Wednesday, September 20, 2006


A great thing about Portugal is that it is about 700KM from top to bottom, this means that it is shorter than the North Island of New Zealand. I have been told that Portugal has the most varied landscapes per sq meter of any country. This fact makes it a great place to do a driving tour as it never really takes long to get to your next destination.

Our destination after Salamanca was Porto. You should pick it up out of the name but if you hadn't, this is the home of Port, so we were looking forward to sampling the local fare.

We arrived in town and started our customary search for the town centre and a tourismo. Porto is alot bigger than the previous towns we had explored so we spent considerably more time driving around in circles and circles and circles... We eventually found the town centre and a tourismo, so we parked the car in an underground car park, where we narrowly avoided slamming the car into the wall, this caused hysterical laughter for quite sometime.

After an exhausting search we finally found some accomodation which over looked the centre town square.

Going out in Coimbra

Well after going on a wild goose chase, we thought we would give the other area a go. So we trudged up the hill towards the uni and inevitably the uni pubs!!!

After consuming too many litres of beer, James headed back to the room and Wayne and I took off to find some more nightlife.

We found this club, whose name escapes me and entered. It is common in Portugese clubs to get a card when you enter that your drinks get listed on and then when you leave you go to the cashier and pay for them. Novel...

We experienced dancing with a very drunk hen and her party. I met some really nice people who I attempted to converse with and I met the standard student types, reminded me a lot of being out in Palmerston North (NZ Uni town).... hmmmm yuk....

You can't always trust the turismo!

After our peaceful afternoon in Obidos, we headed to Comimbra... The town of the first university and can you guess what that means? Yep, a uni town, didn't really think of that before hand.

We arrived in Coimbra and spent the first hour or so driving around in circles trying to work out the one way roads and find the tourismo.

We found the turismo, and headed inside to find accomodation and nightlife details. We were directed to a place to stay the night in a great location near the middle of town and by the river. The bee-arch at the tourismo also pointed out the hotspots in town. One was near the university and the other was by the river, she told us that at this time of the year people would hang out at cafe/bars by the river and ever so helpfully marked it out on the map for us.

We left the tourismo and headed for the place we were staying, we missed a turnoff due to the crappy nature and lack of detail in our maps and I ended up driving us down this very narrow street. Was deffinitely one of those things you had to be there to see, but it was very humourous...

Anyway, we got ready and headed out to the cafe/bar area by the river where we thought we would have dinner and then start socialising... We headed to the river and started walking towards the area we had been directed towards. We walked and walked and walked... And walked and walked and walked until we were over walking and got out the map and tried to work out if we had missed it or hadn't made it there yet. After back tracking someway and consulting the map frequently we worked out that the bird from the tourismo had sent us on a wild goose chase and the area she had sent us to was wild bush land... By this stage we had been walking for over an hour and were very hungry!!!

Everything eventually works out, we were wondering around the town centre looking for somewhere to eat to eat when I saw a cute local who we aproached and tried to ask if he knew of a good place to eat. It just so happened that he worked at a restaurant! He lead us down a few back streets and took us to this authentic place with lots of locals hanging round. The food was the usual over dose of meat with fries and lettuce, which we were noticing seemed to be standard fare.

All aboard for Obidos

We headed out for Obidos, it was given a 5 star must see rating.

Obidos is a city which has been built inside the walls of a castle on the top of a hill. The place was another ancient and amazing Portugese sight, it was given by Dom Dinis one of Portugal's Kings to his bride Dona Isabel as a wedding gift in 1228.

You can walk around the tops of the castle walls which are scarily high and there are no rails on the inside.. We spent a bit of time exploring the city and came across this bar area at the back of the village and at one of the highest points. It was a terraced area which had trees providing shade and a low wall with bench seats built into it. We sat there, had a beer and relaxed in the tranquility as we looked out over the village and surrounding areas from the top of the hill.

It was very dreamy, I felt like I could sit up there for a year, drinking and soaking up the silence. Even a call from work didn't disturb the peace, all I would need is a wireless internet connection there and I could sit there for a year!

Ola Portugal...

Armed with Duarte's list of things to do James, Wayne and I took off to see what Portugal had to offer.

