A Sunday Afternoon in the ByWard Market (Ottawa)

A Sunday Afternoon in the ByWard Market (Ottawa)

Lisbon Trains

As a last tribute to beautiful Lisboa before returning to Canada tomorrow evening, we wanted to roam the city going up and down those narrow cobblestone roads finding secluded spots we had not previously seen in late June and simply absorbing the city’s serene and welcoming vibe.

As I am still a little wobbly on my swollen leg (way too much sun on Barcelona beaches… I don’t even why we go; I guess we feel we ought to, but we never really enjoy it much!), we decided to rent a tuk-tuk Renting a Tuk-Tuk in Lisbonto tour the city and climb up to the highest point in Lisbon: the Miradouro do Monte. The view is breathtaking; all those clay stone roof houses all imperfectly aligned to make the perfect city landscape. I wish I was an architect and could work on those old houses that are left to crumble down due to the poor economy or simply rich enough to buy some of those properties and get them back up to their original glory, glazed tiles and all.

Miradouro do Monte

Talking about properties, we actually saw a house for sale when we were in Sintra – an amazing must-go side trip when in Lisbon. The house was an old open-concept with large windows including an inner private courtyard and small garage. We have no idea what the cost was, but at that moment in time, I would have sold everything to buy that place.

Later today, we will make our way to a local restaurant; one of those places straight out of a home kitchen where tables and chairs are arranged in the pedestrian passage and stairs. It’s really something to see. And those restaurants are always full – you can’t even get a reservation for three days running! To make sure you have a table on a preferred day, you have to get there super early, like 7 p.m. (that time is not at all early for North Americans, but for Portuguese, it is considered late afternoon :). Miradouro do Monte

And finally tomorrow, on the day of departure, we will leave our luggage at the train station and go one last time to Fabrica Coffee Roasters, THE BEST (I could even underline the words) coffee place… ok, I could say of Lisbon, or of Portugal, or of Portugal/Spain, or of Europe??? but really, all I can say is that it is the best coffee place which I have been and that includes the famous Bridgehead from home. Those that know me will be quite surprised by this. If I say Fabrica is better than Bridgehead, it is because I really, truly mean it. Plus it is run by many ex-pats who make this place fun and most welcoming.

So this is the end of our trip and of a last tribute to beautiful Lisboa. I hope we are lucky enough to return here… maybe on our way to a new city with new adventures.

Obrigada meus amigos!



Upon arriving in Barcelona, considered the Catalonia capital, you immediately feel in a different country. Not only is the language foreign to Spanish, but the whole atmosphere is quite distinct. We left Granada where the Spanish culture had an exotic Arab vibe which was quite appealing to me, and where locals embrace visitors with a smile and a kind word only to arrive in… well, in Barcelona. Don’t get me wrong, I am not dismissing this city, I am only sharing my initial feelings. To be fair, we did arrive late, we do live in a part of town I would call in a colloquial Ottawan term Vanier, and our whole reception was less than ideal. Then, on our first day in town (which was a Sunday, so again, maybe not the best first impression), I was left a little on the non-impressed side.

This is the last leg of our trip, and I guess I had high hopes. We haven’t been to the Sagrada Familia or even the Picasso Museum (which may very well sway me to love this place!), we still have seven full days of adventures and of Gaudi architecture, so I am certainly not despairing, but I so wish I felt embraced by the locals.

On our second day in Catalunya, we decided to get out of the city and visit Montserrat. Such a good choice! All four of us were thrilled with this monastery town high up on the mountaintop (Montserrat is explained to mean ‘serrated mountain’).

It’s a pilgrimage of sorts where one can visit the basilica which houses La Moreneta (the Black Virgin); Ave Maria Patha small wooden statue which is said to have been carved by St. Luke himself and brought to Spain by St. Peter (let’s just forget about what carbon dating says). Pilgrims (and tourists) can actually touch the Virgin’s hand which holds a royal orb – that is if you are willing to wait hours in line. We figured we were blessed enough as it was and chose to listen to a most talented choir chanting mass.

However, before leaving the basilica grounds, we did pass through the Ave Maria Path lit with hundreds of colorful votive candles giving the passage a serene air of blessedness.

After a quick (expensive!) meal, we made our way the funicular which climbs another 820 feet above the monastery for the most wonderful hiking paths along the jagged mountain edge.

Had it not been for the scorching sun, I believe we would have made this paradise our haven for a few hours. Sant Joan Hiking TrailBut alas, the sun and the day’s train schedule for Barcelona made our escape necessary.

On the ride back, the boys decided to schedule a bike tour of the city the following day while the girls would stroll the Gaudi Avenue to the Sagrada Familia.

We are still hoping to cross into French territory to visit Carcassonne later this week. If this proves too complicated, we are sure to schedule another side-trip escapade but not before visiting the Picasso museum or the handful of other art nouveau museums that are scattered throughout this Catalonia Capital.