From Lisbon to Cabo da Roca and Moorish Castle in Sintra

In all the land of Portugal, the whole expanse of Europe, Sintra stands out as one of the loveliest, rarest places that Nature’s prodigious hand has created (quota: the poet Afonso Lopes Vieira). Once the royal town of the country, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site on account of its 19th century Romantic architecture. Sintra has a population of about 30,000 inhabitants and is a major tourist attraction, with many day-trippers visiting from nearby Lisbon. Thanks to our magnificent hosts and friends from The Oslo Blog Gathering: Luis and Helena, we had this adventurous whole day trip and I’ll start with the final destination:
Like the English poet Robert Southey describes Sintra; “The most blessed spot on the whole inhabitable globe”:
From Lisbon to Cabo da Roca and Moorish Castle in Sintra #1 From Lisbon to Cabo da Roca and Moorish Castle in Sintra #2

A noble town surrounded by many estates and pleasant woods – an unusual geography, nestled in a stretch of hills surrounded on all sides by plain, estuary or ocean it has a subsequent climate, perhaps more typical of Northern Europe, so in that sense my wife and I felt it a bit like home:
From Lisbon to Cabo da Roca and Moorish Castle in Sintra #4 From Lisbon to Cabo da Roca and Moorish Castle in Sintra #3

Even more; I do understand that this verdant paradise where ornate palaces lie hidden behind tall trees and walled gardens, abounds with history and attracted romantics and fixed settlers – particularly from the Roman Period.

There are three National Palaces in Sintra:
Palácio da Vila. alias “Chão da Oliva” or the Paço da Vila de Sintra:
From Lisbon to Cabo da Roca and Moorish Castle in Sintra #5
This is a small part from the backside and entrance to the town’s square of this Palace which after the Reconquest from the Romans, passed into the possession of the Crown and was considerably enlarged, not only in the reign of Dom Dinis – who in 1281 laid down that the conservation of the Palace should be entrusted to the enfranchised Moors of Colares -but especially in the reigns of Dom João I (1385-1433) and Dom Manuel (1495-1521).

The second; Palácio da Pena (sorry no pics), is an extravagant yet relatively modern building, erected in the 19th century in accordance with the whims and romantic fantasies of Ferdinand de Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the German husband of the then Queen Maria II. The third is Palácio de Queluz; Begun in 1747 by the Infante Dom Pedro (later to become Dom Pedro III) on the basis of a former country mansion of the Marquises of Castelo Rodrigo, Queluz Palace (classified as a National Monument) at that time began to be adapted for use as a summer seat of the Royal Family.

Also high in the hills, the remains of the Moorish Castle date from the 8th century and marvellous views are attained by walking along the top of its walls:
From Lisbon to Cabo da Roca and Moorish Castle in Sintra #6

Constructed by the Moors in the 8th or 9th Century A.D., this castle is situated on two peaks of the Serra de Sintra, and from its walls there are magnificent views.
From Lisbon to Cabo da Roca and Moorish Castle in Sintra #8

Surrounded by walls and several towers, it underwent various repairs, particularly in the Romantic period (about 1860), when King Consort Fernando of Saxe Coburg-Gotha restored it, afforested the surrounding areas and gave the ancient ruins new dignity.

Cabo da Roca:
Where the land ends and the sea begin” (quota: 16th century Portuguese poet Luís de Camões); this westernmost point on the continent of Europe was known to the Romans as Promontorium Magnum and during the Age of Sail as the Rock of Lisbon. Coordinates: 38” 47′ North and 9” 30′ West – 140 m above sea level:
From Lisbon to Cabo da Roca and Moorish Castle in Sintra #11

Once home to a variety of plant life, Cabo da Roca has been overrun with the invasive plant species Carpobrotus edulis. This creeping, mat-forming succulent species – a member of the Stone Plant family Aizoaceae – was introduced as ground cover by local residents several decades ago, but now covers much of the arable land on Cabo da Roca:
From Lisbon to Cabo da Roca and Moorish Castle in Sintra #12

A whole day trip:
Like I said in the beginning, these are only a few of the highlights from our adventurous trip outside of Lisbon. It’s impossible to cover it all in one post – but mind you; it’s well kept in our mind along with the experience of sharing a whole day; another experience of a life time, with our hosts and precious friends, Helena and Luis. Let me just end with a couple more photo examples:
From Lisbon to Cabo da Roca and Moorish Castle in Sintra #13
One of their favourite beach with Cabo da Roca far behind.