We left Lisboa and headed north to a little fishing village set atop some ciffs called Ericeira. Ericeira is about 100km north of Lisboa and was a good fist stop as we had stuffed around all day hiring the car and were leaving the camping ground late in the day. Our first lesson that booking in advance is a good idea...

When we arrived in Ericeira we drove around for over half an hour trying to find a Tourismo (tourist info place) and the town centre. The town consisted of one main street with smaller streets coming off of it, we blamed the misleading signage for our less than perfect display of navigational prowess.

We found a hotel/hostel which was close to the town centre, the guy running the place reccomended a local seafood restaurant for dinner. We got to the restaurant around 9 - 10ish which is the normal dinner time in Portugal. We learned a very important lesson, a Kanacka is a 1/2 litre handle of Beer, this came in very handy for most meals.

With Waynes Mexi-Spanglish and my phrase book Portugese we met a local family sitting next to us in the restaurant who we had a very stilted conversation with. It ended up with them insisting on giving us the left over meat from their plates. With previous bad experiences trying to speak the local languages when overseas, James sat there and just read the subtitles.

The next morning, I took off to the markets to get some stuff for breakfast and lunch to have while we were on the road. It was my first chance to get out there by myself and inflict the locals with my version of Portugese. At this stage it was still a new experience and I was a little neverous and uncomfortable... Stage fright you might say, so my shopping experience involved alot of pointing and calling out numbers.

I had previously learned 1 - 30ish in Portuguese which then proved to be very helpful communicating with people and also impressing (fooling) them with my grasp of their language.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Leaving Las Lisbon

The 5th of September was the day we had to leave the camping ground, so we headed to Cas Cais to try and hire a car. After a day of stuffing aournd we finally got a car online at a reasonable price... A nice little VW Polo. We rocked up to Avis to pick it up and the showed us to our nice little Hyundai!!! Jesus I wanted to drive a European car in Europe, not that piece of shit. Oh well, I got it up to 155 with out really trying so it wasn't too bad.

So this was my first time driving on the wrong side of the road, well doing it legally anyway. Didn't take too long to get the hang of it, round-a-bouts are the worse and the country is full of them.

The word I would use to describe the roads in Europe (well I can really only speak for Portugal and Spain) is Anarchy!!!

Some people would classify my driving as 'Agressive' however I would use the term 'Highly Assertive'. And by god, did I fit in or what. It was my dream driving conditions, narrow wind-y roads (just like Wellington), people cutting in front of each other, quick gear changes so you could take off and cut in front of the person in front of you. Reversing back down streets and into intersections because there is too much traffic ahead...

They are very patient, and don't often use the horn, which for a kiwi/melbournite is very strange, as we usually hit the horn before we hit the brakes.

Freeways: I had heard stories about the freeways over here and how people in the fast lane who want to pass you will leave their indicator on, signalling you to move over. Well the first time it happened it was a bit of a shock, then I got the hang of it and would do it to anyone I got the chance to... MOVE... the Hyudai is coming through.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


After the wedding there was enough time to explore Lisbon... Ange, Tim and I headed in, we ate and drank, for something new...

We caught a tram up the hill to visit this castle which was built about 1500 years ago. Took us 2 attempts to get there by tram as we went up the hill, and down the other side before we realised that we had missed our stop... d'oh...

Anyway the castle was pretty cool... Hopefully one of these day's I'll be able to get some photos uploaded... Apparently they used to dump their craps through these slits in the walls onto any invaders trying to scale the castle walls... er?

That night James, Wayne, Tibea, Vaughan and I headed into Lisbon to catch up with Matt and Filipa after they had been to the Pearl Jam concert.

We started off at some bar where there was this group of people doing a pub crawl. We chatted and then found out that they had to do tasks at each bar to earn points... Some how, Vaughan roped me into kissing this girl and getting a photo taken... I feel cheap and used ;) actually, after I did it I couldn't stop thinking about the number of people she had kissed that night and the diseases she could be carrying... James who is newly engaged, was lucky to escape...

Anyway, finding a place open in Lisbon on a monday night is not easy. We managed to find this bar which was playing some funky house stuff, so we were happy. Then we found out that you could get shooters for 3 Euros... Thats when it turned messy... Drinks were being tipped over, glasses were being smashed on the floor, there was lurid dancing on the dance floor. Sounds like a normal night out in Melbourne.

