614-615: Setubal Peninsula

614 – Tuesday 31st January 2017:  On the Move Again – To Setubal

It rained!  And we packed up (wish I’d taken down the washing line yesterday!) and left our home of 15 nights.  Whilst nothing like as clean and cared for as Turiscamp in Lagos, Lisboa Camping has serviced pitches, the best hot and high pressured showers and helpful staff.  Handy for Ikea and a shopping mecca (if that’s your thing), the airport (and we did several trips there with picking up the hire car, Alison’s visit and my trip home), a bus into town or a short taxi hop around EUR10 with a dog!

Having not done a major shop for 15 days, something to do with a number of good lunches out, our cupboards were bare.  We headed for Palmela, a hill top village with the must-have-as-all-towns-do-castle, a Lidl and LPG.  Leaving the Boys in Jez, I filled a trolley, approached the till and realised how out of practice in shopping I am … I’d left my wallet in Jez.  Quick phone call to J to ask him to bring it to me.  No – not going to happen.  He’d damaged his back wiping Oscar’s paws.  I found him leaning over the kitchen in more pain than I’ve ever seen him (bar the massive dislocation of his shoulder).  Alternate Ibuprofen and Paracetamol and a heat pad administered.  And I did get back to pay for the full trolley load.  Next stop was diesel and LPG.  With having emptied grey and black waste, filled with fresh water … we are in a state of utopia … everything full that should be and everything empty that should be.   Just the slight issue of J’s back pain.

Rather than attempt to park near Palmela town, which looked narrow with no ‘spotter’ to assist with parking, and it was in the clouds so the promised views would not have delivered, we headed towards Setubal (pronounced Stubal!).  I recognised a car park from one of the parking apps we use as we drove past and pulled in.  Really handy for the town.  Whilst J rested, I donned waterproof trousers etc and wandered Setuba with O.  I KNOW the weather makes a BIG difference, but Setubal was pretty uninspiring.  A number of recent attempts by the council to ‘prettify’, and yet a lot of run-down and high rise areas.  In search of something ‘pretty’ I found the colourful fishing harbour, Igreja de Jesus (truly special) and the Bull fight Torre (not even photo worthy) and a couple of parks with odd sculptures and one with an EU funded helipad (!).  About to give up and write off Setubal, I wandered back via the old town.  A number of narrow dirty streets with cafes and men hanging about on corners, but then into the old town proper.  Lovely squares and charming shopping streets.  So in conclusion, worth a half day visit and judging by the size of the small boat fishing fleet and the number of fish restaurants, good for lunch.

J still in a lot of pain, so we opted to stay put in our car park overnight.  We were one of 8 ‘vans.

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Run down and high rises.

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In the middle of a roundabout … wonder if these damsels have a mermaid effect and cause accidents.

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Aah … the Igreja de Jesus.  Designed in 1494, pink Arrabida (local) stone … the first Manueline style edifice.  Looks great ….

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… but surrounded all round by graffiti.

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Dodgy pic, as I had to take this from the doorway, whilst trying to keep O just about outside.  But the twisted columns and the tiles really were something.

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One of the parks … another area had plastic flying dolphins.

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The Spanish star shaped fortress is just visible through the mist.

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615 – More Moscatel

Oscar and I walked along the front away from the town this morning and the sun was out in force.  Favourable impressions of Setubal improving.  On our return the fishing harbour was ‘bustling’ with men hanging about and chatting … no doubt about where today’s best catch might come from.

We’d booked another Moscatel tour and tasting, but Jose Maria de Fonseca is right in the middle of Vila Nogueira de Azeitao town with no room for Jez.  Having parked a little outside the town, I walked to Fonseca to apologise that two people had become one.  No problem … I had a one-to-one tour with an excellent English speaking young lady.  Not a lot to see compared to the Bachaloa tour we did with Alison, but very good value at only EUR3.  


