Our 2018 International visit to Portugal

A visit to the Rotary Club of Mafra

Our 2018 International trip was to Portugal.

Our aim was to visit friends we made in MAFRA at the Rotary Club de Mafra.

Our adventure commenced with a short flight from Liverpool to Lisbon. Arriving in evening, it was like entering an oven. Alan had discovered that a bus service ran from the airport into the city and we knew we wanted to find the Aero Bus No 1 and go to Rossio where our hotel is located. After a bit of confusion we found the bus stand and obtained tickets from a machine, joined the queue and very soon were on a bus winging our way to Rossio. There we consulted Alan's Google map and followed directions to our hotel, just a few steps away from our bus stop.

The following day we took a couple of sight-seeing tours on the open topped busses and got ourselves orientated in the city.

The third day of our 2018 International trip to Portugal was a visit to Sintra, a hill town with a famous castle dating from the time of the Moors.
We needed to ask a local old guy resting on a bench where the train station was in Rossio. He took us literally by the hand and just a few paces, pointed to a most imposing building. We had passed it twice yesterday on our open topped bus tours but did not realise it was a railway station! Inside we took the escalator to the upper floor, got our tickets (very cheap) and made our way to platform 5, then had to walk almost the entire length of a very packed train to find some seats.   

Forty minutes later we drew into the station at Sintra and walked down a steep hill to get our bearings and have a refreshing cerveja in a small cafe. From it we could see the castle, crowning a ridge to the west of us. We proceeded to walk along a snaking roadway, climbing all the time towards the castle. All along the way on the wall at the road edge were traders with paintings, cork bags, hats etc. Along the way there were also lots of statues and works of art, one an imposing stone throne which President Colin could not resist sitting on (eat your heart out Roy W who always wanted a throne for our presidents). 

Still the road climbed and boy was it hot ! We turned a corner and could see the castle still miles off - we gave up and spied a TUK TUK waiitng for his next passenger. He said he could take us to the castle but there really was not a lot to see and lots of steps to go round it, he could give us a tour to all the vantage points and tell us about the area as well. 

We settled on a price and the four of us squeezed ourselves into a couple of TUK TUKs and roarded away in a cloud of blue twostroke smoke. We had a great tour round up and down hills, along twisty roads and had a constant commentary from our drivers, stopping at a few places to take in the view. All too soon it was over and we were deposited where we started from. We then ambled back downhill to the station soon to catch the train back to Rossio, this time plenty of room and the AC going full blast soon had us cooled down. Another great day in Portugal was drawing to a close. 

The finale of our stay was our visit to the Rotary Club of Mafra. First a trip on the metro from Rossio to Campo Grande where we caught a bus to Mafra, an uneventful trip until caught in a traffic jam on the outskirts of the town. A slow crawl into the centre where we alighted adjacent to some municipal buildings. There was a taxi rank opposite and a taxi standing there, only to zoom off as we approached him. Plenty of time until the meeting which according to Google was only a few minutes away by car! 

Time for a beer at the nearby cafe, cheapest of the trip, €4. After a couple of abortive attempts at finding a local taxi, Colin resorted to Uber, three available but some distance away - as he did this an old guy walking his dog asked if he could help and did, telephoning a local taxi for us, it would be here in 20 minutes ! At the same time Colin had a Uber response and one would be with us at a similar time...two came together so we had to take both. Our Uber driver spoke good english and we were able to also arrange our return with him.   

Expecting to be late, we were in fact early. Casa Rotaria was all lit up with several members standing on the terrace outside, who made us very welcome. A welcome drink and chat and meeting again Victor Hugo Costa who we had first met in FGH. He is still recovering from his stroke and told us that his son is working in the Town House in Dalton Road. We will have to look him up on our return.   

Soon everyone was there and we took our places in the meeting room, Colin was sat at the top table with President Ceasar and AG Pedro, Alan, Dave and I were sat with PDG Jose, President Fransisco of the Rotary Club of Carnaxide and Andreia (our interpreter) and her daughter Alexandra.   

The meeting began witha meal produced in their own kitchen by the members and then after some entertainment the formal proceedings saluting the flags, welcoming everyone and a speech from Ceasar which Andrea also interpreted for us.   

There was an exchange of gifts, we got a citation and a banner and gave a banner and book of our locality. Finally various members of the Mafra Club took up instruments and proceeded to close the night with a series of local folk songs.   

An excellent night in great company, Colin remarked, the best ever. Ending all too soon at midnight then cramming into our Uber taxi and soon we were back in Lisboa at Rossio.