Archive for the ‘Diary’ Category

Portugal Diary, day 9

Saturday, 27 July, 2019

Sunday, 19 May, 2019. 19:19, Incomum Wine Bar

We are having a relaxing dinner of snacks and glasses of wine at the wine bar attached to Incomum restaurant where we had dinner last night. It’s been a busy day of walking and sightseeing all over the hills above Sintra.

We slept in a bit, not getting up until 07:30. For breakfast we headed over to the Cafe Saudade, which was operated by the same people as the Chalet, and was up the street and around the corner. This was the venue for breakfast if the option of a breakfast with the room was taken, adding 9€ to the price. But we decided to simply go there and order off the menu and see if we could have breakfast cheaper. While there we saw some other people get the 9€ breakfast, which included bread rolls, croissants, cheese, cold meats, yoghurt with fruit, a boiled egg, juice, and coffee or tea.

Yoghurt parfait
Yoghurt parfait, Cafe Saudade

Instead of that we ordered a “yoghurt parfait” each, which was yoghurt, fruit, and muesli topped with honey. It was good. And then we ordered some extras. I got a travesseiros, which is a type of pastry from the Sintra region. It was a crisp flaky pastry roll topped with sugar, and stuffed with almond cream. It was nice, but very sugary. M. wanted the apple and berry scone which was listed in the menu, but the waitress said it was either apple or berry, not both. M. asked for berry. But then the waitress returned and said they were out of berry scones, so M. asked for apple. And the waitress went away and returned again, saying there were no apples scones either! So then she asked what the toasted “bolo do caco” was, and the waitress said it was a type of bread typical of he region. So M. ordered that, and it actually came this time. It turned out to be a large round bread a bit like an English muffin squashed flat, both in shape and texture. It came toasted and buttered and the small bite M. let me try was really good. Our total was only about 12€ rather than the 18€ for the fixed breakfast, so we’ll probably try the same thing tomorrow.

Read more: Exploring the Pena Palace high on the hill above Sintra, walking past the Moorish Castle and through Vila Sassetti, an afternoon at Quinta da Regaleira, and finishing off with wine and cheese in a wine bar

Portugal Diary, day 8

Monday, 22 July, 2019

Saturday, 18 May, 2019. 21:47, Chalet Saudade, Sintra

We slept in this morning, not getting up until a bit after 07:00. We went for breakfast close to 08:00, and the breakfast room was busier than we’d seen it earlier. I tried eggs again, getting my selection of onions, ham, and cheeses made into an omelette today, while M. had a couple of fried eggs. After breakfast we packed our luggage, being careful to check the room and make sure we’d left nothing behind. Then we checked out and walked south a block to Entrecampos railway station, for heavy surface rail as opposed to the underground metro system.

Here we recharged our Viva Viagem cards with more money, then tapped onto the system and ascended to platform 2 to wait for a train to Sintra. One must have just left, because they run every 20 minutes, and according to the indicator board we had a 19 minute wait. We wondered how full the train would be and if we would get a seat. It arrived a minute or two late and turned out not to be full at all. We got seats easily enough and relaxed for the journey up into the hills surrounding Lisbon.

Most of the trip was through sprawling suburbs of the city. It was only really in the last three or four stops that any countryside became visible, as we slowly climbed up into the hills and the buildings finally petered out. We pulled into Sintra station a bit after 10:00. From there it was a short walk, down a steep flight of steps to the parallel street down the hillside below, and then across a bit to our accommodation for the next two nights, Chalet Saudade.

Chalet Saudade
Chalet Saudade

Chalet Saudade is a lovely blue painted house sitting in a beautiful garden. It’s so nice that people walking along the street stop to take photos of it; we saw several do so. We buzzed the intercom at the gate and a recorded voice said something in Portuguese. We tried again and said “hello”, but then I realised we should try just pushing the gate, and it opened and let us into the garden. Then a man opened the door of the house and ushered us in to a reception area where a woman sat behind a desk. We were too early to check into our room, but they did the paperwork and said they’d mind our bags while we went out to explore. The woman gave us a map and scribbled all over it indicating the attractions, the amount of time we should expect to spend at each, and the walking times between them all. She said the Pena Palace was at the top of the hill and we could either catch a bus or use a Portuguese Uber-like app, which would be cheaper. I asked about walking there and she said it would be about 45 minutes, uphill, and said don’t walk along the road, there is a walking path through the forest which passes a place called Vila Sassetti.