Jose Maria de Fonseca started the winery in 1834 on land he claimed as a debt.  Daddy was in tobacco so funded the start up.  I had not realised that the vines produce some grapes in year 1, but a decent crop in year 2.  In only 3 years did Fonseca not produce wines:  2 years during the Spanish Civil War as Salazar the dictator sent troops and supplies to support Franco and 1 year during the Second World War … despite being neutral, Portugal sent supplies to both sides and wine was not considered a staple!


Unusually the 8th generation of family still own the winery, although they no longer carry the Fonseca name.  The family lived in this house until 1970s.  Now most of the family are in Lisbon, but the chief wine maker lives locally.


One of the earlier bottle filling machines … 4 bottles a minute.


Whilst French and American Oak barrels are used (foreground), these beautiful big’uns are made of Brazilian mahogany.  They impart no flavour to the Moscatel.  The Oak barrels are only used for so many years fto flavour the red wine and then moved to storing Moscatel.


A Fonseca chandelier hanging in one of the cellars …


… casting the Fonseca emblem on the floor.


My two glass tasting … the Periquita red was the first Portuguese table wine to be bottled.

Being so close to the restaurant which we ate at with Alison  (recommended by Bachaloa), it seemed silly not to stop by … so we did.  Again we started with the local DOP Azietao cheese, followed by codfish, potato and cream bake and chicken baked in orange … again yummy.


We passed Sesimba on the way to our overnight destination, so again I left J resting whilst O and went to discover, and I quote: “the old town is a maze of steep narrow streets with the Santiago Fort (now a customs post) in the centre overlooking the sea”.  Well, at least O got a run on the beach!  Very ordinary … perhaps it comes alive in summer when the Lesbians (darned predictive Applespeak) – Lisboans – flock here.  Perhaps I should change guide books and predictive!?


Sesimba:  the fort is the bit jutting out and break the beach into two.

Our overnight destination is another peninsula: Cabo Espichel.  Sheer cliffs dropping into the sea on a windy and bleak outcrop. A good few miles from anywhere and Pilgrims flocked here from C13 after a local ’saw’ the Madonna coming our of the sea astride a mule … no mention of her clothing ore perhaps she covered her modesty with her hair (Lady Godiva perhaps)!   Between 1701-1707 the impressive Santuario de Nossa Senhora do Cabo was built and Pilgrims were accommodated in the rooms either side that you see below.


Back home each of these arches would now contain a craft shop or cafe.  Here some roofs were falling in and all windows bricked up. Actually I prefer this natural state.



No photos inside, but it had stunningly worked statues in each alcove and the ceiling was painted in 1740 by Lorenzo da Cunha, considered one of the best fresco painters in his time … this ceiling is the only of his work to have survived the 1755 earthquake.


This is all that remains of the Opera House, where the Pilgrims were entertained, often by travelling Italian troupes.


View across the the lighthouse, where O and I walked, avoiding two lads on quad bikes.


Looking back to the monastery … you may make out a tiny black dot on the top of the cliff.  Some muppet has ignored common sense, all the signs about the strong wind and risk of falling and crossed the barrier to stand right on the edge!


Just below the lighthouse … a derelict military installation complete with concrete gun installations … not sure why or when. 


Jez is in the centre of the pic and tonight we are blissfully alone with just the wind (not just Oscar’s snoring) for company.

613: Of Shape and Form

613 – Monday 30th January 2017:  Shape and Form

Oscar on the dash the night we were out … he watches for our return.  Our worry now is not so much that he might act as a guard dog, but that we’ll come home to find a broken window and a missing hound.

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James had made contact with the MD of the Lisbon crossings for a visit, so we had separate days.

J’s day:  Vasca da Gama Bridge Tour

I had met Firmino Sa a number of times during my 15 years as GM/CEO of Severn River Crossing Plc – I emailed him in the hopes of a Bridge visit. We arranged it for Monday and K, O and I travelled in to the massive Expo site – more about that below.  Firmino and his colleague Jose took me on a tour under and over the 17 km long Vasco de Gama bridge – hugely impressive structure and pretty identical to the Second Severn Crossing.  A tour of the Lusoponte offices and Bridges Control room was followed by lunch in Alcochete – a superb restaurant and the most magnificent fish dish Groupa – 4 courses and good chat about old friends from the worldwide bridge community – sadly some no longer with us.  Firmino has promised me contact details for the folks at the Rion Antirion Bridge in Athens for our planned trip next Winter.

