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Showing posts from 2011
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Christmas Season Activities!

As Portugal is deep in the crisis, one cannot help but wonder what that will do for tourism and for Christmas season.  Like many other cities, to save money, Sintra has opted to have no public Christmas lights in the streets. This does not mean, however, that there is no Christmas animation - quite the contrary!  The shops all have their own window displays, and some of them are quite creative, I might add!
And there are MANY concerts and programs happening, some free, some paid, some in Sintra, some in Lisbon.  Some are for children, some for families, some more for the grown folks. In this blog I will basically just list the events, and add links to sites with more information.

I will start with Sintra.
Parques de Sintra have programs for the whole family!
Natal Saloio (Country Christmas) on December 4th at Monserrate
Natal Real (Royal Christmas) on December 11th at Pena Palace
Natal Franciscana (Franciscan Christmas) on December 18th at the Capuchos Conven…

Time to introduce CASA DA VISTA

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This summer Casa do Valle had a little sister, Casa da Vista!  In the bottom of the property, with its own entrance, 3 double rooms and a suite with a kitchenette was raised from the wilderness of bambu, fig- and olive trees, and lots of other things growing wild.


Many, many years ago we built the house of Casa do Valle because my husband wanted a garage.  And below that garage the original 4 rooms were built within the structure that we needed to have to have that garage on street level.  The rooms there were made to host my family when they come from Finland to Portugal - so that they could feel at ease, have their own space and  this way stay as long as they wanted.  Then a friend who had a B&B suggested we start renting the rooms out.  We did and loved the activity!  The garage had to go, we remodelled the rooms and eventually ended up with 7 rooms.

We still love the activity of the B&B - we have built the garden for our guests to enjoy, with little corners to sit quietl…

Markets - great fun and surprising finds

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There are several open-air markets around Sintra that are year-round fun for tourists and locals alike. In the times of closed in shopping centers, markets are great fun, full of exciting sounds and smells that invite us to browse and shop - many times for items we only could find this way. The larger markets, such as São Pedro and Monte Abraão, also have food stalls for a nice, warm lunch, and snack counters with freshly baked traditional pastries.

The São Pedro Market in São Pedro de Sintra is held on 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month.  This is a very traditional market with everything you can imagine: food, like freshly baked bread, cheeses, and fruits and veggies; baby animals from birds to puppies; trees and plants; clothes and shoes, even men's suits; baskets, toys, and electronic gadgets, rugs, ... you name it, and most probably you can find it here.  The vendors that sell 'things' at this market are often selling stock with slight defects or over stock of warehouse…

Golf anyone?

This entry has been written by Charles Lund, an American traveller who stayed with us in October.  An avid golfer, Charles wrote about his experiences in some of the golfcourses near by and within a daytrip from Sintra.  If you understand anything about golf, his writing will be a great help in choosing the courses and planning your days around golfing activities.  


Penha Longa Atlantico I was able to get an email reply and my name on the tee sheet to play this Robert Trent Jones, Jr. course without having to pay in advance or provide a credit card number to hold the time.  I arrived at the course about an hour early and it was part of a large hotel complex.  The area for the course and the hotel was in some undulating terrain which was well forested, with lots of pine and oak trees.  I’ve played a lot of Robert Trent Jones, Jr. courses and his courses often have a large number of spectacular holes, with a couple of quirky holes that don’t seem to fit, but are needed to make up 18 hole…

Fall? The end or a start of something new?

I prefer the latter. I always loved autumn, and autumn like we are having is great. It is finally summer here in Sintra. July and August were OK, but not like our usual summers, more windy and even rainy. September was great - 25-30º daily, sunny days, cool nights. And it is continuing, at least for another 2 weeks. The pool temperature is still 23º and the pool is very frequented.
But it is clearly fall. The fall of the leaves, the fall of the petals of the boganvila all over the lawn, The days are getting shorter, the morning traffic has started earlier as the people travel to work after their holidays. The fruits are different, it is time for grapes and melons. We here at the guest house are preparing for cold. I have gone pine cone picking (great for starting fires, and there is a wood heated tile covered heater in room #3), we are ordering, and cutting, firewood, checking that the heaters work - and it all seems so strange as the temperatures hit the 30's in the af…

Museu do Ar - A Museum of Airplanes in Sintra

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I have asked Diego Scarabelli to write this blog entry. He knows his planes and is enthusiastic about them. I could really not distinguish them myself, except for by color and maybe types of wings (without knowing their names...) But the museum is actually very good and not so well known, so therefore I thought it would be worth the blog entry! So - here is the entry of Diego, thank you very much! (The plane in the first picture is a Saber)
Military planes have always been my passion. I like to watch documentaries about them and, of course like to see them in the museums. You do not really understand their beauty and their abilities until you see them in person. From the ground we see them as little objects, but some of them are very big and yet agile. It is fascinating to imagine that these machines are the masters of the skies, or at least, they used to be before they were replaced by new and more advanced technology. Nevertheless, to fully comprehend the new jets it is…

