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RTW 2007 installment #3 (Nov 2-Nov 8)

Posted by on November 9, 2007

Friday 2nd November

We finally had a full cooked English breakfast this morning. It was quite nice, though the baked beans were more boring than what I’m used to. We stayed in for a little while as it was our last chance for free Internet until Brazil, or so we think at least. We’ll see.

We headed off from Cambridge at around 10am, and checked into our London Etap at the City Airport at 11am. Yes, for once I got us somewhere without getting us wildly lost. After checking in, and settling in, we headed off to an ASDA, which is a local supermarket owned by Walmart. We figured we could at least buy our dinner for our last few nights in the country here, though it was hard deciding on what to eat when we couldn’t either a) heat or b) refrigerate food. We also had lunch here, which didn’t seem to suit Doyle at all, because he threw up his entire breakfast all over himself, or at least that’s what I think he threw up since he hadn’t eaten anything else as far as I know. Then again, he did throw up a leaf and some paper the other day after I hadn’t realised he’d eaten those. We hoped it wasn’t too serious, though.

Jeremy also wanted me to note that a robot helped us at the check out at the ASDA. They had self checkout machines, that Jeremy thought were really cool, but I think I’ve seen them somewhere in Perth back home, too.

We headed back to our hotel after that to drop off the food, then drove to Leytonstone to return our car to a different office, which ended up not being too much trouble. Although we did go a little too far up the road and had to turn around again. But they let us do so even though we hadn’t confirmed wanting to. We did have to pay the ₤500 excess, though, as Jeremy accidentally backed into a post in a car park in Nottingham. It didn’t concern me too much though because our travel insurance is meant to pay us back for it.

Then it was off to the Underground and into the centre of London. We got off at Oxford Circus at around 4:30pm and went to Hamleys, the largest toy store in the world. Doyle had a great time playing with some of the bigger toys for kids his age, and decided he wants an interactive electronic play table and/or bike for Christmas. I said we’d have to put it on his Christmas wishlist.

It was dark by the time we left and getting a little late, so rather than do anything else in London we decided to take the Underground and DLR back to our hotel for the night. We ended up changing the DLR three times because the map I was working off in the first place was out of date and there was a station closer to our hotel that I decided was better.

Saturday 3rd November

Doyle spent the whole night in bed with us again last night because he couldn’t get to sleep otherwise. Around midnight he ended up being sick in our bed, so clearly still not well after his lunch incident. He didn’t sleep particularly soundly, though we somehow managed to stay in bed until 8am – which meant a later start than I’d hoped. After showering, we quickly headed down for breakfast, and Doyle still didn’t eat as much as usual but we decided it was better not to force him.

We headed into London next and got off at the Green Park Underground Station. We walked through Green Park to Buckingham Palace, where we also saw the Canada and Australia Gates. Then we headed back through St James’s Park and found some friendly squirrels before trying to meet the Prime Minister by going to Downing Street, but it was all blocked off with gates! So we walked past some Horse Guard houses and ended up at Trafalgar Square before heading down Whitehall Road (why yes, we have been happening upon a few Monopoly streets – we’d been to a few others previously, like Regent Street last night, and Angel Islington and Euston Road before we got our hire car).

It was a bit easier to see 10 Downing Street from Whitehall Road, but we still couldn’t go into the street itself. So we headed down the road to see Big Ben, then crossed Westminster Bridge because we wanted to ride the London Eye. Unfortunately pretty much everything that looked interesting down here – from the Star Wars Exhibition to the Dalí museum to the London Eye were way out of our price range. Maybe if the prices were in Australian dollars rather than the British pound, it would have been more reasonable. But there’s no way I was going to pay something like $75 for the three of us what is essentially a giant ferris wheel that only lasts half an hour.

