names of the lines… well my version of the names… My own special name for the pink line is Vermillion, what a lovely word! For the blue line Azure, again, lovely word. For the yellow line, I think of the song Do you know the way to Amarillo… every night I’ve been hugging my pillow. Who would not be happy singing metro stations? And finally Verde and that’s the original name because I love green tea (Châ Verde). The actual names are Pink Line: Vermelha; Blue Line: Azul; Yellow Line: Amarela and Green Line: Verde

2018 2

(Here comes the train)

So off we went to Lisboa this morning. We were testing out my commute for next week. We walked 20 minutes to the station and got the train to the Metro at Oriente which is on the Vermillion Line. We travelled to Saldanha and then changed to the Do you know the way to Amarillo… every night I’ve been hugging my pillow Line and got off at Rato (which funnily enough is the word for mouse, including a computer mouse!) then we walked to the hotel. We had left Ruby at the campsite in Vila Franca de Xira at 9am and arrived at the hotel where the workshop would be taking place at 11am… That would be a two-hour commute… might have to try something else.

2018 4

(Can you see the stalls running along the wall on the right? And the communal tables in the middle)

After that Denis needed a treat. So we got back on the Do you know the way to Amarillo… every night I’ve been hugging my pillow Line, changed to the Azure Line and then onto the Verde Line and went to the Time Out Market. We had seen this good food market on a program called Somebody Feed Phil on Netflix and it looked like a good place to see and taste lots of different foods.

2018 6

(The tinned sardine stall… but they had no sardines for some reason, lots of other fish though)

It’s very busy and there’s lots of choice. The food stalls are all around the walls and you walk around and pick what you want. You pay for it and you get a plastic thingy that flashes when your food is ready. While you’re waiting you find a free space at huge tables in the center. It’s a unique experience.

With all the metro lines memorised we’re ready to move on tomorrow and return to Lisboa next week, Mairead.

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Return to Vila Franca de Xira

2018 5

(Ponte Marechal Carmona bridge over the Rio Tejo at Vila Franca de Xira)

Next week I will be attending the creativity workshop I mentioned in a previous post so we need to find a place to park Denis and Ruby while I attend. We think we found the place. It reminds me of home, for a couple of reasons. One, the campsite is a 20 minute walk to the train station where you can catch a train to the capital of Portugal, Lisbon. We live a 20 minute walk from the train station in Greystones where you can catch a train to bring you to the capital of Ireland, Dublin!

2018 4

(See the footbridge? Above the Chinese symbols? Hello, the walkers!)

Two, back in 2016 I got an opportunity to travel a section of the Portuguese route of the Camino de Santiago from Lisbon with a lovely group of very experienced Camino walkers from Greystones. As we drove into town this morning, I remembered being here before. Now from the campsite I can see the foot bridge over the train tracks that took us from a busy dual carriageway to a dusty track on the route to the town of Azambuja. Nice memories.

2018 1

(Can you see the river through the trees? Remember the one that was flooding a few days ago? That flows through Lisbon? I was calling it the Tagus but in Portuguese it’s called the Rio Tejo. We’re probably safe enough up here…)

Tomorrow we are having a practice run to Lisbon and this morning I went down to the station to buy the tickets. The campsite manager had given me instructions for getting a travel card that can be topped up so I went straight up to the desk at the station with my instructions. When they realised I was speaking English a second man arrived and asked, Is this for travel today?

2018 2

(It’s very quiet in the campsite)

Me: No we are going tomorrow.

Man: Ah, ok. The reason I ask you about travel today is that there is a strike.

Me: Oh. Will there be a strike tomorrow?

Man: No, not tomorrow.

Me:  That’s great. (Big smile, turning into quizzical frown…) What about next week?

Man: No, not next week, the week after.

ME: (Very big smile) That’s really great! Obrigada!

2018 3

(Precious water)

Isn’t that perfect, the strike is today, before the workshop and again after the workshop but not during the workshop. I think we picked a good place and a good transport option. But, as I am of a certain age and have experienced Ireland of the 80’s, I seems to remember the very essence of a strike can necessitate surprise action…

Baring all surprises I will indeed be able to travel from here to Lisbon by train for my workshop! Mairead.

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To Lisbon by river…

2018 1 3

(Art in the park… looks like LEGO but made from plastic crates)

After the ruins we moved an hour further south to a small town called Villa Nova da Barquinha. It is right on the river Tagus. That’s the river that starts in Spain and runs out to the sea at Lisbon. When we arrived we parked as close to the river as we could. I did think, what a fast flowing river. It was definitely rushing past.

