By Humphrey & Lanette Conceicao
Filled with Romantic 19th-century architecture and landscapes, this town is a major tourist attraction for day-trippers travelling from Lisbon.
We visited the Sintra National Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered the best preserved medieval Royal Palace in Portugal.
We found a quaint little restaurant that was world famous for their almond cakes, which upon tasting I realised was our version of the Sugee Cake. (Ours is better as we have a stronger taste of butter and almonds). Here Lanette sips on hot chocolate whilst enjoying a delicious éclair.
The consumption of Ginjinha is a must in Sintra! You’ll find several shops in the centre of Sintra that sell shots of Ginjinha in a chocolate cup for 1 Euro. You can either drink the Ginjinha before eating the small chocolate cup (little more than thimble sized) or eat it as a liqueur filled chocolate. Either way, it is super delicious!
Next, we headed to Fátima. The history of Fátima is associated with three children: Lúcia and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, who on 13 May 1917, while guarding their sheep in Cova da Iria, witnessed an apparition of a lady dressed in white.
After a wonderful and spiritual experience in Fátima, what better to do than share stories with fellow travellers on Trafalgar, which included Singaporeans, Malaysians, Filipinos and Africans.
Here Fernando, our wonderful Trafalgar coach driver and Maria our Tour Director pose with fellow travellers from India.
Porto (also known as Oporto in English) was the next destination on our travels. It’s one of the major urban areas in southern Europe and is the second-largest city in Portugal (after Lisbon). Porto also hosts one of Portugal’s internationally famous exports, port wine!
We went to the well-known Ramos Pinto Port Winery where Lanette and our dear Trafalgar friends taste our first round of Ramos Pinto port. The glasses are filled generously so as you can guess, we all left very happy! Taking advantage of this opportunity, I bought 3 bottles of their special blend to be shared with family and friends this Christmas.
Lanette and I posed on the banks of the Douro river with the Ponte de Dom Luis I in the background, before we join our fellow travelers for dinner in one of the many restaurants that line the river.
The happy faces show the warmth shared in the room, as we were hosted to endless bottles of wine and absolutely delicious meals of game fowl, rabbit and salmon.
We travelled back into the Northwest of Spain and on to the second to last destination of our tour, Salamanca.
Our guide told us about the Rana de Suerte (Lucky Frog) that sits high up on the Universidad Civil. The Rana de Suerte is believed to dish out good luck to anyone that looks at him. But first you have to find him! From Plaza Anaya, walk around to the other side of the building and look for the fortunate amphibian amid the carvings of the Catholic Kings Isabel and Fernando. That’s where my help ends. Have fun finding it!
There were beautiful ornate gold decorations that are but a portion of the antiques and art found in the many chapels and cathedrals in Salamanca.
That night we joined travellers from Canada, USA and Australia for dinner at Recoletos Coco Hotel, courtesy of Trafalgar.
On our way back to Madrid, we stop in at the city of Ávila which is well-known for the amazingly intact wall that surrounds the city and for sweets made by local nuns that are sold in small shops throughout the city – especially “yemas” which are made with egg yolks and sugar.
A stopover for churros and hot chocolate perked my spirits to get cosy with Maria our Tour Director.
And one of the few occasions we were able to get everyone in the group photo. I was behind the camera.
Here we are back in Madrid at the end of our tour. Lanette and I decided to do a last tour of the city on our own, exploring the beautiful surroundings of our hotel.
Here’s a picture of Lanette and I at our last visit to Plaza Mayor in Madrid, before joining our friends as Trafalgar hosted yet another wonderful surprise dinner.
At dinner, a couple studying music in one of the universities delivered a beautiful Aria during dinner. It truly was a wonderful experience and gave us a genuine flavour of the country.
We closed the wonderful tour with a visit to The Temple of Debod which was rebuilt in 1972 near the Royal Palace of Madrid. It represents one of the few works of ancient Egyptian architecture that can be seen outside of Egypt and is the only one of its kind in Spain. Truly a wonder which was best shared with friends of Trafalgar.
I am sure my fellow travellers on Trafalgar would like to join Lanette and myself to thank Maria, Fernando and the planners of the tour for a wonderful holiday, which we will always remember. We look forward to our next, perhaps in Greece or Eastern Europe?
Humphrey & Lanette Conceicao, Singapore
If you enjoyed reading Humphrey & Lanette’s experience and would like to learn more about our ‘Impressions of Spain & Portugal’ itinerary, head to our website: www.trafalgar.com