K’s day: Parque das Nacoes

Using my phone walking App I explored the site of Expo ’98.  Our taxi driver told us that before the Expo there had been nothing there and after the businesses kept on coming and building.  J and I parted at the station and met up 4 hours later outside the massive shopping mall.  Oscar had a fine time, as he was mostly off the lead and I had a fine time taking pix … so apologies there are so many!


Ground level of the Gare do Oriente: one of the world’s largest transit stations and the busiest in Portugal with over 75 million passenger annually.


Gare do Oriente:  The roof is made of steel and glass and the design resembles a row of trees.


Gare do Oriente:  It is designed to keep cool in summer.


Looking across from the Gare do Oriente to the shopping centre … I love all the lines and curves.


No idea what this structure is supposed to represent, but it heads a very long line of what must be all the world’s flags.


The Vasco da Gama Tower was opened on the 500th anniversary of Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India and in time for Expo ’98.  It is 145m tall and the shape resembles the sail of a Portuguese Caravel sailing ship.  Much of the Expo ’98 architecture celebrates the Portuguese naval heritage.  The hotel was bolted on after.


Looking up the Vasco da Gama Tower.


The Vasco da Gama bridge was inaugurated at Expo ’98.  The longest bridge in Europe and the 9th longest in the world at 17.2 km long.  In the mist, it disappeared into the horizon.


The round space ship structure is the MEO Arena with a 2000 capacity and the largest indoor arena in Portugal.  Used during Expo ’98 for Oceans and Utopias … ocean themed artistic, scientific and historical exhibitions. Now use door concerts and sport events.  Spot Oscar loose.


Crossing walkways.


The side of the Portugal Pavilion.  



To celebrate the relationship of Lisbon, Portugal and the sea, the Oceanarium was built for Expo ’98.  It is designed to resemble an aircraft carrier!




The Wave with engravings of sponsors outside the Marina.


Another view of the V da G tower and bridge.  The dots on the left are a shore side cable car … I checked … no dogs, ice creams or drinks!


The Portugal Pavilion.  The sagging roof was intended (not poor workmanship!) – it is symbolic of billowing sails … that nautical theme again.  It weighs 1,400 tons, and has an area of 167 x 223 square feet.  Since Lisbon is earthquake prone, high density cables hold the roof in place as well as other support systems.


Not really the weather for bathing!  And certainly not in the nude!!!


I guess all these marble maidens embarked from the marble ship.


Peering through one of the garden areas to the bridge.

607-612: Alfama Revisited and a Trip “Home”

607 – Tuesday 24th January 2017:  Chores and a Night Out!

I drove Alison to Lisboa Aeroporto at about 8:00 am – turned neatly to avoid a traffic queue on the Ring Road – and oops – it was the Airport turning.  Never mind (I thought) – we will re-route….. we did get to the Terminal Building right on time. Hired car returned – we would drive a Ford Fiesta any time again…

K swung the Jez twin tub into action and the laundry flowed nicely.  We decided to walk to Ikea to buy a clothes rack – why?  Because it’s the Ikea experience?  Now I escaped from Ikea twice in my life – it wasn’t easy – they have this arrow system to guide you to every single department – try defeating it – you need GPS – and balls!!!  We followed the arrows and made our purchase meekly.

A date with Delia and the O’Riain family at a rooftop bar in downtown Lisbon – spectacular night-time views over the City and the 25th April Bridge.  Later for a snifter – a kooky bar where 1960s pop music videos played.

On our return, Oscar was patiently sitting on the dashboard – he doesn’t miss much, our K9.  And the coats were once more on the ground.