We also checked out the ground floor of the house, which had a common lounge area and a sunroom out the back, overlooking a garden with fishpond below down the hill. The room was decorated with a fox motif, and there were lots of knick knacks everywhere. There were a few miniature furniture sets at ground level next to miniature doors attached to the walls. The house looked as beautiful inside as outside.

Read more: exploring the town, visiting the National Palace of Sintra, chocolate tart, a possible train strike(!), and a delicious dinner with free wine top-up!

Portugal Diary, day 7

Monday, 24 June, 2019

Friday, 17 May, 2019. 22:37

It’s late and we’ve had a very busy day, going to Belém and exploring the various attractions there, before having a wonderful dinner in Chiado. But now it’s late and I need to sleep, so I’ll write about it tomorrow.

Written next day

Let me tell you about the footpaths in Lisbon. They’re not concrete or asphalt or paving stones or anything sensible like that. They’re cobblestones. All of them. Even the footpaths way out in the suburbs. Every single one. And not good solid basalt or granite cobbles with sharp edges and a rough surface, but limestone. Soft limestone that wears away on the surfaces and edges leaving them all rounded and smooth. And slippery. And Lisbon is a city of hills. Try walking down a steep hill paved with rounded, slippery cobblestones. I can’t even imagine how nightmarish this city would be in the rain.

Another thing about Lisbon is that black seems to be the most popular car colour, by far, followed by dark grey. The streets are a sea of vehicles absorbing the hot Atlantic sun, punctuated only by the odd car in red or white. It seems an odd choice for a place that obviously gets a lot of hot weather

On Friday morning we tried to sleep in a little, but still got up close to 07:00. For breakfast today I tried the hot breakfast service, gathering a plate of onions, ham, tomatoes, cheese, and rocket and then handing it to a waiter and asking it to be incorporated into a plate of scrambled eggs. The eggs arrived just I finished my muesli, and were cooked very nicely. I ate them with a couple of the small bread rolls that have been delicious every morning.

M.’s toes have started to blister a bit from all the walking she’s been doing, so while she returned to the room, I dashed across the road to the supermarket to buy some band aids. It was cold this morning, but I figured I’d only be outside walking for a minute. However when I got there, the supermarket hadn’t opened yet, the sign at the door saying it opened at 08:00. It was five minutes to, so I waited for it to open, in the chilly morning air. Eventually it opened and I bought the band aids. After wrapping some around a couple of M.’s toes we prepared to leave for the day.

We walked over to Roma station to get a green line train without having to change twice, and rode it to the end of the line at Cais do Sodré. The train was packed, and at one station a couple of old ladies got on and I overheard one remarking to the other in Portuguese, with the word “sardinhos” clearly being said. Most of the passengers stayed on all the way to our stop, where everybody spilled out.

Heading upstairs to the heavy rail lines, we used our Viva Viagem cards to pass through the access gates, then tried to figure out what platform to go to. The final destinations of trains were displayed next to a rapidly scrolling list of stations. We both scanned the board, and M. spotted Belém listed on one, so we headed up to platform 2, where a train was sitting waiting. We didn’t know if this was the right train to get on, so M. asked a woman getting on if it went to Belém. The woman was confused for a while as M. repeated the destination, until she finally clicked and said, “Ah! Blem! Sim!” Pronouncing words in Portuguese is very tricky!

The train was nearly empty so we got good seats. It left after a few minutes and glided along the river westwards. Belém is pretty close and it was only three stops until we arrived there, taking a bit under ten minutes. We got out and climbed a rickety old narrow metal bridge to cross the tracks and the adjacent main road to get to the side we wanted to be on.

