We’ve run out of Europe…

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Cabo da Roca; the westernmost point of the European continent.

After a brief stint on the metro I emerged at the entrance to Baixa-Chiado station, walking straight past the men selling umbrellas and into a rainy Lisbon.It didn’t take me long to find the hostel, tucked away on an unassuming street between a bank and a church.

I walked into the hostel and sorted out the obligatory payment and I was told there was a tour of Sintra and Cascais leaving in 40 minutes with some space left. Sintra was almost at the top of my to-do list (the only thing above it was Pastéis de Belém!) The hostel staff did a very quick introduction to everyone on the tour and we were off in the minibus.

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Beautiful view from the minibus driving along the road to Cascais.

After driving for what felt like forever, we arrived at Cabo da Roca. By the time we got there, it had stopped raining… for all of five minutes! In the brief moment when it wasn’t raining though, we managed to go for a bit of a walk and explored the very end of the continent. It’s a strange thought that, standing on the edge here, there was nothing but ocean between me and the United States. It was also incredibly beautiful.

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Another view looking out towards the Atlantic.

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A monument marking this as the westernmost point of continental Europe.

It wasn’t long before it started raining again, and we dashed for the shelter of the minivan. Intermittent rain was definitely the theme of the day, and they said at the hostel that they were being good hosts and giving us some of our weather to make us feel at home!

After we’d spent enough time here, we headed back in the only way we could… east! The drive actually reminded me of somewhere familiar – the roads were narrow and winding, there were trees everywhere, nothing was flat, it was raining and there was no mobile reception – just like home!

After a couple of brief stops on the way to look at some sights, we made it to Quinta da Regaleira. This is best described as an estate with a palace, a church and endless grottoes.

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Heading into the grounds of Quinta da Regaleira.

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The cat was wary of the presence of tourists but, overall, in a benevolent mood so he let us pass!

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Did people constantly fall down stairs i the old days or something?

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The grounds were pretty big and, overall, it was a very pleasant couple of hours  we spent here… despite the intermittent rain!

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It wasn’t possible to spend time here without crossing the ponds and walking through the tunnels. (No, that isn’t solid. It’s water that’s entirely covered in algae… we checked!)

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The view out from one of the caves/tunnels.

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The tunnel network was so extensive, they needed signs so people wouldn’t get lost.

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We made it to the “Initiation Well”, or inverted towers as they’r also known. This is where tarot initiation rites were performed many years ago.

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That’s quite a drop!

Pretty soon it was getting dark (the joys of visiting Europe in November), and it was time to leave. We made a short drive over to Sintra town itself and the driver parked up the minibus. By this point, it was raining quite heavily and the short walk we had to make through the town was quite treacherous – I don’t feel like the paving was designed for heavy bouts of rain!

Needless to say, I completely lost my footing and slipped while we were walking on a downhill section! I didn’t physically hurt anything; just my pride! One of my fellow travellers was quite impressed actually and called it the most graceful fall she’d ever seen. I think mostly because I fell backwards, slid about a metre down the street and then got back up again in one smooth movement.

After the eventful walk, we arrived at a small merchant and walked in. We’d already been told why we were here, but the endless walls of port would have been a subtle hint! We all took our seats at the table and were introduced to our host. We were given quite a detailed lesson on the history of port wine, where it’s produced and how the different varieties of port are produced. There are four main varieties; ruby, tawny, vintage and late-bottled vintage… we tried them all!

As well as port, we got to try a variety of cheeses and cured meats from all over Portugal; and they were delicious. Unfortunately though, I’ve already forgotten the names of the cheeses that I enjoyed, so I guess I’ll have to try them all again! On any other trip, I would have been tempted to buy some port and take it home with me, but I was travellin with hand luggage this time. I guess I’ll have to settle for some duty free port instead.

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Learing about the different types of port. We started off with the standard ruby and tawny ports.

Our foray into port tasting was the last stop on our tour, and what felt like six hours had passed in an instant; it was time to head back. The weather hadn’t really improved, and we spent most of the journey back staring wistfully at the rain outside and the traffic on the road – there wasn’t much to see on the drive back.

When we arrived back, the hostel was way more lively than it was when I arrived earlier. I popped upstairs to my room to drop of a few things, and then joined everyone downstairs for dinner. Once we were done, it was time for the pub crawl. I decided that tonight would probably be the only night I could do it because Sundays are a bit of a writeoff, and Monday is a no-go since I’m waking up at 5am to catch my flight home.

The daily shots are an important event at YES! Hostel, and either a good end to a busy day of sightseeing, or the beginning of a great night…

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“Yes hostel?” … “Yes!”

So the night itself is a bit of a blur, but I remember spending some time in a place called Oitonove, and we ended up in a place called Magic Box. I was out late by British standards but, apparently, I was the old and boring one for leaving before 4am!

Anyway, I’m sure tomorrow will bring with it many new adventures!

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