So rather than waste that kind of money on one short experience, we got a discounted ferry on the Thames River down to Tower Bridge, and got to take some nice photographs of the buildings alongside it, such as the Globe Theatre and City Hall. We also got some nice pictures of the bridges we passed under, and of course Tower Bridge. We alighted here to have a bit of an explore around the area, decided the Tower of London was also too expensive to visit, but we did get to watch a free movie. Then we moved on to go up Tower Bridge itself, which was a lot more reasonably priced, and could also get some nice views of the city. We crossed across the footbridge at the top, then got to head down into the old Engine Rooms to see how the bridge was raised in 1894 when it was opened.

From here we headed down to the London Bridge Underground Station and then across to the Knightsbridge Station to visit Harrods. That’s probably the most expensive department store I’ve ever been to, and my God was it crowded! I found a lovely lamp in the shape of a cherub that only cost ₤56,000, we thought we’d buy two. Uh, yeah right! Their Doctor Who toys were cheaper than anywhere else we’d been, though. And I’d been given a 10% off voucher as we walked in the door. But we didn’t end up buying anything.

To add to Jeremy’s Harrods previous experience in 1983 when his brother spewed up in the food hall, Doyle also spewed here, but next to a Christmas tree near the toy area. With no glasses in sight, he instead got sick into my hand, and we had to clean him up with one of his bibs we had with us.

It was getting pretty late now, and Doyle was not impressed, so we headed back to the Underground. The Piccadilly Line was so crowded, I’m so glad we only needed to be on it two stops before changing to the Jubilee Line and then the DLR later on. Doyle ended up falling asleep in my arms at the Knightsbridge Station, and slept for the majority of the trip back to the hotel. He woke up just before we returned, though, and certainly had a hard time getting back to sleep when we did. He was very hyperactive, and wanted to continue utilising the new skills he’s been learning, such as walking and rolling about all over the place. Perhaps we need to change our evening strategy and make sure we get back before he falls asleep at all.

Doyle didn’t last long in his tent before transferring into our bed again – and in fact kicked Jeremy out of bed to the top bunk due to the way he wanted to lay down.

Sunday 4th November

Doyle and I got up at 6am today, but we didn’t head down to breakfast until 8am. We had a slightly earlier start today, but being Sunday, nothing opened until 10am anyway. We got into London around 9:30am and wondered why there was no one around! We had a little walk around the south bank of the Thames to see Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (also too expensive to tour) and then spent about two hours or so at the Tate Modern Museum once it opened. There were a few Picassos and some other reasonably well known artists featured, but no particular work stood out, and it certainly wasn’t as brilliant as the art museums I went to when I was in Spain a few years ago. But it was free, and that’s what we could afford to do.

We then left the museum and crossed the Millennium Footbridge to see St Paul’s Cathedral, found a place that sold us scones with jam and cream, then headed over to Piccadilly Circus on the Underground from the St Paul’s Station. Jeremy wanted half price theatre tickets, so we walked to Leicester Square to find the official place, but unfortunately it was closed due to upgrading the ticketing system.

Figuring it wasn’t too far to walk to our next destination, we avoided the Underground in favour of our feet. This was perhaps a mistake, as not long after we set off on this latest trek, my neck and back started really hurting me. We ended up at the Portrait Gallery on the way and saw lots of paintings of various people. Then we headed back down to Trafalgar Square and retraced some of our steps from yesterday, but instead walked further than Big Ben so we could see the Houses of Parliament, Jewel Tower, and Westminster Abbey.

It was getting late by then and we didn’t want a repeat performance of last night from Doyle, so we decided to get back on the Underground to our hotel. We took a pit stop at Canary Wharf and had a little look around, even though it was dark, and it was quite lovely. Then we headed back home to the Etap for dinner and bed.

Monday 5th November

Doyle ended up kicking Jeremy out of bed again last night – or rather, Jeremy just left as soon as I let Doyle in our bed for a midnight snack, as he knew I wouldn’t try to put him back in his tent.