The Magic of the Mountain

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Castelo dos Mouros, the Moorish Castle, has been on top of the mountain of Sintra for over 1000 years. When Portugal had its first King, D Afonso Henriques in 1154, it was used most for vigilance - never was it used for fighting battles. As the conquerers moved more southward, its importance was less and less, and it was left to ruin. The earthquake of 1755 did a lot of damage as well to what was left of it. It wasn't until early 1800's that King Fernando the 2nd started the restoration of this castle, erecting and fixing it once again, making paths from the Santa Maria area to it so that the people of Sintra could enjoy the mountain and the romantic aura that it provides.

In my morning paths I love to walk up to the Moorish castle. A round trip from Casa do Valle takes roughly an hour - including my stops for photos and a drink from the fountain. I also usually go with a dog, so it does keep my pace steady. And what a treat it is! Passing through the sleepy village, with…

Visiting the Park of Pena Palace

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This summer has been ever so busy! We have had works in the property and I have had nearly no time to write the blog! Therefor I have asked some special people and guests to write about their Sintra experiences and share some interesting hints of what to do - that is not the most obvious to all the visitors. The first people are Siiri and Elena - two students on a budget visiting Sintra. Here is their experience up in the mountain, more specifically, visiting the Park of Pena Palace.
My friend Elena and I had the most magical time in the Sintra mountain. One beautiful day, we went to the town center and bought freshly made bread from a pastry shop and decided to have a picnic in the Pena Palace gardens, which apparently most people tend to ignore, only visiting the palace itself. We found a deal in the local shop for the entry tickets to palaces and gardens in Sintra which was 20 euros for each of us to get into practically all of the major sightseeing spots, saving us 18 euros. This…

Shopping!

Last week when I spent a week abroad for work, Sintra was HOT with temperatures rising until 38-40 degrees in the afternoon. Now that I am back, they went back to the 20's. The pool water is about 24º and it does not change quickly, which is really good! It seems that this coming week we can expect temperatures of up to 27º and then next week they go over the 30º mark again. You can follow the weather here through the following site (accuweather):

http://www.accuweather.com/forecast.aspx?partner=accuweather&metric=1&loc=EUR|PT|PO012|AMADORA&week=15

So last week I was not here - I went to the United States for work, and stocked up on some important items:
A proper 110 - 220 volt current converter, with the proper adapter. This because we have had some situations with sensitive equipment of our American guests as they are sometimes unaware that it is not always enough to just have a plug that fits, the current is also very important! If you are American and still o…

The Festival Season: Classical and Jazz

The 46th edition of the Sintra Music Festival opened this weekend. This year the special focus and central theme is Liszt and Mahler, both known for musical romanticism, fitting so well in Sintra, the capital of Romanticism. This classical music festival hosts its concerts not only in the Cultural Center of Olga Cadaval, but also in the palaces, churches and manor houses.

From June 24th until the the 10th of July, there are numerous concerts and recitals, talks and movies, performed by a large and varied group of national and international artists. The list is enormous, please check the official site of the Festival for further information; schedules and venues http://www.festivaldesintra.pt/. Some of the concerts are free, to others the tickets average 10-15 euros. Great opportunity to indulge in classical music!

In case that you are not familiar with these composers, here is an address to a youtube video of a romantic piece by Liszt: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGw4c2YGGB8 …

Busy, busy, busy

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Summer is here. We have temperatures of nearly 30 daily, and have had a few thunderstorms, which is great to get rid of the heavy humidity we have had. Plus it is giving extra water to the garden!

It has been very busy here in many ways.
The rooms have been quite full, and we have people from all over the world: from Australia to America, Belgium to Holland, Norway to Singapore. We start having 'regulars', people who come every year, and it is very nice to see their faces time after time!

We are busy 'up-keeping': several of the rooms have gotten a cote of paint - there are always marks from the suitcases on the walls and stains that do not come off. This has been quite a challenge, to find a day when the rooms are empty and the painter has time, at the same time!

Mainly we have been busy in the garden. We have planted 60 new fruit trees: apricots, peaches, lemons, passion fruits, apples, pears, grapes, oranges... (In these pictures they are still waiting to be plant…

Question and Answer session

When I was studying speech communication at OSU, we were taught that when at the end of the speech you are answering the questions raised, the first thing to do is to repeat the question to make sure you got it right - and to make sure that everyone else in the audience heard it. Otherwise they will just hear an answer without knowing what the question was. Then you answer the question; and finally you summarize the question and the answer to the benefit of all.