Pasteis de Belém
Pastéis de Belém, the original Portuguese tart shop

Walking through a small park and then down a busy street took us to the Pastéis de Belém shop, founded in 1837 and home of the invention of the Portuguese custard tart: pastel de nata. Today it does a thriving business still selling the original recipe tarts, and tourists flock to it. We arrived about 09:15 and there was a queue of about 20 people to buy take away tarts. There was also another entrance with a sign promising table service, with 400 seats. M. fancied sitting down for a coffee, so we went in there, but inside it was confusing with people in front of us waiting around, and then people coming in behind us and apparently just ignoring the queue and heading deeper into the shop. There was no sign of people being seated at tables. So we decided to go out and join the take away queue, which at least was moving in an orderly fashion.

Read more: we try the original Portuguese tarts, visit the Monastery of the Jerónimos, have lunch at an interesting market, see the Tower of Belém, and travel back to Lisbon for cocktails and an amazingly good dinner

Portugal Diary, day 6

Wednesday, 19 June, 2019

Thursday, 16 May, 2019. 15:54

I am back at the hotel after the ISO meeting has adjourned a bit early. M. is still out exploring Lisbon.

After getting up and having breakfast as usual this morning, I went to the meeting, while M. prepared a bag of laundry to be cleaned. The hotel laundry service is ridiculously expensive, charging 3.40€ for each pair of socks and 3.90€ for each pair of underwear. With conversion we’d have ended up paying something like $60 or $70. So instead we threw all our dirty clothes in a bag and I looked up drop-in laundries nearby. There were a few within walking distance, including one right at Roma metro station, which was convenient for where M. wanted to go this morning. I wrote a note in Portuguese (using Google Translate) in case nobody at the laundry spoke English, requesting a wash and dry and asking if we could pick it up after 17:00 today. So M. planned to drop that in at 09:00 when the laundry opened and then head into town to check out the Mercado da Reibera and some more of the neighbourhoods around the city.

Meanwhile I was back at the university for the final technical session, which was a preliminary report on standards for high dynamic range (HDR) image coding. There are several standards for HDR video, but none yet for still pictures, and we think we should get started on making one. There was a lot of technical discussion on colour management and rendering. Colour seems like such a simple concept, but every time I see the technical details it reminds me just how complicated it is.

After this we had the closing administrative session for the WG 18 meeting. Next was the scheduled plenary administrative working group meeting session 2, to be held over lunch from 12:15. Since we wrapped up the WG 18 stuff by 11:00, I had an hour to kill. I took a walk north through a neighbourhood I hadn’t explored yet. It was largely residential, with apartment blocks linked by quiet streets. But on the ground floors of many of them were small shops to service the residents, including several pasteleria/cafes.

Pastel de nata from Pasteleria Lirio do Campo
Pastel de nata from Pasteleria Lirio do Campo

I stopped in at four of them and ordered a pastel de nata, the famous Portuguese custard tart, at each one. I figured I’d make this an exploration of the different bakeries and compare the tarts. The prices were all different, in order 0.95€, 1.10€, 0.90€, and 1.00€. They were all good, but the third one was distinctly not as good, with the pastry being not as fresh and flaky. I walked past three other pastelerias as well, but after four tarts I didn’t feel like I should eat any more before lunch!

Read more: walking around Rossio Square and a fancy conference dinner at a swish restaurant

Portugal diary, day 5

Thursday, 6 June, 2019

Wednesday, 15 May, 2019. 21:41

Well that was an interesting day at the ISO meeting.

We woke up just before 06:00 this morning, so managed to get a decent sleep, which was good. I’d say that’s effectively the end of the jetlag. We went down to breakfast a few minutes earlier than yesterday, determined to be the first at breakfast today, and indeed we were, arriving as the staff were still putting out platters of cheese and meats. We had muesli and yoghurt again, and then croissants and bread with cheese. I took one of the small heated pots of cherry tomatoes so I could add them to my cheese and bread. That was really good, so I got more bread and cheese and another pot of tomatoes, rather than a second serve of muesli.