608 – Wednesday 25th:  Alfama Revisited

Courtesy of K’s Iphone App, we had a walking tour of the Alfama district – wonderful narrow cobbled streets and the real Lisbon life – not totally unlike the back streets of Napoli…

Lunch outside on the street terrace of a small restaurant. I got chatting to an American lady from Denver with an English white Labrador – we talked about the logistics of taking dogs to the USA – she mentioned her dog sitter – whom she called her “dogger”!!!   I just about refrained from enquiring about tasteful ‘exhibitionist’ sites in Denver…  a language problem, doubtless.

Another lovely day in Lisboa…


Igreja da conceicao Velha:  one of the oldest churches in Portugal.


At the lunch restaurant.  9 years in the dripping.


looking across to the Monastery of Sao Vicente de Flora.



A wider Alfama street, with washing and tiled houses.


And a little narrower … a lot of steep slopes and steps.

K here … The Church Sao Vincente de Fora was large and not to our taste.  It’s most striking feature was a massive, heavy, dark Baroque canopy over the alter – quite hideous and in the same style as the one in St Peter’s Basilica Rome.  I left the ever faithful hound and James (both ever faithful and patient!) whilst I went into the monastery, which really was worth visiting.  Unfortunately it was too near to closing time, so J did not get to go in.


The ancient cistern.


It is known for its blue C18 azulejos in every room and all around both floors of both cloisters.


A Reliquary chest contain the remains of 7 Portuguese and Spanish missionaries killed in Morocco in 1585.


The two tiers of one of the cloisters with the blue tiles.


The monastery is the last resting place of the Monarchs of the House of Braganza.  A stone woman praying by the tombs of King Carlos I and his son Luis Felipe assassinated in 1908.


 It really gives a WOW factor as you walk into the Pantheon (so I’ve learned that the definition is a group of famous or important people … here all dead!)


On top of the Church’s roof looking across to the Castello Sao Jorge.


And across to the 25th April bridge and the Cristo Rei – modelled on the Rio de Janeiro one and commissioned 1949-59 by the dictator Salazar.

Barbecue on site in the evening – accompanied by the traditional firedog…

(A little gem of kindness – K was talking to the site security manager about locations for pet shops – Oscar will need a fresh supply of food soon. He immediately offered to order some online from his home and have it delivered to the campsite!  Portuguese people are the soul of generosity.)

609 – Thursday 26th:  Is this Rain I see Before Me?

Somehow the dewfall migrated from the grass on to the roof and windows of the van – unbelievable!  Or is it rain? The second time in 2 months in Portugal… This led to a slow start and some jobs around our home – to prepare K for her UK Winter experience for the next 2 days – arctic thermals at the ready!

610-612 – Friday 27th to Sunday 29th:   K With Munchkin and the Aged P’s

K here.  An early flight at 7.15: flight and train easy.  A quick chat with the Aged P’s as they are resident at Clare and Chris’ house minding the dogs and children (when they are not out socialising – the teenagers that is!) whilst the C’s are off gallivanting under the guise of doing jobs in their French house … yes, I heard about the wine tasting :).  Our car sits on the drive and Dad drives it and services it for us.  He’d even pumped up the tyres yesterday for me.  I know, I am spoilt!   Maddy Munchkin was at work and not expected till 6.30, so I did shopping for e cigarette juice for J, wool for me and food for supper for M and I.  I wallowed in the bath whilst listening to Little Women – an unabridged version and over 17 hours of listening.  I haven’t even got to the part where Beth dies but I managed to add to the bath water level with a few weepy bits.  M and I gorged chicken, chocolate and cheese and watched Maggie Smith in “Lady in a Van” … she really is the most amazing actor.  Went to bed with a sore over full tummy.


My Munchkin!

On Saturday we went to the Swindon Outlet shopping centre as I needed a coat that is warm and waterproof and a pair of ankle boots.  I’d worn the old, not warm nor waterproof jacket and old running shoes home so I could leave them behind … forward planning eh?  Between us we managed to come away with a coat and jumper each, a top and boots for me 🙂  And we managed to stay and shop despite the crowds as it was the last day of the sales … we neither of us like crowds.  I stepped away from the £325 Musto bright orange coat … Maddy objected to the colour, which I loved, but I passed on the grounds of it being more suited to arctic weather, which we mostly tend to avoid.