Today was relatively uneventful, as it was the day we were set to leave London. We checked out of our hotel around 9:30am, after breakfast and packing, and headed to the Thames Barrier Park at the Pontoon Dock DLR Station, which is the station that we had been using every day as it was closest to our hotel anyway. After having a quick look around at the interesting wave shaped hedges and walking down to the river, we headed back to the DLR, hopped on, and changed trains twice before arriving at Heathrow Airport. Doyle ended up making quite a racket toward the end of the trip, but fell asleep at the very end of it, thank goodness.

We ended up keeping Doyle’s stroller with us until we got to the gate, because he had fallen asleep, but they still tagged it so it could be checked on later. I also wanted to spend the rest of our British coins because at least notes you can change at a currency exchange place. So we bought a couple presents for people from the airport Harrods, tax free.

The flight left about half an hour late, and it felt like we were on the runway for half the time we were on the plane, but we still only arrived in Lisbon, Portugal, half an hour after than we were scheduled. I actually didn’t notice, and am going by what one of the other passengers told us. It was a smaller plane, so we didn’t get a bassinet, and it looked to be completely full. Jeremy and I had been given seats in two different rows, but the passenger seated next to me offered her seat to Jeremy instead, so we graciously accepted.

When we arrived in Portugal, we didn’t even have to fill out an arrival card. I think it’s the first country I’ve been to that I haven’t had to do that when arriving by plane! We decided to take the Airport to City Aerobus as it was only €3 each. It also didn’t stop too far from where we were staying.

Despite the fact I booked us into two star accommodation, Jeremy described our room as “romantic.” I took that as a compliment. In fact I think it’s better than the hostels we stayed at in England. At least we have our own bathroom and a double bed – who cares if they don’t change the sheets and towels every day? The bathroom is even big enough to put Doyle’s tent, so it could be a little darker and less noisy, therefore easier for him to go to sleep and stay asleep. Hopefully.

After checking in to our accommodation, we headed out onto our street, which is filled with restaurants, to find somewhere to eat dinner. We found a nice place that was like half price before 7pm, and it was just before 7pm so we managed to squeeze in. Jeremy and I both ordered the roast chicken with piri piri sauce and compared it to Nando’s – quite the difference! It was pretty nice, and not to hot as long as I avoided touching the food to my lips. The atmosphere was quite nice, too, as we were sitting in the street and there were some buskers playing some music across from us (and entertaining Doyle while we ate). Naturally we ended up giving them some money. We didn’t, however, give money to any of the hawkers trying to sell us things like roses and toys. Nor did we buy drugs from the people we saw selling them across the street from us.

Getting late for Doyle now, we headed back to our accommodation and tried to put him to sleep. he ended up throwing up on his tent’s sleeping bag. After some more cuddles and cleaning him up, Jeremy managed to get Doyle to sleep in his tent by stroking his head.

Tuesday 6th November

Doyle actually did surprisingly well last night. He woke us up a few times with a bit of crying, but was able to settle himself back down until he woke up around 4am or so. I gave him some milk then and settled him back down on his sleeping bag in our sort of hallway as it was easier than his tent. So in fact he didn’t spend a minute sleeping in our bed at al last night. Hooray!

This is the first place we’ve paid to stay at that has had a bath, too. Since Doyle enjoyed his bath in Nottingham so much, we weren’t going to let him miss out here! We even brought some bath toys for him to play with. How I’m going to long for the time we can afford a house with a bath when we get home, I think. If only for Doyle’s sake.

We set off semi-early to find somewhere for breakfast, and found a nice (and reasonably priced) place around the corner from us in a sort of plaza area opposite a statue of a man on a horse. They had things like that all over Madrid, too. It’s hard trying to speak Portuguese, despite the similarities to Spanish, and you feel kind of bad when reverting to English, even when the person you’re talking to is talking to you in English. But at least I can say I tried.

We then wandered around with no particular direction for a little while, before attempting to find the Australian Embassy without the address and just a map with a pin pointing out where it was. We found it, though I’d forgotten my ID, so Jeremy went up alone to discover we still couldn’t vote until the 12th – when we’d be in Brazil. We ended up deciding that it would be more trouble than it’s worth and so won’t bother trying to vote now.

