Coming down to earth after two fantastics weeks on the Lisbon coast, Carcavelos, Portugal is difficult! Our August holiday was great. As everyone mentions, this is a fantastic location, and it’s a lovely apartment – much bigger than I expected. It’s got shared gardens including a basketball hoop, and space for children to play in. We are a family of four, with Joseph, aged 10 and Katie, aged 7. Here are a few our our holiday highlights.
The beach at Carcavelos is long and lovely – there are great waves to jump in. It’s massive when the tide is out and perfect for playing ‘bat and ball’ or kicking a football. It’s fun to watch sunbathers retreat rapidly from the waters edge as the tide comes in – we got caught out a couple of times! Oh, and it’s sandy – great for sandcastle building. The breeze off the Atlantic keeps the heat down, but we didn’t find the sea too cold, and the sand isn’t too hot to walk on either.
As I said, the location is great. The apartment is only 10 minutes walk from the beach, and ten minutes from the train station with great links to Lisbon and Cascais (about 20 minutes in each direction). If you are going to lots of museums then you can buy a Lisbon card which includes the train fare and gives discounts to museums. You need to buy this from a tourist office e.g. in Cascais or Lisbon – there isn’t an outlet in Carcavelos. However you can buy one in advance e.g. at the airport, and it’s valid from when you start to use it. It includes the train fare from Carcavelos to Lisbon and all the way along the Lisbon coast line. We didn’t bother with this though as we only went to one museum each day and there were family discounts in many cases. The train fares are reasonably priced and trains are very reliable. Spot checks of tickets are made regularly however so don’t try to avoid paying the fare!
Here are some of the places we went to:
Sintra: This is a National Park outside of Lisbon with beautiful woodland and palaces, as well as a Moorish Castle. There are so many places to go here it was difficult to choose. We went twice and visited Quinta da Regalaria, the Moorish Castle and the Toy Museum. Quinta da Regalaria is a palace and gardens built at the turn of the 20th century in the romantic ideal. The gardens are amazing with lots of caves, tunnels, wells and towers to explore. The children absolutely loved it (as did we)! The Moorish Castle is a bit of a climb (you can catch a bus there also from Sintra station or near the Tourist office), but well worth it for the views as well as the amazing castle walls. When we were there an archealogical dig was in progress and we saw a skeleton being excavated from just outside the castle walls. Very grizzly! The tourist office (and our daughter) convinced us to go to the Toy Museum, and we were fascinated by it. It has displays of toy vehicles throughout history and all the soldiers from the second world war – including the whole of Hitler’s entourage! I’m not sure if this is because Portugal was neutral during the war as I can’t imagine seeing this in a UK toy museum. The toys were interesting and well displayed – toys are a childish representation of the adult world after all, so you get a potted history of the technological developments that have taken place over the last 200 years.
Belem is a couple of stops down the train line from Carcavelos before you get to Lisbon and is Lisbon’s ‘museum district’. We loved Jeronimo’s Monastery which had a brilliant display of the history of the Monastery, Portugal and the World on a time-line. This really helped contextualise the specific development of the Monastery. We also went to the Maritime Museum which shows Portugal’s explorations around the Cape of Good Hope en route to India amongst other routes. We were interested in the development of the maps over this time as the explorers discovered more territories. The treat though was at the end of the Museum visit where a hangar displays a variety of boats used by Princesses, as well as some sea planes. If you go on a Sunday morning the Belem museums are free, and you may even get to see the changing of the guard outside the President’s palace (there is also a toy display of this in the Sintra toy museum).
In Lisbon we enjoyed St George’s castle with great views from the top, and the Cathedral. We also loved riding on the trams and just walking around. There are lot of parks in Lisbon too. We went to the Gulbenkian museum which includes displays of Portugese and other tiles, as well as pieces by Rembrandt and Monet, amongst others. The park at the back of the museum is definately worth a visit with modern sculptures hidden in the trees!
In the evening we liked going to Cascais. We enjoyed reasonably priced food and good service at the Palm Tree restaurant (which the children particularly liked, so we went back a few times). The atmosphere, walking around the town in the evening, was really great with lots of street entertainers, bars and the shops open late.
All in all it was a great summer holiday.
Sally & Dave.