Recently I have been asked several questions repeatedly, and as the 'audience' (read: the clients) are normally with me one at a time, there is no benefit of hearing others' questions. So, I have decided to answer some of them here, so that more of you can benefit, and do so before arriving to be better prepared... (sorry, no repetition of question here, as you can all read it...)

Where can I exchange money in Sintra? There is a money exchange bureau inside the tourism office that is open during the weekdays. …

Vinho Verde

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Many of our clients are surprised by the wine lists of the local restaurants: in addition to the division of 'Reds' and 'Whites' there are the 'Greens'. The Reds and the Whites then are divided into the wine regions; Greens, if divided at all, may be divided into Green Whites or Green Reds.
So what are the Green wines, the Vinho Verdes?
The most known Greens are white, but there are reds as well. They are best served chilled and make a great aperitif - and go very well with fish, seafood, salads, white meats, sushi, sashimi - and are great drink on a hot summer day. As their alcohol content is lower than that of the other wines (8-11,5%), so is their calory amount, and this makes it an 'easily drinkable' wine.
Vinho Verde has great digestive properties due to its freshness and special qualities. The reds are full-bodied wines with an intense colour and a rosy or light red foam. The whites usually present a lemony or straw colour.
The strong distinctive char…

Before, During and After

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Here are three pictures - before, during and after. Unfortunately, even the 'after' picture will need to become a 'before' picture. Why? The work has just started, and a lot work needs to go in, still.
SO, BEFORE:


DURING:
and AFTER:These pictures have been taken from the newer part of the ground. Well, from the part that we acquired after the main house's grounds, and is the part that we have much slower started to take care of. Actually, 'take care of' is not the correct term here. We have been taken care of the ground and this is the reason of the 'Before' picture. The heeps of green you see are branches, cuttings, and other garden trash accumulated as the older fruit trees were pruned and wild bushes cut. That and the fast growing Morning Glories and other plants covering the garden trash under a blanket of green and blue and orange. Here, too, the undesirable plants grow faster than the rest... But it has been a blessing, in a way; the s…

Oh, the wonderful Pastries and Bread!

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As I have mentioned before, I frequently walk in the mornings with my dog; up and down the hills, into the forest and mountain roads. Recently there has been an extra burden on my walks. It is lent, the 40 days between Carnival and Easter. Tradition says you give up something for those 40 days that is like an addiction. Some people give up coffee, others chocolate or cigarettes. I decided to give up bread and pastries made with white wheat flour. And this is the reason that climbing up the 400 meters to town is now doubly difficult: the bakeries and pastry shops open their doors even before Pandora and I take off from home, so we walk up to town with the irresistible scent of freshly baked goodies lingering over the town center, calling my name - which I am patiently (more and less) ignoring.

Sintra is famous for its pastries. The pastries of Piriquita, travesseiros, are famous all over Portugal, and people cue up to buy them to take home by boxes. These long, sugar coded &…

What's the weather like?

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While a big part of Europe is covered in snow - this is what our forests are covered in right now!

It has been awhile since I 'blogged' and have wanted to do so for awhile now! It has been a busy season, more so than usual in February. Casa do Valle is in those Gift Voucher Packages called Smartbox and 'Life is Beautiful', and the last few months we have been very busy with people coming to spend a night away from routine - which is great for us!

An interesting issue has been raised and I have noted, which is 'What's the weather like'.

One of my sisters gave me for Christmas a bit over 4 years ago a 5-year agenda/diary. I am now in the last year. Every day in 5 lines I write what has happened: Lots of paperwork, shopping, first fresia of the year bloomed, ate the first cherries/plums/pears/figs.... and very importantly - what the weather was like. In the last 5 years there has not yet been a fool-proof pattern in January/February.

The old people around sa…

Fountains and more fountains!

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My husband loves books and pictures of Sintra way back. Buildings in their glory, people dressed in old fashioned clothing - but mainly he likes the ones where you see the way the city was laid out - and maps. In many pictures, from afar, you can see the whole mountain very bare, almost treeless - but in the closeups you can see some trees and bushes and vegetation. And fountains. The trees have come and gone according to fires and cutting - the most glorious gardens and parks we have now have been planted specifically by Kings and famous men who chose to establish themselves here. The climate was perfect for the near tropical vegetation - and the water was plenty. There is plenty of water in the mountain and all of the habitants of Sintra throughout the years have known to channel it to serve their purpose, be it a public bath house or gardening; or simply a place where the citizens could come to collect water when there was not proper canalization. Many of the fountains no …