We then headed back down toward the sea to find the information centre and came across a public transport outdoor lift that was built in the early 1900s and has been electric since 1907. We took a ride up to get some nice views of the city, then while we were there, we went to a museum that was built into some ruined building. That was pretty interesting, and actually quite cheap, too. They had some creepy looking mummies that still had hair and were bound with ropes and some old tombs that sparked discussions about why I want to be cremated when I die, and I think convinced my mum to do the same. I just don’t like the idea that some day, maybe 1000 years down the road, someone might dig me up and put me in display. They can’t do that if I’m cremated. Jeremy is the opposite – he thinks it’d be really cool if some future person did that to him. To each their own!

The museum visited, we headed back down the lift to find the information centre next to some monuments by the sea, that seem to be all over the place on maps and postcards, so I figure it’s a recognisable part of Lisbon, and we took some photos. We found a place that sold roasted chestnuts along the way and Jeremy bought a cone of them to share. I didn’t like them too much, so I only had two and a half. Doyle had some tiny bits too, though I was hesitant about that as I didn’t know if he would be allowed them at his age. He seemed okay with them though.

At the information centre, we picked up some brochures to later make a decision about what to do over the next couple of days. Then we headed back up toward our accommodation (I’m trying to avoid saying hotel, because I don’t think it is one) and found somewhere to have lunch. We found somewhere that had a pretty good meal deal – soup, burger and drink for €3.40.

Then it was back to our hotel where we all had a nice afternoon nap, and I decided to mark on our map where I thought might be nice to go over the next couple of days. It also seems like Doyle now has conjunctivitis in his left eye. We’re not sure if he caught it from his cousin Luke or just contracted it of his own accord, but it still remains that it seems that’s what he has. We’re not sure whether we should go to a pharmacy, doctor, hospital, or just hope it gets better on its own. It’s a little hard to know what to do in a foreign language country. Brazil won’t be any easier. So I guess if it hasn’t cleared up by the time we get to the US, we’ll take more advantage of our travel insurance.

That aside, after our nap, we headed out again for a bit of a wander and to find some custard tarts (a Portuguese specialty) for afternoon tea. We found a place that sold 6 for €4.50 and decided to give that a go. They were really quite yummy, and we were glad for the splurge.

We walked past a few churches, including one that I thought reminded me of Notre Dame in Paris. Most churches we passed had beggers sitting out the front and it looked rather unappealing to get too close. I know I should feel bad about not giving money to the homeless people I see, but it’s not like we have a lot of money to spare, even if we are on a world holiday.

During our mindless wanderings, several women came up to Doyle and started babbling at us in Portuguese. We had no idea what they were saying, but I figure they thought Doyle was very cute. Today was also the day Doyle decided he could say “baa baa baa baa baa,” and kept repeating it relentlessly. It was actually quite cute, but we may end up getting sick of it after a while. His milestones seem to be progressing in leaps and bounds at the moment.

After more walking around, we decided to find somewhere for dinner – they unfortunately don’t have any supermarkets in the city where we can buy food from, so it’s restaurants only. We had dinner at was is essentially the Portuguese equivalent chain to Subway.

Then we headed back home in order to get Doyle off to bed without too much fuss and hope for another night very much like last night.

Wednesday 7th November

I’m not sure whether people are getting sick of the updating of Doyle’s sleeping habits, but I’ll continue to update on it whenever I feel there is significant reason to. Last night was a good deal like the night before, though I got up to feed Doyle around midnight and then he managed pretty okay until around 6am.

In hindsight, I had probably wanted to fit in too much today, though we actually got everything done I had wanted to do, bar the museum that was closed.

We headed out at around 9am, maybe a bit earlier, to the information centre to buy us each a Lisboa Card, which gave us free public transport, and free entry to a number of museums around Lisbon. From here we took a train out to Belém. Only we got on the express train to start with and had to go back when we realised, getting off at the stop just after Belém.