Was it an early start Maddy? 


Amazing to have caught the Aged P’s in the country … apparently 2016 saw them away from home 188 nights … they are currently on about 10 days home between S.A. and Las Palmas!

Supper at at Clare and Chris’ house with the dogs … and on Sunday the Aged P’s dropped me at Guildford to avoid the BR replacement bus.  I was back home with “My Boys” by 1.30.  Great to see Munchkin and the Aged P’s, and good to be home again.

A pottering afternoon.  Full justification in bringing a twin tub with us … forced to use the campsite laundry as rain threatened and air damp .. two loads and each was a staggering EUR7.40 and drier 4.10!

605-606: Sintra: Lisbon Days 5 & 6

605 – Sunday 22nd January 2017:  Sintra and Sintrallated

An early start for us via the IC119 and hairpin bends to Sintra – magic fairyland palaces – and wall to wall sunshine although cool enough to be well wrapped up.  AM saw us in the National Palace of Sintra.  Rain over lunch saw us sheltering for soup and bad service in the Cafe Paris.  Afternoon off to Monserrate.  Sir Francis Cook took a leading part in the restoration of Monserrate Palace from 1858 and he became the Viscount of Montserrate. He was one of Britain’s 3 richest men and amassed a huge collection of art and classical sculptures – many of which we saw in the palace. See the black and white photo of his family. 

There are large gardens, lake, springs, fountains and grottos. Lush greenery abounds with rare species of trees and plants. A photographers dream…

Palacio Nacional de Sintra


Sintra Palace:  Holiday home (and as a plague refuge from Lisbon) of the Royals since C13 and fairly uninspiring from the outside except for the two kitchen chimneys, which were originally built in C15away from the Palace due to the not inconsiderable likelihood of them setting fire to the palace.

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Inside had some amazing C15 and C16 tiles and wonderful ceilings.  This one has 27 gold collared swans.  One ceiling of magpies … the story goes that the queen found the King trying to kiss one of her Ladies in Waiting … he replied with “Por bem” meaning all for the good.  The queen forgave the King, but the ladies in waiting gossiped about it, so he had the celling repainted … one chattering magpie for each lady.  And each with the inscription “Por bem”!

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The Coat of Arms Room with the 8 children and 74 leading C16 family coats of arms … including the Costa shield, from which Alison’s family are descended.

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The Chapel ceiling … C14 oak and walnut and very rare.


Monserrate Palace and Park 

The park and use had been sold to the Government in 1949 and largely left to fall into rack and ruin.  They have undergone extensive renovation and opened to the public in 2010.  The gardens especially had a wow factor.

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The Study.

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The long corridor with the ground floor room off on either side.  All the walls and ceiling had had the plasterwork repaired.  Strong Gothic and Moorish influences.

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Papa made his money from textiles and bought the palace in the 1850s as a summer holiday residence.  

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605 – Monday 23nd January 2017:  Sintra and Scintillated – again…

For the main Palacio Nacional de Pena, I walked up (some very steep hills) with Alison to the Palace – Alison’s tennis legs will have improved their stamina immensely – Roger Federer watch out!

K stayed with Oscar – who appreciates his very own Jez Palace – especially when it’s dogs dinner time!  More sumptuosity and grandiloquence – we’re into the big words today, readers….

For the Moorish Castle, K and I swapped roles and K and Alison walked up – yes – more steep hills – for spectaculouruberantial views again.

Back down to Sintra old town for coffee and fountain photographs. Another splendid day by all. 


Palacio Nacional de Pena


The palace was built by the artist Ferdinand II from 1840 (Consort to Queen Maria II and grandfather to the assassinated King Carlos II … getting my head around Portuguese history now).  He employed a German architect and you can see the Germanic influences in the towers.  The interior is described as ‘kitsch’ and the rooms are pretty much left as they were when in use by Amelia for the short 2 years when used by Queen Amelia after her husband’s assassination and before she and her younger son fled to England.