From Lisbon to Cabo da Roca and Moorish Castle in Sintra #10 From Lisbon to Cabo da Roca and Moorish Castle in Sintra #8
Local Sintra pastries at the café to the right – late afternoon before we left

Lucky we, having local friends who would show us some of these traditional, historical and cultural pearls, a bit out of Lisbon too. I hope you’ve got a clue and enjoyed my résumé!

Hot red beach at night is a Scandinavian delight

Pure and natural elements are all exposed on a beach if you add red sky; Earth, Wind, Fire and Water. It reminds me of an old sailor’s saying: “Red at night sailor’s delight, red in the morning sailors take warning“. That’s what I experienced one evening on our favourite beach at our vacation home in Mariestad – another quality time with my wife – and I tried to capture the magic moment:
Red beach night Scandinavian delight - by RennyBA#1

I’m fascinated by the nature and its recreational effect if you take the time to soak in the atmosphere. Is there a better way to charge you’re batteries? Away from the urban stress, the traffic jam and the noisy mall – the beauty in the scenery is abundant (click pics to bigify and enjoy):
Red beach night Scandinavian delight - by RennyBA #2 Red beach night Scandinavian delight - by RennyBA #4
Ducks swimming under the red evening sky
Red beach night Scandinavian delight - by RennyBA #5 Red beach night Scandinavian delight - by RennyBA #8
The endless waves & the path into eternity

In the old times the sailors dependent of the weather and had great respect for nature in its various forms of expression. Long before meteorologists had sophisticated technology to help them predict the weather the sailors made forecasts based on their observations of the sky, animals and nature. The scientific explanation is of course that in the northern hemisphere weather usually moves from west to east:
Fronts which are usually associated with rain have high clouds with them too. As the sun rises in the east, sunlight is reflected by clouds in the west. Because of the way light bends through the atmosphere the light will be red. This will make the clouds in the west, that are heading our way, red. A front is approaching and will usually bring rain.

The significant four seasons:
No matter the science – what fascinates me is the recreational effect and that goes for the significant four seasons too. During the years I have taken photos of this favourite beach of ours many times and in all seasons. The one above was taken this fall in November. Here is some other examples from summer, winter and fall again:
Ekudden Beach - by RennyBA #8
Hot, blue summer beach in June
Fall at Lake Vänern in Sweden - by RennyBA #2 Winter at Lake Vänern in Sweden - by RennyBA #1
Left: Fall 2009 – Right: Winter 2010

One of the best parts of living in Scandinavia is the changing of the seasons and experiencing the nature at different times of year, different times of day and throughout different periods of our lives. Sharing this quality time with my wife doubles the pleasure as she loves the seasons as much as I do and understands my joy in the change and variety. I hope this inspired you to go out and enjoy the nature where you are – to recharge your batteries and enjoy the natural beauty all around us.

Forest Fall Colour photo hunt in Norway

Autumn has arrived with its characteristic blasts of colour over most of Norway. The hills, forests and mountains are ablaze and waiting to welcome hikers, bikers and all who headed off on a photo hunt like DianeCA, my wife and I last weekend. You see thermometers have dipped below the freezing point at night in the Oslo area and the chill is bound to bring forth even more fall colours, as the greenery of summer gives way to the red and gold of autumn. My mind races to past family trips to see the changing of the colours in the woods, especially along lakes. Let me start with one pic from our trip last weekend to give up an idea:
Forest Fall Colour in Norway #1

On our way by car – just 15 min from home – deeper into the forests and up on the hill, we were met with this fairytale scenery of nature’s colours (click pics to bigify & enjoy):
Forest Fall Colour in Norway #6 Forest Fall Colour in Norway #5