Whilst in Belém, we looked at the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, which is a monument that we’ve seen on numerous postcards and souvenirs, climbed the Belém Tower to the roof (ouch my legs! I carried Doyle all the way up and down again), and visited the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, which had a much nicer Cloisters than Lacock, I thought. Part of the monastery contained the Museu de Arqueologia, or Archeology Museum, which we also visited.

It was well and truly time for lunch by then, and we hadn’t seen much in the way of restaurants up until now, so we just stopped in at the McDonalds down the road. I got something that had what I thought was a Portuguese name, though Jeremy claims it was French, but we forgot to jot down what it was called. I think it was essentially a chicken burger. I also had their soup of the day – yes, McDonalds here sells soup.

Then I wanted to see the Palácio Nacional da Ajuda. We took a bus up to see it because we thought it was too far to walk, and I’m glad we did because it was up a big hill and ended up being closed on Wednesdays. It would’ve been a waste of time and effort if we had walked!

After that, we headed back down on the same bus to where we started and went back to the train, thinking there’d still be time for us to train out to Sintra. When we got back to our original stop, we discovered that train left from a different station, which we took the Metro to, and discovered that actually there was no station there. So we went to the information centre and found out what we would have to do to get to Sintra. After much debate, we decided to leave it until tomorrow, without getting another Lisboa card. We probably didn’t save much money with it anyway.

Then, as Doyle’s conjunctivitis had spread to his other eye and seemed to be getting a lot worse, we decided to take him to a pharmacy to see if they could give us something. They said the over-the-counter medicine was not available to the under twos, and suggested we go to the hospital instead. Which we eventually found, but decided it was far too busy and I didn’t feel comfortable relating my concerns even if we could find someone who spoke English.

On our way back to our guesthouse, we found a couple of little stores that sold some groceries, and picked up some bananas and water. The water in our guesthouse tastes like dirt and I’m not sure if it’s safe to drink, so I’ve been buying water instead. Luckily it was less than half the price we paid yesterday, though I even thought yesterday’s wasn’t too badly priced.

After giving Doyle some banana for dinner in our room, we headed to a restaurant just outside our guesthouse for dinner. We both ordered the Lisbon specialty (according to our guidebook) “Bacalhau à Brás,” which is salt cod with onion and potatoes, bound with eggs. It was quite a nice dish, and I recommend it to anyone travelling to Lisbon.

Then it was back to our guesthouse for the night and to put Doyle to bed. In case anyone is wondering why I haven’t been writing much about what has happened post Doyle going to sleep every night, it’s because of one of two things. Either a) I’ve been going to bed at the same time due to not having anything else to do due to the lights going out or b) it’s been uneventful anyway, such as me typing this or getting some reading done. Having a baby and not being interested in exploring outside without my partner in crime has meant pretty boring evenings. But I think it’s better for our sanity this way anyway.

Thursday 8th November

Today was our last full day in Portugal. Doyle got us up around 6:30am, so we thought we were going to have an early start to the day. His eyes were the worst they’ve been, but he had a nice bath and got all cleaned up. But half an hour before we thought we’d leave, Doyle decided he was tired again, and ended up having a nap, until we made enough noise to wake him up to go out rather than waste the entire morning.

Our first stop was Castelo de São Jorge, a nice castle that only cost us €5 total to visit. We spent probably an hour and a half there, including a short presentation using Gallileo’s Camera Obscura in the Tower of Ulysses. The guide told us about all of the sights surrounding the castle in 360°. We’d already seen most of them. It was pretty cool because it was like looking at a picture and sometimes seeing little parts of it (people, cars, water, flags) moving.

After a short stop off at a supermarket to buy some nappies for Doyle, and then our guesthouse, it was off to the Metro and then the train to get to Sintra. Sintra is another town in Portugal about maybe 50-60 minutes North-West of Lisbon. Upon arriving there and picking up a map at the information centre, I realised there was so much more to see in Sintra than we had time for. Certainly it has more to offer than Lisbon. It was absolutely beautiful.