King Carlos II



Castelo dos Mouros


Some steep climbs around the reimports but with great views.



We hunted out the two fountains described in our guide book … both still used for drinking water by locals.  This one is the Fonte Mourisca – quite evidently.

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But this one is called the Fonte da Sabuga and the gide book describes it as …’ the water spouts from a pair of breasts’ … funny looking boobies!



Oscar’s Diary (2)

Hello folks

Yes it’s me again – I wasn’t sure about continuing, but I got 3 positive feedbacks – Boo, Poppy and Kensey – so that’s OK – we may not get to double digits (I suppose I could count the owners…).

We are still in Portogoose Land (K and J tell me) – not a portly goose in sight though. Anyway, what’s grease for the goose is sauce for the gander (I think).  I must watch my sneezing this time – so no more shoe problems – actually, s’not a problem at all.  My ‘owners’ are still developing nicely – I am trying some games with them – they don’t really fancy the ‘shoelace’ game – they tie the laces and I untie them – what’s wrong with that, I ask?  I like it when I pretend to be bored and they get me to lie on my back and one of them tickles my tummy – I of course make suitable noises so they continue, James tried this game with Katherine lying on her back – she just laughed and the whole van was shaking…  I think they have their own games… that’s OK, too. 

I can’t quite figure out some of K’s little sayings – like when she bangs her finger on something – she says “f***k, arse bum tit!”.  I think it’s a happy phrase – “never mind, eh?” – now I’m catching her ditties.  We were in Lisboa yesterday in the Alfama area – great for alternative types like wot we are…  Met a lovely lady from Denver in Coloradoshire – her dog (a Labrador) is called Jules.  Now we played nicely on the cafe outdoor terrace – until Jules picked up my lead in her teeth and tried to take me for a walk on the street!  I had to let her know who’s in charge – a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do and all that. 

They’ve regressed in one area – leaving me on my own in the van again – I thought I had cured that by rearranging the furniture.  This time, I sort of realigned K’s coats – to keep myself busy. How was I to know the sticky hook on the wall wasn’t properly glued on? Cheap soupergoo.   She insists on leaving her full coffee beaker in my path when I’m walking across the dining table to get to the window?   I couldn’t lick it all up without getting my snout stuck in the doorwell – so some evidence remained… kitchen roll is great – even when it wraps itself around my neck.  

I hope I’m not painting a glum picture here – they’re really nice people (for humans) – OK not many of their kind have complete Kninesight – but they come close.  Meals arrive on time generally and there’s lots of play time – so chins up – and doze to the grindstone, old chum…(time for a nap, now).

Happy travels all…





















604 – Alfama Lunch: Lisbon Day 4

604 – Saturday 21st January 2017:  Alfama and a Family Meeting

We planned to park in Alfama in the hire car BUT thank goodness we were not in Jez – we’d have got well and truly stuck.  After a few about turns and re-routings we ended up parking a little distance away.

We walked seriously up hill to a couple of viewpoints and past the cathedral (Se in Portuguese) – it was only a 2* in Alison’s guide book, and I’m surprised it made a single star … really nothing to recommend it.  We wandered into the Saturday Thieves Market …. bric a brac and crafts, but our time was limited as we had a major date … J’s sister Delia was in Lisbon with most (3 ) of husband Liam’s siblings and we were lunching together  They meet up annually and P and D travel from Canada.  A fantastic quality lunch and good craic!

Alfama is the district that the wealthy left as it was too rough, and is now one of the trendy spots … really narrow alleys with washing lines and lots of stairs.  We worked off the lunch climbing up to Castelo de Sao Jorge.  The guide books told us that the best views of Lisbon were from here, and they did not lie.  We watched the sun go down over the 25th April Bridge.  Would this have been another lovely day!

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An excellent lunch.

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Castello de Sao Jorge and a bit of Alfama.

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