The fall colour of the tree is spectacular, showing brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow. This eye-catching occurrence is due to a chemical process that begins as the days get shorter and the temperature drops. At a village and its camping resort by Lake Tyrifjorden (Norway’s fifth largest lake with an area of 137 km2, 295 meters deep at its deepest, and lies 63 meters above sea level), we really got hold of the whole fall colour pallet:
Forest Fall Colour in Norway #8 Forest Fall Colour in Norway #7

During the spring and fall, the leaves use chlorophyll (which gives the green colouring) to capture energy from the sun. When water and carbon dioxide are added to the mix, the trees produce sugars and starch for food. As the temperature drops and the daylight diminishes, the trees stop their food-making process, which causes the chlorophyll to break down and the green pigments to be replaced with oranges and yellows (which were present in small quantities all along).
Enough facts – let’s enjoy the lake windowing this spectacular nature fall paintings:
Forest Fall Colour in Norway #10 Forest Fall Colour in Norway #12
Notice the Kayak below: is it possible to find anything more recreational?
Forest Fall Colour in Norway #13 Forest Fall Colour in Norway #14
Well, fishing for some is quite recreational too:
Forest Fall Colour in Norway #17 Forest Fall Colour in Norway #18

Let me end this colourful report with memories from my family’s weekend expeditions in the good old days. It would mean sweaters, picnic baskets and other gear to make the trip a success. My wife (click here to read her post from the same trip) has obviously had some of the same as this was what she served in these wonderful nature fairytale surroundings:
Forest Fall Colour in Norway #20 Forest Fall Colour in Norway #19Coffee and sandwich ala Diane: Mayo, egg, tomato and mushrooms!

This is what I call a quality time with my wife, in the golden beauty of fall and a good proof of why I love the significant four seasons – to be experienced and explored in the nature; far away from the stressful, urban life – the best way to spend a Sunday and charge you’re batteries.

Mini Cruise on Oslo Fjord in Norway

By ship from the City Hall to the new Opera House, then to Bygdøy Island with Maritime and Viking museum gives an adventures cruise on the Oslo Fjord. A hop on – hop off tour with a double masts motor vessel “Jumfruen” (Eng. Virgin) (build 1917) leaves the harbour at the City Hall every 90 min. from 9:45AM to 15:45PM. That means you can cruise a whole day and at the same time enjoy cultural buildings, museums, beaches on the islands on the fjord with breath taken scenery – all in one day. That’s what my wife DianeCA (click to read her report!) and I did some weekends ago and of course we gladly take you along:

Mini Cruise Oslo Fjord in Norway #1
DianeCA and RennyBA at “Jomfruen” on the Oslo Fjord.

Let the cruise begin from Oslo harbour:
Mini Cruise Oslo Fjord in Norway #3 Mini Cruise Oslo Fjord in Norway #2
Left: The boat gangplank – Right: 90 years old boat “Jumfruen”
Mini Cruise Oslo Fjord in Norway #4
Oslo City Hall
Mini Cruise Oslo Fjord in Norway #5 Mini Cruise Oslo Fjord in Norway #6
Left: Passing Akershus Fortress – Right: The view of the city from the fjord.


The New Oslo Opera House:
First stop is the largest single cultural-political initiative in contemporary Norway. It’s an extraordinary building that rises directly from beneath the fjord – like an iceberg. The white marble clad roofs cape forms a large public space in the landscape of the city and the fjord. I’ve made lots of posts from this building: the only Opera House where you can walk on the roof. Here is a couple for you to click and enjoy: ‘Oslo Opera House recreational Culture for the People’ and ‘New Oslo Opera House in Norway’.
Mini Cruise Oslo Fjord in Norway #8 Mini Cruise Oslo Fjord in Norway #7


The islands on the Oslo Fjord:
10 minutes from pulsating urban city life; the boat takes you to the nicest island countryside. Bring your bathing suit in the summer time to enjoy a nice swim in the fjord to experience the recreational contrast:
Mini Cruise Oslo Fjord in Norway #9
Cruising The Oslo Fjord
Mini Cruise Oslo Fjord in Norway #11 Mini Cruise Oslo Fjord in Norway #10

Bygdøy Island; Maritime and Viking Ship Museum:
After 30 minutes more cruise, the next stop is Bygdøy Island:
Mini Cruise Oslo Fjord in Norway #12
Harbour at the Fram Museum; the boat Roald Amundsen used for the South Pole expedition in 1911.