Our first item of business in Sintra was to try the Queijadas de Sintra, which is like a cheese and cinnamon pastry. We also got some hot chocolate with real chocolate to go along with it. I quite liked it, and would recommend it to any visitors to Sintra.

Then it was off to Quinta da Regaleira, which was once someone’s house (mansion) and gardens. It was so, so beautiful and such an awesome place to visit. I wanted to move there. Seriously. Some parts were kind of creepy, like the upstairs of the mansion because it was all dark, and one room had mirrors bordering the raised floor, so I initially thought the floor was suspended and I needed to be careful or I’d fall through to the next floor. The gardens were a bit like a maze, so much so that we probably missed seeing a couple things on the map. It was cool because there were all these spiral staircases amongst towers and caves within the gardens that would lead you on a wild goose chase to level after level (it was all on the side of a giant hill) that left you wondering where you were. My favourite part of the gardens was the Labyrinth Grotto, because it took you down to the back of a water grotto, which was beautiful from all sides.

If I’m ever massively rich, I am so going to style a home and garden to live in based on Quinta da Regaleira. It was well worth the trip. Unfortunately that’s all we had time to see in Sintra, so we shall have to return to Sintra one day to see everything else there is on offer there. And just when I thought I needn’t return to Portugal, too! Luckily there is more to see than just Lisbon, hey?

We stopped at Pizza Hut (the only other international fast food chain we’ve seen in Portugal aside from McDonalds) next to the train station on our way back to Lisbon, because we were hungry and there wasn’t much else on offer around there. Doyle seemed to have his appetite back once we were there, and ended up making a right mess of himself with spaghetti bolognese.

Our way of travelling to Sintra by Metro and train was decidedly cheaper than using the Lisboa card after all, too. It would’ve cost us each €11 more if we’d bought the two-day pass, but getting to and from Sintra our way cost about €7 total, and only I would have saved €1 at the gardens we visited. As it was, it only cost me €5 to get in, Jeremy €4 because he’s a student. Definitely more price friendly than the UK attractions!

Doyle’s conjunctivitis had appeared to clear up after his bath, about until we got to Sintra. It seems at its worst after he’s had a sleep, though his morning nap didn’t produce any gunk. His afternoon nap (he fell asleep on the train to Sintra) did, however, and tended to bother him for the rest of the afternoon. I have no idea what’s the best thing to do to get it to go away on its own, but I’ve been trying to clean his eyes whenever I see new gunk, before Doyle has the chance to keep spreading it.

It was after 8pm by the time we got back to our guesthouse, so Doyle managed to get to sleep pretty easy.

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Dominica has a strong interest in exploring diversity in media, seeing people subverting corporate control of creativity through crowdfunding and indie publishing, and spending as much time as she can travelling the world and discovering culture. This is what she most regularly blogs about. In her spare time, Dominica is primarily focused on long-form improv theatre, and writing and publishing speculative fiction. You can find links to some of her free and published stories and screenplays on her writing page, or check out her pirate time-travel novel Adrift. Though born and raised in Australia to American parents, Dominica lived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, between 2008-2014, until she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. She also has a background in web programming, filmmaking, and stand-up comedy. For more information, check out her about page, or any of the specific pages about her various creative pursuits in the links at the top of the page.

One Response to RTW 2007 installment #3 (Nov 2-Nov 8)

  1. Frank Corless

    It’s all very interesting. Even about Doyles sleeping. Persist in attempting to keep him out of the bed you share. You and Jeremy deserve the gift of alone time whenever you can get it and it counts for a lot. The perscription medicine for conjunctivitis is really effective so hope you can get a hold of some. No doubt by now you already have since I’m typing so much later than your post.

I love to hear from my readers, and leaving your thoughts encourages me to blog more