The wedding...

The wedding Tech.

I know it's not all about me, but this is my blog and this little bit is!

I think this was my 5th wedding that I helped out in some techie way, but it was the first one in a country where english is a foriegn language.

A PA (sound system) had been hired and a projector had been borrowed from the venue where the reception was to be held. A laptop was being used to play music before, during and after the reception with various videos being played as part of the speeches.

I got there in the end, but had to communicate with hand signals and my very bad Portugese. I loved every minute of it!!!

Back to the wedding...

The Ceremoney

It was another beautiful Portugese day, most of the grooms party that was staying at the camping ground were taken to the church, reception and returned in a hired bus. God knows how the driver managed to get the thing through those streets.. but we made it with out denting the thing once.

The ceremony was held in a church which looked like a bunker from the outside, but inside the place was filled with the most amazing (slightly garish) decor. Lots of gold, mary's and jesus' every where. The ceremoney started like most, with readings, sermons etc...

And as usual during these religous things, my eys glaze over and mind drifts... Until I heard the word 'prostitute'... Hang on a minute... is he talking in Portuguese? Next he started talking about sex for pleasure, then watching dogs and horses doing it... WHAT THE!!! By this stage, he had my full attention!!!

The sermon went on, the priest (who was the only one they could find that spoke english and portugese) wobbled fumbled and didn't say anything that he was meant to say, he basically had his own agenda... We thought that this was a normal portugese wedding but it ends up that it was lucky half of the portugese guests didn't understand what was going on.

Rumour has it that he reeked of jesus' blood (sacramental vino).

The Reception

The reception was held at this magnificent Palace up in Sintra. Amazing place.

Traditionally in Portugal, wedding receptions are just parties with lots of food, drinking and dancing. The kiwi touch was added with the introduction of speeches... which was a bit of a change for the locals, who didn't know what to make of it.

I was placed at a table with some kiwi's and some Portuguese... Ange, Tim, Jess (kiwi contingent) and we met some of Filipa's portugeuse friends: Duarte, Miguel, Theresa and Rochelle.

We picked their brains and got a list of places to see in our travels round Portugal.

Thanks for a great day Matt and Filipa. And best wishes for the future!!!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Guincho, Sintra, Cascais

Ola, Bon dia.

I was staying in a camping ground in Guincho, which also happened to be it's name, which was just outside the town of Cascais.

Most of the grooms friends and family (mostly kiwis with a few poms) ended up staying there, so there were about 40 of us in these bungalows. As always we showed the locals our hospitality and how to party :)

The beach there was the ice cold atlantic and it is usually always windy there.

I was staying in a bunglaow with friends Tim and Ange, so we got to explore the area while the bridal party went about the business of preparing for the wedding. This also gave me a chance to whip out the trusty Lonely Planet phrasebook I bought in London.


The first place we got to explore was Sintra, again with the help of Rachael and Todd who had hired a car, we went to the historical village of Sintra. The place is pre-historic and dare I say it beautiful.

The roads are very narrow usually with buildings or high retaining walls on either side, which makes for fun driving. The roads and foot paths are also tiled with square pavers about 5cm square... to make it even more amazing, or worse if you had to lay them, they were usually layed in patterns and the foot paths were like mosaics. Apparently they had prisoners do all the work...

The place is over looked by this ancient Moorish castle. There are also palace's scattered around the hill, one of which the wedding reception was held at.

This is a must see if you come to Portugal.


We ate there, caught the train to Lisbon from here, jumped in the ocean and practiced our Portugese on the poor unsuspecting locals.

My ace day job, forget the night job.

Hmmm, last year the ABC approached work and asked if they could do a piece on one of the job roles in the office... Some how they chose my role... any way the links above will take you to the site and my profile...

Bye bye London, Hello Portugal...

I got off to a bad start with an average flight and then I left 2 bottles of Absolut on the plane in my haste to get off of it... Thank god I didn´t buy the grey goose! There is a silver lining to most clouds...

Landing at Lisbon Airport the land around it looked very dry, reminded me of Australia.

But luck changed there and I bumped into Rachael and Todd (Matt's (the groom) sister and brother and law) at the airport. They then gave me a lift to the camping ground, which did save a bit of stuffing around. Thanks guys...