Thousands of years of culture and history is to be explored at Bygday in a walking distance, e.g. : The Maritime Museum, Kon-Tiki Museum, The Viking Ship Museum, and The Museum of Cultural History.

The end of the cruise:
In 30 minutes from the last stop at Bygdøy, you are back at the harbour by the City hall. There you can:
Mini Cruise Oslo Fjord in Norway #13 Mini Cruise Oslo Fjord in Norway #14
Buy fresh steamed shrimp at the fish market or dine at many of the restaurants at Aker Brygge.


Oslo Blog Gathering 2010:

visitOSLOThis is an example of how you can enjoy a 90 minutes cruise at Oslo Fjord or hop off at some or the stops to explore and make it a whole day cultural and relaxing adventure. Not only is Oslo a compact city, but you can enjoy a cruise or hike in the mountain, just from the city’s doorstep. Participants in next years Oslo Blog Gathering get the Oslo Pass with free travel on all public transport, free admission to museums and sights – even 15% on this Mini Cruise! Go check the Official Gathering site and mark your calendar for a trip to Norway in August next year!

Scandinavian fall season at Göta Canal in Sweden

Autumn in Scandinavia offers colourful scenery – a proof of the significant four seasons. Photo hunting for the natural golden beauty of fall, I had another quality time with my wife in the local area around in our vacation home in Mariestad, Sweden. I had my Nokia N82 mobile phone at hand of course, and gladly share some of the fall beauty with you. In the spirit of my blog, let’s learn something from this sight seeing too:

The Göta Canal:
Build between 1810 and 1832 to facilitate the transport of good for export; it’s one of the largest civil engineering projects ever undertaken in Sweden. Its stretches from Mem at the east coast to Sjötorp on Lake Vanern:

Fall at Göta Canal in Sweden #2 Fall at Göta Canal in Sweden #1

The canal has a length of 190 kilometres and a total of 58 locks of this distance, 87 kilometres are man made and in combination with the Trolhätta canal, the Göta Canal connects Stockholm with Gôteborg. A total of 58,000 soldiers took part in its construction:
Fall at Göta Canal in Sweden #4 Fall at Göta Canal in Sweden #3

Throughout the 19th century the canal continued to be a very important transport route for both goods and passengers. Today it is one of Sweden’s best known tourist attractions and has been named the Swedish construction of the millennium.

Lyrestad harbour store house:
The harbour storehouse dates from the time when Lyrestad was an important transhipping centre. It is said that it was build of demolition timber from the canal labourers barracks at Norrkvarn. It was not unusual to reuse timber from the barracks which were no longer required after the canal was completed:
Fall at Göta Canal in Sweden #6
Lyrestad harbour storehouse in fall.
Fall at Göta Canal in Sweden #7 Fall at Göta Canal in Sweden #8

Lake Vänern:
The largest lake in Sweden and the third largest lake in Europe, located in the provinces of Västergötland, Dalsland, and Värmland. It covers an area of 5,655 km², located at 44 m above sea level and is on average 27 m deep and the maximum depth is 106 m. Basically all common fresh water fish are found in Lake Vänern. Our vacation home town, Mariestad, is call the Pearl of Lake Vänern – here is one of the reasons why:
Fall at Lake Vänern in Sweden #2 Fall at Lake Vänern in Sweden #4
Ekudden beach at Lake Vänern in Fall
Fall at Lake Vänern in Sweden #1 Fall at Lake Vänern in Sweden #3

I feel a special attachment to this last beach on Vänern. Today we were discussing how we have had all our loved ones at this beach, throughout all the seasons of the year. We have walked on the ice in winter, taken early spring picnics, swimming in the middle of summer and enjoy the fiery colour of fall. Season after season year after year we come back to this spot for peace and tranquillity. That is what enjoying the four seasons and the nature is all about, the possibility of embracing it all in the company of the people you most enjoy being with.

Update:
I told you this was a quality time together with my wife. Go and see the results from DianeCA’s photo hunt!