We depart the Algarve and head north to Lisbon, intersecting there with our friends, Anne & Jon, who have joined us for 10+ days to explore the rest of Portugal together.
Unlike Spain which has a like-new and fabulous free highway system traversing the entire country, Portugal has toll roads everywhere and you must constantly be digging into pockets for spare euros to feed them. On the other hand, in Portugal, you hardly ever have to tuck in your side view mirrors to make a left-hand turn as you often do in Spain's old town centers and very often you can even find free parking in Portugal. Much to our surprise, the Portuguese language bears little in common with Spanish (which I was getting pretty adept at) so we are dependent upon English speaking locals. The four of us agree that Portuguese sounds like Russian to our ears although its roots are apparently most similar to Finnish and Korean!
The iconic Lisbon trolleys are actually very useful and very helpful at whisking away weary tourists to the top of its hills. The city looks like a shabby chic version of Paris to us and it is a very lovely city to explore. Outdoor music seems to be played everywhere, especially in the Alfama district which is considered "Fado Central". Walking down from one such hilltop, we passed by many many fado restaurants. It is hard to believe that there are so many depressed women in this city to support such a thriving industry. To give you a flavor, here are some translated fado lyrics from the very popular song"Caravels":
I reached half of my life already tired of walking so much!
I'm already lost!
So much I have learned and nothing I know
And the ivory towers I have built
In tragic madness I have destroyed
By my own ill-fated hands!
I have always been like a dead sea
A sea without tides, without waves or harbor
Where the sails of dreams were torn apart!
...geez...take 2 prozac with a side of lithium and call me in the morning!
About an hour away from Lisbon, Sintra provides an incredible escape. Lush and green with ferns and leafy trees and stone walls, and built on a steep hillside with narrow turns (back to tucking in those side-view mirrors), we visit several palaces and one that is known for its extensive gardens, caves, and grottos (see inverted well photo). Being here is like finding yourself in the middle of an Edward Gorey book. Actually, the entire town conjures up imagery of Victorian mysteries.
And then there is our 2 day stop in the central city of Evora...what more can be said about a city where the high point for us was visiting a Chapel meticulously decorated by monks with human skeletons? Can't top that...