10.21.2010 - 10.27.2010
We were pretty eager to leave Lisbon. Even though we stayed in probably the best hostel on the planet and met some really cool people, the whole window event really soured our time here. I think Lisbon is a truly beautiful city, and well worth a visit, as I think it’s often overlooked by people visiting Europe. I took the Metro early in the morning across town to the Renault dealer where we left the car overnight to be repaired, then drove it back through dreadful morning rush hour and parked it in a secure lot. We finished breakfast and packed the car and drove south, without much as far as plans. We were eager to take five or six days and just relax a bit by the beach in a small town, just kind of put the events behind us, rest up a bit, and prepare for the last push through the south of Spain. As we drove down the coast we bleak through the bleak landscape a bit inland, always with mountains to our left. The small buildings in the many towns were all painted white, and every once in a while we’d get a peek at the blue ocean nearby. Many of the towns were rundown and some even looked abandoned, proof of the urban shift that occurs when a country’s economy sours. The roads were empty and we cruised along until the highway finally spit us out along the coast near the city of Sines. We drove by tons of vacant parking lots with staircases leading down to small coves and beaches, packed during the summer or weekend, but now just a bunch of desolate brown patches. We selected one at random to spend a few hours. The coastline here is made up entirely of cliffs, and then every once in a while a bit of sand will remain creating a beach with towering walls, sheltering it from the cool autumn breeze. We relaxed on the beach in the sun, although the water was a bit too cold to go in without a wetsuit. It felt really nice to just kind of put Lisbon behind us, although we are both now pretty weary of leaving the car anywhere out of site, especially if there is anything in it. One thing that has proved to be a great purchase was a small plug in cooler we bought when we left Paris. This has come in handy for us to store our food and keep our lunch things cool so we can make lunch wherever we are.
We planned on stopping somewhere along the western coast for the night, but in the end, we continued down towards Lagos and gave a quick call to our reserved apartment to see if we could stay one extra night. As it is currently low season they were more than happy so after a bit of trouble finding the place we settled in and were very happy about the great studio that we had for the next five nights. It’s felt good to pay a minimum price, and be in an empty apartment complex that looked more like a villa and feel like we were really getting the most out of our money and were going to be able to relax for the next few days. And relax we did. Although two of the days were a bit cloudy, we still went to the beaches nearby or a short drive away, went for walks on the cliffs, or just hung out by the pool, cold beer in hand. I enjoyed making dinner with ingredients from the market and using the grill. The coastline is very dramatic, with high sandstone cliffs towering over the deep blue water. There are tons of trails all around the coast, so it was easy enough for us to just walk a bit and really experience the beauty of the region. I think that one thing that especially excited us was the element of surprise. We really had no idea what to expect from Lagos, we’d heard it was going to be packed with tourists, and there were some English travelers, but overall it was very quiet. We heard that the town wasn’t very nice, but we found that there was some culture and feeling beyond the sprawling timeshare resorts. I think mostly we were just unprepared for how beautiful it was going to be there, and we haven’t had a few days to just sit on the beach, read, and relax since Croatia.
It’s surprising how officially tired we are now. I’m not sure if it’s because the end is near so we’re slowing down or if it’s just kind of time for us to have a place to sit and do nothing, or even do something, as long as it’s not just walk around, look at churches, look at a castle, etc. I think we are both really looking forward to getting to Brazil, to be with family and to just not have an agenda, or a list of things to see. Although it has been great to have a car, the hours of sleeping on buses or just bouncing along on a train are something that I miss, although getting to and from the stations was always an annoying adventure. Instead the stress of driving has been tough, and especially inside of cities has fatigued me and frustrated me at times. We’ve now put about 4000 miles on the car, and have about 700 left, it will feel good to return the car and not have to deal with it anymore. Also, we aren’t that amazed by things anymore. Maybe we’re spoiled but I think we’ve seen everything we need to see. We absolutely refuse to pay to enter churches so most of the interiors are off limits, but most of the time I can imagine just what is inside. To me, that was what I liked the most about, say, Salamanca, where the church was beautiful, had some originality, and was free. It’s kind of like when you go to classic art museums, I mean really, how many Madonna and Child paintings can you see before they all start to be too similar?
After five days in Lagos eating nice dinners, and becoming sick of basic sandwiches for lunch, we packed up and headed back east, to Spain. We stopped once along the south coast to relax at one more beach. This one was particularly spectacular with a staircase that funneled through the cliffs and spilled out onto the beach. The beaches were particularly nice for Flavia who had felt it a bit odd traveling so much and not really seeing beaches. For me, nearly the entire final six months of my South America trip were spent at the beach, and I think most importantly while backpacking this gives a great excuse to spend a whole day without really spending much money.
We arrived into Sevilla in the early evening, and drove right by the hostel where there was no parking and kept going, weaving down streets no wider than the car, then kept going, directed left or right, with no way to return on the multitude of one way streets, until about 20 minutes later when we managed to find a parking garage. We haven’t walked with all of our stuff for a great distance for a while, and while wandering lost through the alleys with our packs on, without a map, trying to find our hostel, I was reminded of the redeeming qualities of having the car. Sevilla reels nice, the temperature is very agreeable, and the old town is huge, and great for getting lost. There are a fair number of tourists here, I think that the summer is too hot and the winter is too cold so many come during this time of year. We crammed as much as we could into one and a half days and two nights, basically just wandering the alleys, eating tapas that make us miss San Sebastian, and seeing something that we haven’t seen yet in the bullring and Torero museum. Tomorrow we are off for three nights in Granada followed by three nights in Madrid before flying out of Madrid to Brazil.