M. spent the day going to the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, which houses a historical collection of azulejo, the distinctive decorated tiles that you see everywhere all over Lisbon, and then walking through the nearby Alfama neighbourhood. She really enjoyed the museum, but said that the walk to get there from the Santa Apólonia metro station was a bit unpleasant, through a dodgy neighbourhood.

Azulejo Museum
Museu Nacional do Azulejo

I, meanwhile, went to day two of the meetings. We got stuck into the technical sessions, and were thankfully in a different room which was slightly cooler and less stuffy, but still too warm and stuffy for comfort. But it had proper desks and seats rather than the lecture room style rows we had yesterday, so that was a lot more comfortable.

Read more: a dramatic development at the meeting, a huge lunch, and exploring the Chiado neighbourhood for dinner

Portugal diary, day 4

Wednesday, 5 June, 2019

Tuesday, 14 May, 2019. 17:17

We’re resting for a while at our hotel before heading to the meeting reception this evening, which will be at Casa do Lago, on the small lake in the middle of the park between our hotel and the meeting venue.

This morning we woke up early, being the second night after arriving, as is so often the case. Probably 05:00 or a bit earlier. Unable to go back to sleep we waited until the sun started coming up at 06:00 and then got up. We headed down to breakfast a few minutes early to find several people there already. We double checked the breakfast times, which were posted in the lift on the way back up to our room, and it definitely said from 07:00. Anyway, we ate muesli and yoghurt and some bread and mini croissants. I took a glass of what looked like a mushy fruit salad to add to my muesli, and it was just chopped fruit, so that was good.

After breakfast we prepared to head out. We left together and walked to the Entrecampos Metro entrance, where I left M. to head into the city while I turned north to walk up the park (Jardim Mário Soares) to the meeting venue. It was Building U of the Universidade Lusófona. On the way I passed the University of Lisbon as well, and the park was full of students in academic dress, as well as other students in regular clothes performing various stunts at the direction of the others.

D João I
Statue of King João I of Portugal, in Jardim Mário Soares

M. meanwhile headed south on the yellow Metro line to the end of the line at Rato, then walked south towards the Bairro Alto, or high city. She spent the day wandering around the area, checking out the sights, eventually working her way down the hill into the Baixa and Rossio Square area. Then she walked to the riverside and finally caught a train back to the hotel from Terreiro do Paço.

While she was doing all this, I was in the meetings in the university building. As I entered, I had my name marked off at a registration desk and the guy there told me which room we were using and how to get there. The room was a lecture room, with rows of fixed seating with tiny swing away desks attached, which was a change from our usual horseshoe desk arrangement. It was quite uncomfortable being in one of those seats all day and not having a proper desk to lean on. And it was very warm and stuffy. But fortunately we are in a different room the next two days. The IS&T Archiving conference is on here this week too, and today was the short courses in the same building as us, but from tomorrow they move to another building, so we’ll have better rooms to choose from.

Read more: my meetings, then the evening meeting/conference reception

Portugal diary, day 3

Wednesday, 5 June, 2019

Monday, 13 May, 2019. 11:41

We are sitting in the Confeitaria Nacional, a traditional and old pastry shop in the old town Baixa area of Lisbon. A review site I looked at this morning said this has some of the best custard tarts in town, so of course we had to try them. We’re sitting in for a short break from the heat outside, although it hasn’t really gotten as hot as yesterday yet, and we’ve been waling among the shady narrow streets of the old area.

We slept pretty well, rousing drowsily about 06:00. We got up slowly and prepared for breakfast in the hotel restaurant, arriving there shortly after it opened at 07:00. It wasn’t very busy yet. There was a good spread of food and we had muesli with yoghurt, some small croissants, bread and cheese, and fresh fruit. They also had bowls of ingredients which you could put together and hand to the waiter to have the chef make a custom plate of eggs with, but we didn’t try this.

After eating, we returned to our room to get ready for the day out. With the forecast being 33° and sunny, we used sunscreen and wore long sleeve shirts to keep the sun off, even though it will be hot.

