Chard, Ilminster & District

2013 Lisbon Holiday

A beautiful sunset greeted our arrival in Lisbon; arriving in the evening we only had time for a snack before bed. The next morning, beautifully sunny and warm, we met our driver, Amibal and our guide, Margarida, whose knowledge of the history and art, not just of the places we visited but their inhabitants was outstanding as were her recommendations for restaurants in the Bairro Alta area of Lisbon for dinner and the local pastries that accompanied our morning coffees.

Each day we visited museums, gardens and interesting buildings, both historical and modern, in the city and surrounding towns. For me the visit to the Pena Palace in Sintra was the fulfilment of a thirty year ambition – a quirky building on the top of a hill that was once one of the summer palaces of the royal family. There were wonderful views from there to the Atlantic Ocean, as well as from Castelo de Sao Jorge over Lisbon, from the Moorish castle in Palmela, and various viewpoints in the Parque Natural da Arrabida.

We visited Palacio Nacional de Queluz, another royal summer palace, Palacio Nacional de Fronteria, where Wellington lived while defending Lisbon from Napoleon’s army and Fundacao Medeiros e Almeidia, - a private museum, where we were privileged to be the only visitors as they had opened in the morning especially for us. There were great contrasts between Mosterio dos Jeronimos in Belem, the church of Sao Roque in Lisbon and the church above Seismbra, where some were restored in full Baroque style and others more restrained with only a little of the original gold remaining. Most buildings had the 17th century Azulejos tiles which are amazingly resilient to time and weather seen in some churches, palaces, on display in the museums and in gardens. Near Seismbra we visited Sao Antonia the last traditional tile making factory, where the techniques for both old and modern designs were demonstrated.

After free time and lunch under umbrellas and sunshine in Rossio square our final visit was to the Gulbenkian Museum, - a spacious, modern museum with expansive collection of paintings, embroidery, furniture and Lalique glass and jewellery.

Before going to the airport we managed just one more coffee and cake on the river front and then the flight home and a very early morning/late night return to Somerset.

Next year we hope to visit Madrid, details to be found in this newsletter.

Janet Brown

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