Back to the Homeland

One thing that many of you may not know is that I was born and spent the first 5 years of my life in Lisbon.  Up to my teenage years, I would go back most summers and spend a couple of months with my grandmother.  My last visit, however, was back in the 90's when my grandmother passed away.

São Jorge Castle in Lisbon

I had been meaning to return but it was one of those things that just kept being put off until “next year”.  And now here we are, over 20 years later, and I finally made it back.

Praça do Comércio in Lisbon

This was not without an impetus, however.  My parents have a house there which they used to go to for a few months each year but my mom had not returned since my dad’s passing.  She felt it was now time to go back so I joined her for a couple of weeks, more for moral support than anything else.

Dom Carlos I Park in Caldas da Rainha

Between visits with family, there was not a whole lot of time for sightseeing, but I did get in a few days.  Unfortunately, there was a heat wave during those days with temperatures in the 30's(C)/90's(C).  I seem to have the WORST luck with that - heat waves seem to strike more often than not when I'm traveling 🙄.

Foz do Arelho beach
This is one of my favourite beaches.  There's a lovely town to wander through &
crystal clear waters for swimming in the calm, shallow lagoon....
or the more adventurous can venture further down the beach to the ocean.

I was enthralled by this aquaduct in Óbidos (built over 400 years ago)
that ran fresh water to the castle

Wandering the streets within the castle walls at Óbidos.
I was dissuaded from walking the perimeter of the castle
along top the walls by the high temps that day - it's on my list for next time.

Jerónimos Monastery
Construction on this marvel of antiquity started in 1501
and was not finished until exactly 100 years later.

The beach at Cascais
Belém Tower, circa 1514
Limited time and another scorcher of a day meant that
I wasn't willing to wait the hour or so in line to get into the time.

While the roads and how people drove were not as bad as I recall, there were a few white knuckle moments, such as when we were going up the mountain in Caramulo, twisting and turning, with no guardrails and cliff-like drops right beside the road.  I didn't say anything to my cousin who was driving the car, but I was mentally willing him to slow down as I clenched the seat.

Serra do Caramulo
Photos simply don't do justice to the sweeping views

I also noticed that stop signs, especially in rural areas, were merely a suggestion - even for buses.  Unless another vehicle was coming, they would barely slow down before barreling through 😬.

I prefer rail to bus travel, but I must say that the inter-city buses are super comfortable - the equivalent to Greyhound here in North America except that they are not limited to long distance traveling as many folks use them every day to get to work in a neighbouring town.

Other than the occasional McDonald's and Burger King, I was surprised to see that a lot had remained unchanged.

Strolling through café-lined, pedestrian only areas is 
always a favourite pastime when I travel

The best meals I had were no doubt the homemade ones when visiting relatives, but there were also a lot of café treats (too many perhaps??? nahh…😉)

The Pastéis de Belém bakery has been serving this delicious treat by the same name for over 180 years
(it's still run by descendents of the original owners!).  I found them to be just a bit lighter than the
traditional "Pastel de Nata" that you see throughout Portugal - scrumptious!

One thing that was different was the distinct lack of trolleys.  Growing up, we constantly took these and I recall that each had a "ticket" guy.  You would get on the trolley & sit down, the ticket guy would go up to you and you would tell him where you were going.  The tickets were all different colours (and prices) depending on how far you were going - he would pick the right ticket and punch it with some type of hole puncher....ahhhh memories.

There are now only 4 original trolley lines left in Lisbon which is a real shame as I find them to be a much more interesting way to get around.  The multi-coloured tickets and "ticket guy" have been replaced by an electronic scanner where most folks scan their passes.  The trolleys do still ding their bell, though, as they are going through the streets - such a nostalgic sound!

After an awesome (albeit a bit squished) ride on this trolley,
I snapped a quick pic after we all got off at the end of the line.
#28 is one of the 4 remaining trolley routes in Lisbon

September isn’t the best time in Portugal when it comes to gardens as most things are really finishing up, but I did get a few shots of some particularly lovely blooms.

