Happy New Year – 1st January 2015

Happy New Year – we hope that 2015 brings health and prosperity to everyone.

We have been looking back at 2014, thinking about where we have been and what we have learnt and started to think about 2015 and what ‘challenges’ we want to achieve … just to make our life interesting!

2014 gave us (amongst other things) ….

  • Four months living in Bagnoles De L’Orne in Northern France getting to know some lovely people who will remain friends for a long time to come
  • Keith learnt some French and I managed to get my French back up to a good level
  • We learnt about some fantastic local French producers through ‘France Passion’ staying at some beautiful rural locations and learning how to cultivate vine, milk a goat as well as producing Foie Gras
  • We both learnt more about exercise without any equipment and started a daily routine that we have stuck to throughout the trip so far ….. who needs to spend £40+ a month in a gym
  • I started, and managed to change to forefoot running and Keith now does a mean head stand 🙂

But most of all 2014 has opened our minds even further and re-assured us that anything is possible if you want to do it – just give it a go, and persevere.

We aren’t into New Years’ resolutions, but we have decided to put a few ‘personal challenges’ in place to see if we can achieve them….

  • Keith
    • Wants to get his handstand perfected this year, and progress it into a handstand push up
    • Would like to be able to do one handed press ups
    • Wants to learn to cook some tasty recipes with squid and mussels
    • Would like to get his French back to the level it was when we left France (it has taken a dip as we have been speaking in Spanish through Spain and Portugal)
    • Plans to start looking at charities that he would like support
  • Gail
    • Wants to increase average running speed by 10%
    • Would like to increase fitness levels to be able to complete four quality burpee and pike jump sets without decreasing the quantity by more than 10% between sets
    • Plans to increase both French and Spanish vocabulary by 5 words a week
    • Would like to try and cook at least one new recipe a month
    • Plans to start writing her book ….

We will try and give you snippets of progress as we achieve them and I will endeavour to keep it short so we don’t bore you, but thought you may be interested in some of our ‘oddities’ !

Anyway, back to the interesting stuff…. Whilst trying to work out the best way to visit and take in the sights and smells of Lisbon we realised that Sintra had a train that left every 15 minutes, arriving in central Lisbon 40 minutes later. All the campsites close to Lisbon had poor reviews, were very expensive and you still had to travel between 30 minutes and an hour to get into the center – so, as we were comfortable and in a reasonably quiet location, we decided to stay and extra night and catch the train in on Monday.

The wind had blown away the fog and any signs of rain and we had a lovely crisp day with bright blue skies to explore the maze of cobbled streets twisting up the side of a hill to each of the different districts. There is no way that you could put Lisbon in the same sentence as ‘clean lines’ or ‘modern architecture’ as apart from four roads that go directly back from the river front in the center of the town from the main square, I don’t think there is another road that runs more than a couple of blocks without a twist or a turn. It is one of those places where some may look at it and say it is rough round the edges and in need of modernisation, which is fair as there are a large number of beautiful buildings (including gates to the old city) which are neglected and falling down, but that is what makes it so interesting. There aren’t many new buildings and a large number are in some kind of state of dis-repair…. but that is what adds the character. Each time you turn a corner you find something new – as Keith read somewhere, don’t use a map – just get lost as you will find more than if you try and walk round the city in a structured way.

We walked for miles…. 20 to be precise…. and took in most of the sites from the main square…to Belem Tower

Lisboa13_20141229

And just as we were on our way back to the station we found a shop full of Sardines ..

Lisboa16_20141229

Well worth a long weekend, we will be back to take in some of the sites in more detail next time.

From Sintra we passed through the outskirts of Lisbon and crossed the rather impressive ’Vasco de Gama’ bridge (which is just over 17km long) to get to Evora, which is where we stopped for two nights including New Years eve.

Evora is the capital of Alentejo, a region famous for its culinary delights, producing some rather tasty wine, olives, bread, cheese and pork produce (Chorizo, hams, etc). The plethora of delicatessens in the local market helped us make the decision of what kind of food would help us bring 2015 in… what a feast we had 🙂

Evora is a beautiful walled roman city with remains of thermal baths and a temple as well as lots of narrow windy cobbled roads – so, steeped in culture and history as well as apparently coming in as number two in the rankings of ‘best places to live in Portugal’ – worth a visit!

Evora2_20141231

New Years day is one of the only days where most things close in Portugal (the other being Christmas day), so we took advantage of the quiet roads this morning and came towards Monsaraz where we are currently parked up watching the sun go down in what can only be described as one of the most beautiful locations we have stayed the night in.

Monsaraz1_20150101

Monsaraz is one of the oldest settlements in southern Portugal dating back to before history was documented apparently …. It is a magnificently restored/maintained walled town with a castle and it is idyllic…. yet another place that I would say is definitely worth a visit 🙂

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