Australia and Oceania, Europe · 34 Days · 33 Moments · June 2017

Philip and Robin Europe 2017

9 July 2017

Our last three days of walking were in temperatures much better suited to hiking at altitude with lots of ascents and descents. Still just wearing shorts, but with the back ups on the backpack of puffer vest, wooden sweater and gortex jacket. Second to last day was a doozie with fog, rain, wind, and to finish Enrico our guide took the boys and me rock hopping for almost 500m across a landslide followed by a steep pathway. When you are a bit weary after a longish day it was somewhat perilous. Concentration slips, foot slips, ankle twisted and it could have been a helicopter ride to be taken out.

25 June 2017

Today was to be much harder than yesterday, so I was going to stick with the other girls and take a rest day. The weather provided a rest day for all of us with thunder and lightning as we breakfasted, so after a long transfer the nine of us arrived at the Top of The World. I fear Australian Motor Transport Dept would not have been happy with a vehicle which had 9 seats being packed with ten! Four ladies in the second row of seats without seat belts for an almost hour long drive. We then had an incredibly steep cable car ride to the Refugio where four of us were sleeping. The other 4 took the cable car back to the base to walk to their Refugio. The scenery was incredible - the high crags soaring into the sky with puffs of clouds (which had provided the rain)in their depths. And looking out the window we could watch birds soar as they caught thermals.

23 June 2017

We have a very expensive transfer to the starting point of our walk whilst our luggage heads off on its own. Our guide Enrico tells us that the weather is unusually hot. We certainly notice it is hot. We all set off together but separate during the morning, three to our next Rifugio, and five plus guide taking a more circuitous route. I am finding the walking more challenging than Tour de Mont Blanc - some of that may be a less than rigorous training programme, some may be the heat. The scenery is dramatic with jagged mountains reaching high at every point. I do not find it as beautiful as the French Alps but it is undoubtedly spectacular. A lot of our walking is above the tree line so is denuded of greenery. However a bit lower there have been gorgeous wildflowers. I frequently stop to admire them which has the second advantage of allowing me to catch my breath.

22 June 2017

Whoops. Need to catch up. We have rendezvous-ed with our fellow hikers in Cortina, a pretty town about 2 hours south of Venice. Yesterday we did a rigorous walk around Three Peaks in hot sun. I had not anticipated that we were doing anything taxing and had gone out wearing a denim skirt and sleeveless embroidered blouse. Fortunately threw my hiking shoes in. I was ok but pretty hot by the time we got back.

21 June 2017

We had a sensational few days staying with our friends Mike and Bobbi at their holiday home in Andratx, Majorca. It was a wonderful respite from the days of being dutiful tourists, and before we went hiking in the Dolomites. We did not much more than sit around the pool, eat, read and a couple of walks. Hard to take!

19 June 2017

More sardines

18 June 2017

Now at Lisbon airport after a very early start This touristing business is hard work. I am so far behind our actives,but should be able to catch up as our next few days are being spent visiting our friends Bobbi and Mike in Andratx, Majorca. I do not think we need to do much touring there. Looking forward to sitting beside the pool and reading a book. Very sad to be leaving Portugal. We have had a wonderful time here, and both feel that it has far exceeded our expectations. A lot of that is due to the delightful populace. But we have universally been impressed with the quality of hotels, of food, and the red wine. And a dollar goes a long way. I am also delighted to report that i had my bag weighed when we checked in - under 18 kg. It includes my laptop which I brought with me as hand luggage but it has been displaced by a hand paiated Portuguese platter. I must admit that my hiking shoes and clothes are in a bag which remained in the car while we toured

17 June 2017


11 June 2017

We headed off to Braga, the ecclesiastical powerhouse of Portugal. It has wide streets and a general feel of orderliness and calm. Surprisingly, given its reason for the existence, Philip loved the town. Being a Sunday everyone was out in their best bib and tucker off to meet family or friends for lunch. I just wish I had had the front to ask the vestrymen who were keeping an eye that the visitors to the cathedral behaved with appropriate decorum. We stopped briefly at Guimaraes, a town with a medieval old town, largely intact, before heading to one of the most beautiful hotels we have ever stayed in. It had a one star Michelin restaurant but we had not booked, thinking it not necessary as we were guests, but sadly they were booked out and we ended up having g our worst meal whilst in Portugal. But I must say the hotel was compensation.
We grabbed the trusty Skoda and headed to check in to our hotel, an absolute delight. Elegant in a very modern way with interesting use of wall colours, interesting art on the walls. What every good hotel should be. And made more interesting because many of the young staff are trainees from the local hospitality college. We went for a walk in this part of Porto and found our way to the magnificent Majestic Cafe. I have never seen a more over-the-top art nouveau interior. The blue and white azulejo tiles are the interior of the train station in Porto. A Portuguese nationalists' pride as they illustrate scenes of the glory in Portuguese history.