I didn’t forget about my own garden while I was there, however, and made a point of going to a small, local seed store where I purchased 12 packets of seed.

I thoroughly enjoyed my stint in Portugal but am glad to be back home and in my own garden.  Leaving the garden for an extended period of time is always tricky and I did end up losing a few things - most notable were the tomatoes which were on their last legs due to blight.  Not an unexpected find as the weather was wet and cool while I was away.  Thankfully, one of the exceptionally vigorous Mexico Midgets still has a lot of green growth, which means the harvest is not quite over yet:

Mostly Mexico Midget with a few Gardener's Delight and Black Cherry thrown in...

I'm now in the middle of a thorough clean-up – I still have a pile of mulch on the driveway to get through – and I’d better get to it before the temperatures really start to dip and I have to break out the winter gloves 😬


  1. We used to have ticket sellers on our buses which did a similar thing. They were called bus conductors. They often wore gloves with cut out fingers and had little machines that churned out tickets when a handle was turned on the side. When you wanted to get off you shouted “Next stop please” and the conductive rang a bell to tell the driver to stop. Now the driver sells tickets or scans passes and the bus can’t start on its journey ‘til everyone has paid.

    Portugal is one Western European country that I have never visited.

    1. It's little things like that which create the best memories and nostalgia. You are close enough that even a long weekend in Lisbon would be doable!

  2. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us, Margaret. It's always an experience to return back to "home" however you define that.

    1. So true - the plane made it's approach along the coast just before dawn and it was such a beautiful sight with all the twinkling lights. It actually brought tears to my eyes.

  3. Portugal looks idyllic! Spain is definitely on my bucket list, but I can see that Portugal would be equally lovely and fascinating. Thanks for sharing the views of the cities and the landscapes. You're lucky to still have relatives over there. :)

    1. It really is so lovely - and only a short train ride from Spain ;) Wish I had made the effort to go sooner than this, though - unfortunately, a lot of relatives that I have fond memories of growing up are no longer with us.

  4. Hi Margaret, What a wonderful place to visit. I am glad that you and your Mom could go back there together. I am glad that your garden didn't suffer too much and what fun you will have next year with your new seeds! Nancy

    1. Thanks Nancy! I'm really looking forward to trying out the seeds I purchased - then I'll have to break out the Portuguese cookbooks for a true taste of my childhood :)

  5. What a lovely visit that must have been, tinged with sadness though for the family that is missing. It's a shame about the heatwave, it's nice to have some good weather but you don't feel like doing as much as you would when it's too hot. Still, it seems as though you managed to see plenty and visit lots of old haunts. Seeds are great souvenirs, the plants they grow into will remind you of your trip.

    1. When it comes to sightseeing, I can handle the cold a lot better than the heat. I missed out on quite a bit because of it, not only foregoing certain spots but also not taking as much time as I would have liked. I'm really looking forward to next season and trying out some of my purchases - growing veg from seeds obtained when traveling or from friends just gives me such a special feeling.

  6. Portugal is one of the places I've always wanted to go. In college I had a friend named Ruy Teixeira whose father was once the Portugese ambassador (that's what he said, anyway - his mother was American). Too bad about the trolleys. I think Pastel de Nata was one of the things they had to cook for the Great British Baking Show.

    1. You certainly have friends in high places, Jason! I should look up that show - Pastais de Nata are one of the few things that are never homemade, so it would be interesting to see the process.

  7. It sounds like you had a great time despite the hot weather. It seems like there's always gardening waiting to be done when we get home though, isn't there!

    1. It was a great time - I'm looking forward to going back at some point with my family & leisurely re-visiting many of these spots, hopefully during more amenable weather!

  8. Sorry about the tomatoes, Margaret, but this wonderful trip was so important and there's always next year for your garden. I'll be interested to see how you make out with your seeds. P. x

    1. Thanks Pam - I haven't tallied up my harvest this year yet but I think we did ok, overall, on the total tomato harvest. It would have been nice to keep the supply of fresh tomatoes going for a bit longer, though. And yes, I can't wait to try these seeds next year!


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