Monkey on the Lisbon Metro
Monkey riding the Metro

We left and got on the Metro at Entrecampos, right outside our hotel. I though this would take us direct to Terreiro do Paço station by the waterside, but we realised we had to change lines at Marquês de Pombal. The first train was full and crowded, but the second one was empty enough for us to get seats. We got off at Terreiro do Paço and negotiated the exits, having to turn around when we ended up in a wharf area with departing ferries, and no easy way to get to where we actually wanted to go.

After leaving by another exit, we emerged near the square leading down to Cais dos Colunas, a set of limestone steps descending into the river, which seems to be a historical place where Portuguese ships of exploration embarked from. (Doing some research later I discovered that these steps used to lead from the river directly up to the royal palace. However the palace was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake and never rebuilt, so now the stairs lead up to an open plaza.)

Read more: the historic Baixa and Alfama districts, São Jorge castle, and going up and down lots of hills!

Portugal diary, days 1 and 2

Tuesday, 4 June, 2019

This was a trip I took to Lisbon to attend an ISO Technical Committee 42 Photography standards meeting. My wife accompanied me and we spent an extra week in Portugal to do some sightseeing.

Saturday, 11 May, 2019. In flight

Our trip began with a train journey to the airport. We left home just after 17:00, walking to the station. It looked like we’d just missed a train to the city, and the next train was only going as far as North Sydney, with nearly a 15 minute wait until the next city train. The North Sydney train was nearly empty, but the the one we caught after it was almost standing room only.

As we stopped at Milsons Point, we noticed on the indicator board that all the trains were terminating at Wynyard, which was unusual. I checked the trains website on my phone to find out that there was trackwork on the City Circle, and trains were only running anticlockwise. So we had to get off at Wynyard and go down to the lower platform and catch another train to Central and then change again for an airport train. Thankfully both connections were quick, but both trains were very full.

We arrived at the airport a bit after 18:00. We’d already checked in online and printed our boarding passes, so we went straight through passport and security checks. A lot of people had just filed into the immigration area in front of us, so it was fairly full, but the lines moved quickly and we were through before too long.

After buying some duty-free Plymouth gin and Drambuie to pick up on the way home, we went to the food place we always go to, to sit and have a bite to eat. M. had the wood fired haloumi, which came with fired red grapes, pomegranate kernels, a grilled red onion, and sourdough bread. We also got some smoked almonds to nibble on. The food was good, but I didn’t want to eat too much because I wanted to have the dinner on the plane and then try to sleep on a full stomach. It passed the time though, and by the time we were ready to go it was almost time to board our flight.

We boarded nice and early thanks to my silver frequent flyer status, getting seats by a window and a middle seat. It was too late to change our seats to have an aisle by the time I got to selecting our seats online.

Sunday, 12 May. 07:49 Dubai time

We landed in Dubai a few minutes early, just after 05:00. Our connection to Lisbon departed at 07:25, so we had a short time to sit and rest while M. had a coffee and a pistachio croissant from a patisseries in the terminal. We had to walk almost the length of the terminal, from Terminal C to the far end of Terminal B, for our next flight, but it was good to stretch the legs out. This flight is just under eight hours, so it won’t be long before we touch down in Lisbon.

20:41 Lisbon time

We landed in Lisbon a bit before 12:30. It didn’t take long to get out of the airport customs area. Most of the time was spent walking from what looked like the furthest gate in the entire terminal. Passport control had virtually no queue, we only had carry on bags so didn’t have to wait for luggage, and the “nothing to declare” customs door simply led straight outside.

Read more: Our first day in Lisbon, walking around the city centre, plus some photos

More updated travel diaries

Thursday, 24 January, 2019

I’ve updated and revamped two more travel diaries, with larger and new photos, updated weblinks, and additional commentary.

Updated Britain 2009 travel diary

Saturday, 19 January, 2019

If anyone is interested, I’ve just completed an overhaul of the diary of my 2009 trip to the UK. A 24-day extravaganza of touring the English and Welsh countrysides, and ending with several days in London. I’ve enlarged the photos from thumbnails to presentation size, added some new photos, updated all of the dead web links, added a little bit more explanatory text in places, and fixed a few typos.

Now showing here.