10 June 2017

Again the peace keeper stood us in good stead and negotiated us to within an easy walk of the market despite this being a large sprawling city. However it was with great disappointment we found that the market, where the local farmers bring their produce to sell, was closed being Portugal Day. Porto captivated me. Everywhere you turned there was something amazing, architecturally, to see. We wandered just feasting our eyes. Imagine our amazement when we turned around and found ourselves seeing fellow members of our old ski club. Of course a drink was in order, so we spent an hour catching up on news.
The University of Coimbra was relocated from Lisbon at the end of 16th century, making it one of the oldest universities in Europe. After a quick breakfast at a pastelaria we climbed the steep steps (there are lots of those in the very hilly country) to the University area. Being Saturday there was not much action with students, but again a huge number of tourists despite being just 9 o'clock. The university quarter has many splendid old, old buildings but most impressive of all is the baroque library, one of the world's most resplendent. It was built in the early 18th century with rooms rich in gilt and exotic wood, and lined with 300,000 books. We made a pretty quick exit from Coimbra as we suddenly realised that being Saturday the market in Porto, our next stop, would close early.

9 June 2017

Our night was to be spent in Coimbra, the home of Portugal's leading university. I did not make a great call with this hotel as despite being well-located and having a spacious bedroom it was a hotel suited for business/tour groups. Soulless. However I made a great choice with the restaurant. Tiny with a great atmosphere, the menu was so appealing it was hard to make a choice. I ended up with duck breast served with rostei and puréed peas, and Phil "feed the man meat" had the beef Wellington. We were again wowed my the Portuguese tinto. Oh, and talk about coincidence our waiter (who we think is a partner in the restaurant) knows well both the restaurant manager and the sommelier at Vue de Monde. All Portuguese of course.
It was with some sadness that we departed Sintra Boutique Hotel, our home for the last three nights, but there was more of Portugal to explore. We headed north to Obidos, the medieval walled city traditionally given to Portuguese queens as a wedding gift. Very charming with a tiny, narrow main street lined with medieval houses painted in pastels where you ran the gamut of a plethora of shops selling identical tourist crap and were elbowed out of the way by the fifty million other tourists who had arrived on the fifty thousand tour buses parked below the town. It still was charming despite the description. The we had some serious sight-seeing to do : two medieval monasteries : Alcobaça and Batalha. Philip waived his normal one church per day rule as we were never going to get a second chance. We fund the austerity of their interiors very appealing, and the grandeur of[ their proportions awe inspiring.

8 June 2017

Today we collected our transport for the next week - a Skoda - and visited two Palacios Nacional in reasonably close proximity to Sinitra. Both were built as a result of the money flowing in from Brazilian gold. Mafra's library made the visit worthwhile, a most beautiful room, and Queluz had many rooms still furnished as they were when the royal family used this as a summer palace. A great audio guide made this very interesting. As we had finished our plans for the day we then headed to the seaside resort town of Cascais where I finally got my. I was going to say heart's desire, but really my stomach's, and found a restaurant which served grilled sardines. Doublr yum!

7 June 2017

Sintra is a picturesque Portuguese town set amidst the pine-covered hills of the Serra de Sintra. This hilly and slightly cooler climate enticed the nobility and elite of Portugal of nineteenth century to construct exquisite palaces, extravagant residences and decorative gardens. We walked from town through the lush grounds of Vila Sasetti, a 300 m elevation, which was a good training session with the thought of the Dolomites' hike looming. Pena Palace is not to be missed if In this part of the world. It almost outdoes Disneyworld in its extravagance, and the acres of gardens attached are just gorgeous and immaculately maintained by a team of 30 gardeners.

5 June 2017

I was very proud of my bag : just over a month and, though not exactly carry on, with quite a lot of forethought and lots of judicious culling, it weighed in very light. And you can see it is certainly not straining at its seams. I must admit that my hiking shoes and one packing cube of hiking clothes are in a separate bag. We will see how I manage in the sartorial stakes as the days pass.