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(Another art piece, my favourite, stone columns with wire trees)

Also, the reviews in the parking app. mentioned that it was a quiet spot by a nice park and although it was beside a nice park, it wasn’t very quiet. Cars arrived constantly all afternoon and even thought it was raining most of the time, the occupants would hop out and go down to the edge of the water. Then they’d get back into their cars and drive off. By 6pm it was getting dark and the arrivals and departures had decreased.

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(Can you see the crime scene tape? The river was the suspect… That’s our parking space on the right)

Denis had just put on the burgers when a knock came to the door…. that’s unusual. A woman from the neighbouring (Belgian) camper was telling us that the police (who were just outside erecting crime scene tape…) had arrived to tell us all to move further away from the water for our safety. They (or maybe the water board) would be opening a dam tonight because of all the rain and there may be flooding!

2018 2 3

(Three meters deep here)

The cooking stopped and everything got fired into a cupboard (except for the frying pan, it was still hot so I held on to it) and we started moving away from the water. We moved about 200m up the road, me with the frying pan still in my hand directing the reversing. Denis returned to the cooking and I retrieved the things from the cupboard.

2018 3 3

(At least the ducks are happy)

Later that night I realised all the cars during the day were checking out the river, it’s probably not normally so high or so fast flowing. The cars continued to visit and so did the police but I fell asleep without too much trouble. But then at midnight… I’m awake, wide awake. Every sound is the sound of a river flooding and taking the van and us off to Lisbon… and not in a good way. I eventually got up and made myself a calming cup of Camomile tea while silently repeating that’s just a thought, that’s just a thought. Last time I looked it was 2am and then the alarm went off at seven.

While I’m feeling a little tetchy with the tiredness I am grateful we weren’t transported to Lisbon, Mairead.

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Do. Or do not. There is no try. – Yoda

(Today we went to see the ruins!)

The rain stopped and sun came out…and off we went to the roman ruins at Monografico de Conimbriga. These are the ruins of the old city (about 1800 years old!) of Conimbriga and the nice English-speaking man at the ticket office told us to bring it alive by imagining we were walking along the streets when it was still a living city. I tried.

2018 7 1

(Here’s part of the roman road going from Lisbon to Braga. Can you see the parallel lines? Horse cart tracks)

When we got to the Lisbon to Braga road I was trying really hard to imagine we were back in 194 AD. First thing I tried to imagine were the carts but I couldn’t see the cart tracks so I tried a little harder. It never works for me to try harder, well, trying doesn’t really work. (I could see the tracks when we were leaving and I’d stopped trying…)

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(Can you see the “carpets”? And look through the door and out into the enclosed garden with pools and fountains (you’ll have to imagine the fountains they were’nt working today because of the recent weather))

But then we went into the House of the Fountains. At first glance it’s a load of low stone walls set out in squares in a barn. So I tried really hard to imagine I was going into a house. And then I saw the mosaic floors… I didn’t have to try anymore. I could see room after room covered in mosaic carpets. And the fountains weren’t in the house they were through the (imaginary) windows in the garden. I loved it! I took a picture of practically every mosaic! I want to doodle every single one of them before I get home.

2018 1 2

(Love this…)

I took loads of close-ups too so I can remember them. Can you see how small the square bricks are that make up the mosaic? I’m guessing 3 or 4cm square. Look how many it takes to make a small square – 25 little teeny tiny square bricks! They’re called tesserae. And they were all made by hand and fired in a kiln and assembled by hand and cemented in place by hand and levelled by hand… 1800 years ago.

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(… and this…)

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(Here they are up really close)

After that we saw lots of houses and the city baths and shops and then we checked out the Forum, a huge open plaza with just three columns suggesting the numerous that would have stood when this was the center of the city…

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(The Forum with the three columns to the right. The walkway you can see to the left above is standing in for the entrance to the Forum plaza…)

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(…and this is the model of the Forum at the museum)

The reason this site is in such good condition is that it was abandoned in the middle ages. What normally happens is a new city is built on top of old ruins. So all over the old Roman Empire there are hidden towns and hidden mosaics… mmm. It took us a couple of hours to go around all the ruins and we read later that only 17% of the city has been excavated.

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(Look at the cute mosaic signs for the bathrooms!)

I’m really glad the rain held off and I’m really glad our friend the chief of police told us about this place. He told us the story of when he served in Iraq and walked into the office of the police chief of a small town there and on the wall was a poster of Monografico de Conimbriga. It turned out to be the dream of this man to one day visit Conimbriga in Portugal!

Dreams are like that, they send messengers, Mairead.

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